Creating a bike tour, part 3 – Reliability

Creating a bike tour, part 3 – Reliability


Create a Manual, to get a reliable tour

Once the tour has been designed, we need a document that helps us to repeat it using same standards, and allows the new tour leaders to guide it comfortably.
That document is the manual book of the tour, that literally explains every single moment of the day. It lists all telephone numbers of the vendors we are going to use on tour, the important notes we need to rule a good tour, the opening times of guided visits and so on. In some way it’s an “alive” document, where we’ll write down all changes like closed restaurants, a new place to visit, a new hotel manager and so on.
An example will better explain.

Day 03 – Alghero > Cabras

Day description
Fantastic ride along the coast, on a rolling terrain for the first 25 kms, then we’ll have the challenging climb till Capo Marrargiu, then long downhill till Bosa….
It’s possible to spot the griffin vultures, back in the island since….
If arriving early in Bosa, it’s worth a visit to the castle…

7:30 Breakfast starts
8.30 Luggage in teh lobby
8:45 Briefing of theride
9:00 Start
11.00 Regroup in Capo Marrargiu – space for parking van and trailer at km 33 of road book
12:00 Bosa > Aperitif and wine tasting at “la Malvasia”, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 200
Francesca 079 ….. malvasia@…. 10€ x pax
12:30 Lunch in town, several options: suggested“Al Fresco” (fish), better to book, tel 079897876; Mangiatutto (typical restaurant) tel 079897876…..
15.00 Cuglieri > Visit Oil mill “S’Ollu”, via S.Antonio 56, Antonio, tel 3345456..
16:00 Cabras > Estimated arrival time in Hotel
17.00 Load bikes for shuttle on day 4, buy fresh fuit at shop nearby hotel
19:00 Aperitif and mechanical lesson
20:00 Dinner at hotel. If possible ask for the terrace, talk to maitre (Michele) for food allergies, set a fast service.

Aquae Sinis, Cabras via C. Battisti sn. (Close to church with big bell tower) 0782 69.. – Serena

Ristorante “Al fresco”, Bosa piazza S.Filippo(let bikes along the river, then walk towards the Castle…)

Wine tasting: Emanuele, great location with real barriques. 10€ x pax 3 kinds of malvasia, not available for more than 15 pax.
If “malvasia” not available book at fam. Carta, same road number 34. tel 079 998877…..

Transfer in the area
Autoservizi Fast, tel 079….(van e bus up to 20 pax, 100€ from Alghero to Bosa)

B plan 
In case of heavy rain or strong winds, organize an hiking in Badde Orca, Pietro tel 349…. Circa 4h, easy. They can arrange picnic also, 50€ pp. Remind guests hiking shoes, binoculars, hat.
Shuttle with Servizi Casule,tel 333454.., after the hike lunch in Cuglieri and visit to olive oil mill.

Emergency numbers
118 – Guardia medica Alghero via…, Bosa…., Cabras

Massages in Cabras, Anna, tel 33334…to be booked in advance
Museo di Cabras, via Tharros, aperto dalle 9 alle 18……
Contini Wineries, Cabras, via…..

Fast schedule and post tour evaluation

The fast schedule is a document that resumes the manual, actually is a sheet to have handy during the tour, that shows immediately hotels, activities, food, to get at a glance the flow of the tour. It will have the numbers and info that we will utilize just on that date of teh tour.

When the tour ends it’s always useful to write down a report that explains what happened day by day, to understand if there are areas to be improved. This document as well, is very useful for new guides leading the tour.

Partners reliability

Not to mention the relaibility of the partners (vendors and services we’ll use during the tour), this is a key of the whole experience. Having same suppliers year after year allows tour leaders in a better knowledge of each service, creating as well good relationships, a resource that helps a lot to find solutions to problems. That’s why a partner has to be researched carefully, on the other hand it takes think twice before to change a service used on the tour.

You can find out more on our related posts:
Creating a bike tour, part 1 – Five useful suggestions
Creating a bike tour, part 2 – Planning and scouting
Creating a bike tour, part 4 – Add Emotion!

Creating a bike tour, part 2 – Planning and scouting

Creating a bike tour, part 2 – Planning and scouting

After the first brainstorming about the concept, usually using a map to have an idea of stages and activities, then we can start to actually design the tour.



Desk planning

This stage it’s an analysis of the area and possible routes at desk, using:

  • Existing materials (guide books, web sites, tours of other tour operators…)
  • Study of maps and orthophoto
  • Planning possible itineraries and creating gps tracks
  • Looking for possible services and vendors to be used on tour (hotels, restaurants, bike shops, guided visit and so on)

This process requires to keep in mind logistic and timing of each day, to avoid planning something that “doesn’t work”.

This job requires the use of a software (Compe gps, Garmin Base Camp…) or a website (Mapmyride, Bikemap, Googlemap…). In any case, having a paper map of the whole area, helps to get a quick view of the itinerary.

Lets say the truth…some operators “copy” existing tours from competitors. This is a fast way to develop a new destination, but the outcome is a tour that lacks of personality. Not to talk about the annoying feeling of being “trapped” on same hotels, restaurant, places…Even in the most popular destinations (Tuscany, Provence, Canary islands, Santiago, Loire valley, Passau Vienna and so on) a tour operator can give its own taste to a new tour.

Scouting and gps tracking

At this point we should have already an ideal program that potentially works. The planning at desk needs to be tested on the field, to actually check:

Roads: is there any new road, road works, landslides and so on?

Services to be used: are the hotels, restaurants, places we are supposed to stop, ok for our tour?
Logistic: is the timing well planned, allowing us to arrive in time for lunch/dinner/at hotel, and to do the planned activities. During the scouting we’ll create the “tools” we’ll use during the tour: gps tracks, road book, maps.

Gps tracks

We load on the gps the tracks we’ve created at desk, and we try to follow it, tracking again. The “real” tracks are more accurate than the ones realized by computer. Above all, there’s a real data about the climb (if the tool we are using is properly set), compared to the ones obtained by pc. Once we have the tracks, there’s a “postproduction” job in order to “clean” the tracks from errors (a new no entry sign, a new road, wrong turn during the scouting and so on). During the tracking we should have paper and pen to write notes about way points and info about the route. All this work should be done within 24 hours from tracking. If the Gps support it, we could load on the tracks the same info we use to create the road book, thus creating a customized navigation. Of course that is a simplification, the work of gps tracking would require a dedicated post.

Road book

The road book (or route notes), it’s a sheet that tells the cyclist the road to follow. It’s almost an “analogical” Gps, but still now it’s useful . Every tour operator has it’s own style, there are roughly three kinds:

  1. Icons > an intersection will be represented with an X, a traffic light with a simplified drawing and so on and so on. Sometimes they are too basic, so it takes a bit of practice to use it.
  2. Text > “At cross road with Church on right, TURN LEFT on via Roma”. They are accurate, but it’s not the safest way because it takes time to read a whole phrase while riding.
  3. Sketches or even pictures of way points > the easiest to use, but the most difficult to create, because it takes a different sketch for every point.

To create a road book you could start from the ones automatically generate (gogle map, for instance) then add to each point the inf you’ve got on the field.

Some suggestion to create a good road book:

Use clear landmarks: sometimes the road books are too simplified, but here and there a good “km 34.3 – You are in front of the loud pink building with yellow fluo shutters – turn RIGHT” is much better than using just a cold “Km 34.3 – turn RIGHT”.

Too much information is no information: e.g. “at the sunflower field turn LEFT”…what about if is not Sunflower season, or the farmer just changed plantation?

Make it clear if the hotel is right or left , and write telephone number of hotel or place your guests are going to. It happened somebody checking on his gps, road book, map where exactely was the hotel. And he was standing under the entry sign 🙂


Depending on the tour we should supply our guests a proper map: the classic road map 1.250.000 may be ok for a road cycling tour, it’s not enough for a touring tour that uses back roads, it’s useless for a mtb tour. Let’s say a good map make a huge difference, should be created by a cartographer, and should have:

    • Scale approximately 1:150.000 road, 1:100.000 touring , 1:50.000 biking
    • Updated base map
    • Profile
    • Difference within road bikes, bike lanes, indicating roads with traffic, dirt section and so on
    • Indicating touristic sites, hotels, bar and restaurants and water
    • Integrated with sign posts, if existing

You can find out more on our related posts:
Creating a bike tour, part 1 – Five useful suggestions
Creating a bike tour, part 3 – Reliability
Creating a bike tour, part 4 – Add Emotion!

Creating a bike tour, part 1 – Five useful suggestions

Creating a bike tour, part 1 – Five useful suggestions

Business is not the only reason behind the design of a new tour. Often there’s an intuition, an opportunity, even a dream.
cycling the south west coast
This is the first of a number of posts about the design of a bike tour:
The concept, the planning, the creation of gps tracks, maps and road books, the tour manual.

Define the concept

First of all: “To what kind of guest I’m going to offer this tour?”
A road bike training camp will have different pace compared to a gourmet tour or to a mountain bike adventure. Every trip has to be designed according to the guests we aim to attract.
At this phase we have to define, among others ingredients:

  • how long will be the single stages (30/50/70 miles?)
  • what kind of accommodation we are going to use, (charm, farmhouses, B&B?)
  • what activities during the tour (wine tastings, archaeological visits, or more focused on bike shops, meetings with pro and so on?)

Some (hopefully) useful suggestions

1 – Keep stages “Coherent”, meaning:

  • similar day by day physical engagement
  • time spent on the bike vs time spent on activities
  • style and level of accommodation

2 – A successful tour has a mix of activities.

The trips too focused on just one theme (history, for example), may be perceived too much for a niche (high risk to be boring!) and there’s the risk to loose some potential partecipants. Of course if the tour is designed for a specific public (historical tour for a university, training camp for a team), it has to be specific and focused.

3 – Don’t fill the days with lots of stuff to do.

This is the typical mistake of guides with little experience, that would like to make guests experiencing everything. At the end of the day it’s an holiday, and guests will enjoy a bit of free time.

4 – As less as shuttles as possible, on arrival, departure and during the tour.

There’s a not written rule that says the starting point should be less than one hour by shuttle from the airport, and the end of the tour not more than two hours. This applies also when there are too many shuttles, in order to cover as much of territory as possible. Guests have booked a bike tour, not a van & bike tour

5 – There’s never a second chance to make a good first impression.

That’s why the first day must be perfect in every single way: hotel, bike fitting, first briefing.
Even more important is the last hotel, because it’s the one that guests will remember more, and in case of holiday extension they are already in a nice place.

You can find out more on our related posts:
Creating a bike tour, part 2 – Planning and scouting
Creating a bike tour, part 3 – Reliability
Creating a bike tour, part 4 – Add Emotion!