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Client Profile: Norine and Michael on self-guided touring with friends — and “picnic races!”

 

Traveling by bicycle allows for flexibility both in how long it takes to reach your daily destination, and in what you do with your time once you get there. Norine and Michael Bevan have really connected with the set-your-own-agenda appeal of bicycle touring over the past several years. Working with BikeToursDirect, they have organized bike tours in Europe for friends of a wide range of ages and abilities.

The Bevans prefer traveling by bike because it gives them plenty of opportunities to grow familiar with locales that the typical bus or train tourist would never discover. Thanks to the camaraderie fostered by the laid-back pace of touring Europe by bike, the Bevans and their friends have enjoyed hotels and restaurants far removed from the beaten track. They’ve also participated in many, many “Picnic Races.”

Wait, what’s a Picnic Race?

In Germany, most shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays, so on Saturdays, we gather supplies for a picnic. We start from one spot and everyone has a specific assignment. One couple might be in charge of finding beer, another might need to find a certain kind of bread or cheese. The idea is to come back with something interesting.

Aside from the bounty of the Picnic Races, what do you get when you tour by bicycle with friends?

The Picnic Races are just one thing we do to make it fun. We’re comfortable with everyone and it’s an adventure. We just laugh the whole time. When you travel, it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the people and the journey you’re on. It’s almost not about the cycling and where we are, it’s about having a great time doing what we’re doing.

A lot of people dislike not knowing where they’re going, but we all enjoy it. We have a saying: “You’re never lost; you’re always somewhere.” We enjoy getting lost – it’s part of the fun. It’s exploring.

Also, everybody contributes. If somebody’s got a problem with their bike, six people can jump in and help. We know we can help each other.

You’ve got a tour of Germany coming up in with your friends. Tell us a little bit about how you organized it, why you chose the self-guided option, and what you’re most looking forward to.

We’ve done about 18 trips on bicycles. The first 3-4 were guided and great experiences, but the group you’re with is just so integral to the experience you will have.

Booking self-guided tours for our groups allows us to travel more freely with people we know – and they’re more affordable. That said, when we go to a country like Vietnam, we still want to be guided because it helps with language barriers. Private departures of guided tours allow us to travel just with our friends but have the benefit of riding with a guide.

To organize these tours, Michael and I do every trip on our own first. We go over and check it out, then pick out a trip that will be appropriate for the people who we know will be coming. Our group of tour friends has every level of cyclist, from triathletes to people who don’t ride at all, so we think about appropriate routes and accommodations for our friends.

When we’re choosing places to visit later on the tour, Michael and I establish relationships with people in the towns and look for things to do in the area. We develop main events – like wine tastings and special restaurants to visit. If we find a place that’s really interesting, we make sure we can accommodate that. We know what our group likes.

Can you share a specific memory of a moment on a tour that epitomizes your BikeToursDirect experience?

Last May, Michael and I did the Mosel-Saar trip to prepare for our upcoming tour in September. We got to a little town called Piesport. We couldn’t find the hotel where we’d planned on staying, but eventually found one. We always talk to people who own the accommodations and try to get their life story. It turned out that the man who owned this hotel that we’d just found was building a new restaurant. He took us over there and we looked at everything – the chairs, the finishings, the floor coverings – because that’s actually the line of business we’re in.

We spent a couple hours with the owner and decided we wanted to stay there when we came back with our group. So BikeToursDirect helped us modify the tour program to include this particular hotel, and we’re going to rent out all 8 rooms in the hotel. The restaurant is open now and the owner will be making a special meal just for our group.

It’s nice to have those connections. It’s something you can typically only get traveling on your own. I don’t know if a guided tour would get that opportunity. But with self-guided tours, you tend to talk to everyone you’re exposed to.

Also, Jim, Simon, and everyone involved at BTD were very cooperative in organizing this night in Piesport. They helped us make it happen.

What keeps you coming back to BikeToursDirect?

With Jim and BikeToursDirect, we know that everything’s vetted very well – the bikes, the tour guides – BTD gets the truth for us. We can just call them and get the real truth about the tour.

Learn more about self-guided tours >

 

Interview by Erin Tocknell

 

African bike and train safari: All aboard the Desert Express!

 

 

We’re incredibly excited to offer this brand new Bike and Train in Namibia tour that lets you see Namibia’s leading conservation efforts and diverse wildlife from two unique perches—the saddle of a bike and the comfort of your private chartered train, the Desert Express!

As part of the tour, you’ll also learn first-hand from conservation leaders why the World Wildlife Fund has called Namibia “The Greatest Wildlife Recovery Story Ever Told.”

Tour highlights
The tour is 12 nights, and departs August 11, 2015, from Nambia’s capital city of Windhoek. Experience the country’s vast beauty while enjoying the highest standards of service and comfort. Visit Fish River Canyon (Africa’s longest), traverse the apricot colored dunes of the Namib Desert, and have the chance to see mountain zebras and desert elephants, along with giraffes, rhinos and lions.

After cycling each day, you’ll sleep on the train or in scenic lodges along the route.  The train travels the longer distances during the night, making it possible to see more of the country and allowing plenty of time during the day for bike trips.

Two knowledgeable guides accompany you aboard the train and on each day’s easy rides, which average less than 25 miles/40 km per day, and a support vehicle is always nearby to shorten the riding or give a helping hand. Or you may choose to stay aboard the train, a great option for non-cycling companions or a taking a rest day mid-tour.

Experiencing leaders’ stories
Throughout the tour visit, you’ll meet many key players behind Namibia’s conservation success story, including John Kasaona, a leader in the drive to reinvent conservation in Namibia by turning former poachers into protectors of endangered species. (Check out his TED talk on the subject!)

You’ll learn first-hand how tourism has made the country’s conservation success possible by generating sustainable income for local communities—and why your travel here helps improve the lives of the nation’s people and save the lives of its wildlife.

Onboard the Desert Express
This train holds a maximum of 48 guests in 24 compartments, each accommodating up to three passengers. Each compartment is fully air-conditioned and heated and has a private bathroom. Relax in an elegant lounge, a unique bistro bar, and a spacious restaurant serving the best of Namibian cuisine. Expansive windows throughout the train let you absorb the breadth of the spectacular Namibian landscapes!

Our president’s take
Jim Johnson, president and founder of BikeToursDirect, traveled to Namibia in 2013 and biked in some of the same areas this tour will take you through: “It’s probably the most impressive and memorable setting I’ve cycled in,” he says. “The landscapes were breathtaking: vast deserts with some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, remote coastlines, and deep chasms offset by towering mountains.

“And this Desert Express tour will transcend even that amazing experience. You’ll get to see Namibia’s unique landscapes and extensive wildlife from the unique vantage points of bicycle and train, and it’s a rare opportunity to spend time with many of the individuals responsible for making the country such a conservation success story. It will be the trip of a lifetime.”

Conservation success
Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government gave people living in communal areas the opportunity to manage their natural resources through the creation of communal conservancies. These conservancies – as well as governments, nonprofit organizations and other entities – have restored populations of lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, zebras and other native wildlife to the world’s richest dry land. Through initiatives such as ecotourism, restoration has generated sustainable income for their communities.

More Africa bicycle tours
This tour is among the
4 bicycle tours in Namibia and  15 on the continent of Africa currently offered by BikeToursDirect.

 

We are so lucky: Cycling in the southern Dalmatian Islands

 

This post, written by recent BikeToursDirect clients Paul and Cheryl Miniato, was originally published on their blog “No Pension, Will Travel.” 


 

“Pshaw!” said Cheryl. “They won’t blame you.” I wasn’t so sure.

Our long-awaited late-September boat and cycle trip through the southern Dalmatian Islands was to begin the next day. After two previous European cycle trips on our own, Cheryl and I had invited members of our outdoor club to join us in Croatia this year. We’d hoped for half a dozen. When the boat sold out 11 months ago, we had 17 in our group. Fantastic.

The southern Dalmatian Islands at dusk as seen from Srđ above Dubrovnik.

Or was it? What if the trip wasn’t what we’d advertised to our friends? A mismanaged trip, or even a bad guide, and our names could be mud. The weather was threatening as well. We’d arrived in Dubrovnik a few days earlier only to wade through an unseasonal deluge that one fellow-traveler described as “biblical.”

This storm over the Dalmatian Islands later deluged Dubrovnik, turning the stairs to cataracts.

We were also a nervous about the hills. This had been the biggest single topic of discussion among our group during the planning stages. While most of us were cyclists, we did range from late 50s to early 70s, so it made sense to be prepared. Like many in our group, Cheryl and I made sure to get several trips under our belt over the summer in the islands near our home – but they averaged less than half the heights we were expecting here.

Before heading for the ship, Cheryl and I enjoy a final view from the deck of our Airbnb digs.

Departure day dawned with bright sunshine. Arriving at the Port of Gruž by bus, Cheryl and I were buoyed when we spotted the elegant and modern yacht, the Harmonia, with more than 30 bicycles arrayed out in front of her on the dock. It was time to meet our two guides, the crew of six, and our 30 fellow-travelers. Besides our own group members, arriving in Dubrovnik on various itineraries, there were another 15 from other parties.

Along with a fellow-rider, Cheryl inspects the bicycles.

Of the 32 passengers, there was one American, a few each from Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark – and the rest were Canadian. On the previous week’s sailing, the majority had been German-speaking. The crew and the ride-leader guides were from various parts of Croatia, and like many Croatians we met, they all spoke excellent English. A good thing, as we found Croatian impenetrable.

Cheryl and I unpacked in our air-conditioned stateroom, which was bigger and better equipped than some hotel rooms we’ve been in. After that, our guides, Petra and Neven, introduced us to our bikes. While many in our group had brought their own pedals or seats, Cheryl and I decided we would live with whatever we got. After a few test rides around the dock, we were all satisfied: comfortable, easy-shifting, almost new, and well-maintained. Two of our group and a few of the others had elected to reserve e-bikes, and they were promised a complete lesson before the first ride.

Spending a few days in Dubrovnik is well worth it. Try to avoid the crowds.

Our first formal activity was a tour of Dubrovnik with a professional guide. For some on the ship, this was their first visit to the city. Even though others of us had already spent two or three days here, we saw new parts of town and learned more of its thousand-year history. After some free time in town, we enjoyed the first of many tasty shipboard dinners featuring Croatian seafood and other specialties. The first evening also included wine and schnapps on the captain. “Živjeli!”

Captain Josip at the helm of the Harmonia.

The follow morning Captain Josip set course across an incredibly azure Adriatic towards the first of our island destinations, Šipan. This was our test ride: fairly level and about 45 minutes each way from the harbour to the small town of Suđurađ. Everyone would have a chance to iron out any kinks in their bicycles … or legs.

Neven gives a rider a lesson on the e-bike.

The promise of this ride was encouraging. The bikes performed well. The roads were quiet, and with a few exceptions, well signed and in good repair. Just in case, our guides had provided each of us with maps of the island, with our route hand-traced. Along the way, we passed vineyards and other crops, fascinating churches or occasional ruins, and figs and other fruit growing along the roadside. The quiet coffee stop at the picturesque waterfront town of Suđurađ was an excellent introduction to the many small island villages we would be visiting over the week to come. As we dug into our hot lunch back on the Harmonia, we got under way to our next destination.

Our first kava stop at Suđurađ, on the island of Šipan

About the only thing that had been missing from the Šipan ride were panoramic vistas. On Mljet, that would be remedied. We would pay for it in lengthy hill climbs and “undulating” roads, making it the “hardest ride of the week.” That turned out to be smart strategy on the part of the organizers, although some of the e-bike riders who hadn’t quite got the hang of their rides elected to sun themselves on the Harmonia as she sailed the length of the island to meet us. For the rest of us, as we contemplated the island summits each morning, we could always say, “Well, it can’t be as hard as Mljet!”

Starting up the first hill on Mljet, above Sobra. Why are we leaving this idyllic spot?

The crew and the guides on these trips work long hours and hard. Yet somehow they manage to remain up-beat and friendly all the while. Besides three hot meals a day and the on-demand bar, great Croatian coffee was always ready before seven, and the last drinks were served after 10 pm. Once and often twice a day, the entire stock of 35 bikes had to be unloaded from the hold and readied for the next ride. (Those e-bikes are heavy.) There was always something interesting for us to do while the staff worked.

Before our ride on Lastovo, some of us toured decaying Cold War era tunnels on the small connected island of Prežba, until recently an off-limits military base. Others kayaked lazily around the bay, or sunned themselves top side, while taking in the spectacular scenery.

On Lastovo, we had another glimpse of the challenging job of ride leaders. As fifteen of us are in the same outdoor association, many of us have had experience leading bike trips of from ten to thirty individuals. We know how challenging it can be to provide suitable guidance, watch out for road safety, and still allow riders to set their own pace and enjoy the ride. When we arrived at the town of Lastovo, it came out during coffee and beer, that one of the riders had continued through town and not returned. His companions had become concerned when he didn’t show up, mentioning that he was “getting on in years.” Petra and Neven managed to spend a couple of hours searching the far end of the island, while coordinating others of us to help, and the rest to get back safely to the Harmonia. In the end, the wayward rider showed up unassisted at the ship, having spent a couple of hours drinking beer and discussing wines with a local farmer in his barn. All in a day’s work for our hard-working guides.

In Lastovo, each chimney is different, and reflected the home’s social status

There was a little bonus from the adventure. While Cheryl and I were out searching Lastovo with a friend of the missing man, we stumbled upon a tiny home-based winery, and were invited in for sampling and a mini-tour. Our companion was happy to buy a very inexpensive bottle of a very local wine. By policy, the tour company does not do winery stops in order to avoid dangerous afternoon riding conditions.

Two of our club members approach the summit of Korčula.

Our next trip was the first of two across the island of Korčula. Although the rides on Korčula were not as long as Mljet, they included some of the biggest hills of the week. A couple of them were more than five kilometers of uninterrupted climb, although never more than a 10 percent grade, and more often six to eight. Not impossible, but definitely a challenge if you aren’t used to hill climbing. Our club members all made it, but some of the other passengers sometimes pushed their rides, or made use of the e-bikes (which often meant they led the pack.) On most days, the guide who was “sweep” at the end of the group would start out with an e-bike so that they could swap if someone tired on their regular bicycle. This was not advertised, but it really showed the effort taken by Petra and Neven to ensure the trip worked for everyone.

How could you resist a swim in the beautiful anchorage at Prigradica

Hey, did I mention the swimming? Most days, there were one or two opportunities for swimming off shower-equipped back of the Harmonia. It was impossible to resist. The water was stunningly clear, and that distinctive azure blue that characterizes the Adriatic in this area. It was also warm enough to get in and stay in. That despite the late September date following the “worse summer in decades.”

The water’s great at Prigradica on Korčula

After three days of hilly cycling, some of us were glad of a day off for a side trip to Mostar in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Others might have preferred not to break up the rhythm of the cycling. On the one hand, it was a two-hour bus ride each way, with lengthy stops at both Croatian and Bosnian customs in both directions. Mostar was hot, and rather overrun with tourists. On the other hand, it’s an iconic place, in terms of both its ancient and recent history.

Our guide, Senad, was interesting and informed, and I found it engaging to discuss with him some of the aspects of the recent ethnic conflict, together with his hopes for the future. With a little effort, we were able to visit places with fewer tourists, such as the interiors of some of the mosques that dot the city. In the quieter spaces, one could reflect on the significance of the cross upon the hill, or the war-damaged buildings. We could appreciate our return to our peaceful port that evening. “Mi smo tako sretni!” We are so lucky!

A peaceful evening in Gradac on the Makarska Rivijera

The entire tour had a satisfying cultural component. In addition to Dubrovnik and Mostar, we also had a professional guide in the old town of Korčula. For all the other islands and towns we visited, Petra gave an interesting historical or cultural presentation somewhere along the way. Although I’m sure she was well-versed in Croatian culture, it was obvious she put a lot of preparation into her job. Often, the guides went beyond the strict requirements of the job description. One morning, a half-hour Croatian language lesson lasted for 90 minutes; we were such eager students, she said.

“Good Morning!” While under way, Petra (wearing her Croatian flag skirt) leads us in a class in Croatian.

One evening, as a special treat, Petra spent several hours giving us her personal view of some of the challenges of life in Croatia. The country suffered considerably during the multi-year war that followed its declaration of independence in 1991. Many industries have yet to recover, and the very personal scars of the war run deep. The country was hit hard again in the global crisis of 2008. Unemployment currently sits at over 17%, and the average gross income is less than $18000 per year. Petra had spent several years working as a nanny in the UK and the US before returning to the country she loved. As an independent guide in a seasonal industry, staying employed was always a challenge. Yet, she also knew that she was better off than many of her compatriots who would have to leave Croatia to find work. Croatia’s recent EU membership was not embraced by everyone. There have been some losers.

It was an engaging evening, and we definitely appreciated Petra’s frank and sometimes emotional delivery. We felt we were getting more than just the canned tourist spiel, and were grateful for it. Perhaps in return, we all opened up a bit more. On this trip, I learned things from some long-time friends that I’d never heard before.

Back on Korčula again for one of the longer rides, the hills no longer seemed so forbidding. They were just part of the journey, and we knew that each one led to views more stunning than the previous. At the end of the longest climb, it was a cool delight to encounter a roadside fruit stand, where we quickly demolished more than one juicy watermelon. Riding along the seaside into Korčula town that evening, I felt a little sad knowing we had only one more day of riding.

A leisurely sea-side ride into Korčula town

That last day, for the first time all week, we woke to gray skies and whitecaps on the water. Given all we’d heard about the eastern Adriatic’s “year without a summer,” we thought ourselves lucky to have enjoyed the past six days of blue skies and sun on our shoulders. Our final day of riding took us through the old town of Ston, a salt-drying region since Roman times. The surrounding countryside is protected by a huge wall, second only to the Great Wall of China. Leaving Ston, we had to make a decision on whether to climb the final hill, which, on clear days, would offer “the most spectacular view yet.” Just then, the sky darkened and we heard the rumbling of an approaching storm. Our guides explained that coming down the hill could be dangerous in the rain, and advised that we might do better taking a shortcut down the Split-Dubrovnik highway. What to do?

We broke up into groups of three or four, and cycled down the paved shoulder at two-minute intervals. It was busy, although not as harrowing as I’d expected. In the end, it was almost certainly the better option. The storm broke just as we reached the ship. Had we gone over the hill, we would have found ourselves right at the top just when the deluge hit. Although riding in traffic is something I try to avoid, the last half hour in traffic reminded me that, for the entire rest of the week, we’d had the roads almost to ourselves. We often rode for an hour or more without seeing a single car. I even wondered why they kept such well-maintained roads for so little traffic. Whatever the reason, this was one of the best weeks of cycling I’ve ever enjoyed.

A rider demonstrates her e-bike on one of the many quiet back roads

I needn’t have worried about letting our group down. Comments ranged from “awesome” to “best trip ever!” September is a great month for riding here, and the best month for swimming. Apparently, this is true even in an off year. This was a well-organized tour; the crew and guides were personable and highly professional. A beautiful part of the world, with history stretching back for millennia, the southern Dalmatian islands are a great place to swim, boat, and cycle. Or just to sit in the sun, watch the world go by, and enjoy a coffee, beer, or ice cream – national favourites, all. Some of us will be back.

“This trip was awesome! When’s the next one?” (aboard the Harmonia)

If you want to follow in our tracks:

The tour company is Island Hopping, based in Germany. They operate similar tours in Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, and Vietnam. Others in our club have been on a number of these; all reported great trips. Their organized approach is evident. As with our Dalmatian trip, Island Hopping charters local ships and crews, and contracts independent ride leaders and guides. Their tour list sounds like our bucket list.

We booked this trip through BikeTours.com (formerly Bike Tours Direct.) This is the second trip we’ve booked through them. You pay the same rate whether booking directly or through BikeTours.com, but we have done well going through a company we know, and in our time zone. The small team at BikeTours.com are all riders themselves – sometimes they’re spread a little thin when they’re out reviewing rides, but that’s the good news. They know a lot about the tours they sell. Simon & Richie did an excellent job of helping us coordinate the plans of 17 riders. (That may warrant a post of its own!) We look forward to dealing with them again. Meanwhile, here’s the tour: “Dalmatia from Dubrovnik

Search all tours in Croatia >

Search 50+ bike and boat tours worldwide >

Learn more about putting together a tour for your group > 

2014 on the road and in the saddle: Staff travel year-in review

 

Celebrating the new year is a great chance to reflect on where we’ve been in the past year and where we plan and hope to go in the next. For an office full of people bit by the wandering bug, many of our team’s memories and plans are tied to travel experiences — and biking! We thought you might be interested in a year-in review from some of our staff to see what we’ve been up to in 2014, plus where we’re heading in 2015 (even if sometimes only in our dreams!).



Richie Daigle, Tour Specialist

Where I’ve been in 2014: Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ; Grand Canyon; Bend, OR; Mexico
Where I’ve biked: All of the above (except Mexico)! Plus….Old Fort NC, Dahlonega GA, Dalton GA, Birmingham AL, Anniston AL, Brevard NC, Ocoee TN, Chatsworth GA, Chattanooga TN (Can you tell I like to hit the road with my mountain bike?!)

Stand-out memory: Riding up the Rainbow Rim trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As I came around a left hand turn, after pedaling up a rocky ledge, I looked up to find myself peering through an opening in the forest into the great abyss of the Grand Canyon. I felt like I was looking at a painting on a wall. It just didn’t seem real, but yet there it was, in all of its magnificence.

Where I’m heading in 2015: Peru? Slovenia? Spain? Austria?
Booked or bucket list: Nothing is booked right now, so everything is still possible!

 

 


 

Chloe Krueger, Tour Specialist

Where I’ve been in 2014: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Arkansas (A real life dude ranch in the Ozark Mountains)
Where I’ve biked: All ’round my favorite Southern city – Chattanooga, TN

Stand-out memory: Camping under the stars at Horsehoe Canyon Ranch with a toasty bonfire, yummy marshmallows, and new found friends!

Where I’m heading in 2015: Machu Picchu, Peru and Lander, WY
Booked or bucket list? Bucket list! Machu Picchu has been on the list for years and it’s about time I make that happen. And Wyoming – because I love the wild, wild West and exploring my home country!

 



Rachel Browder, Digital Content Strategist

Where I’ve been in 2014: Family beach trips; Italy’s Piedmont region; Hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail with my sister

Stand-out memory: The rush of going, the feeling of fleeing the every day, of creating simple adventures by jarring my normal routine. Everything is an adventure, whether it’s my morning drive along the river or a last-minute road trip to the beach with my husband, Daniel, and the kids.

Where I’m heading in 2015: In my family, we don’t make plans, but we keep intentions. I intend to make the best use of all my holidays and weekends this year.
Bucket list: An East Coast/MidWest road trip with my husband and two kids.

 

 

 



Jim Johnson, President

Where I’ve been in 2014:
International – Albania, Ireland, Kosovo, Macedonia
Domestic – Athens, GA; Cape Cod, MA; Miami, FL; New York, NY
Where I’ve biked:
Albania, Ireland, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Athens, GA

Stand-out memory:
Donegal, Ireland: Climbing the steep, narrow, winding access road to the Slieve League cliffs and being rewarded by one amazing view after another. It’s at the northern end of the 1,500-mile Wild Atlantic Way, the world’s longest coastal cycling route, “where land and sea collide.” And being grateful that I opted for an electric-assist bike!

Where I’m heading in 2015:
Booked – Albania, Austria, Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia, Namibia
Bucket list – Bulgaria, India, Ireland, Malawi, South Africa



Natalie Cook, Vice President

Where I’ve been in 2014:
International – Belgium, the Netherlands, and Ireland
Domestic – San Diego; New York City; Steamboat Springs, CO; Charleston, SC; St. Louis, MO; Detroit and Great Lakes, MI
Where I’ve biked: All of the above, except NYC (because it was 17 degrees and I’m a moron in traffic!) and St. Louis (quick overnight). Plus a few trail systems around home (Chattanooga, TN) as I’ve tried my hand at mountain biking.

Stand-out memory: Watching a spectacular sunset over the Rockies from the top of Mt. Werner, Colorado, making the nausea-inducing gondola ascent totally worth it.

Where I’m heading in 2015: Chile; Peru or Brazil; Chicago
Booked or bucket list? Chile – booked (but planning to add one more South American destination). Chicago – bucket list (because I’ve never been and it seems high time!)



Brittany Williamson, Tour Specialist

Where I’ve been in 2014:
International – Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic
Domestic – Washington, D.C.; San Diego; Los Angeles; Chicago; New York City; Pittsburgh; Charleston, SC; Atlantic City; Madison, WI; Destin, FL
Where I’ve biked: Belgium, Germany, Austria for a minute (I wish I could’ve figured out the traffic pattern.), San Diego, Chicago, Charleston, and Madison.

Stand-out memory:
-Riding a tandem for the first time on the boardwalk in San Diego with my sister. We should’ve had a horn, but my abs hurt from laughter.
-Riding along the bay at sunset in Charleston, smelling the air, and drinking in the moment.
-Riding to the Farmer’s Market in Madison with the pack of commuters doing the same. It felt like riding with family. 

Where I’m heading in 2015: Denver to snowboard until my legs can’t. Asheville for the craft beer and delicious food. And wherever my love of ultimate frisbee takes me.
Bucket list:
A “Fivel Goes West” road trip from Chattanooga to San Diego to Portland to Utah and back home with as many adventures in between. Plus Vermont to hike, snowboard, cuddle in a cabin, and to love on some old friends that are new VT residents.



Candice McCallie, Marketing Coordinator

Where I’ve been in 2014:
Domestic – NY Times Travel Trade Show (New York, NY); AMGEN 2014 Tour of California (Sacramento, Folsom, San Jose to Mt. Diablo, Monterey to Cambria, Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita to Mountain High, Santa Clarita to Pasadena, Thousand Oaks — all in 8 days eeck!); Los Angeles; St. Augustine, FL; Atlanta, GA; Lexington, KY; Chicago
International – Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands
Where I’ve biked: Sacramento, Pasadena, and L.A., CA; St. Augustine Beach, Florida; Salzburg Lakes, Austria; Brixen, Italy; the downtown streets of my hometown Chattanooga and several of its adjacent trails (can’t go without saddle time on my mountain bike!)

Stand-out memory: Taking longer to travel a section of Highway 1 in a car than the pro cyclists on their bikes during the Tour of California (and the spectacular view of the Pismo Beach pier start); Beach cycling in St. Augustine; Cycling and hiking around the breathtaking Salzburg Lakes with my best friend from college; The spectacular view at the top of Mt. Dachstein; and many, many more….

Where I’m heading in 2015: Austin, Texas (one of the few major cities left in the U.S. I haven’t visited); Seattle; California (returning to work the Tour of California again hopefully!); Australia or New Zealand (They’ve been on my bucket list for two decades. Time to figure out how to mark it off the list!)
Booked or bucket list? All bucket list right now! Need to get planning….



Simon Clarke, Reservations Manager

Where I’ve been in 2014: Merida (Yucatan, Mexico), San Cristóbal de las Casas (Chiapas, Mexico), San Diego (my go-to vacation destination), Lake Arrowhead (California), Las Vegas
Where I biked: As little as possible – bikes are malicious machines that attack me without provocation! (I did ride jungle trails in the Yucatan though.)

Stand-out memories:
Cycling along a jungle path to a cave used by the Mayans for worship for millennia, and passing a Boa on the path which was digesting a meal! Kayaking to Mangoves, then having barbecued freshly caught fish on the Gulf of Mexico with literally not another person in sight. Hiking to a Cenote, then leaping 15 feet down into the crystal-clear water and swimming. Walking the cobblestone streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, seeing Mexicans living their lives quite normally, and getting a full grasp of the country’s diversity.

Where I’m heading in 2015: The U.K. (first time home in 11 years!)
Bucket list: Mexico (again!). So many states to still visit. I’d also like to go to Chile — South America is the one continent (aside from Antartica) that I haven’t set foot on! New York (haven’t yet been!)

Slovenia: “Likely the most beautiful but overlooked destination in Europe”

 

BikeToursDirect client Karen went on the Pearls of Slovenia tour earlier this year. The beautiful views, great operator, and wonderful food were just a few of the highlights from her trip. Read more below. Remember, we love client reports! Send us your tour story at info@biketoursdirect.com.


 

Slovenia is most likely the most beautiful but overlooked bike destination in Europe. Lake Bled has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world and the Triglav National Park is pristine and interesting. The people are maybe shy when they cannot help you in English, but they sure will try.

Helia Tours put together a most beautiful tour of the park and the areas surrounding it. There were two major climbs, but after the Dolomites, very doable. Most of the terrain was rolling hills and the only difficulty was biking on the shoulder of roads that were leading towards town and had some traffic. Most of the tour was in rural areas, which had no such problems.

A representative from Helia met us at our hotel and provided us with well detailed maps as well as cue sheets set up by distance. Each bike had a computer and following directions was quite easy. Also the cue sheets had notes about good restaurants and sights to see along the way, which were very accurate. Thanks to Helia I experienced one of the best trout dinners I have ever had!

The road bikes provided to us were Trek models– aluminum and very appropriate for the terrain we would be cycling. The final day of the tour went from Kranjska Gora ski area back to Bled through the Triglav National Park. The roads in the park were dirt and more conducive for a mountain bike so Helia dropped off mountain bikes for our use at our hotel and picked up our road bikes.

The hotel selection was very good. We elected to take the dinner and breakfast plan to save time hunting for a dinner restaurant. All meals were quite good, but Hotel Triglav in Bled and Pension Zaplata provided exquisite dinners and breakfasts, the best dining experience of our entire 6 week stay in Europe.

The entire week went by without a hitch. We loved the tour and rate Helia tours very highly.”

BikeToursDirect has 8 tours in Slovenia. See a full listing of them here.

Hotel homebase: Bike tours in single hotel a great slow travel option

 

Bicycle touring allows you to see a lot of the world from the best possible vantage point. But, it doesn’t have to mean you reach a new destination – and new hotel – every night. Slow travel is all the rage these days, and there is no better way to slow down than to set up shop in one location and explore all the roads, sights and charms an area has to offer. Hence the popularity of so-called “hub-and-spoke tours.”

Touring from le Moulin du Chemin in Western France

If you’re trying to decide on the best bike tour for you this year, consider our great collection of tours based out of one hotel. (You can read more about these tours and how they compare to point-to-point tours on our site!) We offer nearly 30 of this style of tour in North America, Europe, and Asia — search here!

Here are some reasons why a hub-and-spoke tour might be perfect for you:

  • You prefer not to pack/unpack your suitcase every day. 
    Since you’ll be staying in the same location each night, you won’t spend extra time every morning tracking down your toothbrush and that last pair of socks. Instead, you’ll be able to spend those vacation minutes relaxing, recovering, and exploring the local area.
  • You’re concerned about covering the full route distance.
    Many of our clients share their hesitation about biking set distances several days in a row on the typical point-to-point tour. But tours based in one hotel give you the option of rest days so you have a dedicated day out of the saddle to stretch your legs and recover mid-tour. Some tours even offer multiple daily route options, letting you choose the route that best fits your interest and fitness level.
  • You have non-riders in your group.
    Many of our clients ask about options for their non-cycling travel companions. A tour based out of one hotel is ideal for folks who want activities for both cyclists and non-cyclists. While the cyclist is out riding, the non-rider is able to explore the local area, take day excursions, or just relax. Meeting back up over cocktails or dinner lets you reconnect and swap stories every day!
  • You’re traveling with children.
    We have a lot of families booking bike tours these days, and tours based out of one hotel are a great option. Many of the hotels used for these tours have a pool and other great features to help keep children entertained. And, as noted above, it’s a lot easier to take a rest day on these tours when your children are tired or need other diversions.  
  • You want to visit and explore a given region more in depth.
    The point-to-point tour is a great way to span a lot of distance, but some of our clients want to really immerse themselves in one area, wandering and getting a deeper impression of a new place and culture. Tours based out of one hotel are an ideal choice if this is a main factor in your vacation.

Most of our single-hotel-based tours are built around small, locally-owned hotels and guesthouses. The tour operators are often the hotel proprietors themselves. For the duration of your tour, you are not simply a guest checking in for one night; you become part of the community around the hotel. All of these tours include detailed routes and maps, and many of the itineraries or daily rides may be shortened or lengthened to suit your riding preferences. Search all tours based in one hotel >



Suggested tours

Here are some hotel-based tours to consider if you think this option is best for you:

  • Le Moulin Cycling Routes tour, based at Le Moulin du Chemin in Scille, France, is one of our new tour additions for 2015. The charming, 5-room inn is your base for several days of exploring in the idyllic Western France countryside. The staff provides you with sample itineraries based upon your desired cycling level and also offers optional excursions or activities if you’d like an off-the-bike day. All your meals are included in the tour package, and during the right time of year, you may also use the on-site pool.

    Riding toward San Marino, Italy from Hotel Milano Helvetia

  • The staff at Hotel Milano Helvetia in Riccione, Italy, share their passion for cycling with their guests, many of whom return year after year. With this tour you even have the option of guided rides! From Riccione you may explore San Marino, San Leo, Urbino, Mondaino and other areas. The hotel has itineraries for medium distance rides as well as longer, more difficult rides if that’s your speed. Learn more about the staff and tours in their Operator Profile >

  • In Lucerne, Switzerland, discover the lakes and hills of the area known as the “gate to the heart of Switzerland.” The Hotel Seeburg is situated directly on the shore of Lake Lucerne, and you’ll be able to relax each evening with lake views from your room. The routes have been carefully researched to highlight the best small towns and scenery of the surrounding area.
  • In Evora, Portugal, enjoy the Vineyards and Olive Groves tour, where you’ll stay at Evora Guesthouse, a 4-room genuine Monte, a traditional Alentejan farm. Off the bike, you’ll enjoy the orchard and pastures or enjoy a quiet walk along the property’s paths. You have your choice of 5 cycling routes each day. This itinerary offers a built-in rest day, and you may enjoy 3 dinners at the farmhouse included in the package.

View all >

Let us help you book your tour today! E-mail info@biketoursdirect.com for more information.

portuguese farmhouse bike tour

Cozy farmhouse accommodations, perfect for relaxing after exploring Portugal's vineyards and olive groves!

 

Hawaii by bike: Why you should hop off the Big Island

 

BikeToursDirect offers 4 bicycle tours in Hawaii. Our operator partner Doug Lofland at Bike Beyond Boundaries recently chatted with us over e-mail to explain why island hopping around Hawaii and exploring by bicycle is the best way to see the state.

Why bike Molokai?

The least visited and most authentic of the Hawaiian Islands, Molokai is a treat for those wanting to explore the road less traveled. (The region is part of our Hawaii Island Hopping: Maui, Lanai and Molokai tour!)

We start at Molokai’s East End at Halawa Valley and Beach Park and the glorious cathedral valley and impressive, double-tiered 250-foot Mooula Falls providing a spectacular backdrop.

We climb 2 miles out of Halawa Valley and proceed on a 25-mile ride downhill or along the seashore flats back to the island capital of Kaunakakai, passing Molokai’s first church dating from 1833, and a myriad of ancient fishponds along the route.

Continuing from Kaunakakai, we make a steady 10 mile ascent to Pala’au State Park and the awe-inspiring overlook to Kalaupapa Peninsula and the site of the National Historic Park of the same name that was the infamous leper colony for nearly 100 years. We have the chance to ride mules or hike down to Kalaupapa and visit many notable sites associated with the colony.

This is an unforgettable day of riding and hiking, a sublime experience getting to know the Hawaiian customs of old.

Why bike Lanai?

Our Hawaii Lanai tour is an off-road and open road paradise with endless runs down to deserted beaches and seaside native Hawaiian villages, cool upland runs through misty fern forests reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, and all based around Lanai City, a small, sleepy, former pineapple plantation village reminiscent of the American South.

Lanai is a gigantic mesa of an island, with drop-offs to paved and dirt roads to the Pacific in every direction.

Across the mesa are beautiful wide open paved roads. At the edge of the mesa are thrilling paved-road descents to Shipwreck Beach and the remains of a WWII tanker marooned offshore in one direction, and a native Hawaiian village and late 19th Century Hawaiian Church at the water’s edge.

Another descent takes us off-road through the Garden of the Gods and the surreal red rock formations reminiscent of Moab, Utah and deserted beaches accessible only by 4-wheel-drive.

Ascending the cool uplands of the Munro Trail takes into the incredible off-road terrain from which all 6 Hawaiian Islands can be viewed on a clear day, and which loops around to beautiful Hulopo’e Beach Park and a wonderful end to the day with snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins.

Lanai is one of the undiscovered gems of the Hawaiian Islands that you absolutely can’t miss!

Why bike Kauai?

Said by many to be the most beautiful of the 6 Hawaiian islands, Kauai is indeed a feast for the eyes of a cyclist! (See details of our Hawaii Kauai Garden Isle Bike Tour.)

There’s the ride on Kauai’s South Coast around Allerton/National Tropical Gardens with towering rainforest trees with tall curving roots near bronze mermaids. There’s the grove of swaying golden bamboo, a cut-flower garden, and tropical fruit trees where the focus is on landscape design. And among the plantings are botanically important species of the tropics, including varieties of palms, ki (ti), heliconias, and gingers.

And returning along the South Shore back to the the spectacular Spouting Horn blowhole, one of the most photographed spots on Kauai where the Poipu surf channels into a natural lava tube and releases a huge spout of water during large swells. You’ll hear the hiss and roar that is the basis of a Hawaiian legend.

There’s also the ride through the beautiful South Shore uplands to the breathtaking Wailua Falls, which, like other spectacular spots on Kauai used as film locations, is most recognized in the opening credits of the long-running television show “Fantasy Island.”

And then there’s the Alekoko Menehune Fishpond, minutes from Lihue, which, built nearly 1,000 years ago, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. Ingenious ponds like this were built to catch fish, and the Menehune Fishpond is one of the finest examples of this type of ancient Hawaiian aquaculture.

The outstanding scenery of Kauai continues with a ride up to the tranquil Wailua River Overlook, weaving by gorgeous waterfalls such as Opaeka’a just across the street, and lush, jungle landscapes along the island’s East Side. Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, and the Wailua River is one of the most popular.

The Wailua River Uplands ride continues up to the flanks of Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth and around the Wailua Homesteads with spectacular mountain scenery at every turn, and a lovely coastal trail from Kapa’a along the shoreline back to Wailua.

The iconic Na Pali Coast at Haena State Park is the beginning of one of our rides on Kauai, returning along the coast through the lovely town of Hanalei, with the film location site for “South Pacific” at Lumahai Beach, and the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, located in the beautiful Hanalei River Valley on Kaua’i's north shore.

Saving the best for last, the ride from Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and the famed Kalalau Lookout, down through Kauai’s West Shore coffee plantations, and the beautiful backcountry to Old Koloa Town is an unforgettable end to a week of breathtaking scenery on the Garden Isle.

Kauai is a can’t-miss destination for those seeking out the most breathtaking sights of the Hawaiian Islands!

Why bike Oahu?

It’s beautiful…..maybe not the most beautiful, but when you’re talking about the Hawaiian Islands, spectacular vistas are everywhere you look, including Oahu! (Check out the self-guided Hawaii Oahu tour here.) 

There’s the ride around Diamond Head at sunset, with surfers teeming in the offshore breaks below waiting to catch the next incoming rollers.

There’s one of the greatest rides in the Hawaiian Islands up Tantalus capped by one of the most beautiful overlooks in the Pacific, with Honolulu/Waikiki/Diamond Head and the broad, immense, expanse of the Pacific Ocean spread out below. 

There’s the Pali Loop ride over to Oahu’s Windward Coast, with the breathtaking view from the Pali Overlook and notable landmarks such as Makapu’u  Point and Lighthouse, great snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and deluxe beach time at Bellows Beach.

Or the Northern stretch of the Windward Coast with the spectacular backdrop of the Koolau Range all along the ride, the heavenly setting of  Byodo-In Temple and the Valley of the Temples, and countless film location sites at Kualoa Ranch, with the chance to ride or take a 4WD Jeep Tour into the backcountry.

And who hasn’t heard of Oahu’s famed North Shore with the world-renowned Banzai Pipeline at Waimea Bay/Sunset Beach, Waimea Falls and Valley just next door and the beautiful historic town of Haleiwa with great shopping, restaurants and a beautiful oceanfront setting.

And because you’d be lucky enough to be biking with us in Oahu, you end your ride in wonderful Waikiki Beach at the end of every cycling day, with endless dining and shopping, world-famous sun-bathing at Waikiki Beach or Sans Souci State Park, hanging out at beautiful Kapiolani Park and the Honolulu Zoo, and cultural sites of interest around the city, such as Iolani Palace and the home of Hawaiian Royalty, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the picturesque Aloha Tower, and excursions to Pearl Harbor National Historic Park.

The rides around the island mostly follow the coast and are therefore relatively easy, with a small number of challenging uphill rides.

Learn more about our Hawaii tours >

See all tours operated by Bike Beyond Boundaries >

7 Hot cycling destinations to keep your saddle warm this winter

 

Winter doesn’t have to mean taking a break from cycling. In fact, it’s a wonderful time to explore a warmer locale around the world.

Here are 7 of our most popular winter bike tours, offering great cycling, warm weather, unique culture, and charming villages and towns. (But, be sure to check out our full listing of tours available in January and February.)

1. Algarve Coastal Route (Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal)

This is a very popular, leisurely, 7-night self-guided tour along the coast of Portugal, featuring charming old fishing towns and beautiful beaches. Price starts at €785 and departures are available any day of the week, throughout the year, with a minimum of 2.

2. Best of Catalonia Cycle Touring (Barcelona, Spain)
This 8-night tour takes you along a converted railway from Ripoli in the Pyrenees to Sant Feliu de Guixols on the Mediterranean Sea. Stunning scenery, pine and cork forests, and bucolic farmlands dot the landscape. Price starts at €1300 for a self-guided tour (private guided tours also available). Departures available daily.

3. Land of the Maharajas (Rajasthan, India)
This 10-night guided tour will take you through the princely states of India-along dusty roads, beneath towering camels, and beside women adorn in brilliant colors. Price starts at: $2,154. Departure available daily for groups of 2 or more.

Riding in Cambodia on the Angkor Wat Experience tour

4. Angkor Wat Experience (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
This 4-night guided tour of the beautifully haunted and sprawling temple complex in Cambodia is the perfect add-on tour to any trip in Southeast Asia. But, Angkor Wat should not only be an add-on. It’s a fantastic main event, boasting one of the most remarkable and impressive sights in all of Asia. Sitting on more than 500 acres, it is truly best seen and experienced by bicycle. Price starts at $615 and tours depart every Monday with a minimum of 2.

5. Costa Rica Multi-Sport Adventure (San Jose, Costa Rica)
This 9-night guided multi-sport tour in Costa Rica takes you cycling, hiking, zip-lining, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and more through its famously beautiful landscapes. Price starts at $1,500 and tours depart on Saturdays year-round with minimum of 2.

6. Yucatan Bike Adventure (Cancun, Mexico)
This 6-night guided tour through the Yucatan Peninsula is the perfect antidote to winter, offering cycling, snorkeling and zip-lining in beautiful weather, while staying at luxurious and upscale accommodations each evening. Price starts at $1,985. Departures are Jan 19; Feb 1, 22; Mar 8; Nov 8; Dec 5, 2015.

7. New Zealand Alps to Ocean (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Experience the majesty of Aoraki, Mt. Cook and the Mackenzie Basin in this 5-day guided cycling trip out of Christchurch. Experience the quiet rural roads through gentle hillsides and flat easy riding on New Zealand’s South Island. Price starts at NZ$1,498 and departures are Jan 12; Feb 9; Mar 9, 23; Apr 5, 13; Oct 5, 19; Nov 9; Dec 7, 27, 2015. 

Operator Profile: Discover beautiful Riccione, Italy with Hotel Milano Helvetia

 

Bike tours based out of one hotel are on the rise. With this increase in popularity, BikeToursDirect Vice President Natalie Cook recently spoke with Steve Myers, from Hotel Milano Helvetia, over e-mail.

They operate the popular, flexible, and affordable Riccione Bike Tour (based out of one hotel) in Riccione, Italy. Here is what they had to say about their location, tour, and why you should discover their region by bicycle.

Relax ride-tired muscles here

Tell us about your location (as a destination) and your hotel property.

The Milano Helvetia enjoys a prime location in Riccione, Italy, literally a minute’s walk from the beach and only a couple of hundred meters from the famous Viale Ceccarrini shopping precinct. Riccione is close to Rimini on the Adriatic Coast so you have the beach life but within minutes after heading inland you have beautiful countryside with spectacular landscapes and views.

The hotel has more than 70 rooms and can trace its history back more than 100 years, to this day retaining its traditional style. It is family managed with the hotel manager Emiliano Carlini also working as one of the guides. His mother is responsible for the delicious food the kitchen serves. The hotel is a genuine Italian hotel run by genuinely friendly people…the staff are the same after many years so you know by that it’s a great place not only to holiday but to work also!

How did you get into the hotel business, and at what point did you decide to make your property into a cycling hub?

The Carlini family have been hoteliers for many years — it’s in the family genes! It was a natural progression to run a larger hotel and the location is a great cycling area, scenic and full of history. Emilaino and his father Piero are both enthusiastic cyclists, so it was not a hard decision to start offering bike holidays so that they can share their passion with others.

Hotel manager/guide Emiliano and guide Steve

Your tour is offered as guided or self-guided. What are the benefits of riding with a guide? How does GPS help on the self-guided option?

With a guide, you don’t have to worry about anything! The guide can easily adapt a ride and give advice and safety warnings along the way…a map or GPS won’t tell you where there is a steep descent or bad road surface approaching!! A guide will look after the group ensuring no one is left behind and also be able to show you not only the best destinations in the area, but take you there on the best roads with the nicest views and the fewest cars!!

The only con is that if it’s a group ride, you might have to wait for the slower riders but the hotel usually offers at least 2 levels of daily ride to cater for differing levels. If you like to sightsee, then this not so easy when with a group of others as most don’t want to stop too long or too often…they come mainly to ride.

However, if you come on a quiet week when the hotel does not have any/many other cyclists, you may have a guide to yourself and they can do whatever you like! Alternatively, the hotel can arrange a private guide (at extra cost) who will tailor a ride to the guest’s requirements and time would not be a factor.

If you choose a self-guided tour, GPX files are available. During the last 2-3 years, I’ve spent a lot of time compiling a folder of nearly 70 rides, each with a written description of what to expect, the distance, climbing meters and a difficulty rating along with the GPX file so guests who don’t book a guide or just wish to ride alone can do so knowing they will find their way on the best roads in the area. It’s easy to get a map and plot a route but without local knowledge you maybe won’t see the best the area has to offer. There are tours from 24 miles/40km to 87 miles/140km available.

Tell us about your guides.

The management employ only experienced, mature guides, nearly all of whom speak English. Our main guide is actually from the UK and plans most of the routes. He has been holidaying and working in Riccione since 2007. He knows even the small roads and often shows our local Italian guides new ways to go! The guides are very safety conscious and considerate and are strong riders. However, they spend equal time with all guests, not just the strong ones at the front of the group! They use their experience to control the groups’ pace yet still make it fun for all.

How do you choose the routes for your tours? What do you look for when designing the daily rides?

View of San Marino from the saddle

It is easy to choose destinations for our tours as there are so many great places in the area to visit and many ways to reach each area. We focus on designing our tours based on several factors: Great views, fantastic destinations and as many car-free roads as possible–which is a lot as we have an intricate network of roads so it’s not too hard to find the small pretty ones. Th

ere is an abundance of pretty towns, hilltop castles and churches and, combined with the beautiful natural scenery and rolling countryside, it’s a great place to cycle!

Describe your favorite route to ride personally.

All the guides love Urbino. It’s not the hardest 62 miles/100km you will ever ride but it’s truly a beautiful ride and destination. If you have a group that can manage it, then there is also the option to see The Furlo Gorge with its spectacular natural scenery.

What special programs do you offer during the Nove Colli Gran Fondo? 

We have some themed weeks available including the Nove Colli Gran Fondo in May. Gran Fondos are timed mass participation rides with between as little as 500 riders to as many as 13,000 on The Nove Colli. We arrange everything for our clients: registration, transportation, a member of staff to meet and greet at the end and often some of the guides will ride too!

During the Nove Colli week we make a nice program to include some recovery days so the participants are not too tired for the big day itself! We can arrange massages and help with off-the-bike activities for non-riders as sometimes the riders bring partners who are not cyclists themselves. Usually around this time the Giro d’Italia passes through the area so we always arrange a ride or bus trip to see how the pros do it.  

However, The Nove Colli is not the only Gran Fondo available. If a client asks, we can usually find one most times of the year and arrange everything for the guest. There are other challenges in the region, including Gran Fondo Pantanissima (dedicated to the late great Marco Pantani) and in May there is the Challenge Rimini Triathlon. (Contact BikeToursDirect to book a special package.)

Why is your area best seen by bike?

Easy question to answer…it’s beautiful and by bike you get to see it while breathing in fresh air and soaking up the sun! It’s a great way to travel and we have a lot of traffic-free roads. There is nothing quite like reaching the top of a long hill then enjoying a coffee in a picturesque Italian village to savor the moment. You then also get to enjoy the exhilarating descent!

Entering San Leo

Book your stay at Hotel Milano Helvetia

Stay for 7 nights with full board (with meals cooked by Emiliano’s own la Mama!) and use of property amenities (including a beautiful pool and Turkish bath) for less than €500! Choose whether to ride with a guide or self-guided. Rental bikes available. Bonus for solo travelers — no single room supplement.

Book your stay now >

Two approaches to the Florida Keys by bike

 

One of the best parts of working at BikeToursDirect? No two days in the office are ever the same when you’re working with almost 150 bicycle tour operators all over the globe. The people behind the tours we advise our clients on are based in Vienna and Bangkok and Cancun and Seattle and Rome and villages in between. They are operating tours appealing to a wide array of travelers and cyclists, from the leisurely-yet-active vacation crowd to die-hard enthusiasts. This spectrum of attitudes and travel styles across our many operator partners was perfectly illustrated for me recently.

Jim and Lucy reach the Southernmost Point of the U.S.

A South Florida run-in

I was chatting with our buddy Alex Graham from Charleston Bicycle Tours and he told me about running into another of our partners in the Florida Keys this year. Alex and his wife, Karen, were scouting a new tour program from the Everglades to Key West when they ran across Jim Sayer, Executive Director of Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), who they knew through industry events.

Jim was in the home stretch of an epic self-contained bike tour from Charleston, SC (coincidentally, Alex and Karen’s home!) to Key West, FL. Jim was joined by his 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, on this 19-day, 1,062 mile journey. They rode through South Carolina, Georgia, and the entire length of the Florida peninsula, first with an organized ACA group tour and then independent with the use of ACA’s mapped bike routes.

Travel styles diverged

The final leg of Jim and Lucy’s trip covered the territory of ACA’s own Florida Keys bike tour. It’s a guided group tour, but it truly adheres to the “adventure” in the Association’s name as a self-contained tour. That means you bring your own bike, haul your gear, share food prep responsibilities with the group, and overnight at campgrounds in tents. It’s a true adventure with the camaraderie of a group ride and mutual support to be collectively self-sufficient. 

By contrast, Alex was riding through the Keys to hand-pick the finest accommodations and dining for the fully-supported tour he was designing. Guests on this Florida Keys: Everglades to Key West bike tour will enjoy van support, luxury accommodations, catered meals and fine dining. Your only job on this tour is to get to Florida, relax, and pedal — everything else is anticipated for your comfort before, during, and after the leisurely daily rides.

Alex and Karen in Key West

Alex and Jim saw each other on the road a couple of times on sunny riding days, but as sometimes happens in such lush, tropical destinations, they encountered one day of driving rain. Alex quickly called on his support van to load his and Karen’s bikes and shuttle them to the hotel to dry out. As they drove through the downpour, though, they spotted a couple of cyclists enduring the elements — Jim and daughter Lucy!

The van stopped and Alex insisted that they throw bikes on the rack and join him and Karen on the short drive (but longer ride) to a dry haven — a perfect expression of the generous hospitality and reliable support provided to every Charleston Bicycle Tours guest.

Jim, though, turned down the transfer offer. He and his daughter were committed to making the full trip on human power alone and were, of course, equipped with rain gear and fortitude, embodying the hardy attitude of the Adventure Cycling Association and its mission to “inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle.” 

Having the pleasure of knowing both of these gents, I’m confident I can summarize what they were each thinking:

“He’s nuts to be riding in that VAN.”

“He’s nuts to be riding in that RAIN.”

And they’d probably both be at least a little bit correct! But I love this story because it really illustrates the spectrum of bike travel experiences that BikeToursDirect supports. Most of the tours we offer fall somewhere in the middle of these two Keys tours in terms of support and services, but these extremes of luxury vs. self-contained are a great example of the diverse experiences we work to bring to our clients to help you find the adventure of *your* dreams.

Ready to ride the Florida Keys?

Read on…

Read more about Jim and Lucy’s epic Tour de Southeast in Jim’s own words! Check out his blog post “Cycling the South: A Top 10 List.”

 


 

By Natalie Cook, Vice President at BikeToursDirect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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