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Apr 20, 2021

This week we talk with adventurer, instructor and guide, Ben Shillington about an upcoming 12 day guided bikepacking trip offered by TDA Global Cycling in Quebec, Canada.   

TDA Global Cycling Guided Bikepacking trip

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Ben Shillington

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Episode Transcription (please excuse the typos):

Ben Shillington - TDA Cycling

Craig Dalton: [00:00:00] [00:00:00]Hello and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. On this week's episode we've got expedition guide adventure consultant and adventure instructor ben shillington coming on

[00:00:17]To talk about a new guided bike packing trip from tda global cycling.

[00:00:22]As we've talked about more and more bike packing and adventure riding on your gravel bike on the podcast. I thought this was a great extension.

[00:00:30]And a really cool concept i hadn't seen elsewhere the idea of a guided bike packing expedition .

[00:00:37] We'll get into all the details about the 12 day trip and what it entails. But before we jump in just a quick, thank you. To everybody who's been visiting. Buy me a gravel ride. Your financial support for the podcast means the world to me.

[00:00:53]And it keeps me eager to find new guests to keep you on your gravel cycling journey, just as I continue to be on mine. 

[00:01:00] You may have gathered from some of my comments on the podcast over the last few years, that I'm a big fan of adventure. That includes adventures both on and off the bike.

[00:01:11]Which is why I was super stoked to talk to Ben. Ben's been in big mountains all over the world, both as a Mountaineer. A guide and a cyclist. 

[00:01:21]With all that said i hope you enjoy my conversation with ben and let's dive right in

[00:01:26]Ben, welcome to the show.

[00:01:28] Ben Shillington: [00:01:28] Hey, Craig thanks. Thanks for having [00:01:30] me on, I appreciate appreciate your time and looking forward to chatting with

[00:01:33] you.

[00:01:34] Craig Dalton: [00:01:34] It's growing trend on the podcast throughout the pandemic to be talking more and more about adventures you can have on the bicycle and on a gravel bicycle.

[00:01:43] So I was excited when the team at TDA cycling reached out to me and informed me about the new guided bike packing trip that they're offering this year. Yeah. We'll definitely get into the details about that, but I'd love for you to give the listener a little bit of your background. It's so diverse as an adventurer that I think it's relevant to the trip and just the experience that gravel cyclists will tend to have when they go out on their first bike packing expedition.

[00:02:15] Ben Shillington: [00:02:15] Yeah, sure. Yeah I guess they're given a full CV. I've had the opportunity and pleasure, to work full time in the adventure guiding industry. So I started professionally, making money When I was 18. So I've been guiding and instructing in a variety of different fields from obviously cycle touring and bike packing mountaineering and tracking polar style trips, winter camping, so on and so forth.

[00:02:38]So I've been able to have the opportunity to travel all over the world, leading expeditions or guiding on expeditions at least and instructing and educating folks in a variety of different skill sets. Yeah, over the last two decades. Yeah, I

[00:02:52] Craig Dalton: [00:02:52] think that's so interesting bringing that broader adventure guide and instructor mentality to cycling.

[00:02:59] I think [00:03:00] most of us, we'd get a bike as a child and we learned to ride it. And as we become passionate about cycling, we just ride further a field and get off road, et cetera. But it's not often we think about the need for guidance or instruction. Whereas in other sports, certainly mountaineering getting a mentor and getting guidance and instruction is so critical to your own personal safety and your ability to tackle more adventurous mountains and situations.

[00:03:30] It's great to see that philosophy come into cycling via TDA cycling.

[00:03:36] Ben Shillington: [00:03:36] Yeah. Yeah. We're pretty excited about that.  as you've mentioned there at the top of this, that this is a new I guess a Avenue or a new venture for TDA global cycling. So TDA has been guiding cycling trips all over the world and pretty spicy ones.

[00:03:50]And as far as adventure goes and getting into some, areas that you may not be it may not be first on your bucket list to think about doing something like that yourself. But the whole concept of that bike packing is to bring a little bit of an educational as well.

[00:04:04]As the experiential kind of option to the table where folks can come out on this trip and although we're providing some security and we're, as far as some amenities and backups so on and so forth. We're also able to it gives them skills at the same time.

[00:04:21]So that folks may feel a little bit more empowered or a little bit more confident on going out and doing their own maybe backyard adventures. And as they build [00:04:30] those skills and that confidence maybe take that a little bit farther on

[00:04:32] Craig Dalton: [00:04:32] their own. Yeah, absolutely. So stepping back for a second about TDA cycling, I.

[00:04:38] Since it was a, I almost say it was a bit of an understatement to speak to how crazy these trips are that they've put together. Okay. I know you mentioned to me offline that you guided a three and a half month long silk road bike packing trip for that company. I

[00:04:57] Ben Shillington: [00:04:57] did. Yeah. And that was a, that was my first trip that I did with TDA.

[00:05:01]And it was it was quite the experience, especially as leading that trip and guiding on that trip. Yeah. So it was a multi month three and a half months, I think pretty close. And we rode from Istanbul, Turkey to Beijing, China. So I think that would be what seven or eight countries that we specifically road through across the way.

[00:05:18]So you can imagine a variety of different borders to cross a lot of different cultures to encounter quite a few stories because although, you have a plan and a backup plan, there's a lot of unforeseen little adventures that can arise on the way. We can't, I'd say probably 75% of the way.

[00:05:35] And as I'd mentioned before probably say about 25%, that would be in what you may call a hotel. And especially as we got a little bit further East in the more populated Eastern side of China crossing the Caspian sea being I wouldn't say stranded, but I guess stranded on on a Russian barge across the Caspian sea to hitchhike in somewhere equipment across the the mountains from Turkistan into China and [00:06:00] bypassing a war and a whole bunch of intermittent little surprises along the way were a couple of the a couple of the.

[00:06:07]Adventurous port. So that particular expedition with TDA

[00:06:11] Craig Dalton: [00:06:11] amazing. When I think of bicycle tour companies, I think of the typical, or we're going to take you to the Alps or the Pyrenees and France and the week long cycling trip. So to learn about a company that is doing not only multi-week, but multi month trips, it's pretty amazing to check out.

[00:06:30] Ben Shillington: [00:06:30] Yeah, for sure. And as you mentioned, it's these are bike paths or cycling expeditions really. Because, although there's an a to B there's no real guarantees, but the the skill set that TDA and primary staff have for keeping the thumb on the pulse and knowing what's going on internationally and having communications.

[00:06:47] And these guys are experts at logistics and problem solving. And it's just amazing. Anytime that do get the opportunity to work with these guys they can make pretty much anything happen and deal with things in such a calm and collected manner that you know, even as a. A professional guide and I've worked in a whole bunch of different genres that always something to learn with how these guys are able to choreograph and really have these successful trips going through these amazing areas that you may not have otherwise thought you could even expose yourself to.

[00:07:18] Yeah, there's

[00:07:18] Craig Dalton: [00:07:18] absolutely both an art and a science to bring a group through. Some of these countries, even like landing in the airport and fi figuring out how to get your gear together and how [00:07:30] to get the right Porter or the right car, having someone in the background, just handling those logistics can make something that's still truly going to be an Epic adventure.

[00:07:40] That's going to push her personal limits just a little bit easier and frankly, a little bit safer to pull off.

[00:07:46] Ben Shillington: [00:07:46] Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So the individual still has to have their head in the game to make it through whatever that day's offering is. But like we keep mentioning, it's some of those really off the beat challenges that may come in that we don't have, that your average lady or gentleman wouldn't have experienced with that we can take

[00:08:02] Craig Dalton: [00:08:02] care of.

[00:08:03] As someone who's approaching, guiding that three and a half month trip with clients, was there criteria or communication with the client and the advance to make sure that they were prepared both physically and mentally for that type of trip.

[00:08:19] Ben Shillington: [00:08:19] Yeah. So for most of these TDA trips and especially these longer ones and moving into the bike packing one, there's a lot of communication that comes ahead.

[00:08:26]So that people understand what they're signing up for, want to make sure that the experience that they're signing up for is. Is what they are actually considering. Sometimes things might look different on a webpage or in a description than what you have in your own mind.

[00:08:40] So the communications through email phone conversations happened way ahead of time. And then there's a bit of consulting. So on these other, the classic TDA tours there's bulletins that go out bike checks, medicals. Yeah. Gear, packing request sheets, or even mandatory, like on some of these trips, if we go back to the silk road, right?

[00:08:59] You could only [00:09:00] bring, these two size bags and if it didn't fit, you weren't allowed to bring it on. You had to have these X amount of spare parts and nothing extra, so on and so forth. Because. The environment is changing so much that you can't be overburdened. So being selective with what you have, but making sure that folks bring the right things with them especially if there's no opportunity or limited opportunity to top up on those supplies.

[00:09:23] So yeah, a lot of work goes in to getting people to buy into the trip objective and be as ready as possible. For day one, starting out on some of these bigger journeys.

[00:09:35] Craig Dalton: [00:09:35] Was your experience that the relative fitness level of the clients made it so that it was a kind of simpatico team?

[00:09:41] Or did you have outliers one way or the other.

[00:09:44] Ben Shillington: [00:09:44] No. There's a suggested level of, fitness or strength or fitness would probably be the the right word, but no it varies across the board and my experiences with the trips that I've ran with TDA specifically you set that kind of expectation.

[00:09:57] So people know physically what they're getting themselves into. And traditionally, just because of the longevity and the amount of organization people have on their end, To prepare to depart or leave, their lives behind for a month or three months. That general conditioning is there and, we hear it often sounds cliche maybe, but it's so much more in your mind than it is in your body.

[00:10:18] That if you arrive with the right Headspace or you can keep your head in the right Headspace, the body's going to catch up eventually. So the spread across the day and these trips is, not particular riding in a solid group where everybody has to maintain a [00:10:30] minimal pace. There's a briefing in the morning, there's a general layout of the description of the route and the directions.

[00:10:36] And, as obviously as times moved on, it's went into you being able to have GPX files. But it's always good to pair that up with the map and people can just. Unfold as they see fit and they'll check in, at a particular, lunch points throughout the day. So whether that ride day is a hundred or 190 kilometers, that are a particular spot where they'll check in for some food they'll need to arrive in camp.

[00:10:57] There's always a sweep rider. And depending on the trip, there'll be an emergency vehicle out there. Even though these clients will be spread out, over, tens or, Maybe half, maybe 50 kilometers worth of terrain. We always kinda got an eye on where everybody is and they can just roll in at their own leisure because the whole objective of a lot of these trips is to connect people with the region that you're traveling in.

[00:11:19] And the beauty of the bike is being able to move swiftly and efficiently, but also you can slow down and you can get off to check anything out that you see or, have those personal encounters and just be in the moment.

[00:11:30]Craig Dalton: [00:11:30] Yeah. Absolutely. It makes it so special. And I think part of getting out there and nature often is experiencing a little solitude and a little time by yourself.

[00:11:40] So doing that in foreign country, and as you said, to be able to experience the community and the food at your own pace is a really nice benefit and really adds to that spirit of adventure. I imagine.

[00:11:53] Ben Shillington: [00:11:53] Yeah. And, and everybody has their own objective, right? So they might sign up to bike from Istanbul to Beijing, but, you might be a history [00:12:00] buff or you may, maybe you might be a fitness buff and you want to crush those miles as hard and fast as you can every single day.

[00:12:05]Cause that's your goal. Maybe you might be into food or photography. Being able to give folks a bit of a heads up on what they may encounter and how they may get the most out of that experience. Then as long as they're not in a. A major time restriction, everybody can take that day in as they see fit.

[00:12:22] Craig Dalton: [00:12:22] Yeah. We could continue to talk about the silk road all day because it's an area that I'm personally fascinated in and I've seen some of the bike packing events over in that region. It looks stunning. It looks rugged. It looks remote. It just looks like the place that any adventurer would dream of going.

[00:12:39] Yeah, for sure. Transitioning over to the bike packing Quebec trip, that's on the calendar for this year. Let's talk about some of the details where it starts and stops the dates. And then we can get into kind of what the rider should experience and what you're looking to provide to them. Sure.

[00:12:58] Ben Shillington: [00:12:58] Yeah. So the bike pack in Quebec, it's a Walton Quebec, the province of Quebec here in Canada, which is on the Eastern side of the country.

[00:13:06]It's a, about a 15 day trip total that's with pre posts and the starting, or the preparation day will happen on August the 14th, which would be a Saturday. So it'd be day one, stage zero. So we have two days of prep that's happening in Ottawa where we can come together. And do a little bit of a equipment check, build up the bikes.

[00:13:26]Just an overall shakedown in preparation because we will be [00:13:30] consulting with declines beforehand on, helping them get the right gear, the right bike, have the right equipment with them. Not too much, but not too little. If there's a couple of gaps or a few little things that we need to fine tune, then we'll have that opportunity in the city.

[00:13:43]It'll be a a finished day on the 28th in Quebec city. So we're going from Ottawa to Quebec city and the road takes us over those two weeks. There'll be two rest days in there to break things up. But it brings us up in, around out of Ottawa through the Gatineau park getting up quite a bit, North end was a wrench and mountains.

[00:14:02] And we've been back around, down into Quebec city. And does that

[00:14:07] Craig Dalton: [00:14:07] cover a lot of elevation? Is there a lot of climbing in that region?

[00:14:10] Ben Shillington: [00:14:10] Yeah. And you're going to ask that being out in California. So in the end of the wrench in mountains here we've got, we don't have the long rise that you guys do or the run, sorry, but we have a repetitive run.

[00:14:22] So there's lots of steep climbs and descents, but just back to back, I'm so thrilled to the luncheons. You can get anywhere from 9% to 20% gradients and on your average day if I look at my layout here, I can tell you what some of the average day climbs are, but up to about 1200 meters of climbing on an average day for this particular route.

[00:14:44] Yeah. Nothing too crazy, but definitely some steep pitches. But it's more so being off of the beaten path as opposed to a cumulative elevation gain. And

[00:14:53] Craig Dalton: [00:14:53] as this as a team of cyclists, Okay. Are you out there on your own or are there support [00:15:00] systems, vans following you?

[00:15:01]What's the situation?

[00:15:04] Ben Shillington: [00:15:04] Yeah. So the situation in that, the point that we're trying to sell or promote the folks is that we're creating a real kind of, self-sufficient. Opportunity to get out there on your bike. So the bikes everyone will be loaded with everything that they need for sleeping for eating.

[00:15:18]So a multi, like a fuel stove a solo self-supported or, free-standing tent, your change of clothes, snacks. Yeah. Water purification so on and so forth. So there'll be a emergency four-wheel drive vehicle in the ether that will have access in the event that there's an emergency.

[00:15:35]But there's no lag wagon per se or anything. That's meeting us from point to point. So when we roll out in the morning, collectively as a group, folks who have a GPX file. I'll do a morning trip briefing to let folks know, here's what the terrain is looking like. If there are any amenities to, to see, to stop out along the way, there are going to be several days where there are no amenities, so that classic coffee shop, or, pastry top up will not be available for portions of this ride.

[00:16:01] So we'll discuss that all out in the morning. And so when we leave out, people will have a good sense of the directions where they're going what they may encounter. And one of us will be riding. Within the group and, move around from front to back, keeping a physical check on everybody, but not being with everybody all at the same time.

[00:16:19] So when we do roll into camp in the evenings, everything will already be on the bike. We can roll in, we can set up, get cleaned up and then progress with our afternoon and evening. [00:16:30] Nice. Will

[00:16:30] Craig Dalton: [00:16:30] each athlete then have a complete bike packing setup? I think you referenced this, but I want to make that point clear.

[00:16:37] So each person would effectively be self-sufficient with their own food, their own ability to cook their own ability to purify water.

[00:16:47] Ben Shillington: [00:16:47] That's correct? Yeah, that's correct. So we'll make sure and that'll be a part of, the pre-trip support that we're going to offer. So obviously everything is via zoom and, depending on where folks are coming in from we're setting up a couple milestones ahead of the time so that we can review those bikes or help them, make a choice with what they already have or what they may need to add to that setup.

[00:17:06] So depending on what their philosophy is for their own rig the bike pack. Frame bags, so on and so forth that they might use the equipment. And we definitely are gonna consult and give some, high suggestions on certain particular pieces of equipment that they come out with them as far as their sleep systems go and for cooking.

[00:17:23]Yeah, you're correct that when we roll out. If we're on stage four and we're rolling out from lack Ernest to  and it's a 80 kilometer day and 20, 55% of that is dirt, gravel, and Doubletrack, they have every single thing that they need on them. Let's say worst case scenario, we had to stop midway and set up camp.

[00:17:42] We could everything's right there. It's not in the van or in Surrey or in the truck.

[00:17:46] Craig Dalton: [00:17:46] Yeah. Interesting. That type of advice is invaluable. I think in bike packing, certainly editing is critical in terms of getting the right amount of gear, but not too much gear.

[00:17:58] Ben Shillington: [00:17:58] That's right. Yeah. And [00:18:00] that's it.

[00:18:00] And I think that's, that's what we want to provide here. And this is the idea is that, we talked about, it's nice having that little bit of security or peace of mind that you have support with you. So whether that be an experienced guide, that's out on the trail, whether he's 10 kilometers.

[00:18:12]It had a, you or 20 kilometers behind, that, he or she is coming. Understanding the system as a whole and being able to progress and get a little bit more efficient on packing that bike a little bit. So it's handier to get up the things that you need throughout the day.

[00:18:26] Being a quicker and more efficient at setting that tent up at night, how to stake things out. So your tent is more breathable so that your dryer in the morning, how to manage your clothes, how to eat differently when you should prep your water and why. So these are all the things that myself and the staff at TDA on this expedition are going to be able to work with clients beforehand.

[00:18:48] But then also work with them throughout the trip. So it's a progression of knowledge and experience. When we go on through these systems every single day and recalibrating, everybody has their own philosophy, but we can help each individual fine tune that philosophy.

[00:19:04] Fine tune those skills and figure out how they may want to progress. In the future, if they were to do this again on their own. Yeah. It's so important.

[00:19:12]Craig Dalton: [00:19:12] I think the modern bike packing bag set up is so amazing. But it also involves cramming things in places, compressing things.

[00:19:21] And as you referenced, knowing where everything is and having a system in your own mind is so important because there's [00:19:30] nothing worse than realizing you need something that's absolutely buried and inaccessible in your bike, packing bags.

[00:19:38] Ben Shillington: [00:19:38] That's right. And when you have some anytime and you can make some refinements, sometimes you just, you have what you have and that's okay.

[00:19:44] And sometimes the decision I find decision fatigue. I, I teach cycle tour guiding courses for an outdoor adventure guide diploma program that I'm a full-time instructor for. And a lot of the stuff that we go through in these bike and courses, and even some of the other stuff is, decision fatigue, and often.

[00:20:01] You have way more stuff than you actually need. So being able to look at that kind of objective and saying, Hey, this doesn't kill two birds with one stone, so I don't really need it. And this can do a couple of things here, so maybe I'll keep that. And if I shift this up to this bag and bury this in the bottom, I don't have to think about sifting through that until we get into camp at night and.

[00:20:22] Even though, that's a mental energy expenditure. So we're looking at trying to be as efficient as possible. You can select a gear to be more efficient. You can breathe differently to be more efficient, but also just being able to quickly. Access some of those tools that you need throughout the day allows you to put more energy into the ride and being familiar with your surroundings, as opposed to stressing about, jamming things into the, these places or having things that you'd really didn't need in the first

[00:20:48] Craig Dalton: [00:20:48] place.

[00:20:49] Yeah, I think it's interesting with the modern day bike packing bags and, being a fan of bike, packing myself, looking at people who have done these big expeditions and seeing they only had a frame bag, a [00:21:00] front roll and a seat bag. And if they managed to get everything they needed for three months in that bag, clearly I can go for 48 hours and fit everything I need in.

[00:21:09] So if it doesn't fit in, it's clearly not needed.

[00:21:12] Ben Shillington: [00:21:12] Exactly. Yeah. And, I find for me anyways, I find it half the fun now. Pact for so many different types of trips. And, even if we just talk about bikes specifically, and every time I think, half the fun really is preparing and laying out all my stuff and kind of, figuring out, Oh what's going to work just a little bit better this time and or how can I make that lighter or a little bit more convenience.

[00:21:33] And I've done many a night where, everybody's in bed here at the house and I'm packing, unpacking, and laying things out and just having fun, trying to fine tune. Yeah. There's some

[00:21:43] Craig Dalton: [00:21:43] personal satisfaction in pulling out a small item that takes your comfort to the next level when your peers have forgotten or hadn't thought about

[00:21:53] Ben Shillington: [00:21:53] it.

[00:21:53] That's right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

[00:21:57] Craig Dalton: [00:21:57] I remember my, I went bike, packing it up in Oregon on the Oregon timber trail and I just. Decided I was going to bring it an extra pair of warm gloves with me and a few mornings where we got up to elevation, it was bitterly cold. And I had these essentially like skiing gloves with me that were the envy of my two expedition mates.

[00:22:19] Ben Shillington: [00:22:19] Oh, that's nice. Yeah. That's a feather in your cap there for sure.

[00:22:24] Craig Dalton: [00:22:24] Which is probably the only feather garnered in that trip because I was clearly the rookie and very, a [00:22:30] reliant on the other two for a number of the more critical details in life. Yeah

[00:22:35] Ben Shillington: [00:22:35] safety in

[00:22:35] Craig Dalton: [00:22:35] numbers, right? Exactly. I think that's one of the things that made me keen about having this conversation and just this concept of, this coached bike, packing expedition, because as we talked about, and obviously anybody can go out and have these adventures it.

[00:22:50] Go out for 24 hours. Any mistake you make is not going to be critical. You're going to get home fine and you'll learn a ton, but being able to have a coach to guide you into this 12 day long experience, I think is a super opportunity for someone who maybe doesn't have the bandwidth in their personal life to figure all these details out, but really wants to get out there and experience a true bike packing experience.

[00:23:17] Ben Shillington: [00:23:17] Yeah. Yeah. It gives a bit of a kickstart, right? Cause it can, everybody's got the capacity to learn on their own, but like you said, the bandwidth or the time to you got to learn by making a lot of mistakes. So how I see, especially. As I, instruct and educate and run courses all the time is that you can really help people fast track.

[00:23:35] They'll still need to put the miles in to build the intuition. But being able to help them bypass some of the the beginner mistakes, or oversights, really not really mistakes so much, but just sometimes you just don't know what you don't know. And if somebody else can help you buffer through that the potential is there to have.

[00:23:52] Faster and more time out on that bike and on your own

[00:23:56] Craig Dalton: [00:23:56] as well. If for me personally, a couple of the things that [00:24:00] have always created anxiety around bike packing, and I do realize these are going to be region and routes specific have been food and hydration. And just making sure that I had an understanding of when my next resupply point might be for both water and food and managing that effectively.

[00:24:20] I find personally, I'm always very conservative. So I end up carrying a lot of extra weight potentially on the bike because I'm fearful that next resupply point is not going to come when I need it.

[00:24:33] Ben Shillington: [00:24:33] Yeah, that's right. Yeah, for sure. And sometimes it is better to be a little bit more conservative and in the end, if you have to, Del pass a water bottle out, or you got an extra bar too, that's no problem, but there is a tipping point for sure.

[00:24:45] And I think a lot of that, and this is what we want to go over with folks as well is there's th there's the whole riding your bike from a to B, but there's everything before that, that route planning and deciding on why you might, Take this road, as opposed to that road and how long you might think something might take, because if you change the oil, the elevation gain, or the terrain that you're riding on, just because you ride at this pace and this terrain doesn't mean this is going to work here.

[00:25:11] So where's that water gonna fall in? And do I need to carry that? Or is there an opportunity to get that, from a. A Lake or river and if so how do I purify that? And the same thing with that chloric intake, right? We often think we need way more food than we do, but if we change the foods that we select and we put it in our body in a [00:25:30] slow trickle, you often get more miles over to that.

[00:25:32] So it changes the bulk. So yeah, there's, it's intimidating, but also fun as well because there is so much to learn and you always get just a little bit better and a little bit more refined and you push that next trip, and just to touch more. Yeah,

[00:25:45]Craig Dalton: [00:25:45] It's interesting, a lot of the listeners and myself included may have come from a bike racing background where it was pretty easy to have, eight power bars or the equivalent with you.

[00:25:56] For an eight hour event, but in bike packing, shifts because I find that, if you're out there for multiple days, you don't want to be eating eight power bars or goos or Clif blocks, like all day long, every day, you really want to be fueling up on more natural foods and more things that you can cook and buy.

[00:26:15] So it's an interesting shift for people. And as you said, definitely a learning curve there.

[00:26:21] Ben Shillington: [00:26:21] Yeah. And it's, one thing I I always use the reference. It's a game of chess, so when, you can fake it for an overnight but when you're adding multiple nights on, there's a snowball effect for every decision that you make.

[00:26:31]When you're on stage one or two, you've got to think about stage eight and nine. And Yeah. So some of those things change when you're adding duration to the big picture. Yeah,

[00:26:40] Craig Dalton: [00:26:40] totally. And I imagine that also that statement applies to people's physical nature as well, because you can go out and you can hammer day one's climbs and crush everybody and put a lot of effort into it.

[00:26:53] But day two and three, those efforts are gonna come back and haunt you. So it's important to measure out your physical efforts [00:27:00] as well. I imagine.

[00:27:01] Ben Shillington: [00:27:01] Both exactly. Yeah. That's exactly sure. And if you've got enough daylight, you don't have to come to hot out of the gate. We play around with that, your gear, selection, and cadence and breathing and fueling, and, you'd be surprised like you can settle into, what, I just call that sweet spot.

[00:27:17] And if you're managing all those systems together you can match your physiology and you can really, take your body. Over those multiple days and get quite comfortable and adapt relatively, relatively easily, per se.

[00:27:30]If you're taking a look at all those different avenues, write down even to, to sleep your sleep patterns and stuff at night and rest. So

[00:27:37] Craig Dalton: [00:27:37] that was encouraged people to get out there on multi-day experiences because there's something absolutely liberating. And in this modern society where.

[00:27:45] We've got so many responsibilities and we're always on and always connected when you realize you're on a 12 day bike packing trip. And literally the only thing you need to do all day is pedal your bike. It just is such an amazing and freeing experience.

[00:28:01] Ben Shillington: [00:28:01] Yeah. That's back to the basics or I call it, active meditation is something I use to describe that.

[00:28:07] And, I think people don't often give themselves enough credit or just. Don't, some, sometimes people just need a little bit of a confidence boost to say, Hey, compete, you can do a lot more than you're probably giving yourself credit for. So if you can just kinda have a little bit of taste of that success, whatever you define success to be it's it sets the ball in motion or it's exponential for the next challenge that you may try to [00:28:30] tackle.

[00:28:30] Yeah, for sure.

[00:28:31] Craig Dalton: [00:28:31] One of the final things I wanted to talk about is when loading a bike fully for a bike packing expedition, obviously you're putting a lot more weight on the bike and experience has shown and certainly stories have been told about how. Bike mechanicals are probably more likely to happen than on your daily tours.

[00:28:52] Can you talk about how you guys address that and what type of coaching you provide and what type of extra parts you encourage people to bring out on these bike packing trips?

[00:29:02] Ben Shillington: [00:29:02] Sure. Yeah, that's a great question. So I always think proactive instead of reactive. And when I say that it's more one really knowing your bike having it fine tuned, whether it's by yourself or, your local mechanic to make sure.

[00:29:14] Every part of that bike from, the integrity of the frame to how good your sidewalls on the tires that you're choosing to use fresh cables. And there's no leaks. If you're running hydraulic brakes, the drive train is fresh rate. So if you're on the cusp of any of that, you want to take that out of the equation, right?

[00:29:30] So you start off with a peace of mind, not fingers crossed. I always want people not to have fingers crossed as far as that goes. So when you're coming in with all those avenues of your bike, taking care of. Bearings as well the wheels being trued, so on and so forth, we have a list of recommendations for what should be, certified or checked off by yourself or your mechanic.

[00:29:51] So that'd be number one, being proactive instead of reactive, and then the reactivity in the field. That's what we want to give folks as well. We'll do little modules in the field [00:30:00] on, Some people just don't know how to take that route. We offer their bike cause it's quite intimidating during dealing with those gears and the chain so on and so forth.

[00:30:07] So we'll show people how to, remove those wheels, put them back on, how to replace a derailleur hanger. That would be something that's going to be in your kit. Some innovative trail side repairs that you can deal with it if you do blow a derailer apart. But I always do to bring one spare derailer with me, depending on the duration or the accessibility, because as you're probably aware, you can single speed or kind of Jimmy rig that driller to get you to the end of the day, but you don't want to be riding multiple days with rickety, single-speed hack.

[00:30:35]But also, how to splice a chain. So if you have to take a couple of big chunks out of there and you're out of master links, how can you use that tool and splice that chain and lock out the limit screws on your rear derailer. So you don't accidentally. Shift into something that's going to stretch the rest of it out.

[00:30:51]So a lot of those things we're going to go through in the field with folks. So we will have a suggested tool list and a minimal spare parts list and really focus on proactively. Keeping an eye on that bike in the morning, and then at nighttime. So doing pre and post ride, full bike inspections before doing the day's

[00:31:10] Craig Dalton: [00:31:10] ride.

[00:31:11] Yeah. That's good advice. I think out there on the trail necessity is the mother of invention they say, and people do all kinds of creative things to get their bike through the day or to the town where they can get a repair done. It's fascinating, but you do need to have a minimum set of.

[00:31:28] Gear and [00:31:30] supplies and skills to even get that far.

[00:31:33] Ben Shillington: [00:31:33] Yeah. And and that's w when I look at it too, a lot of times, like when you're rolling out and everything's dialed in correctly, and there's no fingers crossed and the bags are packed and they're clipped on and secured and you know how everything's going often, your three key breakdowns is going to be a broken chain.

[00:31:48] And that's typically, if it's getting really mucky or you make a bad choice shifting under pressure, those things can happen, but there's. Typically there's a reason for that happening a flat tire. So if it goes beyond tire pressure, depending on if you're running two lists or two, it's a puncture and that happens, and that's not a big deal.

[00:32:04] Anything outside of that typically is bike trauma. It's typically a bike trauma thing. So even just, rethinking the way that we ride and how we're descending some of these Hills or how we're approaching some of this terrain may change that potential for those breakdowns. Just reeling things back a little bit.

[00:32:21] If we're on day six of a 12 day trip, if you're on a one day, you might ride this train this way, but to be on reserve for potential bike trauma, maybe we'll cut things back a little bit for longevity.

[00:32:32] Craig Dalton: [00:32:32] Yeah, I think that's an absolutely great advice and tracks to my personal experience, where, you know, going back to that additional weight on the bike, once you start pointing it downhill, you start to have those fun flavors and you want to hop off of things, but then you realize you're not only hopping your normal bike with you on it, but you've got an extra 20 pounds that are slamming every time you come back down to the ground.

[00:32:57] It's probably not the best idea in the middle of a big trip. [00:33:00] That's

[00:33:00] Ben Shillington: [00:33:00] right? Yeah, it goes to the big picture.

[00:33:03] Craig Dalton: [00:33:03] This is a lot of fun. Ben, are there any like key takeaways? I know we've covered a ton of them already, but are there anything you want to leave the listener with? Who might be approaching their first bike packing trip?

[00:33:14] Ben Shillington: [00:33:14] Yeah. Yeah, I think we did check on a few, but I think, I dunno, probably one was just make, do with what you have. I think it's pretty easy nowadays to get wrapped up in wheel sizes and bike frame, geometry and bags and this, that, and the other thing we often don't realize that some of the stuff that we have at home for clothes and equipment and the bike that we have, maybe put a couple bucks into.

[00:33:35] To, to swap out a tire or something like that, but just make, do with what you have and get out there because, if you get out there just for your first 24 hour rod or even one big day ride where, you do have to pack a substantial amount of food and have a half decent repair kit and come home and sleep at night.

[00:33:51] I mean that, that's all skill-building and that's just going to progress into more miles and more confidence.

[00:33:58] Craig Dalton: [00:33:58] Yeah, that's great. I love that underlying theme that we continue to revisit on the gravel ride podcast. It's just get out there and do it. I think that's one, that's part of the magic of these new off-road capable bikes that we have.

[00:34:11] It's just, you can get out there. You can create very. Clever roots that bring you places that you've never been before. And as you said before, your body and mind are capable of a lot more than most people think that they are capable for. So just get out there and get after it.

[00:34:29] Ben Shillington: [00:34:29] Yeah, for [00:34:30] sure. Yeah, certainly.

[00:34:31] And if you want a couple more tips I'd discuss that layout and eliminate that's another one. If you're a cone to pursue something, maybe your first, overnight, you often don't need half as much as you think. And I think you always need to have a coffee plan.

[00:34:45] Craig Dalton: [00:34:45] Probably good tip done right on it. I appreciate the time. I'm excited for you guys to kick off this first trip in August, this year out of Quebec, and I'll put links to it in the show notes where everybody can find the trip and they can find you.

[00:35:00] Ben Shillington: [00:35:00] That's great. Thanks so much for your time there, Craig was a nice chatting with you.

[00:35:03] Cheers.

[00:35:04]Craig Dalton: [00:35:04] Big, thanks to Ben for joining the podcast this week. I hope you enjoyed learning about that guided bike packing expedition. There'll be hosting later this year. It sounds like a fun concept to me. I often have benefited from having a little bit of expert guidance when I've tried new things to just take the edge off.

[00:35:24] And what I love. It's not just a weekend trip. It's a true 12 day expedition that they've put together. So I really love that concept. And I think it's going to be. A fantastic addition to the gravel cycling calendar every year. 

[00:35:39] So that's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast i appreciate you joining us i hope you're having a great week and finding some time out on the bike if you're interested in getting in touch with us please visit it's our free global cycling community and [00:36:00] love to hear feedback and i'm getting many ideas for future episodes directly from the forums and from all you members out there.

[00:36:07] Until next time here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels