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.”