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The Adventure Stache

Author: Payson McElveen

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Professional mountain biker Payson McElveen sits down with some of the biggest names in sports and adventure to get an inside look at what sets them apart. With no script, the casual conversations are as diverse as the guests, with topics ranging from harrowing tales of survival, to debates on current events, to everyday tips and tricks and everything in between. As Payson travels the world for his two-wheeled day job, listen in as he rubs shoulders with and learns from some of the most inspiring athletes, entrepreneurs, academics, and others as they chase and inspire greatness.
218 Episodes
New Zealand cyclist Matt Fairbrother made a splash in the 2022 Enduro World Series when, at age 17, he bikepacked 4,000 kilometers to get to the races. The journey started when he couldn’t find transportation from the Scotland event to the next race in Slovenia. With only a few thousand dollars to cover his entire season, he decided to bikepack instead. Even as his enormous commute picked up media and sponsor attention, he decided not to accept offers for easier forms of transportation and continue bikepacking instead. His journey often required riding for 24 hours at a time with only a couple hours of sleep each night, all on a bike weighing over 70 pounds.In this conversation, Matt talks about why he decided not to bail on the season after finding himself stranded in Scotland, and what it was like to ride that first 1,500-kilometer push to Slovenia (his first ever bikepacking trip). He talks about the night when he was stuck in sub-freezing temperatures in the Alps without enough warm clothes to get him through to the morning, and the time he was held up at a ferry for being under 18. He also discusses his decision to continue bikepacking to his events in 2023, and the new sponsors that are along for the ride.Instagram: @theadventurestache
In our Mid South recap, Payson sits down with Kerry Werner who finished in third place behind Payson and John Borstelmann in a sprint finish. They talk about his career on the road, in cyclocross, and his decision to participate in the Grand Prix this year. Payson also answers some of your questions about the Mid South and beyond, and chats to Marley Blonsky who got the loudest cheer of the weekend when she came across the finish line in last place for the 100-mile race. She talks about her last-minute decision to switch from the 50-mile course to the 100-mile, and how she felt during the final push to the finish. We also hear from some of the riders who sent us voicemails about their experiences racing at Mid South.Instagram: @theadventurestache
Raylyn Nuss is a cyclocross racer who currently holds the Pan American Championship title. Before cycling, she was a basketball player who got a full ride to a Division I NAIA school and later juggled a full-time job as a chemist for Pfizer with triathlon racing. When she competed in her first cyclocross race, it was love at first sight, and she never looked back. These days, Raylyn is running her own team, Steve Tilford Foundation Racing, and is expanding her calendar to include the Lifetime Grand Prix.In this conversation, Payson and Raylyn chat about her career as a top-level basketball player, her unsuccessful attempts to adjust to triathlon, and why she was immediately drawn to cyclocross. They talk about why she wanted to start her own team despite having little managerial experience, the excitement of watching her teammate, Curtis White, win Nationals, and why she’s decided to race some gravel this year. Way back in 2019, Payson and Raylyn were teammates, and they take some time to reminisce about how her love of shoes, basketball, and good coffee rubbed off of him. They also talk about elevating women in sport, and the athletes outside of cycling that she looks up to.Instagram: @theadventurestache
Taylor Phinney was one of the brightest stars of American road racing in the 2010s. The son of professional cycling luminaries, he was a world champion by age 17 and became the first American to win Paris-Roubaix the following year as a U23. A year later, he won the race again for good measure. During his 10-year career on the WorldTour, Taylor raced for Trek-Livestrong, BMC, and EF Education First. When he announced his retirement in 2019 at age 29, it shook the sport, but according to Taylor, it had been a long time coming. Earlier this week, Payson sat down with Taylor in his art studio in Spain to talk about how his life has changed since he left racing. They talk about how he became more involved with his art in the final year of his WorldTour career and how cycling was no longer bringing him fulfillment. He explains why he’s chosen to stay in the cycling mecca of Girona even though he isn’t racing anymore, and how he’s grown to prefer aspects of Europe that he used to find challenging. They discuss what it’s like to still be in the realm of WorldTour racing as he supports his partner, Kasia, who rides for Canyon–SRAM, and how professional women’s racing is so different from men's. They also talk about music, art, starting fires, and his obsession with handlebars. Instagram: @theadventurestache
In preparation for the upcoming season of the Enduro World Series, Payson talks to the top three men of last year, Jesse Melamed, Richie Rude, and Martin Maes. They chat about how they got into Enduro, their favorite courses, and how they’re feeling about all the changes being implemented this year. Martin talks about the success he’s found in both downhill and Enduro. In 2018, he won an EWS race and then followed it up two weeks later with a win at the World Cup Downhill Finals in La Bresse, France. He talks about the rivalry between downhill and Enduro racers, and the EWS goal he wants to fulfill before going back to downhill racing. Richie was the first man to win back-to-back EWS championship titles in 2015 and 2016 at 21 years old and continues to be a mainstay on the podium. He talks about his busy off-season, gravel riding, and how he’s changed as a racer since he burst onto the scene as a teenager. And we listen back to two of our interviews with Jesse, one directly after he won the 2022 overall title in which he discusses his victory, and one from February 2022 in which he talks about his love of training, camaraderie during races, and why heavy mileage is the key to his success. Instagram: @theadventurestache
In preparation for the upcoming season of the Enduro World Series, Payson talks to the top three women of last year, Isabeau Courdurier, Morgane Charre, and Hattie Harnden. They chat about how they got into Enduro, their favorite courses, and how they’re feeling about all the changes being implemented this year. Hattie discusses her switch from dominanting cyclocross and XC as a junior to becoming the youngest rider to ever win an Enduro race. Morgane talks about how a broken wrist lured her away from her illustrious downhill career to Enduro racing, and why she still chooses to ride flat pedals despite the amount of pedaling EWS races require. And Isabeau talks about her deep love of the sport, how the death of her father changed her outlook on training, and the difference between results and performance. Instagram: @theadventurestache
Chad Haga spent eight years in the WorldTour on Team DSM (formerly known as Giant-Shimano and Sunweb). During that time, he raced in 12 Grand Tours including the Tour de France, six Giro d’Italias (where he won a stage in 2019), and four Vuelta a Españas. In 2022, he stepped back from the WorldTour to join the ProTeam Human Powered Health. Although he's spent more than a decade in Europe, he was born and raised in McKinney, Texas and didn’t start racing seriously until he was finishing up his Mechanical Engineering degree at Texas A&M, a relatively late start that he says has been a benefit in more ways than one. In this conversation, Chad talks to Payson about his decision to switch from the WorldTour to a ProTeam after eight successful years, how his life as a professional racer has transformed since he had children, and how he's reconnecting with mountain biking in a big way. They also talk about how he plans to use his mechanical engineering degree after he retires from professional racing, the new races he's planning to do in the coming season, and how he and his family have come to feel at home in Spain over the past few years. Instagram: @theadventurestache
Shannon Vandivier is a filmmaker and photographer who directed the recently released Youtube series following the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix, Call of a Life Time. His production company, Cold Collaborative, has worked with brands like YETI, Smith Optics, and Orange Seal to create award-winning movies about the outdoor industry, including Payson’s 2019 White Rim FKT project, Standing Man. In this interview, he tells Payson about growing up chasing tornadoes with his photojournalist dad and learning to shoot on a film camera at the age of six. He talks about the importance of constructing a story, no matter what the subject matter of a project is, and why he was so eager to create a series that makes gravel as compelling and character-driven as Drive to Survive has done for Formula One. They talk about the unique challenge of filming off-road cycling, including terrain, speed, safety, and interviewing athletes during some of the most hectic moments of their careers. They also talk about the feedback they’ve received from viewers, and how he plans to adapt the series in the upcoming season.Instagram: @theadventurestache
Seth Alvo of Berm Peak

Seth Alvo of Berm Peak


With 2.5 million subscribers, Seth Alvo (founder of Berm Peak and Seth’s Bike Hacks) runs one of the most popular mountain biking channels on Youtube. Sharing hacks, reviews, and off-road adventures, he's built a passionate audience from a demographic that is largely ignored by the industry. The web developer-turned-content creator attributes his success to being the antithesis of a professional athlete. A self-professed nerd, he started out sharing tips and tricks for people who were new to mountain biking and needed guidance about how and where to begin. Answering fundamental questions about sealant, trail classifications, and tool basics filled a void that the industry neglected, and Seth has since amassed a passionate fan base of mountain bikers from across the spectrum of expertise.In this interview, he tells Payson about his quest to become the “Bill Nye the Science Guy of mountain biking,” from making videos in his free time to quitting his day job and taking his channel full-time. He talks about why ego has never been an issue, answering questions about mountain biking that everyone's afraid to ask, and how he’s managed to monetize his Youtube channel without compromising his creative integrity. Instagram: @theadventurestache
Griffin and Cullen Easter have been racing with and against each other since college. The brothers graduated from separate universities but went on to ride for UCI Continental team Airgas-Safeway together. Their paths diverged when Griffin went to race overseas and Cullen pursued a nursing degree, but their careers have merged again in unexpected ways in recent years. While Griffin was winning a stage at the Vuelta a Colombia and pulling off impressive results in Europe, Cullen was working in Utah at a detox unit at a psychiatric hospital where many of his patients were recovering from opioid addiction. This experience, combined with a related family tragedy, led the brothers to found OpiCure, a non-profit organization focused on relieving opioid addiction. Part of their foundation is a cycling team that helps people recovering from addiction find fulfillment on the bike. In this interview, Griffin and Cullen tell Payson about the inspiration behind OpiCure, when they knew that their Rider in Recovery Program was working, and how they plan to expand the foundation in the coming year. Griffin also talks about how Cullen convinced him to start riding again after he contemplated retirement, and his decision to join the Grand Prix this year. Cullen talks about the time he went from Cat 3 road racer to former WorldTour pro Chris Horner’s hand-picked domestique at the Tour of Utah within the span of a few months. Donate to OpiCure: @theadventurestache
Russell Finsterwald holds five national titles in mountain biking but stepped away from the World Cup relatively early in his career to pursue longer distance XC races in the US. When gravel became the dominant force in the off-road scene, he thought about retiring as soon as he finished the remainder of his contract. But in preparation for the Lifetime Grand Prix last year, he created a 350-mile route across southern Arizona that he dubbed the Spirit Tour. The goal was to answer some burning questions about the new discipline, such as, "What are gravel bikes capable of?" "What does it take to flat them?" And "What is the spirit of gravel?" In the process, Finsty and his fellow tourers Keegan Swenson, Kerry Werner, and Ryan Standish came up with a few answers and kicked off an annual tradition. Finsty finished 3rd in the inaugural Grand Prix, took a commanding victory at Big Sugar, and just completed the second Spirit Tour in preparation for the upcoming season.In this interview, he and Payson chat about the hours he spends scouting trails and devising routes (including the one they rode just before recording the episode), and how the Spirit Tour evolved this year. They discuss the difficulty he had early in his career racing the World Cup circuit and why he’s hooked on pushing the boundaries of gravel. They also talk about his FKT ambitions, his burgeoning real estate side hustle, and why the most dreaded race in the Grand Prix is the one he’s most looking forward to. Instagram: @theadventurestache
 In 2018, 2x cyclocross national champion Ellen Noble was coming off the best season in her life when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. After another season of racing, she went all-in on training in 2020 and was ready for her comeback, but a crash early in the season left her with a broken back and a resurgence in symptoms from her disease. Even under these circumstances, she never considered retirement until her coach, Allen Lim, told her that she didn’t have to be a professional athlete anymore. With this life-changing conversation, Ellen stepped back from racing and started a new chapter.In this conversation, she talks to Payson about why the idea of retiring was so foreign, why she needed “permission” to end her professional racing career, and how she navigated the months that followed. Since 2021, she’s started a podcast and dipped a toe into race commentary, appearing as a live broadcaster for multiple events including the Cyclocross World Championships. She also talks about why she's chosen to speak openly about depression and her use of SSRIs. Though many professional athletes struggle with the emotional toll of their careers, there remains a stigma around talking about it. By starting conversations about her own journey and those of her podcast guests, Ellen hopes to make it easier for others to open up.Ellen's podcast: This One's for YouInstagram: @theadventurestache
In the third installment of our series about pros in the off-season, Payson chats with two cyclists from different sides of the racing world: former WorldTour rider-turned-gravel racer Ruth Winder, and the 2022 EWS World Champion Jesse Melamed. Ruth talks about recuperating from a mentally grueling season. After retiring from the WorldTour, she decided to compete in the Lifetime Grand Prix last year but came up against some unexpected hurdles. She talks about the work she’s done in the off-season to rediscover why she began riding her bike in the first place, and her newfound love of skiing. Jesse talks about the exhilaration of winning the Enduro World Series and wanting to jump straight back into training. But with a trip to Spain and some celebrating back home in Squamish, BC, he managed to take some time off before packing in the miles in Arizona and California. He talks about why Enduro racers put in so many hours on the road, and how he’s prepared for moving teams this season. Our long-form interviews with Ruth and Jesse can be found at the links below:#70 Quarantine Companion #12 with Ruth Winder#160 Jesse Melamed, enduro racerInstagram: @theadventurestache
This week, Payson chats to some fellow pros about what they’ve been up to during the off-season. From snorkeling in Hawaii to meditation retreats, they’ve used their brief period of unstructured time to do the things they couldn’t do during their busy race season. Russell Finsterwald and Keegan Swenson talk about their adventures in Tucson that require meticulous route building and asking permission from local ranchers to use their land. Savilia Blunk talks about her trip to Hawaii with her partner, Cole Paton, and getting to know her new European-based team. And Chris Blevins talks about surf culture in Santa Monica and the creative outlets he’s using to unwind from a challenging season. Instagram: @theadventurestache
Hillary Allen was one of the top-ranking trail runners in the world in 2017 when a 150-foot fall off a mountain in Norway during a race nearly ended her life. She broke 14 bones, including both feet, both arms, her back, and five ribs. Despite being told she would never compete again, she slowly eased back into running and eventually went back to conquer the race that nearly took her life. These days, she’s racing at an even higher level than she was before her accident, and just won her first 100-mile race, the Ultra-trail Cape Town in South Africa. In addition to running, Hillary is a sponsored cyclist, author, and former college science professor. In this interview, she talks about the long road to recovery that involved multiple setbacks (including more broken bones) and a focus on mental resilience. She discusses why she decided to write a book about her experience, and what it’s like reliving such a traumatic moment in her life nearly five years later. She talks about her favored discipline, Skyrunning, which features rough terrain and extreme elevation gain, and explains why, even though her goals are bigger than ever, she prefers not to think about her trajectory as a comeback story. Instagram: @theadventurestache
In this week’s episode, we’re closing out our series on Australia and New Zealand and kicking off a new series about what athletes are up to this off season. During their trip to the Southern Hemisphere this winter, Payson and Nichole traveled to the South Island of New Zealand to do a four-day bikepacking trip, linking the historic Paparoa and Old Ghost Road trails. The goal was to slow things down after a busy racing season and discover some of the best landscapes that New Zealand has to offer. On their journey, they came across locals and fellow travelers and recorded mini-conversations with them that are woven throughout the episode, including a trail builder, the owner of a hotel in the tiny town of Charleston, and a pair of hikers who they met in a hut on the Old Ghost Road.In addition to reflecting on the route and their planning process, Payson and Nichole talk about how a random encounter in Tasmania dictated their choice of trails, the car accident that got things off to a terrifying start, national opossum poisoning, giant snails, the history of the area, and some memorable ferry rides. Instagram: @theadventurestache
Payson and Nichole met Steve Bein earlier this week at a hotel in rural New Zealand while on a bikepacking trip. Steve is a Philosophy professor in Ohio who decided to use his sabbatical to cycle the 1,800 miles across New Zealand. Before starting the trip, the farthest he'd ever ridden was about 30 miles. Naturally, Payson wanted to sit down and record a conversation to learn more about what drew Steve to the land down under, how he's adapting to the harsh conditions and physical demands of such a long journey, and the personal encounters he's had along the way. They discuss why he decided to ride his bike instead of hiring a van as he'd originally planned, the painful warm-up ride in Tasmania that made him uncertain about whether he could finish, and the cultural differences he's noticed between the US and New Zealand. Steve's blog: @theadventurestache
Crossing Tasmania Q&A

Crossing Tasmania Q&A


Payson answers listener questions about his 32 hour, 360 mile traverse across Tasmania earlier this month. He talks about gear, wildlife, why he's drawn to island crossings, and much more.Instagram: @theadventurestache
Emma Flukes is an adventure cyclist and bikepacker from Tasmania who was instrumental in developing the 360 mile route across the island that Payson undertook earlier this month. With her guidance, he ended up with a ride full of techy singletrack, gravel roads, river crossings, and lots of wildlife. In this episode (recorded shortly before Payson’s crossing), they talk about the specifics of the route, gear choices, and a few uniquely Tasmanian considerations. They also talk about Emma’s riding history. Born and bred on the island, she has explored just about every inch of her home state by bike, no matter how rugged. They talk about why she feels compelled to do such grueling rides, how her work as a scientist complements (or doesn’t complement) her cycling adventures, and why she prefers solo weekend trips over races. She also discusses her own bikepacking event, Tassie Gift. Dubbed “a scenic trip to Hell,” it’s 1,115 miles with 114,829 feet of climbing. According to Emma, it could be a lot harder. She explains why she tries to keep the event small and unsanctioned, and the mindset that determines whether participants finish all 1,000-plus miles or drop out on the first day.Instagram: @theadventurestache
Less than a day after riding 360 miles from coast to coast across Tasmania in 32 hours, Payson sits down with the crew that made the ride (and the upcoming film about it) possible. They include three seasoned filmmakers, two Tasmanian locals with an intimate knowledge of the trails, an award-winning photographer, and an experienced adventure cyclist and logistical wizard. Each talks about their highlights, lowlights, and most memorable moments of the effort, including overdosing on coffee, playing with lizards, hitching a ride with a local farmer, and the challenges of staying awake for 32 hours. Then they turn the tables and ask Payson a few things, from the nitty gritty details of bike set-up to managing bodily functions on such a long and rural adventure.Instagram: @theadventurestache
Comments (4)

Chris Bell

Go Vols ;-)

Feb 1st

Zackary DeLong

I am a junior xc cyclists and really love the variety of mentors that you bring on to your podcast and actually branching out into other sports like basketball and other topics. Keep it up!

Dec 14th
Reply (2)
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