Cycle Tour Guide jobs(Also known as Mountain bike tour guide, Cycle tour leader, Bicycle tour guide)
A cycle tour guide is a person responsible for leading a group of cycling enthusiasts on an organised journey, either domestically or overseas. A cycle tour guide (or cycle tour leader) is the head of a group of touring cyclists who pay to partake in the guided tour. The tour guide will usually be employed directly by the tour operator, and many operators now specialise in outdoor pursuits, such as cycling, walking, canoeing and climbing. Cycle touring is very popular in Western and Central Europe, and many operators have sprung up to take advantage of positive market conditions. Tour guides who remain in their home country tend to cater towards the “staycation” holidaymakers i.e. people who prefer to concentrate on one activity such as cycling or mountain biking that bit closer to home. The domestic market is relatively limited, though, when compared to opportunities overseas. Most cycle tour leaders choose to go to other countries and often, cycle tours will be transcontinental, taking in several countries along the way. The tour leader must be able to look after everyone in the group, know the routes well and be able to overcome obstacles that come up along the way.
SalaryThis job is usually remunerated daily due to the irregular and also highly seasonal nature of the business. Cycle tour leaders who work domestically usually earn around £25-£30 per day, whilst those working overseas can expect £40-£50. On top of this, all expenses (including food, accommodation and travel) are taken care of; it’s an ideal bonus for cycling enthusiasts who want to tour exciting places and also make money whilst they are doing it.
- Know the route and manage the journey
- Manage accommodation booking and room changes
- Function as the appointed health and safety advisor for the trip, and also the medic
- A cycle tour leader must also be able to repair bicycles competently, often without bespoke tools
- Handle any special dietary requirements for members of the group
- Give detailed and accurate information to the tour guests
- Manage the itinerary, which may change to take account of complications
QualificationsThere are no formal academic barriers to entry, although the more well-know operators will ask that new candidates have completed a course like CTC’s “Technical Leader.” This is an accreditation offered by CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation in the UK, and it demonstrates the candidate’s dedication towards becoming a professional in this industry. After completion of the course, the cycle tour guide will be able to deliver a programme to tour guests of a high standard. Courses are currently available for National Mountain Bike Leadership, Rider Skills, Maintenance, Cycle Instructor, Bikeability (road skills course) and Safe Working Practices.
- A strong passion for cycling or mountain biking
- A strong interest in touring other countries (for those who do not want to guide domestically)
- Empathy towards the clients, to deliver an exceptional experience
- Ingenuity and adaptability, to overcome unexpected trials
- Endless patience, due to the wide variety of personalities and rider skill levels in the tour groups
- A sense of humour and a can-do attitude. This ensures the experience is enjoyable and motivating
- Good group leadership skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Knowledge of first aid
Working ConditionsThis job is very demanding in terms of the requirements it places on physical fitness. However, since it is not a job that is likely to attract the casual respondent, it is very well suited to cycling enthusiasts. As with any highly physical activity, there is the possibility of injuries being sustained whilst on the tour. It is essential the tour leader is able to recognise signs of stress within his or her group, such as dehydration or muscle degradation, and advise the cyclist on how best to look after themselves and prevent mishap. Some overseas placements will put the candidate into quite extreme conditions, depending on the terrain, length of tour and the country being visited. Some Pro-level mountain bike tours are very demanding, and only very experienced riders should apply for these posts.
ExperienceThere are several approaches to working in this industry. For example, a “hardcore” mountain bike enthusiast may already have great technical riding skills and good knowledge of difficult trails and bike repairs, making them ideal for this role even without previous experience; a local enthusiast with excellent knowledge of their local tourist area may be suited also, despite not having the same level of technical expertise. There is also the possibility for tour leaders who work with walking groups or historical/sight-seeing tours to move into this exiting industry. It has been recommended by several respondents during the course of this research that the candidate contacts the CTC for advice on professional accreditation, as this will be a great help regardless of the individual’s circumstances.
Career ProgressionCandidates can occasionally progress from working as a tour leader to becoming a manager within their own organisation; some shy away from this, however, as it typically means more time spent behind a desk preparing quotes and handling business promotion issues, and less time spent riding. The chance to work overseas should also be regarded as a “personal milestone,” as this career can open up many exciting possibilities for meeting new people and enjoying new experiences in other countries.
EmployersIt is difficult to ascertain the size of some of the domestic operators as many UK tour companies only sell tours to foreign destinations, and vice versa. It is a worthwhile exercise for the potential candidate to pick up a copy of a cycling or mountain bike magazine, as a search on the internet will yield thousands of results from operators of various sizes all across Europe (a hint as to how oversubscribed the industry is in many countries).
Olly Townsend is an experienced mountain bike tour guide (now Leader Operations Manager) at renowned London-based tour operator, Exodus.