Adventure, Inspiration, and the Pedaling Stories of Ryan Van Duzer

Ryan Van Duzer, a globe-trotting cyclist and storyteller, shares his thrilling adventures on YouTube to inspire people to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new challenges.

Ryan Van Duzer Filmmaker

Whether he’s cycling across the country or writing his next book, filmmaker and author Ryan Van Duzer is passionate about creating work to inspire people to get out there. Read his interview to learn more about what sparked his initial interest in storytelling and how he finds the right music for his adventure-packed films on Musicbed.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling? 

Ryan Van Duzer: I’ve always loved finding creative ways to tell stories. In high school, I always chose the creative option for end-of-year projects (instead of writing papers). I’d grab the family video camera and create a video. My passion for telling stories led me to a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Colorado. However, I didn’t like the, “if it bleeds, it leads” style of local news, so upon graduation, I joined the Peace Corps. I worked with amazing kids for two years, and when I finished my service, I jumped on my bicycle and rode it 4,000 miles home to Boulder, Colorado. I documented the entire experience with my little Sony Handycam, highlighting all the wonderful people and beautiful landscapes. This experience inspired me to become an adventure storyteller. 

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

I gain a lot of inspiration from being outside and immersing myself in nature. My mind doesn’t stop running when I’m on a long adventure in the middle of nowhere, this is where I get some of my best ideas. I also get inspired by other creators. There’s a ton of impressive people out there and I love learning from YouTubers. I’ve always loved Casey Neistat’s style of storytelling. 

What makes a story visually appealing? What role does music play in storytelling? 

My videos are rough and tumble due to the nature of my content, I’m a one-man band trying my best to document difficult adventures, and this can lead to some vulnerable moments. While my finished product might not be super polished, the viewers always get an in-depth feel of my mental and physical struggles. As far as music goes, I never want songs to overwhelm the viewer or manipulate their emotions. I usually choose acoustic or peaceful instrumental songs to accompany the background of my B-roll, especially drone shots.

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

I always meet amazing people on my travels and I make a point to highlight their stories. My audience gets enough of hearing me talk, so when I can introduce them to interesting people, I take it. I love showing off the best of humanity. Besides that, I always hit the record button when times are tough. Overcoming challenges is one of the themes of my content, and the audience likes to see how I get myself out of sticky situations. 

How important is music in your work?

Very important, but again, I put down the volume of my songs to keep the sounds of nature front and center. I want my audience to feel like they’re riding their bikes beside me. 

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators who are just starting their careers?

Start doing it! I learned how to become a creator by trial and error. I began my career in 2006 by running around my hometown, filming backyard adventures for a public access TV show. I had very little idea what I was doing, but I slowly started to figure things out (filming, editing, presenting) and got better with every video I created. To this day, I haven’t made the perfect video, and it keeps me motivated to continue learning and creating. 

How do you balance pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

I’m lucky I’m the boss (yay, YouTube) and don’t have anyone telling me to change my style. My goal since day 1 has been to create something of value and to inspire people to get outside and challenge themselves. I tell stories that matter to me and hopefully, my audience feels the same way.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

I’ve been feeling the effects of burnout recently. I produce a lot of content (once a week) and the grind has worn me down physically and emotionally. The adventures alone are difficult, and the effort I put into documentation can be very taxing. However, when I hit a wall, I step back and realize how fortunate I am to call this my career. It’s a dream come true. 

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

Last summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of riding my bike the length of Sweden. I was an exchange student there in 1998 and always wanted to experience the midnight sun. I started my journey above the Arctic Circle and spent two weeks making my way down to the southern tip, finishing in the arms of my beloved host family. 

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

 I always start by checking the ‘Instrumental’ box, I rarely use songs with vocals. From there, I choose my genre and instrument (usually acoustic guitar). I also love checking out the curated playlists, there’s some great stuff in there. I’d say that Utah and Red Licorice are two of my favorite artists. 

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

The collection of songs is seemingly endless and new stuff is constantly added. It’s also easy to navigate through the site. I’ve used other song catalogs, but Musicbed has consistently better music. 

Explore a curated playlist of Ryan’s favorite songs to use in his films—each available to license only on Musicbed.