A guided bike tour is a package which can be from three nights to typically seven nights. It includes a route design with routes loaded on a navigation system and coordination of services such as hotel arrangements, excursions on food or history, and walking tours. Guided tours include at least one tour leader with van support that stay with the group during the tour.
The objective of the trip is to explore a region by bike giving all the tools the travelers need to navigate the whole experience with the support of a guide balanced with a certain level of autonomy.
A guided bike tour is a great option for travelers who want to keep their own schedule and, yet, feel safe and supported. The typical guest for this kind of vacation looks for a disconnection from all of the logistics and prefers that somebody else takes care them.
On the other hand, the typical guest of a guided tour, looks for a strong connection to the place and culture. This is another benefit of a tour leader who can share stories and points of interest that a guest may not understand on their own.
In my experience there are 6 key factors you want to consider as you build a memorable experience for your clients on a guided bike tour:
1. Tour Leader and Van assistance;
The tour leader is the guide who supports the entire group along the trip. This is a complex character that makes the connection between the guests, the philosophy of the company and the location of the tour. For this reason, he/she needs to be able to speak the local language, as well as the guest’s language.
The tour leader should also have bike mechanic skills, as bike adjustments are necessary throughout the tour.
In terms of mechanical and logistic: the tour leader ensures proper bike fit so that the guest is comfortable with the bike. Bikes need to be regularly adjusted and cleaned by the tour leader during the tour.
It is also important to have knowledge of the area in order to be able to make recommendations and highlight of the places.
Other important skills are about safety and include being a good driver and regular First Aid training and certification.
The Tour Leader also determines the dynamic and tone of the group at the beginning of the tour and during daily itinerary reviews to the guests.
He/she provides support to the riders along the way. Makes sure that guests are on the correct route and provide support if they get lost. Be available at important intersections or turning points to make sure guests go in the correct direction.
Tour guides also transfer luggage between hotels and provide van support with water, snacks, and picnics. They support guests who wish to stop biking and need to be transferred by van.
In addition to technical skills, the guide may enrich the experience along the week by providing some magic: “rabbits out of the hat.” What does this mean?
Plan some surprises for the group, unexpected activities or food that will bring delight. Rabbits are often connected to the experience and highlight something about the region. It could be to meet an interesting person that has a story to tell about the place, it may be a delicacy that they heard about, or a special place that we want to share. Always the “rabbit” has to be hidden until the moment it shows up and has to be a surprise to reinforce the overall experience.
Safety is always your number one priority. So, how do you build a safe bike tour experience? Choose quiet and secondary roads, beautiful routes with less traffic. Consider the pavement of the route, making sure it is rideable for bikers. Make sure that there aren’t dangerous crossings, tricky downhills or slippery surfaces.
Second factor of the itinerary is the beauty of the location. Picturesque landscapes. Natural settings. Interesting villages. Above all in Italy, the beauty is also about the history and charming medieval towns.
Third, consider the breaks along the way such as a good espresso, cappuccino or an Italian gelato. Mamma Mia, these are what make a good day great and a long ride enjoyable.
You know, a memorable experience always is based on the connections and if you build the itinerary so your clients can explore a medieval town, walking around and feeling the character, we have exceeded the expectations
When choosing a hotel first consider the expectations of your guest and, of course, their budget. Some guests prioritize comfort, some luxury, and some charm. Know what kind of experience is important. For example, a charming hotel, is not always about the rating or the number of “stars.” A three- star hotel or a B&B can be very charming, as much as a four-star rating. Charm might be related to some historical place like an old monastery converted into a hotel. Or it can be an incredible location on top of a hill in Montalcino that provides stunning views...
People always make the difference, so make sure you deal with good management at the hotels you select. Are they welcoming? How do they respond to requests or problems?
One technical factor is that the accommodation has to have a safe space for the storage of the bikes. In some areas of Italy (typically in the Dolomites or on the Adriatic coast) they also have a bike garage with some basic tools and spares... but it’s not that common. It is a consideration when selecting the hotel. If you’re interested, you can see our post about the key points when you select a new accommodation for a new bike tour.
4. Navigation System:
Every guest goes at their own pace. In order to support their timing and style of biking it is important to give every guest a solid navigation system with the daily bike route. This brings comfort, autonomy and safety.
Now a days there are multiple platforms for navigating. It’s a matter of choosing what you think is the best one. If you’re interested, you can see our comparison between the top three platforms available, so you can make a good decision for your clients.
Testing the routes and services is the key to make sure the pieces of the tour work.
Are the routes safe and enjoyable? Is it doable in a day? Does the timing work?
How are the accommodations? Was it a nice welcome and interaction with the front desk? Is the hotel clean and comfortable? How is the breakfast? Does the hotel highlight the experience?
On top of this we add a general overview from the Tour Leader to ensure his/her capability to manage the whole process while on tour. In other words, it would provides them big picture and the ability to prepare for the guests before the tour.
We suggest two tests, one of the pieces to understand if they work according to the idea. Then there is the test of the complete itinerary by the guide. Make sure that the cost of both tests are included in your tour price because these two steps play an important role in order to build a memorable tour for your clients and you want to make sure that costs associated in the testing is covered by the tour price.
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