Many people would love to run a business while travelling. But does it also work when you are a bikepacker (yes, a backpacker on a bike) and carry nothing more with you than what fits on the luggage rack of your e-bike? Carolin Desirée Toepfer is a German Tech Entrepreneur and currently cycling 3000+km through 10 European countries and this is exactly what she does.
When I started my tour in mid-June at the Berlin East Side Gallery, I had way too much luggage. I needed a tour around the Czech Vltava area to find out. So when arriving in Vienna, I sent 8kg of clothes and other stuff back to Berlin. Just focusing on the necessary pieces. Clothes are not part of that, but tech devices are.
The E-Bike discussion
First of all an important gadget is my e-bike (which I call ‘Bikey’ and has its own fanclub!): It’s a Cube Touring Hybrid Pro from Internetstores with a strong Bosch motor and removable 500 KWh battery. The bike computer can also be removed. So without the two components, theft is much less attractive.
On straight routes the running time in eco mode is 120-130 km, downhill I have already been shown 180 km. If it goes uphill, the range is shortened accordingly. In general I like to let the battery completely empty and charge it overnight. This has worked quite well so far and I have always found a socket somewhere.
You might think: “She is young and certainly fit enough, why is she riding an e-bike and not a normal bike?” I just say: “Check out the tour blog and the routes.” The first day is never the problem. But the support of the electric motor contributes enormously to having fun on the tour for the second day in a row. Nevertheless, not every mountain is a joy. And an e-bike like this is not a moped either. It only supports you when you pedal yourself. Many critics often underestimate this.
Electricity is a decisive factor on my tour. During my preparations I had thought about taking a portable solar panel and a suitable battery with me. There are a lot of interesting self-sufficient energy solutions, mostly created for camper vans. But then my luggage would have been even heavier overall.
Later, I thought about taking a power bar with me. But when I’m cycling, I can only use my equipment during the breaks anyway. And when I’m looking for a place to work in peace, there’s usually a power socket nearby.
Besides my own Samsung smartphone, I have another HTC phone with me (Thank you, TechGirl!), which is only meant for the tour. Here I also set up the app for my Rollei gimbal, so I can make reasonably good videos on the road. I have installed my bike app with the route planning on both phones in case the battery gets empty on the way.
I can also manage most office tasks on my smartphone while on the road. Our cloud infrastructure, which my team and I have always used anyway, is very helpful in this respect. Otherwise I decided to take my old 15″ Lenovo laptop with me. Actually, I prefer 17″ and several screens. But since the pandemic and the additional work that came with it, I haven’t gotten around to programming anyway. So I postponed my project ideas until after the tour.
Very important accessory: in-ear headphones! I am not a fan of earpods, having bluetooth on all the time and losing them regularly. Currently I am using a cheap version from Skull Candy. Sometimes I miss my Razer Kraken. But it’s okay for now.
On this tour I realized again that internet connections and digital services are very different in Europe. Some cities and even villages offer hotspots that even make a good impression from a privacy and security perspective. In other places, there is no reception at all and also concerning hotels and campsites it always depends on the technical interest of the operator.
I offer hotels advice on the preferences of digital nomads, data protection and IT security on my way. So in some areas, you can find recommended places soon.
One thing I learned on this tour is the difference between things you really need and things you just like to have around you. Sure, I can get by with two smartphones and a laptop for a while. But I also like the possibility to work with a bigger setup – like my coding behaviour. That’s a technical luxury, but it’s my way of setting up my workstation.
On the other hand, I find it amazing how little a company can function with even in a crisis. We are currently managing the restarting customer communication and the search for investors for our cyber security trainings completely remote. This is then much more about technical infrastructure and communication than about the desired setup.
Everything is possible. But at the end of the tour, when the new office in Tallinn will be set up, I will probably have to compensate for the current lack of technical equipment 😉 More on: https://mahina.eu