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Reflection on inspiration: The Thousand Year Journey video

Posted on by Natalie
 

More about Jedidiah’s journey here. Follow him @jedidiahjenkins



A note from VP Natalie….

My colleague Richie (one of our Tour Specialists), shared the awesome video above with our staff this morning in an email titled “Thursday morning inspiration.” We were all blown away and I knew immediately we had to share this nugget of passion and inspiration with our community.

Then Rachel (our Digital Content Strategist) and I got another message from Richie with a rambling reflection on what the video meant to him. I asked his permission to publish that unsolicited email, unedited, here on the blog because it captures so well the passion for adventure and exploration that he brings to our team and serving our clients. It’s a rare gift to work with people who love what they do!


That video reminds me of this Wendell Berry quote, which is a favorite of mine:

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”

This video made me feel good about being a part of the BTD family. We help people along in having these kinds of experiences, opening a door to this kind of life or attitude.

Meanwhile, as a lover of routines, this video is also personally challenging. It makes me want to ride to explore more. Makes me want to find new bike routes to work, and new routes into the wild.

The word “apocalypse” literally translated, means a disclosure of knowledge, or a lifting of the veil. In this sense, what can be seen by bike travel — breaking the routine, adventure, etc. — can be viewed as apocalyptic in that it tears us out of our routines and the un-noticed passing of time. The disclosure of knowledge gained from slow travel can seemingly lift the veil of the “everyday grind”, and slow time. It’s experiencing the real of the world, especially when we can’t understand or fathom it. Life isn’t meant to be understood, it’s meant to be lived.

Ok, thanks for letting me ramble.. back to calls and emails!

–Richie


Rules of the road and bike sizing for your family

 

Thanks to Amy Whitley at Fix.com for these wonderful infographics and tips on how to safely ride with your children and family, and the best spots around the world to do so. See all of BikeToursDirect’s family-friendly tours here


Source: Fix.com

Give your father the gift of bicycle touring

 

Father’s Day is just around the corner (Sunday, June 21!) and we know what you’re thinking. What in the world should I buy Dad this year? 

BTD content specialist and staff dad, Whit, takes his son for a ride along the bike paths of Korea.

Consider this: a bike tour, perfect for any dad who likes to explore, travel or be active. It’s a wonderful way to give a gift and spend more time with your father (or husband) in a fun and memorable way! 

We have lots of great options for every kind of dad out there. Here are a few suggestions.

For the history buff:
Bruges and the Belgian Coast: A 7-night self-guided bicycle tour along the Belgian Coast full of World War I history. Cycling averages 33 miles per day and the tour is rated leisurely. 

For the beer lover:
Portland, Oregon: Pub & Pedal Tour: A 3-night tour featuring all the best brewpubs in the city. Tour averages 30 miles of cycling per day.

For the beach comber:
Portugal’s Algarve Coastal Route: A 7-night self-guided tour along the coast of Portugal that features charming fishing towns and beautiful beaches. Tour averages 25 miles per day.

For the adventurer:
Land of the Maharajas in India: A 10-night guided tour through colorful and remote rural Rajasthan, India, featuring a visit to the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal and quiet country villages of rural India.

For the national park lover:
Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park Multi-Sport Tour: A 4-night self-guided cycling and hiking tour through some of the Southwest’s most beautiful spots: Bryce Canyon; Zion National Park; Red Canyon, Utah; and other great must-sees.

Need more suggestions? Contact one of our helpful tour specialists to help choose a tour that’s right for the dad in your life.

 

Discover Macedonia with BikeToursDirect president and founder

 

 

Beautiful countryside. An intrinsically rich culture. Warm and kind people. Macedonia has all this and more, as BikeToursDirect president Jim Johnson discovered while on tour there last fall. Now, he’s inviting you to join him on this inaugural Discover Macedonia bicycle tour, starting August 25, 2015, to explore this ancient, remote and stunningly beautiful Balkan country. Read more from Jim below.

 

Jim Johnson, founder and president of BikeToursDirect

How I met Macedonia
I was part of a group organized by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and sponsored by United States Agency for International Development to help develop sustainable tourism in the Western Balkans. To fit in our full schedule, we experienced much of the country by van. Along the way, we sampled a number of activities including cycling, hiking, horseback riding and even paragliding.

We started our tour curious and excited. We ended it moved and amazed.

Europe of old
It was Europe the way much of the continent must have been centuries ago: untouched nature, villages practicing centuries-old traditions, people open and welcoming to guests from afar. All that in a setting of soaring mountains (16 of them topping a mile high), vast forests and more than 50 crystal lakes. And in a country barely a third the size of Massachusetts.

Due to its location, a crossroads of sorts, Macedonia presents a mix of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Greek history in a setting that feels both Balkan and Mediterranean. As we describe it on our tour page, “it is a land of hospitality, mixed cultures, splendid wines and delicious cuisine. With nearly 300 sunny days each year and ideal temperatures, Macedonia is the perfect place to be.”

We crossed the border between Albania and Macedonia by bike, pedaling to the Monastery of St. Naum, a complex dating back to 905 A.D. Our hotel on the monastery grounds was newer but still historic and full of Old World charm.

We traveled by boat across the crystal-clear waters of Lake Ohrid to the town of the same name. The town of Ohrid, built primarily from the 7th to 19th centuries but with history dating back 5,000 years, is one of Europe’s oldest human settlements. We had too little time there. As I wandered the streets, a new wonder seemed to reveal itself at each turn: ancient monuments, Byzantine churches, a medieval fortress, a Roman theater, and again and again views to the turquoise waters of the lake.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site
It’s no wonder that UNESCO named the “Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region” a World Heritage Site. As UNESCO states, “this city and its historic-cultural region are located in a natural setting of exceptional beauty, while its architecture represents the best preserved and most complete ensemble of ancient urban architecture of the Slavic lands… The town’s architecture represents, with its old typical streets and houses and its particular atmosphere around old squares, the best preserved and most complete ensemble of ancient urban architecture of this part of Europe.”

The next day, we transferred by van to the mountaintop Treskavec Monastery, where we met Father Kalist, an Orthodox monk who captivated us with tales of the historic site, once a temple for Apollo. Our next stop was Krushevo, at 4,429 feet, the highest town in Macedonia, where we enjoyed a short hike. The last stop of the day was Mavrovo National Park, home to Macedonia’s highest peaks. At the Hotel Tutto in Janche, where we overnighted, we learned about building techniques using local materials and enjoyed a feast featuring local foods. And then we danced, learning steps from Tutto himself, and toasting our hosts with local wines.

An outdoor paradise
The park nearly overwhelms with outdoor options by horse or by bike, on foot, and even in off-road vehicles. Along the trails and back roads, we encountered shepherds tending their flocks that occasionally became fluffy roadblocks. Our guides explained traditional cheese making, which we enjoyed during lunch in the mountain village of Galichnik: kashkaval, a local yellow cheese, and belo sirenje, a local salt-brine white cheese.

The tour ended in the capital of Skopje, which Lonely Planet aptly describes: “Easygoing Skopje remains one of Europe’s more unusual capitals, where constant urban renewal has made the city a bizarre jigsaw puzzle whose Turkish old town, ancient fortress, communist-era centre and contemporary building spree combine to create a multifaceted city that never fails to surprise.”

Especially for you
Local tour operator Ride Macedonia has customized the “Discover Macedonia” tour especially for BikeToursDirect, incorporating the best of a local tour operator’s road bike, mountain bike and hiking tours. The portion on roads will take up most of the tour and allow us to experience a significant amount of area. The mountain biking, all on easy, non-technical forest roads and wide trails will allow us to visit remote villages. The hiking takes us to off-the-beaten-path natural treasures.

After nearly three decades of bicycle touring around the world, I fully expect this tour to land on my “Top 5” list, perhaps even as No. 1.

I hope you’ll join me!

Discover Macedonia tour page >  

 

Client trip report: Bavarian Danube

 

Julane and Art recently came back from their Bavarian Danube bike tour with a great review and beautiful photos of their experience.

The tour, German Danube: Donauworth to Passau, was their first experience to cycle in Germany, and they were pleasantly surprised at the beauty.

“We found the river unexpectedly beautiful—wide and full of wildlife,” Julane said. “Every hotel exceeded our expectations, and the maps/directions were 99.99% clear and easy to follow; kind people offered assistance when we occasionally puzzled over directions.”

“The bike tour company, Radweg-Reisen, did an excellent job finding interesting routes and cities, and the bikes they provided were well-outfitted and in good condition—they didn’t even need saddle or handlebar adjustments!”

Check out these photos below from their tour, and see their complete album here, which offers a great glimpse into this Bavarian Danube tour with beautiful photos and interesting captions.

 

It is nice to be off the busy road for our first ride.

Julane is standing by a history of the railroad and this tunnel. I could understand a little of the German.

At this T intersection, we turn right to enter Old Donauwörth. The next day, we will turn left to continue on to the next town on our route.

I loved taking this route along the Wörnitz river out of Donauwörth because it exposes us to more beauty that remained hidden while we explored inside the walls of the town.

Our boat is bike-friendly

The train is on time as usual :-)

We're moving on one pedal stroke at a time and loving the sunshine.

The food and drinks were great!

Riding along the Danube into Niederalteich.

The Inn river side of Passau

Learn more about this tour >

See all of our Danube tour options >

 

Leisurely and affordable bike tours in Burgundy

 

Beautiful family-owned vineyards. Delicious cuisine. Bountiful country roads. The Burgundy region of France is perfect for cycling, and there is no better time to book a bike tour in France than now. With the dropping Euro and some amazing tour options, France has never looked so good! Our local operator partner Active Tours offers leisurely and affordable bike tours in the region.

“With warm, comfortable weather most of the year, cycling in Burgundy can be an outstanding activity for travelers seeking self-guided tours in wine country,” said Catherine Brossais of Active Tours. “Wines, wonderful cuisine, a remarkable network of quiet country roads and just a few hours away from Paris — all this makes Burgundy an ideal location for a cycling holiday!”

Top picks for Burgundy

  • Best of Burgundy Tour: This 7-night self-guided tour takes you from Dijon through Beaune (the wine capital of Burgundy) to Macon. You’ll enjoy the best of local cuisine – snails, Charolais beef, Bress chicken and wonderful cheeses. And of course, the wonderful wines! From €800/person.
  • Burgundy Wine Trails: On this 6-night self-guided tour, you’ll ride through some lovely French towns such as Pouilly Fuisse, Saint-Veran, Givry, Santenay, Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard and many more. Cycle along a peaceful bicycle path while taking in Burgundy’s natural beauty. From €625/person.
Flexibility and a leisurely pace
These tours offer you the freedom to go your own way! For example, you can add extra nights in any of the overnight locations if you want to build in a rest day without cycling.
The relatively short daily riding distances offer leisurely 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. starts on travel days, and like all self-guided bike tours, you set the pace once you’re rolling. Your only job is to pedal, absorb your surrounding, and make it to the next hotel by nightfall, where your luggage will await!
Pièce de résistance
Add-on options include:

- Cooperage workshop (how to make a wine barrel)
- Truffle search with a dog followed by a meal based on truffle products
- Hands-on cooking classes
- Wine tastings at small, family-owned wine estates
- Wine tasting lunches

See all of our Active Tours options in France here > 
See all of our tours in France > 

Bike touring the American Northeast: Rhode Island, Vermont, and the Hudson Valley

 

Planning a trip to the American Northeast this year? Be sure to include some bicycle touring in your plans. There’s no better way to see the region. Just ask Jeanne Rummel, with Great Freedom Adventures, a BikeToursDirect tour operator partner in the region.

“What’s great about bike touring the Northeast is the diversity of scenery, the abundant natural beauty and the wealth of cultural interests, all found within a relatively compact area,” Rummel said.

“That means that in the space of one tour, guests may cycle past scenic ocean or river vistas, heritage farmland, estate vineyards, 40+ room mansions, colorful sugar maples, outdoor concerts, farmers markets, fine art galleries, covered bridges, gourmet cafes, and so much more,” she said. “Guests tell us they love how each bend in the road reveals something new to see and experience.”

Cyclists love the biking routes along the Hudson Valley with its quaint towns and beautiful river.

Check out these three tours in the region:

1. Hudson Valley National Heritage Area Bike Tour: This 5-night guided tour still has availability for the August 2 and October 11 departures.

What guests love: The biking routes are fabulous (“some of my very favorites,” Rummel says). Visiting some of the country’s preeminent historic mansions. Eating at world-class restaurants with CIA trained chefs and chefs who have migrated north from some of NYCs top restaurants. Tasting award-winning wines at vineyards. Cruising the Hudson River by boat. Exploring Hudson (a hip town with a vibrant arts scene) and Rhinebeck (a super quaint town with high-end shops and restaurants).

2. Vermont 3-Day Cycling Tour: This 2-night guided tour still has availability for the May 29, July 24, August 7 and October 2 departures.

What guests love: This itinerary draws from decades of biking back roads all over Vermont. People also love the covered bridges, Woodstock, Quechee Gorge, the brewery, and the Calvin Coolidge Homestead and Historic Site.

3. Rhode Island Vacation Bike Tour: This 3-night guided tour still has availability for the August 30 departure.

What guests love: Block Island is stunning and offers easy cycling, lighthouses, kayaking on the Great Salt Pond and it’s estuaries, sunset sailing with beer or wine and cheese, walking oceanside nature trails filled with wildflowers, Newport, mansions, Cliff Walk and the famous Ocean Ave.

 See all our tours in the American Northeast here >
See all Great Freedom Adventures tours here > 

Getting around Europe

 

If you’ve booked a bike tour in Europe, then you probably already know it’s chock full of cultural variety. So much in fact that you want to sample as much as possible during your trip there. Luckily, transportation is convenient, and you have a lot of options to get around the relatively small continent.

Getting to and from your tour
You’re responsible for travel arrangements between your arrival/departure airport and your bicycle tour’s start and end points. However, there will be information on the best ways to get to and from your start and end hotels in the tour documents that you’ll receive 3-4 weeks before the tour starts. (Some of this information also appears on many tour pages under “How to Get There.”)

Train
Taking a train from city to city in Europe is the traditional way for travelers to get around. Rail Europe offers multi-day or -country passes as well as simple point-to-point tickets, which are usually sufficient. One smart solution for long-haul train trips: book an overnight train. You won’t lose valuable sightseeing time to daytime travel, and the train fare will double as your hotel budget for the night!

Air
Seeing Europe by train can be a great experience for shorter trips, but flying is usually advisable for longer distances. Europe has many airports with frequent connections through the major international airlines. But it also has a thriving budget airline industry that you should consider if you want to minimize travel time and money. These no-frills airlines typically fly into more remote airports instead of major metropolitan centers, but are connected to the cities by rail and bus service. If you watch the fares, you can often find deeply discounted rates. (We like flycheapo.com because it shows all discount airlines and the possible route combinations.)

Beware a few considerations with discount airlines, though. You can’t check luggage through for onward flights with major airlines, and there’s no recourse if you have a flight delay and miss a subsequent flight with a major airline. That’s why we advise only using these airlines if there’s a day or more between flights. (For example, flying into London one day, spending the night, and then flying onward across Europe with Ryanair the next day.)

Public transportation
Major European airports are well connected with public transportation networks, usually including both trains and buses. Check your arrival airport’s website to learn about transportation connections. You should be able to devise a route from the airport to your bike tour’s starting point using the safe and convenient public transportation. The same is true of your return trip – you should be able to plan a route with trains or buses to get from the bike tour’s end point to your departure airport. Be sure to leave plenty of time before your flight, though, in case of missed connections or other delays.

Private transportation
If you’re not going too far and don’t mind spending more, the airports are always staffed with plenty of taxis ready to help with luggage and deliver you to the doorstep. You can also book transfers (as well as local sightseeing tours, cultural events and other activities) through Viator. Rental cars are an option, but not the most economical if you’re only driving from the airport to the bike tour start point. The one-way rental surcharge can be very high.

Bus
Bus service runs everywhere in Europe, though is best for travel in and around large cities rather than long-distance trips. Buses are also useful and more economical than taxis if you need to get beyond the furthest train service to an area.

Extending your trip
Some of our clients opt to extend their trip, adding a few days before or after their bicycle tour to get to know a start or end city better, relax before or after a long flight, or travel to European destinations not on their bike tour route. More on hotels >

 

Have more questions? E-mail one of our helpful tour specialists at info@biketoursdirect.com.

 

Cycle, cycle, sip, sigh: Eight favorite wine and bike tours

 

The Mosel River region is a beautiful spot to explore by bike and enjoy local wines.

It’s that time of the year again — the trees are blooming, the grass is turning green, and some of us in the kinder climates are even stepping out on our porches to enjoy a glass of wine while we dream and plan our upcoming summer bike trips.

With cycling and wine on the brain, we asked some of our local tour operator partners around the world what their favorite bottle of wine is, and how you can sample it yourself. Here are their picks for great local wines and the tours you can enjoy them on!

 

1. Wine and Wellness in Slovenia

Favorite wine: Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling from Ormoz Winery in NE Slovenia

Why? ”Because they are fruity, fresh, typical of the variety, full and harmonious. Best enjoyed in their natural background – famous Jeruzalem hills of ‘Slovenian Tuscany‘.”

Special offer! Get 10% off self-guided Wine and Wellness in Slovenia tour!
(Discount on base package only. Valid for 2015 travel. New bookings only. Mention this offer on your booking form!)
– Sašo Skalič, Helia Tours

Celebrating the end of the bike tour by stomping on grapes at a family winery in Alentejo, Portugal.

2. Alentejo Vineyards Color (Portugal)

Favorite wine: The ‘Syrah da Peceguina’ from Malhadinha Nova Estate, a family wine producer from Alentejo. The wine is made with 100% Syrah and the schistous soil gives a strong, full body red wine that I love to drink on its own with friends around!”

Why: ”Syrah is one of my favorite grape varieties and this wine became my favorite after a long tour, on the last day, my colleagues and I celebrated the end of the tour and all ended well enjoying a bottle of this wine all through night. Celebrating cycling and friendship!”

Why this tour pairs perfectly with the wine: “The Alentejo Vineyards Colors tour ends precisely at this family estate, which is also a country house with a few rooms and feels like you are staying at a friend’s house. At the time of harvest, we can always participate in some of the harvest activities, and even get t
o stomp on the grapes. It’s a family atmosphere and the ideal setting to finish an awesome bike tour!”
Joana Sousa, from BikeToursPortugal

3.  Garden Route to Cape Town (South Africa)


Favorite wine:
Life from Stone, a Sauvignon Blanc from 
Springfield Estate near Robertson, Western Cape, South Africa, 150 km East of Cape Town.

Why: ”I love this wine because it is a well-balanced round wine. It is very mineral rich due to the mainly quartzite rocks where it grows. This complements the taste and doesn’t oppose it, making it a very unusual wine. Only the natural wild yeast that one finds on the skin of the grapes is used for fermentation. Therefore the fermentation takes longer than in most other wines where commercial yeast is used to speed up the process. Interesting note about the vineyards: dynamite was used to blast the rocks to prepare the grounds for planting!”

Best tour to experience this wine: Garden Route to Cape Town in South Africa. They also have a 17-night version of this tour that they highly recommend.
– Jens Deister, African Bikers Tours 

4. Cycling and Wine Tasting in Valle Umbra (Italy) 


Favorite wine:
 Il Grechetto from the Tili winery in the Assisi D.o.c. area.

Why: ”It is an organic winery making an excellent quality of wines. The Grechetto wine is the most important white berried grape of the green heart of Italy and the one at Tili winery is delicious!”

Toast to this: On the Cycling and Wine Tasting in Valle Umbra, it’s also possible to rent an E-bike, and to try lots of other great wonderful Umbrian wines.
–Petra de Lind van Wijngaarden, Ecologico Tours Umbria 

5. Danube Bike Path (Austria, Germany)


Favorite wine:
Grüner Veltliner

Why? It’s light and sweet, and easy to drink.

Special offer! On the classic 7-night Danube Bike Path from Passau to Vienna (Category B accommodations), a special wine tasting in the Wachau Valley is included in the tour cost!
(Valid for Category B accommodation packages booked through the end of April 2015. Mention this offer on your booking form.)
–Hubert Simader, Radreisefreunde 

6. Cycling from Castile to the Vineyards of La Rioja (Spain)

The Marques de Riscal winery


Favorite wine:
A beautiful Rioja red by the name of Marques de Riscal.

Why? ”It’s a fantastic wine produced in the most spectacular winery, an architectural wonder designed by Canadian architect Frank Ghery.”

Why the tour pairs perfectly with the wine: ”In our Cycling to La Rioja tour you have a chance to cycle along small roads through the vineyards of this ancient winery and stop at the town of El Ciego, where the wines are produced. Spectacular!”
–Jaime Bartolomé, Senderos y Pueblos

7.  Carcassonne, Languedoc, and Narbonne (France)


Favorite wine:
A younger wine from the lesser known Languedoc region, the AOC “Terrasses du Larzac.”

Why? “The “Terrasses du Larzac” has an AOC certification that is grouping 30 French villages due to their unique climate, elevations, and soil. There are five types of grapes that are used in this wine that are chosen based on soil type in order to get the most out of the grape. This and a large difference of day and nighttime temperatures of almost 70°F (20°C) allows the grapes to mature slowly and steadily, making a wine that is fresh with a nice aromatic bouquet.

There’s nothing quite like having a glass at the end of the day, reflecting on your day’s ride and different experiences you’ve had along the way. Absolutely wonderful!”

Best tour to experience this wine: Carcassonne, Languedoc, and Narbonne. “This bike tour travels through St. Guilhem le Desert in the heart of Terrasses du Larzac. Apart from the wine, you’ll also discover five UNESCO World Heritage sites on this tour, leading to an unforgettable holiday while leisurely riding along on your bike. A truly great experience.”
–Chris Lucas, Active 4 Adventures 

The wine cellar at Domaine Lucien Jacob in Echevronn, that you can visit along this bike tour.

8. Best of Burgundy (France)


Favorite wine:
 Gevrey Chambertin, 2008, from Domaine Lucien Jacob in Burgundy

Why? ”I like concentrated, rich and harmonious wines. This red Burgundy, made exclusively from pinot noir grapes, is ripe, succulent, stylish and very well balanced. Very fine.”

Best tour to experience this wine: Best of Burgundy

More details on the wine: The Domaine employs a sustainable method of production, highly respectful of the environment with minimal chemical intervention. The grapes are hand-picked, sorted, 100% de-stemmed, cold macerated for three days and fermented for 14 to 16 days. Once the fermentation has finished the red wine is aged in oak barrels  (aged from new to 4 years) for up to 15 months, and the white wines are fermented in oak barrels for up to 13 months ( except for the Bourgogne Aligoté which is bottled young directly from stainless steel tanks). The wines are all bottled at the estate.
–Catherine Brossais, Active Tours

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

 

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