Each year the bike trade looks on enviously across the corridors of the ExCeL centre into what those peddling bikes describe as ‘a different world’. The glitz, glamour and riches of the adjoining boat show is, in reality, a distant dream for the bike industry in which just a lucky few make their millions. BikeBiz has, in fact, heard rumour of boat shoe-clad millionaires buying fleets of top-end bikes on the show floor to give away as ‘freebies’ with their yachts.
But that’s not really the point of the bike business, is it? The vast majority of us are here as hobbyists, fitness fanatics, for the love and adventure of the outdoors. It’s therefore little surprise that the trade so often mixes business with pleasure, simply for an excuse to accumulate some mileage in the saddle. If you’re the jealous type, it’s at this point you should stop reading.
“You are never going to be rich running a cycling holiday company, but for me it was a lifestyle choice rather than making a million,” says Saddle Skedaddle’s Andrew Straw. “If I can get out on my bike, enjoy it and see others doing the same, then I feel I’ve been successful. Saying which, we feel we do things right and over 50 per cent of those travelling with us each year are repeat customers.”
For much the same reasons, industry marketing and PR guru Keith Jepson recently made the move to expand his business’ horizons with the creation of Lima Cycle Guiding. Though currently keeping his tours domestic, Jepson, who lived and worked in Switzerland for several years, knows that with a little bit of luck his business could eventually revolve around spells in the Alps leading a pack of trail-hungry cyclists through some of Europe’s most lusted after scenery.
“I have been riding for many years and have built up a wealth of routes both on and off-road in the areas we serve. I really wanted to share these and ride with varied people who are both experienced and novice cyclists,” said Jepson. “I work in the cycling industry with a PR and marketing consultancy and this seemed like a fun way of diversifying my business and getting more riding in.”
Further to touring the rolling hills of Shropshire and the Cotswolds, Lima will also offer cycle skills coaching, tips on fitness training and cycling technique, as well as cycle maintenance skills sessions.
Asked whether he foresees making a killing from the new venture, Jepson concedes that again, “I can only hope for the business to do well financially, largely this is a lifestyle choice, though. We can cater up to 15 to 20 riders with say a large corporate group. For that size group we would have a minimum of three guides.”
Further afield and having set out in the tourism business more than a decade ago, Guides of Bhutan, operated by Philip Bowen was a pioneer of cycling in the region, prior to setting up his stall as a cycle tourism guru for the region.
“I worked as a trekking and biking guide all over, from Morocco to Nepal for many years,” Bowen told BikeBiz. “Initially I was based in Bhutan for eight years, up until about three years ago. When I first arrived, there were only a handful of bikes in the country. Seeing the potential I taught five of my guides to ride bikes and we imported a fleet of Konas for hire, the first-ever in the Kingdom.”
Conceding that Bhutan generally attracts only the seasoned tourist, Bowen’s typical crowd will happily spend entire days in the saddle navigating the best of the terrain at a relaxed pace, absorbing the immense views the landscape has to offer and wherever necessary, stopping for photo breaks.
“These days there are three shops in the capital Thimpu, which has now been designated a ‘bike city’, with the police patrolling on two wheels and a growing interest in biking,” adds Bowen. “Cycling is slowly taking over from the national sport of archery in popularity. Having pioneered bike adventures for the five-star hotel Uma Paro, we finally branched out on our own as a guide co-operative in 2010 and have thankfully been doing very well since.”
Due a holiday?
Guides of Bhutan:
Max Bikes PR/ Lima: