Jamie Nicoll is Mountain Biking royalty in NZ, his national and international achievements in cross-country and enduro mountain biking are…well, stellar. But this is the Recreational Society, not a MTB site. Why Jamie is here, is why any Recreationalist is, he just figured it out way sooner and arguably better than most. At the age of 17…not a typo… Jamie bought his Bedford J4 ex school bus. He restored it as a teenager and he lives fulltime in the converted J4. As you can see from the clips, it’s a thoughtful conversion.
Based in Nelson the 42 year old has created a biking slash buslife lifestyle for himself that’s enviable. No luck, hard work. He’s a sponsored athlete [still getting cover shots!] writer, photographer, an event organiser, a creditable influencer.
J4 and the J series buses are an iconic piece of Kiwiana The short stubby Bedfords drove generations of Kiwi kids to school, was that part of the allure of getting one or as a 17 year old were you like that’s the price range, that’ll do it?
Back when I was 17 I had a friend Shane Burmester, an amazing mountain biker that I looked up to, he toured NZ MTB races in his little green J2 bus, I would hang out with him and talk mountains and adventures and I was definitely inspired by him. A year or so later after completing the Greymouth outdoor rec course I was keen to become a glacier guide in Franze Josef and someone told me that accommodation was the hard thing to find, this took me off looking at caravans until Shane told me about this ex-school bus from Oxford that was for sale in Fox Glacier. I bought it and took it to Wellington to fit it out (you can read about that funny story in the Piston and Pivots link HERE) and never returned to become a guide.
Was it always the plan to live full time to perpetuate an adventure lifestyle?
Well, not really, it’s kind of just happened as a product of me chasing my passions and trying to live out some of my dreams through my work and life, maybe it’s not the easiest road but it has definitely not been dull!
How do you perceive the #vanlife movement; are you ‘finally you guys get it’… or are you a little ‘yeah see if you last your first cold season’?
I think what encourages me the most about this movement is to see people thinking and acting ‘outside the box’, it’s another way to live that can give you community and, create freedom and space, find time to explore and appreciate the natural world we live in.
Could you explain the Nomad Weekends, how they started and what people could expect attending?
The Nomadic Weekend Away events started just 3 years ago, it was a motivation of mine to find something to bring mountain bikers together with their vans, caravans, tents and overland wagons in a what is maybe the only non-competitive mountain bike event on the NZ calendar, basically, it’s a camping and riding weekend away with bears, some food, open fire, and a favorite of mine is the evening slide shows projected onto the side of the bus, given by people who have an adventure to share from trips abroad or in NZ where bikes and adventure journeys have come together. I usually do a wee talk myself at these events about what I do and about the last year’s trips. These Nomadic events have only been possible because my bike sponsor Santa Cruz Bicycles have always been keen on supporting events like this that bring the community together, isn’t that rad! The other take on the Nomadic event is that its actually an overland/ vanlife vehicle show under the disguise of an MTB event… 😉
If you want to find out more about the next Nomadic Weekend check it out HERE
Prior to Covid you were planning to do a big Aussie trip in your Landy, what was that plan?
Yeah, big plans have had big changes there due to COVID, hopefully, I can get over there next year to make this long-held dream happen! Leading up to 2020 I put many hours into creating the concept of this journey, a trip filled with so many long-held dreams, a dream of taking my Landcruiser from NZ to Australia and touring the outback and far-flung places with my bike on the back, exploring new places to ride. I ride for Michelin (bike tyres) and now drive for their RV arm BFGoodrich, these guys were super into this adventure combo and wanted me to help tell their story and journey to becoming 150 years old this year. A difficult time to promote mobility, but here in NZ we are pretty lucky on that front, so NZ it is and that won’t be bad that’s for sure!
I spent four months from January building up my LandCruiser to be cable of remote travel and ultimately crossing the Simpson Desert and its 1000km of unsupported sand travel on route to Alice Springs and of course on to many other adventures after that. I put so much effort and time into this build, building water tanks, bumpers, cabinets, exhausts, and auxiliary fuel tanks etc etc…I’m feeling a little burnt out from all this work right now and ready to get some space and purpose from the wagon. Next month I hope to start my tour of NZ with the same goal of driving until the road ends …like really ends, then pulling the mountain bike off the back and heading further to explore new trails!
Check out Jamie’s website for a ton of inspiring content HERE
And follow him on Instagram for daily posts HERE