Globe-trotting ASU instructor brings long-distance bike rides to students

Layne Gneiting plans to develop leadership in ASU students through his bike trips

ASU instructor Gary "Layne" Gneiting has led bike treks through New Zealand, Europe and Norway — and this year he will take a group from Budapest to Prague.

Now Gneiting wants to bring students on rides across the U.S., too, as a part of his team and leadership development brand.

The long-distance bike rides will be open to students within the next few years, and won't be limited to strict itineraries. Gneiting said that freedom is part of the experience.

"(The bike trips) are transformation experiences," he said. "Not just a journey or a vacation, but a transformational experience."

Gneiting said his trips are entirely different from the experience you would get with a travel company. 

“They'll haul your gear, put you up in a nice bed and breakfast, and that misses some of the key elements that contribute to transformation,” he said. “We don't have a support vehicle. If you experience some trouble, we solve problems in real time, and that pushes us out of our comfort zones.”

Gneiting also said pulling people away from their typical routines is a key part of the trips.

“We tend to rely on our usual crutches, such as credit cards and rescue vehicles,” he said. “When you don't have that option you have to dig deep and find something within you, whether that be resilience or just pushing beyond a comfort zone.”

The idea for the first trip consists of biking across the Lewis and Clark trail in the northwest. 

Courtesy of the National Education Association

Principal lecturer and faculty head in the College of Integrative Arts and Sciences Kevin Ellsworth is helping Gneiting bring the bike rides to ASU.

“Layne has been taking people around the world on these bike treks, and people find them valuable enough to pay huge sums of money to him to go on these adventures and leadership experiences," he said.

Ellsworth said that he's heard such good things about the "transformative" trips that he thought they would be a good thing to bring to students.

"We thought, 'If there's a way for our students to share those same benefits, wouldn't that be wonderful?'” he said.

Ellsworth called Gneiting "an endless font of creative energy" and said he is the perfect person to lead students on the trips. 

"He would never be content gathering moss, he is always pushing the boundaries and trying new things," he said. "He works incredibly hard to make new things work."

Hal Halladay, an executive at Chandler-based software company Infusionsoft, was Gneiting’s first customer and has attended two trips with Gneiting. He will also join the group on the trip from Budapest to Prague this summer.

"When you see the world at 13 miles an hour and everything that you have to live is on your bike and you're carrying it with you — that's just such a different experience than what you do in your life every day here," he said. "You meet people and see things you wouldn't if you were in a car or a train."

Halladay said there is a simplicity to these trips despite their difficulty.

"Life is as simple as two wheels, two pedals, a sleeping bag and a tent," he said. "It strips away all other things you have in your life for a few moments and provides so much clarity."

He said each day comes with its own difficulties, whether it's the weather, the difficulty of the biking that day or even equipment troubles.

“When you're on these bike treks you have to go out and contend with what the world brings you that day," he said.

Halladay said he thinks the trips would be very beneficial for students. 

"Learning through experiences versus learning from what someone's telling you is a fantastic idea and will be super valuable (for students)," he said.

Halladay said his most memorable moment was the last day of his trip in Norway. After going up 28 switchbacks from sea level to 5,000 feet, he said he wasn't sure he would make it.

Despite the difficulties that biking in rough, snowy terrain posed, Halladay said "finding a partnership with the wind and the rain" to climb the hill made the struggle worth it.

Halladay said finishing the climb was emotional.

"I got to the top and I started to cry," he said. "It had been so much work and effort – to finish in that way was incredible."

Correction: Due to a source error, a previous version of this story stated that Halladay said his most memorable moment was the last day of his trip in Iceland. The trip was in Norway. The story has been updated to reflect that change.


Reach the reporter at ajhowar6@asu.edu and follow @andrew_howard4 on Twitter.

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