Pepper’s basketpacking Tumbleweed Prospector

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We catch up with Australia-based Pepper Cook and her basketpacking Tumbleweed Prospector. Whilst cresting the mountain passes of Peru, we ask her about solo tours, what she’s been doing to get women cycling, bikepacking verses road touring, and braids…

Last year, Pepper Cook flew in from hot, balmy, and distinctly low lying Australia, to launch herself straight into 5000m Andean passes on the rugged dirt roads of the Peru Divide. As a Tumbleweed sponsored rider, she was aboard a Prospector built up with 27.5+ wheels, a Rohloff Speedhub, a Wald 137, and a thrift store find basketbag…

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

Can you tell us a little about your cycling background?

I started out as a commuter and mountain biker back home in Colorado – everyone I know there skis or snowboards in the winter and mountain bikes in the summer! Eventually I realised if you start taking some camping stuff you can go farther away with no car… I had my first really big ride in Australia a few years ago from Brisbane to Melbourne, which took 30 days. Then last year I was introduced to bikepacking and ditched the panniers to hit the trails!

You’re half American, half Kiwi, but live in Oz. How did that happen?

My mom’s from New Zealand but I was born in Colorado, and I was flying back to New Zealand from an extended trip living in Cape Town, South Africa, when I was 24. While sitting in the airport in Sydney on a layover, I realised that because I didn’t check any bags, I could just walk out of the airport and have a look around Australia instead of flying straight back to New Zealand… so I got off and now I’ve been living, working and riding in Australia for four years somehow!

We’ve read about your women’s rides and shop S240s, helping people get into riding, bikepacking and touring. Can you tell us more about them?

I have the best job ever – I work at a specialty bikepacking/biketouring/commuting shop in Melbourne called Commuter Cycles. All of our customers are absolute legends and love adventuring by bike, and we host fun campout rides every now. We also have really cool slideshow nights in the shop when someone goes on a big tour and takes rad photos! The Mud Mermaids was a recent concept because I realised there are lots of people out there who don’t feel like they have a ride they can go on – there are plenty of fast rides dominated by dudes, so I thought I could create a safe space where women, non-binary, and anyone who’s not a dude could come and try a group ride.

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

Whether exploring Australia or riding around Iceland, it seems like many of your trips are solo rides. Any reason? Do you have any solo touring advice for other women?

I started riding big solo tours because sometimes it’s hard to get people to commit to a camping ride and I felt that if I didn’t just jump straight in, I’d end up waiting forever for someone to come along! I also love solo touring as a woman because literally every time I’ve planned a tour, I’ve had a lot of people tell me how it’s so dangerous for women to go alone. I don’t think it’s any more dangerous for women than men, and every time I come back from a tour I feel like I’ve shown people that I can do it too – and so can any other woman who wants to! My best advice to other women is don’t be afraid and use your gut. Statistically speaking it’s way more dangerous in the city than out on a trail on your own – it’s just a numbers game!

My main big rides have been around Iceland for 30 days including the Westfjords, Brisbane to Melbourne for 30 days, a 9-day mountain bike ride through the Vic Alps, all solo, and an 8 day ride from Melbourne to Adelaide on the Great Ocean Road with another rider. Then a route nearly every Tuesday Wednesday.

Road touring or bikepacking… any preferences?

Coming from a super traditional road touring background I’d have to say I’m 100% converted to the bikepacking life, for so many reasons. I find it’s way more fun and more of an adventure sticking to dirt – no traffic, more animals, and the campsites have fewer people. Plus you get to rip some fun technical stuff instead of slogging along next to cars in a straight line for hours and hours. I also love the weight distribution while using frame bags, baskets and saddle packs. Not to mention the weight saved when you get rid of the racks!

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

At 6ft tall, you cut quite the look during your recent Peru trip… What did the Peruvian women make of you? Can you talk us through your distinctive riding attire?

I’m really into the idea of normalising cycling, especially for women… so I enjoy riding in normal funky camp clothes as much as possible. I always ride in denim shorts, a t-shirt and a flannel on top, then either sandals or mountain bike shoes with crazy patterned socks. People always ask how I can stand to ride without knicks and if you must know, I’ve spent several years cultivating some rock hard butt calluses… and I also ride on a super comfy, well-weathered Brooks B17.

I got some hilarious looks in Peru I think mostly because of my height – most of the ladies we encountered there barely came up to my shoulder or below and I had to duck down through most the doorways! I also wore my signature braids which ended up being the most popular hairstyle for the Peruvian ladies, so even though there was quite a language barrier I often instantly bonded over our matchy hairdos.

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

How do you prepare for a tour?

I don’t really like to “train” for a tour, but I’m lucky to live in a city that’s completely chock full of bike trails, so I ride both ways to work 5 days a week. I also have Tuesday/Wednesday off as my “weekend” and every week I use my two days off to go on an overnighter somewhere to camp by myself. I also lead some of the shop campouts/overnighter rides which leave straight from work some Saturday evenings, back on Sunday evening. Between all of that – around 200kms a week – I usually end up in decent enough shape when a tour pops up!

I reckon looking back the best thing I could have done to prepare for the Peru trip would have been to learn some basic Spanish, but I agreed to the trip so quickly I didn’t have much time! Luckily enough one of the other riders spoke pretty great Spanish, so between their help and just trying to be as friendly and creative/silly as possible with the pantomimes, I managed to break the ice and scrape by.

  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

Any broad messages you’d like to share, or particular words of thanks you’d like to send out?

If you’re thinking about getting into biketouring or bikepacking but you’re nervous to go alone, don’t be! Just get out there on an overnighter and I promise you’ll get hooked. I also want to thank my mom for being a total badass adventure buddy support system – no matter what happens, she’s always got good advice and she never gets mad or panics. When I was freezing on a 30 day solo ride around Iceland and had windburnt half my face off last year, she advised Blistex and putting a black trash bag on the outside of my sleeping bag, to stay warmer at night. When I was literally shitting my pants for days in Peru, she told me to spit on the toilet paper so I didn’t cause more damage. She’s a bit of a legend. Finally, massive thanks to Daniel from Tumbleweed Bikes for believing in me and getting me on what is hands down the coolest bike I’ve ever ridden.

Lastly, followers of your popular Instagram feed will be all too familiar with your love of puns. Tell us more…

Even though I’ve spent years working in bike shops around the world, I actually have a degree in English Literature. I’ve always loved finding ways to play with language and puns are one fun way to use your noodle, and annoy coworkers!

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector


  • Frame and Fork: Large Prospector Sandglow (size L)
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40 headset
  • Crank Arm Set: Shimano XT M780 crankset with 32t single speed chainring
  • Handlebar: Soma Osprey handlebar
  • Stem: Kalloy
  • Seatpost: Kalloy
  • Saddle: Brooks B17
  • Grips: Ergon GC1
  • Pedals: Shimano SPD
  • Chain: Shimano HG93 chain
  • Shifter: Rohloff
  • Brakes: Avid BB7S with Avid Speeddial 7 leverss
  • Front hub: Surly SS disc front hub
  • Rear hub: Rohloff Speedhub 500/14(16 tooth cog)
  • Rims/tires: WTB Scraper i45/Ranger Tough 27.5×3.0”
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

Pepper Cook Tumbleweed Prospector

Find out more about Pepper’s adventures by following her @bookbikebrew on Instagram.

  • Randartnut Scalp Atssy

    bravo ! very strong !

  • Joseph Thill

    Extra points for color coordination.

  • Doug Reilly

    Nice interview. I was a little surprised though that there wasn’t more conversation about the rig itself, design considerations, etc, all that techy stuff we like here.

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s mostly been covered in a previous post. Some of the Rider and Rigs focus less on the intricacies of the bike and more on the riders and their setups, unless it’s something we haven’t written about before, or a really unusual build.

  • john campbell

    Great interview. I’m really pleased and honored my little company, Alpine Luddites, has Pepper as a sponsored rider.

  • Tom Rooney

    Pepper is a true legend! Great at inspiring both women and men into getting out there and just going for a bike ride. Get Rowdy!!!

  • Cass Gilbert

    If Wes Anderson made a film about bikepacking…

  • Mr Sun

    what a woman !! great interview^^

  • Will Hartnett

    A fantastically well written piece and a true reflection of Pepper’s infectious enthusiasm for bikes and life and a life of bikes. If she ain’t biking for fun she’s scheming the next pun.

  • Jonathan Portinga

    It would be interesting if a piece could be written in general about solo touring. Sounds like Pepper would have some insights there.

  • Andrea Louise Rataj

    Thank you for sharing, Pepper. You’re an inspiration!

  • Stefaan Decavele

    and the total amount for the bike is….?

  • Cass Gilbert

    As in, the cost? From what I understand, each of the Tumbleweed’s are built to order. The frame and fork is $1450 but there are rolling chassis deals too, if you just want a Rohloff rear wheel but have everything else.

  • Rostbraten

    Bikepacking has become and perhaps ever has been such a disgusting hipster sport. Lived here, traveled there, know these fancy people, drink that craft beer or artisan coffee … Yikes!

    Do any of those people featured here actually have to work like ordinary people, or how does one get a “Tumbleweed-Sponsored Rider”?

  • Cass Gilbert

    I never know whether to reply to unnecessarily rude comments like this, or just ignore them.

    Did you read this post or just form an opinion based on a few images? Pepper has a full-time job working in a bicycle shop. Do you know how well bicycle shops pay? Tumbleweed is a one-man business, whose owner has lent her a bike longterm so she can help promote his brand. I hope that clarifies your concerns. As for artisan beer and craft coffee, I’m not quite sure where that fits into the equation of this post, not that it really matters… I’m not even going to begin to discuss someone’s choice to wear the clothes they like.

    We’re always happy to respond to queries about content we post. But I don’t think there’s ever any need for a tone of voice such as yours on our site; since writing my reply, I now notice that you have taken the trouble to completely re-edit your comment and add extra vitriol within the hour that you first made it.

    Don’t slam the door on the way out.

  • Betsy Farris

    Totally rad! Thanks for the inspiration– time to start scheming weekend trips!

  • Ian Connelly

    best puns on IG, no doubt! thanks for this more in-depth article.

  • Austin

    One of the coolest people that I do not know.

  • Harry

    When you buy something online, you can only hope that you’re supporting great people and not just chasing a good price. So as a recent customer of Commuter Cycles, this was a pleasure to read.

  • Art Of Hookie

    Rostbraten, boo hoo the beers flat and my 🙀hurts, maybe you just need to clean the Sand out of your panties and do something with your life, for starters you might try learning to read. She was riding her skinny tires on those trails you mention long before she fell for the lure of bikepacking. As a solo bikepacker for nearly 20 years I’m wondering how many solo rides you have done, my guess is zero. It’s a whole different ballgame when your solo for a month or more. In a unfortunately male dominated sport girls like Pepper have earner their stance and are role models to thousands of girls who see what she is doing and say yes, if she can do it so can I. As far as money is concerned a great rigid bike costs about what you spend on your hipster iPhone. You are obviously unaware of how much effort it takes to document a bicycle journey. The people you are bashing on these pages work their ass off more than likely at a net loss to share their wonderful journeys with us. Just because you hate your life and your job sucks you don’t have a right to bash those of us out here living our dreams. Maybe if you spent less time jerking it to porn in your moms basement and more time in the saddle you wouldn’t be so stressed. I’d tell you to tuck your tail between your legs and crawl out of here but based off your insanely insecure post I’m guessing it’s too short to tuck. My name is Stormy and I approve this message.

  • PC

    The Prospector has been out for what, 2 years now? It originally hit the market as a Narrow-Q-Factor Fatbike with Rohloff, but now they are showing up with 29+ wheels, folks discovered you can run 275×3.25 tires, and can run them geared with a 120mm fork, if you wish. I’m excited to see if Tumbleweed does a Prospector V2 with even better tire clearance (275×3.8?), lower weight, maybe a little more aggressive (K-Monk/Krampus) geo. That’d be interesting.

  • PC

    I can certainly understand Rostbraten’s sentiments. It’s hard to identify with many of these adventurers simply because they have taken such vastly different turns in life than average folks. I’ll say it, I like when the website covers the adventures of people who work in cubicles, who have 3 weeks of a vacation and two kids at home. I can identify with that, but I also understand that folks like Pepper have lived a completely different life from Day-1 than I have, and shaming her, or anyone else “living the dirtbag dream” would be shaming the person I essentially want to be (when my kid is grown and my IRA is well funded).

  • Cass Gilbert

    What I take offence to (and find inexcusable) is Rostbraten’s unnecessarily rude comment, which he later went in to modify with the simple intention of adding extra spite. If someone doesn’t connect with a particular piece of content published on the site, that’s ok. Hopefully there’s enough elsewhere to enjoy or learn from.

    When I look back on the people featured in this Rider and Rig series, they include a firefighter, a farmer, a professor of philosophy, a professor of computing engineering, an architect, a nurse, and an employee of a bike shop. For the most part, they are not living the ‘dirtbag dream’ – they have chosen to try and create a balance in their life between their work and their passion for bikepacking.

    Sure, some of the people who feature here are living an unconventional life, by some people’s definition. And I think that’s great too, because they inspire us all, even if we’re not able (or we don’t feel the need) to replicate their lifestyles.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m not sure that it’s been that long, at least in a final production version – I think it’s closer to a year.

    I believe Daniel Malloy’s intention was always to offer people the option of building it up with 29+ tires and suspension – hence the suspension corrected design rather than a rigid specific geo, which I’m sure he considered. In fact, the first trip with prototypes had two Tumbleweeds built up with 26×3.8s, 1 with 27.5+, and one with 29+. The eccentric BB works so well for this.

    It’s true though, 26×4 has fallen out of fashion (now that there’s more availability in 80mm rims and 4.3-4.8in tires) and 29+ has ceded to 27.5+ recently, so a bike with clearance for 27.5×3.8s would be awesome!

    As is, the bike offers unmatched mud clearance with 27.5+ tires, which is a nice perk when designing a bike around 26×3.8in rubber (-:

  • Rostbraten

    As you took the effort to reply I might have hit a nerve …

    You obviously didn’t get the critique right or you plainly ignore it. And please spare me this “Oh this poor girl is working in a bike shop and you know how bad bike shops pay …”

    I bet she’s working hard every day replacing head sets, servicing bottom brackets and all that – or even welding frames?

    If she does, good on her, why didn’t you show such pictures then?

    So, what is it that I critize?

    It is that you INSULT the intelligence of people. by “selling” a fashion piece to your audience!

    So, when will you do an article about a bearded male hipster, who does nothing else but posing with the right gear and the right accessories an dthe right drink?

    I guess you very well know what’s wrong here, but this is paying your bills, so what to expect anyway.

  • Rostbraten

    Oooh… another one that’s literate! Good on you!

  • Rostbraten

    I’m not sentimental, I criticize a sellout.

  • Cass Gilbert

    1. I take the time to reply to almost everyone who comments.
    2. You didn’t hit a raw nerve, you were just rude.

  • nat

    Morning happiness, Brooks B-17, and bike shorts…
    Does everything have to be some kind of culture war? Is there anyplace left to escape it?
    I think we are all here to escape that world for awhile, right? No one is forced to come here, so anyone who does so is getting something for free. Let’s keep it positive. This site is my dose of morning happiness amidst the chaos. A place to dream a little, plan a little, and learn a lot…and I have a lot to learn. I really appreciate all of those who document their journeys. So fun to “go” there with my morning coffee.
    So, in the vein of adding something useful to the conversation…the saddle…Focusing on gear, Pepper rides a Brooks B-17 (honey color leather). Most here probably already know this, but for someone just learning like me, you can ditch any kind of padded bike shorts once you’ve ridden one for awhile. (But I know saddles are very personal in preference). Just almost boil it in water on the stove a few minutes first to skip the looonnng break in (sacrilege, I know…really, just google it). It molds to your “anatomy”. Then you can wear any kind of short and ride all day. It’s like the day you get your diapers off when you can just throw anything on and ride (and pack less). They come in lots of colors and even have bar tape to match! I’ll admit to doing that…lol Then, you can even rock thrift store hipster cutoffs that match your amazing braids and hat, looking great, besides all your other great qualities that you have as a human being, as you hurt no one, pedaling down the road less traveled.

  • PC

    Cass, Ive been trying to find more info on building the Prospector up with gears. Could the rear dropout design be modified to move a 275×3.8 wheel a little further back?

  • PC

    Cass, I didnt intend to defend rude comments. I like what you do, and read all of your posts with joy. I like the work youve done sharing the backstories and daily grinds of many weekend warriors with “normal” jobs. Plus the rad images. Keep it up!

  • Cass Gilbert

    The Tumbleweed rear dropout is a heavy duty piece of engineering, so I don’t think it’s open to modifications.

    Although there’s a tonne of space for a 3in tire on a 50mm rim (more than another other bike I’ve tried), I’m not sure what the absolute limit would be. Were you hoping to squeeze a 27.5 x 3.8in tire on an 80mm in there? I think you’re best off dropping a line to Daniel Malloy at Tumbleweed. Given that this is a relatively new wheel size, I’m not sure if he’s even tried one, but I’m sure he’d be happy to discuss!

    As for building it up with gears, it works really well with a 1x setup, though there’s a cable guide on the seat tube too. But given how much attention has been given to the yoke, dropout and eccentric BB, I think it makes most sense to build it up with a Rohloff.

  • sbishop1

    An article like this can be a form of fantasy entertainment.
    My choices in life mean that I can get away only for a few weekends a year for my trips. However, I find myself able to rationalise this with me and my world; I don’t hold it against anybody to do these trips or report on them- whatever their motives or inclinations. I like the pictures too.

  • Rostbraten

    Nope, I exposed you.

    Waiting for a bearded guy posing with bike and craft-beer in hand portrait …