Taken for a ride

RiDE (UK) - - Travel - By Kevin and Ju­lia San­ders

The growth of tour com­pa­nies over the last decade has been huge. You can now pick a com­pany and ride al­most any­where in the world: Thai­land, New Zealand, In­dia, Morocco… the list is end­less, and that’s just the long-haul stuff. Closer to home, there are com­pa­nies that spe­cialise in all things UK and Euro­pean.

But how do you know just what you are get­ting, when trawl­ing web­sites, leaflets and brochures? Not all tour com­pa­nies are the same, so you need one that suits you and ask your­self what you want from your trip.

Most of the com­plaints we see are from riders who did not prop­erly un­der­stand what they were book­ing. Es­tab­lish­ing the type of tour is key, so here are a few things to think about:

Miles and miles and miles

300 miles is a long day to some peo­ple, but to oth­ers it isn’t. Don’t be fobbed off with the va­garies of the days “not be­ing too long”. If you’re wor­ried, ask ex­act mileages and make sure you’re on a tour that suits your rid­ing style.

Wait­ing at the road­side

What hap­pens if a car takes a side­swipe or your bike blows up should be made very clear. Some riders as­sume it is the tour com­pany’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. If you’re rent­ing a bike, you can gen­er­ally rest more eas­ily if it breaks down, as it’s nor­mally their re­spon­si­bil­ity to get you mov­ing. If you’re on your own bike, check whether your tour com­pany has me­chan­i­cal back-up or if you need your own.

Tour guide

Mo­tor­cy­cle hol­i­days can be ‘self-guided’ – the com­pany pro­vides you with all your notes and makes all the ac­com­mo­da­tion book­ings up front – or can be ‘turn-by-turn’ guid­ing – a tour guide lead­ing the group the whole way. Ei­ther way, it is nor­mal to be pro­vided with daily route notes, maps and your night’s des­ti­na­tion. Many take a flex­i­ble ap­proach: do-it-your­self or fol­low the guide. This method is great as you can mix and match each day if you wish.

The ho­tel was aw­ful

From time to time, a ho­tel will let an op­er­a­tor down but that is the op­er­a­tor’s prob­lem and not yours. Ac­com­mo­da­tion on a bike tour is no dif­fer­ent to any other hol­i­day. Check what grade is in­cluded and what fa­cil­i­ties it has. If you want five-star lux­ury, go for a trip that’s sell­ing it – and don’t say the ho­tel was aw­ful if you booked a two-star trip. Also check there’s se­cure park­ing for your bike, es­pe­cially in city lo­ca­tions, and if park­ing is in­cluded in the price.

Other qual­ity ques­tions

It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the qual­ity of what you’re get­ting. How much help does it give you be­fore you go? Can it pro­vide you with a day-by-day itinerary? Does it pro­vide ad­vice on bike prepa­ra­tion? Are there any pre-de­par­ture meet­ings? How ex­pe­ri­enced are the guides? Have they got first-aid cer­tifi­cates? How many times have they rid­den the routes?

A ques­tion of money

It is rare to get a fully in­clu­sive price on a tour, so be clear on ex­tras. Gen­er­ally any trip on your own bike, even with a tour op­er­a­tor, will mean you pay for all the run­ning costs – fuel, re­pairs, tyres, toll roads and fines etc. But what about meals, sight­see­ing, ac­tiv­i­ties and the like? Any good tour com­pany should be able to pro­vide a list of ad­di­tional pos­si­ble costs.

Fi­nan­cial pro­tec­tion

No mat­ter what a tour com­pany of­fers, you should check that it is look­ing af­ter your money prop­erly. UK tour com­pa­nies are gov­erned by the Pack­age Hol­i­day Reg­u­la­tions 1992 and the fact it’s a mo­tor­cy­cle tour does not change that. Make sure it is ei­ther a mem­ber of an ap­proved travel or­gan­i­sa­tion with a se­cu­rity bond for your money (ABTA, AITO, ATOL) or holds an ap­proved in­sur­ance pol­icy to cover it. Al­ter­na­tively, it could put your money in a trust ac­count to be re­leased af­ter you com­plete your trip. Re­mem­ber, for­eign op­er­a­tors may not of­fer this pro­tec­tion.

With so many bike tour com­pa­nies around, you need to be sure what you want and will get

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