Taken for a ride
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.
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.
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