DIY cycling adventures: The stag fondo

It was a lot of work, but for a cyclist, I can't imagine a better stag

September 27th, 2016 by | Posted in Feature, Rides+Events, Spotlight |

The bike is a machine for creating adventures. They can be small ‘a’ adventures: a big day out with friends, maybe on roads you’ve never ridden before. They can also be capital ‘A’ adventures that take you across long distances to remote places. Here are three adventures that have inspired us. What they all have in common is that you,  too, can plan similar rides for yourself, your friends or your club.  So, read on, and then get riding.

Last summer, I got married. In the lead-up to the ceremony, there was, of course, a bachelor party. Since I’m an avid cyclist and all of my groomsmen are, too, I didn’t want to have a typical stag; I wanted to host a gran fondo. It would be a day of riding with friends on roads we’d all enjoy. There’d be food afterward that we’d eat while chatting about the roads, hills and our tired legs. Also, I had always wanted to have my own custom cycling kit. I realized that there was perhaps never going to be better reason to create a design. From there, my groomsmen and I began planning an event.

The main focus was a fantastic day on the bicycle. As simple as that sounds, there were a few things to consider and co-ordinate. My best man and I began in January 2015 to think of ways to structure the event. We decided that pre-ordering a kit would serve as each person’s ticket to the ride. This way, everyone received something meaningful when he attended. We then worked out what the cost of the kit would be and created a budget. Each kit had a tiny margin of $25, which gave us just enough funding to pay for catering and all of the water, drink mix, bars and gels needed in the support vehicle that would follow the ride. We also realized that because the ride was an event that cyclists were paying to do, we needed to insure the ride through the Ontario Cycling Association to avoid any potential liability issues. I also created my own Square account to accept creditcard payments from my friends who were from out of town. From there – things went forward.

We called the ride a stag fondo. The complete kit that we were selling on pre-order was $220, which I realized was maybe beyond the budget of some, so my expectations weren’t too high. Nevertheless, my strategy was to have a design that really told a story, on a top-quality jersey and bib shorts. The colours and the elements of the jersey, I felt, needed to be very distinct but not too garish. I absolutely did not want my name plastered all over it. I wanted something my friends would want to wear again in the future. However, every aspect of the design had meaning. For example, on the sleeve there was a shadow of a “threelegged chicken.” It was a reference to my favourite joke as a child and my Instagram and Strava name.

We built a Facebook page three months prior to the event on which I posted the design. I also posted the kit design on my personal Instagram account. I told the story of every element of the jersey online and to my friends who weren’t online. Perhaps it was that narrative that really built interest in the stag fondo.

I honestly had humble expectations. I was hoping 10 or 15 people would preorder a kit and come to the ride. Much to my surprise, the story of the design seemed to really resonate with many of the cyclists I knew. Some of them I knew well, while others were rather new friendships. What I learned is that when there is a story behind a kit design, it really adds value. In the end, 40 riders signed up. It was a celebration that far exceeded any of my initial ideas.

I was also very fortunate to have some valuable connections in the bicycle industry. Neworld Cycle in Burlington, Ont., was very generous and donated their space on a Sunday in July to host the stag fondo. This space allowed us to have change rooms, bathrooms, bike storage, an air-conditioned place to eat lunch and to have a raffle at the end of the event. We had a photographer, Jeremy Allen, who attended and donated his time as a gift. Everyone who attended was then able to get some photos of the day. It was a lot of work, but for a cyclist, I can’t imagine a better stag. It was an absolutely amazing experience. It also inspired me to host an event in 2016, based on a very similar model: the Shimano Gran Fondo. You never know where a fun project will take you.