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Privateer Life: A Month of Northern America Gravel Racing Cost Me _
I said that I'd be open. Here's a full financial breakdown.
Three thousand, eight hundred and fifty four pounds, eighty. That’s how much (ish) it cost me to spend twenty two days travelling and racing across Northern America. Let me explain.
Total Trip Cost:
Whether you think that number is a little or a lot. Throughout this piece I’m going to take you through every single cost of my trip. Where did I spend the most money? Where did I save money? Were there any stupid splurges? How Many “I Owe You’s” do I now have out on me?
For context, between May 23rd and June 13th I travelled across Canada and the US to compete in three gravel races: BWR Vancouver Island, Unbound Gravel, Blue Mountains World Gravel Series.
Note: I’ve done rough conversions across three different currencies to give approximate values/ context. These are not exact.
There is no great surprise that flights were responsible for a majority of the spend. The flight path for my whole trip was as follows:
Dublin - Calgary - Vancouver
Vancouver - Denver - Kansas
Chicago - Toronto
Toronto - London
* we drove the ten hours from Kansas to Chicago
There’s not too much to comment here. If you want to race abroad then you’ve got to fly there and you’ve got to take a bike bag, and a suitcase too. I booked my flights two months in advance, maybe next year I’ll try to book them even further out, but relatively speaking I think these were a bit of a bargain.
= 42.76% of total spend
Ordinarily, accommodation would be the highest or the second highest cost of a trip like this. Through a mixture of host housing, and staying with the Ribble Collective squad in Kansas, I got lucky. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, thank you to all of the hosts. It was the host housing situation which gave me some of my favourite moments of the whole trip. You guys know who you are, thank you.
In Kansas, I stayed in the Ribble Collective camper van which was covered for me. I had two nights in hotels on the whole trip, one while with the Ribble guys which was covered for me, and the one I paid for, which was when I touched down in Toronto at midnight.
If we work on a pretty lowly cost of $100 per night, staying with host families saved me over $2000.
= 3.65% of total spend
Life as a privateer means you’re ridin’ solo when out on the road. The epic nature of gravel racing, and the fact that you’re putting your bike in and out of a bag every five minutes, means that plenty of things get knocked out of place.
This figure is abnormally high because I had what I now know to be a faulty brake calliper. The calliper was very slightly leaking meaning I had multiple front brake bleeds over the three weeks. At one shop, I bought a new rotor and brake pads as they thought that was the problem.
The now infamous Unbound mud gave my drivetrain a whack of abuse and resulted in some replacement parts, mistiming a delivery of bidons before my first race day also cost me the best part of a hundred dollars.
= 15% of total spend
At the BWR on Vancouver Island I had a videographer, Liam, following me around for two days. On one hand, this is completely unnecessary as an expense. On the other hand, it’s an important part of my job these days. Building up a bank of video content might come at a cost, but it’s things like that which play a part in contract obligations these days!
Check out my Instagram for some of the videos from the race!
= 14.03% of total spend
Note: This may seem low for two days of video/editing as it was split with one of my partners.
Transport is another one of those places where I’ve gotta say my thank yous to the cycling world. From airport pick-ups to random drop offs, help was offered from all angles when I arrived in foreign cities. Whether it be (the again mentioned) host families coming in clutch, the luck of a random shout out that I put on the Unbound Facebook page, or an old housemate’s family lending a hand.
Throughout my time away, I paid for a couple of Ubers to help get me and my mountain of luggage around the city, the odd train/tube ride and also the most beautiful ferry ride in the world. Staying with Ribble helped cut travel expenses in Kansas to boot.
= 3.48% of total spend
This isn’t really that important of an expense but it’s an essential thing that you need. It was going to cost me something like £7 a day to use my own phone contract. If you’re travelling anywhere, use Airalo. It’s an e-sim which allows you to have a short term phone contract in any country. It’s SO much cheaper than any other alternative.
= 1.18% of total spend
I’m going to sound like a broken record by the end of this article…
Once again, thanks to staying with host families my food expenses were a fraction of what they would have been. There was the odd splurge here such as a Vancouver sushi date with Haasy, but apart from that I kept a lid on eating out as much as possible. My coffee expenditure went through the floor thanks to the inability of that whole continent to make a good brew.
Eating out both rips into your budget, and is worse from a nutrition perspective so it’s a lose lose. I was lucky to stay with some great hosts and a special shout out has to go to Amick’s homemade Spanish Omelette, that’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted.
= 8.78% of total spend
Race entries are expensive. US$337.73 to race Unbound? That’s more than a dollar per kilometre!! This is another one of those things that are entirely unavoidable if you want to race. Once you get to a certain level or profile, you’ll start to get more comped entries, but even still I doubt the big ones give out too many. BWR Vancouver cost me US$212.75, but I did get a beer and a waffle at the end, so there.
I did get a comped entry to the Blue Mountains WGS so a big thank you to the organiser there, and hopefully I’ll be back next year!
= 11.17% of total spend
I’m sorry I jump around currencies, my brain works in a strange way.
I haven’t used exact exchange rates, so allow for an ish, 2% or so, margin of error either way.
The maths definitely isn’t perfect and I can’t be bothered to make sure that: a) the total percentage equals one hundred or b) where any potential error is. Please see above bullet point for the margin of error.
The percentages are figured out using the GBP figure. Yeah, should be the same in all currencies but it probably isn’t due to dodgy maths.
This Substack is yet again a long list of thank yous. Not only to my partners who make it all happen financially and are linked below, but to the whole cycling community. Staying with host families not only saved me thousands of dollars but it made the trip umpteen times more enjoyable. Even if I had millions of dollars at my disposal, it’s a part of privateering I’d keep up. Staying at random hotels was the most soulless part of road racing.
This trip to the US accounts for around 20% of my annual racing pot. That’s a big chunk for three weeks, but it was worth it. I think I got much more “bang for my buck” than if I had just flown in and out off Unbound.
So, there we have it. I probably missed the odd expense somewhere and the exchange rates were just taken from the day I wrote this, so are entirely inaccurate. But, it gives you a good idea. At the start of all this, I said I’d be as honest as possible with each and every part of Project TAG, so there you have it. Feel free to drop and questions below, or drop me an email on email@example.com
While you’re here…
I’ve added both paid subscription and a ‘Buy Me A Coffee’ link to this post. As the year progresses, I’m planning on building this blog and putting out articles which I’ve always wanted to write but for whatever reason, haven’t wanted to pitch.
Any money that I make from either my Substack, or BMaC link will go straight back into supporting my 2023 racing project. I am planning on keeping all content on here free to view though.
Project TAG, proudly partnering (both for my athletic and influencing ability) with…
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