Globetrotting Parkite does his part in giving back
Darren Alff is a professional cyclist who doesn’t race against anyone but himself.
A Park City resident for the last five years, Alff has been a bicycle touring pro since he graduated from high school.
Bike touring involves a cyclist, or a group of cyclists, traveling for an extended period of time across cities, states, countries or even continents.
Alff’s first bike tour came at the ripe age of 17 when he biked along the Pacific Coast.
"I kind of got addicted to it," he said. "I got addicted to touring and traveling."
Since then, the Southern California native has biked across 29 of the 50 states, and across dozens of countries all over the world.
In 2006, Alff left what some may consider an ideal job as a sound mixer in Hollywood to come to Park City.
As Alff puts it, one weekend he set off in his car from Hollywood and headed for Utah. He said he had heard about Park City and all it has to offer those who are obsessed with the outdoors.
"I didn’t even make it onto Main Street," he said. "I just fell in love with it instantly. I walked into a realtor and asked, ‘Can you show me some stuff?’ Purchased a condo, and a month later I was here."
After that first bike tour at 17, Alff had told people he wanted to become a professional bicycle tourist. He heard the quips about how it couldn’t really be considered a sport considering your only opponent is yourself and it is more adventure than competition. But Alff found a way to make himself a pro and help others by doing so through his website and worldwide tours.
A little over three years ago, Alff started a website called http://www.bicycletouringpro.com . It was originally a blog-type website which included a step-by-step process on teaching folks who were interested in touring how to become acclimatized.
"At the beginning, I thought maybe three people would read this thing," he said. "Now, I have over 40,000 monthly readers from all over the world."
And just a little over a year ago, Alff found a way to give back.
He started a travel scholarship through his website for people (ages 16 to 29) who want to do their inaugural tour anywhere in the world.
"I started mainly because I did my first bike tour at age of 17 and was on the road a whole month," he said. "It cost about $300, including everything."
"I realized for a lot of these young people, just a small donation, that’s what the scholarship’s all about," he added. "It’s about giving them an extra little push that they need."
Most of those simply stumble across the scholarship from the website, Alff said. This year, the scholarship went to three girls who are traveling across the nation and will talk to groups of Girl Scouts along the way and emphasize the importance of exercise and eating healthy foods.
While Alff’s version of the sport isn’t the most famous on two wheels and pedals, he said it is gaining steam and during every excursion he goes on, from one end of the world to the other, he receives nothing but praise and intrigue.
"For me, personally, there’s always something that I want to learn about in that particular area," he said.
He recently returned from a trip to Peru, where he backpacked and biked across the mountains. But, this time, with a wrinkle.
"I experimented in renting bikes," he said "It was quite an experience."
In 2009, he biked across 16 or 17 countries in Europe and said he eventually stopped in Germany because he wanted to learn German. He spent four months there with nothing but the clothes in his pack and his bike.
"There’s always something like that that drives me," he said.
To learn more about Darren Alff and Bicycle Touring Pro and its scholarship funds, go to http://www.bicycletouringpro.com.
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