Handlebars and guitars: Two musicians pedaling across the country stop in Kent

Hugh Yamada prepares to cycle to their show Friday, Sept. 28.

Chris Ramos

Being a traveling musician can be a difficult job.

With instruments to carry, venues to book and extensive travel times, Jay Mobley and Hugh Yamada, both 30, know the struggles of touring the country because of their 4,300-mile original folk music tour “Going-S.”

Mobley and Yamada decided to add a unique twist on their tour. They are only traveling on bicycles.

The idea to travel and perform using bicycles first stemmed from when Yamada and Mobley reached their senior year of college at SUNY — Fredonia. The duo became friends during their freshman year of college and quickly built a connection, especially due to their musical interests. The idea of traveling was entertained by both men but never came to fruition when they were in college.

Originally from Japan, Yamada arrived in New York City when he was 18. After graduating, he went back to Japan and conducted his own cross-country travel. He spent 361 days traveling throughout Japan from 2013 to 2014, cycling and performing at restaurants in each city he visited. After his travels, he returned to New York City.

Mobley worked with several theater production companies in Boston, such as Liars and Believers and the Greater Boston Stage Co. Having studied classical composition, he wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics for LAB’s production “Who Would be King,” which premiered in 2015.

However, Yamada was unhappy with his life and Mobley wanted to fill a personal void, so the two reignited the idea of taking their musical act on the road.

“I was working all the time in New York,” Yamada said. “I felt like I wasn’t myself. I felt like I wasn’t living my life.”

In August 2017, the two men began making preparations for their travel. They finally started their journey about a year later on Aug. 15, 2018.

“I hope to stumble upon a revelation after this journey is over,” Mobley said.   

The tour started in Boston with Los Angeles set as the end goal. The two musicians roll into their marked cities, connect with locals, experience the environment and perform at any available venue. Most of their marked locations are college towns, because they feel they offer the best music scene.

“Kent might be our favorite place so far, and we’re not just talking up the city,” Mobley said. “The people are very open.”

During their stops, Mobley and Yamada usually find people willing to provide them a place to stay. If they are unable to find a place to stay, they set up a tent and camp at a legal location.

“We make connections with all of the people that we encounter,” Mobley said.

When asked why they chose to cycle, Yamada said, “I love cycling. We both enjoy it.” On a bike, I get to experience more of my surroundings.”

They cover about 50 miles a day, and Yamada explained that making the commitment to such extensive travel

can be difficult.

“It’s easy to make excuses and hard to overcome them,” Yamada said. “If I had to think about every detail for this trip from the start, I wouldn’t have done it. I take it one step at a time.”

Throughout their travels, both men improved upon something other than musical ability: their friendship.

“When you’re really close with someone, you expose your fears and weaknesses and the least attractive parts of your personality,” Mobley said.

The next stop for the cycling musicians is Columbus. They hope to reach Los Angeles by mid-January.

Chris Ramos is a general assignment reporter. Contact him at [email protected]