Life from an outsider's perspective…

Being a pro cycling tour guide…

Advice from a Pro cycling tour guide | Cycling holiday in SpainI originally started the business with the intention of doing guided road bike training rides (hence the original website name Tenerife-Training). Some weeks I was riding 500km or more and climbing 10,000 metres cumulative ascent. Of course I became incredibly fit. Even during the weeks I wasn’t taking anybody I felt obliged to maintain my fitness. When I was desperate for money, I’d even go out with just one or two people, but to be honest the groups were never that big. I soon realised it was too much effort for too little financial gain. And then training like a professional cyclist while simultaneously trying to grow and establish a full-time business [singlehandedly] was too much stress. It was a recipe for physical injury & sickness.

I think there’s a lot of apprehension about fitness levels with road cyclists and maybe that’s one of the reasons guided road rides have not been that popular. I ditched the speedometer last year, but if I’m climbing for extended periods it’s between 10 & 15km/hr. Cyclists often worry about keeping up with me. But I’ve slowly been trying to regain my former fitness; these days I might ride around 250 kilometres per week with only 1000-2000m total ascent, so I’m usually more worried about keeping up with my clients!

All the roads in Tenerife are well sign-posted so a guide isn’t really needed apart from a few regions. Most of the cyclists who request guided road rides have some other professional career; they just want to see the highlights of Tenerife, usually with pickups & dropoffs included. That’s not originally what I’d anticipated so I can’t always accommodate them. It’s been ages since I’ve done what I’d call a ‘real’ guided training ride like the routes shown on the webpage. When I do manage to get out, it’s usually just a pair of riders or even solo and the pace is leisurely.

Before long, cyclists started asking me about the possibility of renting bikes through the website. Since then, I’ve gradually steered the business in that direction; bike hire alone now supplies around 95% or more of my income. That’s actually the way I prefer it because I soon found out being a “pro cycling tour guide” is no easy job. A good guide is obliged to stick with the slowest members in a group, be supportive and to ensure their safety. Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain a postive, enthusiastic attitude throughout 100% of the tour. If it’s cold & raining or I feel pain, it’s never fun. Ultimately, if the riders don’t enjoy the ride I take them on, I don’t enjoy it either.

These days I schedule the bike deliveries first. That always takes priority. But there’s also lot of behind-the-scenes work I need to do (email, website admin, bike maintenance & cleaning, getting spare parts, publicity/marketing, etc). Next, I prefer to do guided MTB rides as I find I am more useful that way. I’ve also noted that MTBers don’t whinge so much, so my mood never drops when I go out with them. Then if there is demand for a few road rides & I have time I do those. Sometimes I make time for people.

Right now there is simply not enough demand for guided road rides to invest in a 12-seater van + trailer required to take people wherever they want to go. I do hope that one day I’ll be able to re-focus on guided rides in the Canary Islands according to my original plan. Unfortunately it will have to wait until the business becomes even more well known and I generate more capital. I’d also like to have a dedicated shopfront so that the rental bike business can continue operating alongside the guided tours. That in turn means I need to employ someone – but with the financial crisis in full-swing, tourism in Spain has been severely affected, so it’s not likely to happen for another year or two.

4 Responses to “Being a pro cycling tour guide…”

  1. Really enjoyed the Pro Cycling Tour Guide article. It’s a shame you weren’t able to continue as you wshed. I hope I get half as fit as you did. If I were to get a reasonable amount of fitness on, what is the distance of the ride from Puerto Santiago to La Orotava(apx), and difficulty, and time via Tamaimo, or would it just be too difficult?
    Whatever do the “Roadies” whinge about? These people must never have done MTB, or Cyclo Cross.
    Are there no retired bikers who would help you out for free or sandwiches to fill in their spare time?

  2. Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. What do roadies whinge about?? Hills, poor road surfaces and cars mainly. The latest person compained about fumes and then someone else in the same group complained that I don’t have a big (diesel-fume-emitting) 12 seater van + trailer… then if I take them on a bus they complain about that. More environmentally friendly though isn’t it? And it costs just a few Euros instead of ~€10,000. Generally people are pretty nice but have no idea how hard it is to set up and grow a small business with limited cash flow + capital.

  3. Poor road surfaces and cars? Suggest to them to try riding around South/West Yorkshire, 4 x 4’s have been known to disappear into the pot holes here and never be seen again. In a previous blog you have mentioned that your Pinarello seems to transmit every shock from the road surface. I agree, so does mine. It is Aluminium Frame and Carbon Fork. I don’t understand why anyone would whinge about hills/climbing. This is surely what makes riding challenging? I am not built for climbing, but I very quickly realised how boring riding on the flat all the time is. I am coming to Tenerife for the riding in sunshine and am looking forward to the hills. They will be a challenge now. as I am not prepared to pay £80 for a new Mavic cassette with a 27 on. I have a compact 34/50 and cassette up to 25. Can’t wait to start getting fit again. I prefer the local buses in Tenerife, you get to see what you can’t see when driving, and learn to understand the people with whom you are sharing an island. Sorry it is a struggle to get the business off the ground.

  4. businesses rarely work out quite like you thought! As long as your enjoying it, making money and get to ride sounds good to me!

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