Hello you wonderful bunch,
We’ve got lots of exciting things to share with you all. After sifting through all the feedback forms and mentally replaying hours of discussions with many of you on the road, we’ve come up with a some new developments to really improve our tours.
Here are some of the experiments we’re going to try in 2018...
Create more downtime
Pretty much everyone wants more of it on the tours, but how do we get it? After breaking down how we spend our time on tour, here are a few ways we’re going to create more time.
Loops as well as A to B style tours
Logistically it’s a challenge to navigate an A to B style trip (like Amsterdam to Berlin), covering enough distance to get to our final destination, whilst diverting to eco projects along the way. So how about we just try not doing that!? Rather than epic journeys from A to B, what about exploring a region, A to, well, A again.
This allows us much more freedom to choose the best projects to visit in a particular region and to choose the most beautiful, quiet roads as our route. All without the added pressure of reaching a particular destination hundreds of kilometers away.
We’ll be experimenting with this in our Homage to Catalonia, Andalusia Adventure and Greek Odyssey tours (and we’ve got some peppy new names to boot).
Don’t worry, for those who love an epic journey and the physical challenge of cycling hundreds of KM’s from A to B, we’ll still be running plenty of them next year. These include our classic alternative slant on the UK’s infamous ride LEJOG, a coast-to-coast adventure through the foothills of the Pyrenees in our Bilbao to Barcelona, and an end-to-end closer to home with our Dragon Dreaming welsh tour.
New cycle grades
We’ve increased the number of variants in our grading system from 3 to 5, allowing clearer distinctions between tours, helping you choose the right trip for you.
Accommodation - to camp or not to camp?!
For those happy campers among us, what better start to the day can there be than awaking beneath a canopy of trees, fresh morning air filling your lungs and the morning chorus leaving you chirping more than any bird. But alas, for those of us lacking this predisposition, it can be less pleasure, more chore. The result? An added stress and a less than optimum night’s sleep for many on our trips.
Camping is also time consuming. The process of putting up and taking down your tent each day, setting up a field kitchen, not to mention the extra kit your have to bring with you on the tour, can be a drudgery for some. So let's experiment with something different.
Homage to Catalonia will be our first non-camping tour. We’ll be staying at eco projects that are able to host us inside, as well as boutique hotels, agriturismo and pimp dog airbnbs. Trust me when I say, we find the good ones.
Don’t worry happy campers, the majority of our tours will still have many nights under canvas, with a few indoor spots to mix it up.
Food glorious food!
Food and nutrition are one of the cornerstones of BTC. Cycling a long way sure does build up an appetite. Staying at organic farms and permaculture projects, it makes sense for us to design our menus to include as much organic, local, vegan/veggie food as we can, putting plant power in our pedallin’.
However, evening cooking does take up a lot of our time. Whilst the rota system came into being as much to schedule time off as to share out time on, it sometimes falls a bit short. There are variables at play that it can’t always account for, such as differing cycling speeds meaning that certain people always arrive first and along with the van crew, cook the dinner. In the evenings we endeavour to cook enough dinner to serve as lunches the next day. However the result of this is often not cooking enough or cooking too much and creating waste.
So what are we going to do about it? Well, we’re going to offer all the communities we stay at the option to cater for our evening meal. We’ve done this a number of times this year and it has worked excellently. This allows us to try local delicacies, eat food fresh from their organic gardens, integrate with the community and pay them more for our stay. Win-win.
In the evenings where we’re not being catered for, it will make cooking together more of a delight, an evening of sharing and a community-building process.
But what about lunch I hear you cry? How will we have enough left over for lunch? Well...lunch is changing too! The van will meet us at a prearranged location each day along the ride, with a buffet lunch awaiting you. Fresh fruit, juices, coffee, hummus, quinoa salads and the like will await. In this way we can help ensure you’re getting nutritious, healthy food right when you need it. Now that’s plant powered pedallin’.
Breakfast will stay pretty much the same because porridge is such excellent fuel; but we will be bringing in more fruit and muesli to supplement the notoriously pimp BTC porridge spread.
Getting there and back
Tents and bikes
When heading off on a BTC tour, whether for a few days or a few weeks, there always seems to be a mountain of things to pack. Mystical Beryl (our humble transit van) has cubby holes for 16 people’s bags and belongings. However, space is always a premium. Getting to and from your BTC tour can be an adventure in and of itself. With your bike, kit, sleeping bag, roll mat, tent and more, it’s a lot to carry.
As such we’ve been looking at ways to lighten your load. We’re investing in durable, easy to assemble, fully waterproof tents so that you need not laden yourself with your own. We’re also building partnerships with local tour operators to give you the option of renting a bike for the tour rather than bringing your own. Hopefully this will make your journeys to and from the tours a much more pleasant experience.
Our non flying guide and flight tax
For many of us it can be a struggle to balance the longing for adventure and exploring new places with our environmental principles. Fortunately, all of our tours are currently in Europe which does mean it's possible to get to and from them without flying. Hurrah. However, navigating an array of websites in different languages, trying to ascertain which trains to catch and how to book your bike space can be a nightmare, and puts a lot of people off. So we’re creating a helpful PDF detailing how to get to and from each BTC trip without flying. We’ll give you all the links and numbers you’ll need, along with estimated travel time and price.
For those choosing to fly for whatever reasons (don’t worry we’re not judging you), we’ll be levying a flight tax of £50 which will go into a trust. The money in that trust will be used to fund an array of environmental grassroots projects and ecosystem restorations. The Brake the Cycle community (you lot) will help determine which groups and projects we support throughout the year.
We’re going the extra mile
For us, cycle adventures and personal development go hand in hand, expanding your mind by challenging your body. We’ll be working with professional life coaches and cognitive behavioural therapists to develop our coaching program, helping you to get the most out of the tour, and take the lessons from the road into the rest of your lives. We’ll be doing this through our skype sessions and by developing a diary/workbook (we need to think of a sexier name for it). This will offer structured journaling, aiding you in capturing the best experiences, biggest challenges and life lessons from the adventure.
Know your bike don’t just ride it
For many of you coming on a tour it's a new beginning in getting to know your bike and the freedom it can allow you. We’d like to help you get to know your bike, not just ride it. So we’re teaming up with bike projects and shops in London, Bristol and Brighton to get the best deals and discounts on maintenance courses. Yee-haw!
Make more information available online
Some people like to turn up to the tour without knowing anything about it, with each day full of surprises and new adventures. But most people want a little bit more information than this. So this year we’re putting it all online. As much info as possible, the routes we’ll be riding, the projects we’ll be visiting, the weather forecast, the estimated pocket money you’ll need and training programmes and tips. This will quash any pre-trip nerves for those who want to be in the know, and for those who think that ignorance is bliss? Well, you don’t have to read it all :-)
Brake the Cycle is more than just a bike ride. In fact, the bike ride is really just an excuse. An excuse to get healthy, explore and build community. Yes, we visit different communities to see how they live, but for those days or weeks together, we become our own community too. The cycling is just a way for us to explore that, pushing us to extremes, filling us with endorphins and allowing us to support one another and be supported. The relationships formed on these trips can be life-long, and rightly so.
We want to place this community growth at the heart of Brake the Cycle’s ethos by running biannual meetups and offering you a 10% discount on any future tour you wish to come on.
Thanks so much for all your thoughtful feedback everyone, I hope this leaves you feeling listened to.
Bring on 2018!