Words and photos by Gene Villeneuve (@geneville)
Hi, I’m Gene. I’ve been a runner or cyclist most of my life. I got into cycling as a teenager to get to work and then got the cycling bug and eventually worked at a bike shop from 1986 to 1992. I was terrible at racing but always loved the community and the spirit of cycling.
I was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and still live here, but I moved away twice to live in Paris, France, for a combined nine years. When in France the second time from 2014-2017, I was mostly a runner. However, I had a few opportunities to ride outside of Paris and in the south of France. One such opportunity was to ride the last 120 kilometers of a Le Tour de France stage into Valence, where later that day, we got to watch André Greipel win the sprint from the VIP boxes.
After moving back to Canada in 2017, I got back into cycling more seriously. In early 2021 I turned 50, and as a 50-year-old gift to myself, I decided to get serious about bikepacking. In my 20s, I did bike touring with panniers, including camping and riding on gravel and singletrack. As a 50-year-old, I want to inspire people to continue being active, to do epic stuff, and experience the same joy I get from adventures on two wheels. Also, you don’t know what you are capable of or what you will see until you start pedalling.
I rode well over 10,000 kilometers last year, and a lot of that was on gravel. Every month, I plan something big, either as an overnight trip or just a massive ride. My latest big ride was 228 kilometers on gravel and singletrack with over 2,840 meters of elevation gain.
My bikepacking rig is an original 2015 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon WC competition XC race hardtail. The bike was bought new in the mid-2010s by a young MTB racer on the west coast circuit, but he soon got into enduro racing and had to buy another bike. He had the Specialized Stumpjumper sitting in his garage for two years until he decided to sell it on Pinkbike.
I bought it used in September 2019 for the odd mountain bike ride. I also upgraded the drivetrain to 12-speed SRAM XX1. The wheels were rebuilt in 2020 because the spokes kept breaking due to seized nipples. The wheels have been really solid ever since. It turns out the bike is awesome for bikepacking. It’s very light, climbs like a dream fully loaded, and descends with accuracy. Last summer, I did a 650-kilometer bikepacking trip—part of The Log Driver’s Waltz around Ottawa, Ontario. The only modern bikepacking design element missing are mounts, but with today’s bags and aftermarket attachments, you can get very creative. I had to find water bottle cage mounts for my forks, which worked well on singletrack and rough gravel.
- Frame 2015 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert WC Carbon
- Fork Custom RockShox SID 29″ fork w/ Brain damping and 90mm travel
- Rims Roval Control Carbon 29″
- Hubs Roval
- Tires 29” Continental RaceKing (2.2” front/2.1” rear)
- Handlebars Specialized
- Headset Specialized
- Crankset Custom SRAM carbon PF30 crankset, PF30 BB, Eagle 34T chainring
- Pedals Shimano XT
- Cassette SRAM Eagle XX1 10-50 12 speed
- Derailleur Rear SRAM Eagle XX1
- Brakes Magura MTS hydraulic disc brakes w/ Storm SL rotors
- Shifter(s) SRAM XX1
- Saddle Brooks C13
- Seatpost Generic
- Stem Specialized
- Front bags Apidura Expedition Handlebar Pack (14L) and Expedition Accessory Pocket (4.5L)
- Frame bags Thief Bikepacking custom frame bag
- Rear bags Ortlieb 16L Seat-Pack
- Accessory bags Lezyne and Topeak top tube bags
- Other accessories Deda Aero Bars and Garmin Edge 530
I replaced the saddle after the bikepacking trip last summer as the original Specialized saddle had too many ridges that created chafing after 10-12 hour days in over 30°C weather. Bags are a medley of a Thief Bikepacking frame bag, Ortlieb saddlebag, Lezyne and Topeak top tube bags, and Apidura roll bag. I also plan to change the handlebars to the new Surly Corner Bar, which I already have, but I need to find a new stem with a rise before installing the new bars.
I also recently left work at an intense startup job to focus on my family and cycling. I’ll eventually go back to work, but for now, I want to have as much fun as I can on two wheels in between reconnecting with my wife and daughters.
See more from Gene on Instagram @geneville.
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