Author: Chris Wamsley

Guest Blog – Meg Huffman – South Dakota

The following blog post is from a Guest on a trip. We wanted to feature it as it answers a few questions that we get quite a bit. We hope you enjoy. 

My family is very choosey about vacations.  As our three boys get older, it is harder and harder to find a time when we can all be together. Between school, college, sailing, skiing, and all the other activities we do over the year, finding time for a bike trip was a serious challenge.

When we settled on a week that worked for everyone, the folks at Western Spirit suggested biking the Black Hills in South Dakota. I have never even thought about going to South Dakota and it was definitely not on my bucket list. Still, I listened to the folks at  Western Spirit about riding though the forest and camping on some beautiful lakes and decided the combo of nature’s beauty, exercise, and great food might be just the family vacation we needed.  Plus, the whole trip is at a reasonable altitude–compared to Colorado or other famous out-west destinations – so I was pretty sure everyone would enjoy the biking.

There was the uncertainty of the other people on the trip…I wasn’t at all sure I wanted strangers joining us on vacation.  We had done a couple of Western Spirit trips before, but they were private trips, so we knew everyone already. This was the biggest and best surprise of all. We thoroughly enjoyed the other folks we met on our trip.

Bottom line, on a scale of 1 to 10, the trip was a 12. The guides Chris Abell and Terrin Frey made it easy, fun, relaxing and, well, just tremendous!  The riding was a nicely balanced combination of cruisey downhills and nice climbs. The camps were in great spots with easy access to the lakes.  Our family goes boating all the time, but there was something especially fun about the trip across the lake on the party barge.

This trip was all about being outside, getting exercise, laughing, smiling and being grateful to have the chance to be in a gorgeous part of the world with my family and other fun, interesting people. Further, I had no responsibilities—I didn’t have to think about what time it was, when I needed to start dinner (or breakfast or lunch!), if the boat had gas, whether the gears on my bike would work smoothly—I just got to enjoy my husband and sons, pedal my heart out and kick back.

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5 Tips from the Guides About Packing Your Gear.

One of the most-asked questions from people about going on a Western Spirit trip is what to bring. So, I sat down for a few minutes to write down some tips. These come from my personal experience guiding trips. They are helpful for me and hopefully helpful for you also!

1. – Avoid things you don’t need

Going on a trip with Western Spirit is awesome! We do just about everything for you except ride your bike and set up your tent. We bring all the food and drinks, a kitchen to cook for you, tools to fix your bike, an extra bike if we can’t fix it, chairs for you to sit in after a long day, and amazing knowledge about the topography and local lore. We also bring stuff you may not even think of. We have been doing this for 25+ years, so we know what our guests are going to need to have the trip of a lifetime! The best thing to do is follow the packing list in your itinerary for the trip you are doing. Oh, and make sure to bring a camera. You will see amazing places during your trip; you need a way to capture it!

2. – Keep clothes and camp gear separated

Using a little organization while packing your bag goes a long way. I could write a whole blog post on things to have in your gear bag for the trip! But, that’s another post. One of the most basic things you can do is have a way for keeping your tent and gear away from your clean clothes. The easiest way to do so is to have them in two different bags. Why? Well, your tent might get dirty, muddy, wet, dusty, who knows! Being able to keep that away from you clean clothes is a must. Keep your gear separated and everything will be good. Another tip is having multi colored stuff sacks for yor gear. Separating out camp clothes, riding clothes, rain gear, and dirty clothes is a great way to keep your bag totally organized and keep your clean clothes clean and easy to find.

3. – Bring cans, not glass.

While this might sound like a weird one, we have our reasons. When bringing your adult beverage, cans are much preferred. We will be going to locations that not a lot of people go and sometimes the roads are not so smooth, so if we have a lot of glass bottles in a cooler, they can break. Also, we have to pack out everything we bring in. Pack it in, pack it out. Having glass bottles in our recycling takes up much more space then smashed cans. You can get almost everything in can form now, from fancy brews to wine. And if your tastes are for something a little stronger, consider getting it in a plastic bottle. If cans just aren’t possible, don’t worry; we know how to best protect glass during the trip.

4. – USB recharger

Let’s face it, most things charge via USB. Phones, cameras, GPS, lots of things that you will want to use during the trip. Being able to charge those up at camp is really nice. Bringing along a USB recharger lets you do just that. That way you will be able to have everything you want with you and charged. We want you to take as many pictures as you wish, track your ride with your GPS, and listen to that audio book at camp. I like this recharger from Goal Zero but there are many options available.

5. – Rain gear!

This might be the last thing on the list, but it might actually be the most important. We would love to promise everyone amazing sunny weather on every trip. I even joke around about us having a team of zeppelins to drag the clouds around. However, we don’t have zeppelins, and we can’t guarantee the sun. So bring rain gear! I recommend at least one set to ride in and one set for camp. That way you are able to take off the wet gear after riding and will have a dry set for camp. Nothing feels better than warm dry clothes after a wet ride. We do trips in some very remote places, and it’s awesome to get away from everything. But, this means we are away from everything. No stopping at the store halfway through the trip to buy a jacket. Bring rain gear so you will have an amazing trip no matter the weather. 

So there you have it. A few tips for packing your gear for a Western Spirit trip! Have you been on a trip with us before and have some tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below. 

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Easy Bike Checks Everyone Should Be Doing

Every bike needs love every now and again. So I wanted to fill you in on a few things you can do to keep you and your bike happy and running smoothly.

Before every ride.

1 – Check your tires – Checking the pressure in your tires is something that you should do before every ride. Not only will it make your bike ride nice, It will also help prevent pinch flats and keep your tires from feeling all squirmy in corners. Dont know what pessure to pump them too? Look on the side of the tire for the recommeded pressure.

2 – Lube your chain – A quiet bike is a happy bike. Nobody likes a squeaky chain. And I mean nobody. I keep a rag and chain lube in the door of my truck so I can always make sure its nice and lubed before every ride. Its also super easy to do. Take a rag and hold it on the chain while turning the pedals backwards. Next drip lube on the chain while you backpedal. Rotate the pedals a few more times. Grab a rag and wipe off the excess while back pedaling. Boom! You’re done. Its just that easy.

Every few rides

3 – Check shifting – Checking shifting is also easy. Hang the bike up or flip it upside down, rotate the pedals forward and shift through the gears. Click up one gear and make sure the chain moves up one gear,all the way from hardest to easiest. Then back down. If it’s slower going up than down or vice-versa its time for a tune up.

4 – Bolt check – Its always a good idea to check all the bolts on your bike. Just using your bike will cause some bolts to loosen. Check them in an order of your choosing. I always go front to back. Starting with stem bolts and ending at the back of the bike. Using a torque wench is a good idea for many bolts on your bike. Doing so will prevent you from over tigthening any. Pivot bolts are also a place where you should use a toque wrench and tighten to manufacturer specs.

5 – Check your chain – Checking your chain for wear is a good thing. Replacing your chain is much cheaper than new chainrings and cassettes. You can either use a chain checker tool or take your bike by your local bike shop and they will be happy to check it for you. As far as how many miles you should get out of a chain can widely very. Its a good idea every few rides just to check it out. It only takes a minute to do and will save you $$$ in the long run.

 So there you go! 5 easy things to do to keep your bike running smooth.

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What are Mountain Bike Vacations?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need to step away from my regularly scheduled programming to get some perspective. My life is busy and filled with family, work, and all kinds of responsibilities. It can be a challenge to keep up, and even some of the things that I love can start to feel like burdens and obligations. There’s no better cure for the everyday doldrums than a vacation. And I think the best ones are on two wheels—on the dirt.

A Fun Challenge

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Whether you bring friends with you or make new ones on the trip, there’s nothing better than cycling in a group. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, with the group energy helping people through challenging sections of terrain. Our guides are great coaches, and our guests self-select to be pretty awesome, so even if you come on your own you’re bound to thrive with the encouragement of the crew. If you bring friends or family along, you’ll feel an unparalleled sense of collective achievement. Not to mention the photo ops!

A Healthy Getaway

Some vacations send you home feeling overfed, hung over, or feeling like you’ve spent a lot of money. Not a mountain bike vacation! Pay one price so you don’t have to worry, bike every day to keep yourself stoked, and enjoy our delicious and well-balanced meals. After a few days or a week of cycling and healthy food, you’ll return home feeling rejuvenated, energized, and motivated to keep cycling.

A Way to See a New Place

Checking out a new vacation spot can be overwhelming and even stressful. FOMO (fear of missing out) can kick in and make you wonder if you saw the best sights, ate the best food, and experienced all that your destination had to offer. On Western Spirit Cycling Adventures, we take care of all of the details. Select your trip, choose your dates, and then we make the rest of the decisions, ensuring that you see and ride only the best!

So as you look forward to summer, get a mountain bike vacation on the books. It’ll keep things fresh, charge you up, and get you out into some gorgeous scenery. Call us any time for recommendations, custom trips, or any questions you might have. Or check out these answers to some of the most frequently asked. Then get training!

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