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 BikeTours.com, 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.
Interview by Erin Tocknell