When we started St Antonin Noble Velo we were expecting to do a mixture of guided and self guided cycling, but it turns out that most of our customers opt for self guided, and it’s actually quite rare that I take people out riding. For us, that’s fine, we’re just happy to have customers, but it did get me thinking about why that is.
In some way it’s obvious. We get a lot of business from couples who want to spend a week or so riding through lovely French countryside at their own pace on quiet roads. It would be a bit weird to do that with some guy they’ve never met before (wonderful though he is!). Also guided rides have to include the cost of the guide which is fine when you’re a group, but works out very expensive if there are only two of you. Then there’s photography. It’s much easier to stop for pictures if you’re not part of a group – you can please yourself and in these parts there’s no shortage of fantastic photo opportunities.
I sometimes talk about this to other people who run cycling holidays and it seems that our location plays a part. We picked this location because the cycling is superb. One of the reasons the cycling is so good around here is that no-one’s heard of it which makes the roads quiet. I really notice the increased traffic when I ride in other, better known parts of France, and you don’t have to travel far from our base for that to happen. But it seems that groups almost always book a holiday in a place they’ve heard of, whereas couples are more likely to want to try somewhere new. I have no idea why that is, but it does seem to be true.
It also works because of technology. Self guided in the past always meant stopping every five minutes to look at a map or written instructions and probably getting lost. These days bike GPS units make self guided cycling a breeze. They give you turn-by-turn instructions just like a car GPS and beep at you if you go off course. They mean you’re getting my local knowledge without having to put up with my company! Of course we back it up with a rescue service and book a restaurant for you for lunch (including explaining your dietary requirements which is great if your French is dodgy). I’ve written more about GPS for cyclists over at FreewheelingFrance.
So there you are, my thoughts on self-guided cycling holidays and why I think people love them…