Life on Two Wheels: Rob Philippe and the fine art of bike touring |

Life on Two Wheels: Rob Philippe and the fine art of bike touring

Page McClean
Special to the Daily
"Venice: You can ride a bike to Venice, but you can't ride a bike in Venice!" — painter and Frisco native Rob Philippe.
Rob Philippe / Special to the Daily |

On a bookshelf in Rob Philippe’s 1946 log cabin sits “Around the World on a Bicycle,” the classic 1887 account of Thomas Stevens’ penny-farthing journey. While Philippe’s bike setup is more modern than his Victorian counterpart, the story has inspired him to see the world from a two-wheeled perspective.

Like Stevens, Philippe has also written about his adventures for several local and international publications. This fourth generation Colorado native has been connected to Frisco since his parents first brought him to the ’40s-era cabin at 2 weeks old. As a developer, he has built much of Main Street. As a bicyclist, he rides around Lake Dillon three times a week to train for his multi-week bike tours. Philippe calls himself a connoisseur of “the fine art of bike touring.” In part, it is because he creates quick plein air watercolor sketches at each new location to visually document his journey. In pursuit of the finer things in life, this bon vivant discovers — and then paints — the little details that make his international bicycle tours memorable.

Philippe’s first trip came in his late 20s, after a successful hotel deal in downtown Denver.

“I took off and started riding,” he says. The trip introduced him to Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. After a 20-year hiatus to raise two children, Philippe returned to the saddle, and over the last 13 years he and his partner, Valerie Weber, have taken an extended European bike tour at least once a year.

“I’m really lucky to have a relationship with someone who’s willing to get on a bicycle,” Philippe says. They are currently training for a trip from Lisbon, Portugal, to Seville, Spain, this fall, and have their sights set on the classic Avenue Verte ride from London to Paris someday. The couple also spends half the year in Cabo San Lucas, where the two are developing bike lanes and fostering a thriving Baja bike culture.

Philippe recalls one of his latest bike tours through the touring Mecca of Italy:

“A bicycle is freedom. You know, I always worry when I see people walking because I go, ‘Maybe they don’t know how to ride a bike.’ We’ve been riding some really big tours lately. What a great way to see a place because you see it all, an inch at a time, every little pebble on the road.

“This last trip we just rode was basically the length of Italy, from Bolzano to Rome, and that was 27 days in the saddle. It makes you want to go back to Italy. In fact, every time you think about taking a bike tour you go, ‘Oh, let’s go to Italy.’ If you could just keep riding Italy forever… The food is fabulous, never a bad meal.

“There are people from all over the world — old people, young people, people on a budget, people camping, people staying in five-star hotels. In Europe the routes are so set. You follow the rivers and people kind of keep seeing the same honeymooners from Germany on their tandem, here at this train station, or this gelato place, or this bar. We rode this one leg of this tour and this guy had just sold his company. He was like 75, Hans, and he had this 40-year-old girlfriend. He rode from Bolzano to Venice on an electric assist bike. She pedaled in three-quarter-inch heels and a skirt every day the whole tour — on a regular bike! Just interesting people.

“Wouldn’t it be great to ride Vietnam and Cambodia and New Zealand? That’s in the future, I hope. The trouble is, if you go that far, my idea is to keep on going.”

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