What you need to know to find a great cycle tour operator

 Gary Corbett

WITH literally hundreds of cycle tour operators across the globe offering a bewildering number of tours in a vast number of amazing locations, how do you go about picking one particular tour operator to provide a cycling holiday experience that is “just right” for you?
While, to be fair, there is no hard and fast formula, there are a number of things you should take into consideration before finally entrusting one particular cycle tour company to provide you with your much anticipated “unforgettable” cycling experience. 
  1. You can’t go wrong if you choose a well established cycle tour company.
If a company has been organising cycle tours for five, ten or more years you can usually rest assured that they know what they are doing.
Ask to see testimonials from previous tour guests who have completed the tour you are thinking of doing, find out how long the tour has been going, ask how experienced your guide is ... basically if the tour company is well tried and tested you can’t go wrong.
  1. Cycle touring needs to be a passion not just a business for your company of choice.
It is one thing for a cycle tour company to just organise cycle tours, it is a very different thing for a cycle tour company to be passionate about what they do.
Does infectious enthusiasm ooze out of everything you read and hear about the company’s tours? Genuine enthusiasm for what a company does is the vital ingredient that sets great tour operators apart from the rest. It is what their guests remember them by and it is why people recommend them to their friends.
  1. Does your company of choice embrace exploring and improvising?
Companies who embrace a hands-on approach to their tours know how to ride the road less travelled.
They know how to explore and improvise ... if they stumble upon a previously unknown route or attraction chances are it will be included in a later tour.
Importantly they draw on the expertise of local cyclists, guides and restaurateurs to uncover a better experience for their guests.
The result is an ever improving list of tour that provide unforgettable experiences for guests.
  1. Does your company of choice use local guides?
A cycle tour company that is serious about providing the best experience possible for their guests will make every effort possible to provide local guides.
No matter whether you are cycling through China, France or Thailand, you clearly want native Chinese, French or Thai guides.
Ask your tour operator of choice if they provide a local guide. If not, it may pay to look elsewhere.
A guide isn’t just a navigator, he or she is a direct line into the culture, cuisine and spirit of the country you have chosen to explore.
  1. Does your company of choice use boutique-style accommodation?
A cycle tour company that is passionate about what they do will provide their guests with a carefully vetted network of accommodation choices.
Ideally the accommodation used should be independently-owned establishments in prime locations – not characterless forgettable franchise hotels and over-the-top luxury resorts.
The best choice is one that strikes a balance between cultural authenticity and acceptable luxury.
  1. Don’t forget the food!
At the end of a fantastic day’s riding there are few things more gratifying that an evening filled with good food, drink and conversation with your fellow cycle tourists.
A meal on a cycle tour is far more than just fuelling up; it is a memorable way to immerse yourself in your cycling holiday journey.
As a result a passionate tour operator won’t provide food vouchers for the hotel dining room; what you will receive is a culinary adventure dining on the best regional dishes available.
  1. Back-up support
No-one should ever feel as though they don’t belong on a cycle tour. While clearly in every group of cycle tourists there will always be stronger and fitter individuals, that doesn’t mean that the less experienced or not-so-fit amongst the group should be ostracised.
That is where companies that provided great back-up support shine. A well organised guided cycle tour will not only provide an air-conditioned support vehicle for anyone needing a rest, but also ongoing support for stragglers at the back of the pack.
Most importantly they will know the importance of everyone in the group enjoying the experience. That way everyone finishes the day’s riding with a smile on their face ... who wouldn’t want it any other way!
  1. MOST importantly have FUN!
Finally, and probably most importantly, the trademark of a good cycle tour operator is that they always make sure that everyone on their guided tours has fun – and lots of it. This is where a professional and personable guide comes to the fore, with the emphasis not only on riding and sightseeing, but also on everyone in the group finishing every day with a smile on their faces.