Whether you're escaping winter blues or just in need of some bigger hills to ride on, a packaged mountain bike tour may seem a great option. Everything set out for you, nothing to worry about or organise for yourself, or is there? All to often the key details are overlooked or glossed over when booking these packages, so here are a few important things to consider before booking your next mountain bike tour.
1. Check The Itinerary - How Much Riding Do You Actually Get?
One of the first and most obvious questions when booking a mountain bike tour should be how much riding time am I going to get? You're going on holiday to ride, so it's worth researching the itinerary thoroughly and asking how much riding you'll get per day. Plenty of mountain bike tours seem to offer 7 or 14 days riding, but in reality do you classify 1-2 hours as a days riding? Make sure you ask specifically how much riding you'll get per day and on what sort of trails. Any operators that actually provide plenty of riding will more than likely be happy to tell you in detail all about it.
2. What's Included in The Price?
A little like booking a budget flight with Frontier, Easyjet or Jetstar (dependent on where you are in the world) the initial low price may be alluring and seem great value. But be smart and work through the extras and what it'll end up costing you at the end of the day. Hidden prices for meals, shuttles, airport transfers, twin share accommodation could all add up to be close to the price of a much higher quality tour which doesn't have these hidden yet mandatory extras.
3. Are The Mountain Bike Tours Any Good? Check User Reviews
One of the easiest way to check out a company is through past user reviews. Whether it be Facebook, Trip Advisor or the reviews page on the companies own website, there is plenty of opportunity to gain great feedback from people who've actually been on the tours. This is where you'll likely find any issues with the tour & the company, ie lack of riding, poor guiding etc. Alternatively this be where you make your decision on who to use when booking your dream mountain bike holiday.
4. Are The Guides Relevantly Qualified?
You're putting your safety in the hands of these guides, it's important they're qualified & experienced to guide you and your friends. Otherwise they may as well not be there. In some cases the guides may not ride with you, instead sending you into the forest and hills with maps - so if being guided during your tour is important, then make sure you ask and clarify how many guided days you'll have during your tour.
5. Do They Have Concessions & Tenure - Can They Work There?
This may not seem a big issue, but imagine in your line of work a competitor entering into competition with yourself, using communal assets without paying for, maintaining or replacing them, whilst you do. There's a band of strict legislation that mountain bike tour operators must abide by to be able to operate in New Zealand - those that don't are at risk of being shut down mid tour. Not the greatest end to your holiday. Make sure you ask about the certification to operate and sustainability issues such as what do companies provide back into community for trail maintenance & new trails?
6. How Big Will The Tour Group Be?
Ask how big the group is and how many guides you'll have per group. The more riders per guide, the less personal time you'll have with your guide. This means everyday logistics will take more time, and you'll get less instruction and tips passed directly onto you to improve your riding across a week. A small group should have a guiding ratio of no more than 6 riders to a guide to allow proper group management & integration. To put this into perspective, try walking round the supermarket with 16 children and not losing any of them.
So whether you're contemplating a week long mountain bike tour in New Zealand, or long weekend the next state over, make sure you do a thorough scope of all your options. After all, the quality of your experience and outcome of your holiday could be at stake if you use the wrong company.
Research your tour contents thoroughly, otherwise you may end up disappointed and underwhelmed