Ve­l­ogu­ide

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Tom Babin

Two Cal­gar­i­ans and the art of shar­ing a ride

The next time you’re in California itch­ing to ride a bike up those tan­ta­liz­ing Mal­ibu hills but are un­sure of the best routes, you could pop into a lo­cal bike shop and get some vague ad­vice mum­bled in your direction from a dis­tracted me­chanic. Or you could ask for­mer pro cy­clist Phil Gai­mon to show you around.

Gai­mon is one of the for­mer pro cy­clists (among cur­rent pros, as well) who have signed up to play tour guide on Ve­l­ogu­ide, a new on­line ser­vice that is the brain­child of two bike-ob­sessed Cal­gary en­trepreneurs who are as­pir­ing to con­nect trav­el­ling cy­clists with lo­cal guides all over the world. For about US$500, you can book a ride with Gai­mon, who rode with Can­non­dale-dra­pac and Op­tum pre­sented by Kelly Ben­e­fit Strate­gies. He’ll show you his favourite places to ride and stop, in­clud­ing that wa­ter foun­tain hid­den be­hind some bushes that’s the per­fect place to fill your bot­tle af­ter a par­tic­u­larly nasty climb.

“I love rid­ing my bike, and I just love shar­ing a joy­ful day with others. It’s my art,” Gai­mon says. “When you’re a cy­clist and you’re in a new place, it’s tough to find places to ride, so this is a cool ser­vice. There’s no other ser­vice like this in the world.”

The idea for Ve­l­ogu­ide formed while Cal­gar­i­ans Gilles Bras­sart and Joel Go­ral­ski were do­ing what they do a lot of: drink­ing cof­fee and talk­ing bikes. Bras­sart, an ac­com­plished moun­tain biker dur­ing his youth in his na­tive France, owns a French bistro in Cal­gary. Go­ral­ski, who spends his win­ters in Mex­ico of­fer­ing guided cycling trips to tourists, owns the build­ing that houses the bisto. The pair of­ten ride to­gether. On one post-ride day on the pa­tio of Cas­sis Bistro, Bras­sart com­plained about miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity to ride dur­ing a trip to Spain be­cause he couldn’t find some­one to show him around. It was the light­bulb mo­ment: Airbnb for bike tourists. Or, per­haps more ac­cu­rately, a mix of Airbnb, Uber and Tin­der for bike tourists.

To get started, they needed guides. By work­ing their con­nec­tions and comb­ing their Strava net­works, they quickly re­al­ized Ve­l­ogu­ide was an easy sell. Ama­teurs are al­ready rid­ing the world’s beau­ti­ful roads. Many jumped at the chance to make a few bucks by show­ing off those roads to trav­ellers. Like Airbnb, the guides can charge what­ever they want for their ser­vices – road, moun­tain and other­wise – with Ve­l­ogu­ide tak­ing a cut.

Then, Gai­mon came in. Dur­ing Ve­l­ogu­ide’s early days, a staff mem­ber was search­ing for guides on Strava and reached out to the app-lov­ing for­mer pro without re­al­iz­ing she was talk­ing to a well-known rider. But Gai­mon loved the idea. The Ve­l­ogu­ide team loved sign­ing up a rec­og­niz­able name, know­ing plenty of week­end war­riors would hap­pily fork out money for a few hours in the sad­dle along­side a hero. Af­ter Gai­mon, more pros fol­lowed, in­clud­ing Grand Tour veter­ans Ge­orge Hin­capie and Chris­tian Vande Velde.

With the plat­form built out, Bras­sart and Go­ral­ski are now push­ing its global growth. They are try­ing to keep their expectations re­al­is­tic. But for Bras­sart, a cy­clist through and through, he knows ex­actly what suc­cess looks like.

“The next time I go to Spain,” he says with a laugh. “I want to be able to find a guide.”

“A mix of Airbnb, Uber and Tin­der for bike tourists.”

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