The Ginger Ninjas: A Bike Touring Band

The next time you think your panniers are too heavy, just imagine how much they’d weigh if you were a bike touring band!

That’s exactly what the Ginger Ninjas are: a troop of musicians that travel by bicycle, carrying absolutely everything with them. Their instruments, speakers, even the stage – and that’s in addition to the normal bike touring load of equipment, cooking gear and clothes.

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Not only have the Ginger Ninjas chosen bicycles instead of the standard van to carry their gear but they also get the audience to pedal bikes during each show, providing the energy needed to power the concert.

We recently learned that the Ginger Ninjas are touring Europe this summer, along with several other bike-powered artists (see tour locations and dates). They’re calling it the Pleasant Revolution. We were able to catch up with Ginger Ninjas band member Joey by email recently, to find out more about this amazing group.

1. Why did you decide to use the bicycle as a way to take your band on tour?

We’ve chosen the bicycle because it’s the most efficient tool for getting around without polluting. They power our sound system, they carry all our stuff, and bicycles are just plain fun.

2. In 2007, you toured 8,000km from California to Mexico. Can you give us a few highlights from that tour?

Wow. Where to start? Here are some highlights:

  • Leaving at 1 am the night of Halloween and camping by the Yuba river.
  • Climbing a massive hill up a dirt road on the first day while getting used to 175 pounds of gear.
  • Coasting downhill all day from Tepic way up in the mountains of Nayarit, Mexico to Platanitos by the Ocean.
  • Staying at a mansion with a private beach in a jaguar reservation.
  • Staying with the son of the founder of Cirque du Soleil at his five story mansion on the beach and making a movie called “The Spork of Manifestation” in one day.
  • Playing in just about every bar in Sayulita, Mexico over a week and then ascending a huge mountain and bombing down the other side to Moscota.
  • Camping at a volcanic hot river.
  • Riding with the mayor of Guadalajara (city of 4+ million people) as well as Mexico City (8+ million people.)
  • Riding with the monarch butterflies near Morelia.
  • Getting to Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico and seeing the pyramids.
  • Camping in amazing beautiful places.
  • All the amazing snacks and food we ate at the hundreds of breaks we took.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg of experience.

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3. What about any unexpected challenges you had to overcome? How did you deal with them?

There were many unexpected challenges. The pedal power system wasn’t finished when we left. It was actually built and finished while on the road by Dante Espinosa. It also had never been road tested and thus had to be fixed a lot as we traveled.

Peoples’ knees hurt. Dante got a concussion on the first day (wore his helmet every day after that!). Many things came up. We stuck together and figured things out. People took a train if their knees hurt and there was a train option. People cried. We hugged. That’s how we dealt with unexpected challenges. Hugs and hard work!

4. How are the group dynamics on such a tour? Sometimes it’s hard for 2 people to tour together, let alone 15.

The group dynamics were, to say the least, interesting. We all got along really well, even though a lot of us had never met before the tour. Tensions rose, but we had group meetings occasionally that sometimes lasted hours where we’d talk things over. Some people decided to leave the tour for personal reasons. Other people would join up for a short while and in some cases, the rest of the tour. We had our fights and our blowouts, but all in all it was like a mobile bicycling yoga music party while we were touring. We feasted on excellent food and enjoyed the views.

5. What kind of a packing list do you have? Do you skimp on the normal bike touring gear because you have to carry all the musical equipment?

Because we have Xtracycle Free Radicals, Surly Big Dummies and Yuba Mundo cargo bicycles, we can carry the normal cycling tour gear plus our musical equipment. Some people skimp on their personal gear and that is encouraged in the group. The less personal stuff you have, the more group gear you have room for.

For this tour, we have 2 professional chefs who are carrying a whole kitchen. We have a bike mechanic who is carrying a mobile bike shop (tools, parts). We have a tour artist/blogger who is documenting. Then there are all the musicians. Two people have to carry our 40 pound JBL EON hyper-efficient speakers. Most of our bikes weigh between 150 and 200 pounds.

Check out the Ginger Ninja website to find out more about the band. You can also help with their fundraising efforts for the International Bicycle Fund, a group dedicated to encouraging bike transportation worldwide, or donate through the band’s own fundraising page to support their tour.

You can also see a video of their travels from California to Mexico.

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