We have been very fortunate to have spent the last 3 weeks in the French Alps. We cycled, we swam, visited hotels and checked out new routes and trip concepts. Oh and we also had loads of fun and some good time to unwind, think and get inspired.
The mountains are a magnificent place to ride your bike - the road surfaces are often immaculate, the climbs are iconic, challenging and inspiring and the descents are a dream Off the bike, the mountains are just as special - they give us perspective and the prospect for adventure are limitless.
However, our time in the mountains also posed us a number of very challenging questions. Some are about how we sell and package trips to the mountains - to us these are very relevant, but in the whole scheme of life they don't matter as much as the biggest question - how can we be a responsible tour operator? Spending three weeks in the mountains enabled us to speak to local people and sense for ourselves the impact of climate challenge on this environment and really underlined the urgency with which we all must act to preserve our planet and leave it in a better place for future generations to enjoy.
What region do we visit?
The Alps, Pyrenees, Provence or Dolomites?
Whilst there are more mountain ranges than these four, this quartet are both the most famous and most visited for the purpose of cycling.
Each region is a wonderful place to cycle. And which region to visit depend on the purpose of the trip, level of challenge desired and travel options available and preferred.
How can we keep the trips affordable?
When we receive the news that a group will not be travelling with us, it is generally because they have decided it is cheaper to organise it themselves and they are happy to shoulder the admin burden.
We completely respect and understand this. We also need to pay bills and support our families so will add a margin.
However, this does not mean that our trips need be expensive. To be able to offer sensible prices we prioritise collaborative relationships with suppliers and a high quality product. Through this approach we hope that suppliers, our staff and most importantly - adventurers - have a positive experience of Sporta Bike +. If you aren't having fun, then we must do better!
With fuel prices at an all time high, we are also looking at ways to make the travel element cheaper - this might include encouraging car sharing, using our Eurotunnel packages or allowing us to take your bike instead of spending more money on a bike box and £90 on flying it with you. To coin a well used strap line 'every penny counts'
Overcoming self doubt.
We get a lot of questions that centre around 'am i good enough?'. Our answer is always YES!
Cycling in the mountains is for everyone. Sure there are lots of ups and downs - and people do both these elements at their own paces. Firstly, this is absolutely fine - climbing is not just for whippets and descending not just for adrenaline junkies. It is important that our cycling holidays are a safe space for all people and cyclists. Your experience and the memories made are not at all related to the speed you cycle. And when we sit together at the end of the day, the stories that are most impactful don't involve watts/kg or average speed, but are about human interactions with the place and each other
How can we be a responsible tour operator?
This is arguably our biggest challenge as both an industry and small operator within it.
We believe that cycling holidays and cycling itself are life affirming, fun and provide a sensory experience that is hard to match. However, we are also aware that travel can have an environmental effect that poses some very difficult questions and highlights unavoidable contradictions in our purpose and product.
For us, these questions have been exacerbated by visiting the mountains and seeing (and feeling) the effects of climate change on this extraordinary environment.
Whilst this contradiction is not easy to solve, we will continue to do all we can by encouraging responsible travel including ideas like car sharing for Belgium or one group flight instead of multiple flights for Spain and Italy?
Furthermore, when in destination we ensure we support local businesses and sustainable products. Whilst avoiding the single use plastics and limiting vehicle usage. Whilst none of this is ground breaking or new, it is important we play our part in highlighting this challenge and meeting its demands wherever possible.
In summary - there is lots for us to think about, work on and implement. Our guiding light will continue to be our love for the mountains, cycling and sharing their majesty with others.
Coming for 2023.....................