Bicycle tours as a business in its purest form are rare, becoming more often just additional earnings. But if you focus solely on them, you can offer customers a unique service and range of programs that your competitors will definitely not have.
People are always driven by the desire for the new and the unusual. Combining this desire with city dwellers’ affinity for nature and the trendy, healthy and sustainable mode of transportation like cycling can be a great way to earn extra income or even a standalone business like cycling tours. It is thanks to walking and traveling in a company on a bicycle that you can kill several birds with one stone: discover new places, get new experiences and impressions, make new friends and improve your health. In this article, we will consider the organization of bike tours with trips to neighboring regions.
Advantages and disadvantages
Typically, such a type of business as the organization of bike tours in its pure form is not found. Most often, this is a kind of appendage to some core business of related subjects – bike rental, bike sharing, bike workshop. Also, bike tours are often organized one-time, or in a certain event format. For example, when a chain of bike shops maintains its Youtube channel, where it tests different bikes or talks about bike trips, periodically stirs up advertising hype and organizes bike marathons, bike rides, bike tours, and so on.
Due to the abundance of organizational factors, it is quite difficult to put bike tours on stream, and not everyone decides on such a thing, but everything is quite possible if there is a desire.
- positive direction . Such a direction as bike tours and bike trips a priori cause positive emotions in people, and this is a huge plus that affects literally everything. The organizer acts as a guide that gives people a new positive and interesting experience, introduces them to nature and interesting places, creates in their lives some kind of new event that will be remembered for a long time.
- Low competition. Even if someone in your area already organizes bike tours, there is always an opportunity to stand out due to new author’s routes and an exclusive program.
- No room needed. There is no need for an office space for organizing bike tours, orders are accepted online. If you have your own bike park, then in this case you may need a small dry storage room, for example, an empty garage.
- Staff members are not required . The maximum that is needed is an outsourced accountant and assistant instructors who accompany cyclists during bike tours for a piecework fee.
- Regular customers . Sometimes 2-3 joint bike trips are enough to form a pool of regular customers who will bring new ones with them, launching word of mouth.
- Business as a lifestyle . Such an active type of entrepreneurship can and should be the result of a person’s lifestyle, since ideally it requires movement and constant involvement in the process. However, the same parameter can be simultaneously called a minus.
- Small investment. Under certain conditions and having connections with the city’s cycling community, you can start such a business almost from scratch.
- Seasonality . Bicycle tourism is a seasonal business. And although no one argues with the fact that you can ride a bike in winter, and some customers will even respond to your proposal for a winter bike trip, but when it comes down to it, there will most likely be very few people who want to practice. This will tend to be the most hardened and thinnest section of the cycling community.
- Abundance of organizational nuances. In addition to the fact that you have to think over the route, arrange meals, accommodation and other things, during the cycle tours, unpleasant and unexpected situations will certainly arise that can break your rose-colored glasses. This is the weather that suddenly changed dramatically with the need to postpone the race, and unforeseen breakdowns, and unexpected repairs to the track on the way, meetings with dangerous animals and inadequate strangers, situations with suddenly torn shoes, smartphones of participants that fell into the river, injuries, tick bites and much more. It is unrealistic to foresee all situations in cycling trips, and sometimes they are fatal and can disrupt the whole event. For example, one person slipped and delayed everyone – as a result, the traffic schedule went astray, and the whole group missed the train. Either the Internet is gone, you forgot to pre-load offline maps – in the end, everyone got lost. The fastening of a cheap Chinese burner broke – they were left without tea and hot, they froze, got wet and caught a cold, because it was raining outside and it was impossible to kindle a fire. You need to be psychologically prepared for such situations all the time.
- Multitasking . Probably, a lot will need to be done on your own – to draw up and run a program, to negotiate with partners in transportation services, accommodation, service centers and bike rentals – about renting or maintaining bicycles. And since the tour needs not only to be developed, but also sold, it will be necessary to build communication with customers, work out the technology for accepting applications and organizational points along the route, including housing, visiting tourist places, additional activities, and so on.
- Difficulty scaling . Expanding on bike tours is quite problematic. Firstly, this direction usually does not generate enough funds for this. Secondly, like any business in the service sector, this one is largely tied to the personality of a person (the organizer of bike tours). With an increase in the flow of applicants, you do not clone yourself in any way, but you will have to ensure approximately the same high quality of services in different branches in case of expansion. Therefore, it will be necessary either to automate some processes, or to look for very intelligent partners and instructors.
- Dullness of work. For many reasons, you will prefer to work in gray, because in order to work completely in white, according to Russian laws, it is sometimes almost impossible – more on that later.
Concept, services and target audience
In many ways, the choice of the concept of bike tours depends on the target audience that you plan to rely on. It can be:
- Bike tours for beginners. Typically, in such tours, participants travel no more than 50 kilometers per day, and bicycles and equipment are provided to them for rent. There is usually no extreme and overcoming of heavy climbs in such tours.
- Bike tours for experienced and pros . The advantage of such tours is that the organizer does not need to buy or rent bikes, as the participants have their own. In such tours, there are increased requirements for the program and its levels of complexity. The usual bike ride outside the city will not be enough for the participants.
- Corporate bike tours. In large cities, you can attract the attention of business representatives and offer them a bike ride as a corporate event. Although for most organizers of bike tours this is just one of the market options, but it is quite possible to make it the main service, because the financial return can be higher. Such a race can improve relations in the department, strengthen the team and increase employee loyalty to their company.
In general, bike tours are in demand among active youth under 35 and young families with teenage children. Of course, you can rely on all three types of tours at once, and there will always be different offers from customers, but still it is desirable to give preference to one thing and conduct them properly. And, of course, within the framework of one particular round, the composition of participants should be homogeneous, beginners and experienced ones should not be interfered with.
What services can be provided to clients? The list here is quite extensive, so you might want to think about breaking them down into parts and packages, from simple bike rentals, merchandise, to all-inclusive tours – with bikes, transfers, overnight stays, meals, an educational program, and so on. Further. Here much depends on your desires and possibilities.
What services can be provided as part of the organization of bike tours:
- Bicycle rental .
- Services of accompaniment of instructors/trainers who can simultaneously act as tour guides. As for the latter, long and excessively deep knowledge is not required here, but a minimum set of knowledge about the places visited should be possessed.
- Rental equipment and equipment: clothes, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, helmets and other hiking accessories.
- Actually itinerary program of a specific duration with the placement of places according to the idea of the tour;
- Accommodation and overnight services, for example, by agreement with partner hotels or by pre-booking a hotel or campsite, or on your own with the organization of a tent camp.
- Bicycle base services – as a kind of transit point where you can take a shower, put yourself in order, buy more food and drinks for a further route;
- Catering services under an agreement with places of residence, catering establishments along the route, organizations involved in catering.
- Service center operation. This is your own or partner center that will help prepare the bikes for the trip or carry out repairs and maintenance along the way.
- A bike /sports shop that may sell spare parts and sports equipment.
- Entertainment program – campfire events during breaks, competitions, contests, quests and much more.
- Access to additional places at will – this includes museums, parks, national amusement parks, water parks, water activities and much more, where additional tickets may be required.
- Escort vehicle services. Quite often, on cycle tours, cyclists are accompanied by a truck that transports the belongings of the participants, in which you can take a break or, in case of unforeseen circumstances, leave the race and drive to the nearest settlement.
This list can be continued. The main thing is to always clearly inform customers about what exactly is included in the package of a particular bike tour, what exactly is included in the price and what is not.
Usually the concept of bike tours is based on ecotourism and visiting unusual natural places. But to adhere to this rule is not at all necessary, you can try to find your chips. Perhaps your bike tours will stand out from others and sparkle with new colors if you combine bike trips with the theme of esoteric or gastrotourism, with quests or visits to abandoned factories, organize routes in the wake of the war or go in search of forgotten postal routes. Offer people extra motivation to use your services.
Registration and legal issues
As for the situation with the official registration of business on bike tours, everything here is almost the same as the organization of author’s tours – in this article we described everything in detail. Namely, there is no legislative base for this specific type of entrepreneurial activity. Therefore, if you want to work without fear of consequences from the inspection authorities, it is advisable to take the help of a lawyer or an experienced accountant.
What you need to know.The federal law “On the Fundamentals of Tourism in the Russian Federation” has a definition of a tourist product, falling within the framework of which the organizer of bike tours, sometimes without knowing it, may receive certain obligations, without fulfilling which, he will violate the law. According to this definition, a tourist product is a set of transportation and accommodation services, regardless of what additional services are still offered. And accordingly, those people who implement such services (for example, if you make a trip and organize an overnight stay not in tents, but in a hotel), according to the law, must be entered in the register of tour operators, become members of the Turpomoshch association and pay the appropriate fees, from which the export and evacuation of tourists in emergency situations are paid. Tour operators must be licensed.
What to do in practice. Naturally, since there is a huge gap between the work of tour operators and bloggers from social networks who decide to earn extra money on bike rides for the weekend, no one ever becomes a tour operator. But since any activity aimed primarily at making a profit is entrepreneurial, it must be officially registered. For example, you can issue an IP, but do not select codes for tour operators that require obtaining licenses as OKVED codes, but select, for example, 79.90.1 “Activities for the provision of tourist information services”.
Also a very close topic that does not require a license is the conduct of excursions. According to Russian law, departures up to 24 hours without accommodation services are considered excursion activities, not tours. The main OKVED code in this case is 79.90.2 “Activities for the provision of excursion tourist services”. Also, in order to avoid serious consequences, services can be designated as rental services (code 77.21 “Rental and rental of goods for recreation and sporting goods”). Or, if you do not plan to hire employees and do not want to deal with tax reporting, you can become self-employed by paying tax on professional income.
Treaties. Since you, as an individual, organize any services, this means that they are regulated by laws. In the event of a dispute, the first thing to consider is the contract with the client. In the contracts, together with a lawyer, it is necessary to prescribe all the nuances specifically for your types of services – download standard options and you won’t be able to calm down on that. In contracts, you need to protect yourself from possible claims for injuries, prescribe responsibility for the breakdown of equipment provided for rent, and note that customers have listened to instructions on the rules of cycling. Among the general rules, lawyers advise to exclude from contracts any concepts related to tourism, such as “tour”, “tour operator”, “tour product”, “tourist”, and also to draw up contracts not in a single universal package, but breaking them up separately for each type of service
Licenses . Licenses are required for tour operators and the provision of services for the transportation of people by buses and minibuses with a capacity of more than 8 seats. But, as mentioned above, usually no one becomes a tour operator, and if it is necessary to transport people, transport is usually rented from a bus fleet that already has such a license.
Changes in legislation . Pay attention and keep in mind the changes in Russian laws that will occur as planned or unscheduled. As an example of the former, one can cite the need for certification of guides, tour guides and instructor-guides, which is introduced in Russia from July 1, 2022 and according to which certification will need to take place every 5 years and receive an appropriate document. Temporary bans on group events and gatherings with a certain number of participants due to the coronavirus pandemic can be considered as unplanned changes.
taxes. The lowest tax rate in our country is on professional income for the self-employed. This is (excluding deductions) 4% upon receipt of payment from individuals. 6% will need to be paid when working with legal entities, for example, fulfilling corporate orders. Since the self-employed only need the “My Tax” application and access to the Internet from a smartphone to conduct business, the tax is calculated automatically, and there is no need to submit reports and pay insurance premiums, it is easiest to work according to this scheme. If you register an individual entrepreneur, then a simplified taxation system is usually chosen at a rate of 6% of income (the so-called “profitable” simplified taxation). However, in this case, you will need to pay tax quarterly, pay insurance premiums for yourself and submit a tax return for the year. You can also try to reduce bureaucratic red tape,
It’s good if you initially develop and offer customers several routes of varying difficulty at once. What are the main points to pay attention to when developing a route?
- Direction . You can organize a bike tour even to another continent, but if we are talking about domestic tours, then it is better to aim at neighboring regions. Firstly, it is easy to get to them, you can use trains or hire a bus. And secondly, this is, after all, not its own region, which, as a rule, arouses less interest in people. If we talk about popular cycling destinations in general, then in addition to the south of the country, today it is the Urals, Karelia and the Moscow region. Also, Dagestan and Ingushetia are becoming more and more touristy, largely due to the coronavirus.
- Composition of the group. A lot will depend on the planned selection of participants, including the overall complexity of the route, its distance, the presence or absence of extreme elements along the way.
- Relief and height difference . In many ways, the determining factor for indicating the complexity of the route. The mountainous terrain is suitable for experienced athletes and extreme sportsmen, the plains are suitable for beginners and non-professionals who are not used to endangering their lives. It’s good and great, of course, if the terrain is not completely monotonous and varied, and hills and hillocks alternate with flat areas, but it’s better to stick to the golden mean in everything and try not to overdo it. Especially towards the end of the day.
- Kilometer . Given the diversity of the relief on the globe, the factor is rather conditional, but still significant. If beginners should not be given distances of more than 50 kilometers per day, then more seasoned cyclists can be put in the program up to 100 km and even more.
- duration . You can organize one-day bike trips (DBT), weekend bike tours, week-long bike tours, and so on. As a rule, if you have done a test run and roughly estimated its duration, do not forget to take into account the additional time – the journey as part of a group may take a little longer.
- Roads . Most clients gravitate towards routes through quiet natural places, parks and pedestrian areas, so in most cases it is better to build routes along them. Unless, of course, we are talking about road bikes on highways. Also keep in mind that there are freeways marked with special road signs that allow traffic only for cars, that is, cyclists are not allowed on them.
- Stopovers and overnight stays. The route should be divided into checkpoints – these can be places included in the program, stores for replenishment of supplies, springs and wells, and, of course, places for lunch, breakfast, dinner – campsites, hotels, hostels, glamping sites, camp sites, meadows etc. It is necessary to try to evenly distribute these points along the entire route in order to rest in time, save strength and replenish the resources of the tour participants.
- Loopback/not repeatability. Nobody likes to ride back the same way, so returning to your destination (unless, of course, you plan to return by bicycle) is preferably on a different road.
- Subject . As mentioned above, your tour can be tied to any topic, from simply admiring the shores of the lake outside the city to tours in the wake of hostilities with the search for trenches and anti-tank ditches left after the Great Patriotic War.
traffic rules for cyclists
Traffic rules exist not only for motorists and pedestrians, but also for cyclists. And the organizer of bike trips should be familiar with them inside and out. They are registered in section 24 of the traffic rules of the Russian Federation. Before the bike ride, each participant should be reminded how to give hand signals correctly when moving along the track, how to move in a column, explain in which cases it is forbidden to enter the sidewalks and the roadway, and so on.
Before the trip, the organizer himself needs to familiarize himself with the route in order to assess where and how the group will have to move in order not to violate traffic rules. Remember that there are special rules for the movement of cyclists in columns. The group can move in one row or two rows, but only if the overall width of the bikes does not exceed 0.75 m. In this case, the column is divided into groups of 10 cyclists or 10 pairs of cyclists, the distance between which for the convenience of overtaking should be 80-100 meters .
Nobody canceled the requirements for the technical condition of the bike. It must have properly working brakes, a steering wheel and a horn, have reflectors of certain colors in front, behind and on each side, as well as lamps or headlights.
Selection of bicycles and equipment
The most important thing to know about bikes and travel gear is that you don’t have to buy them all. You can rent or get what you want for free or at a discount through partnerships with bike shops, bike clubs, sports networks and service centers in exchange for advertising and PR.
Here’s everything you might need:
- Own bikes. Selected based on needs and audience. 15-20 mountain bikes are enough to provide a group, but at the very start it is advisable to have at least a few for rent. Remember that bikes are needed with different sizes for people of different heights, including male, female and children’s models and sizes. You do not need to purchase premium brands, in the beginning you can get by with used options in good condition. The most important criterion when choosing is reliability at an adequate price. In the future, as demand grows and experience in using different brands of bicycles, you yourself will understand that you need to buy extra. Some of the best bike brands include Cube, Giant, Merida, GT, Kona, Forward, Trek, Author, Specialized, Mongoose, Scott, Silverback, Kellys, Ghost, Schwinn, Jamis, Stels.
- Bicycle kits . This includes all the basic equipment that you may need on the road to service bicycles: a pump, a repair kit with glue and patches, lubricants and sprays, bike tubes, and so on.
- Cycling clothing . The issue of clothing usually remains with the participants themselves, but you can offer them windbreakers, raincoats, shoes with good tread, and so on. If there are partnerships with bike shops, you can offer participants at a discount to purchase thermal underwear, cycling diapers from chafing, and so on.
- Protective equipment . This includes helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves, reflective tapes on clothing, and these can also be rented.
- Hiking inventory . If you are going to specialize not in weekend approaches, but in overnight approaches and multi-day tours, you will need tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, cycling pants, gas burners, power banks and more.
Moving to the starting point and renting a vehicle
In most cases, to get to the starting point, you will need to use one or even two modes of transport in addition to the bike.
You can go several ways. First, invite participants to get to the place on their own, listing options for how this can be done and indicating the starting point. Secondly, to gather the participants in the agreed place in the city of departure and collectively go to the starting point by intercity transport. The easiest way to get around with a bike is by train. Usually, the first and last cars of an electric train have special places and shelves for attaching bicycles, and in summer, travel with bicycles can be free.
But it often happens that it is not possible to get to the place by train or other route transport, then you will have to rent a bus or minibus. It is rented from an organization that has a special license for passenger transportation. The calculation, most likely, will be made individually, depending on your needs and route. Payment can be charged both by time (for example, from 1000 rubles / hour), and by mileage (for example, 50 rubles / km) and so on. Some transfer companies may set a minimum order amount or a minimum number of rental hours. When choosing a method of “getting” you will need to take a calculator and calculate which method will be more profitable.
Choice of accommodation
Usually the laws of cycling romance involve spending the night in a tent camp near a fire, or in places as close as possible to nature – campsites, camp sites, and the like. Naturally, if in the first case you have to take care of tents, sleeping bags, rugs, repellents, and so on, then in the second case, you need to agree with the administration of the accommodation places and pre-book the necessary rooms.
Usually, the more participants a tour has, the more discount you can expect. But it should be noted that many objects, especially in the high season, require an advance payment for the reservation in the amount of about 30-40%. So you will need to have a reserve of funds for this. Therefore, in this case, it is also advisable to take an advance payment from customers for bike tours.
You can also include food in the program. It is most convenient if it is provided at the place of residence, for example, at least breakfasts before departure or dinners before bedtime. Lunches are usually more convenient to organize in the field.
The role of the leader and psychological moments
Not every person can become an organizer of bike tours, because here you need to have a number of personal and professional qualities. Of course, first of all, this is a person passionate about bicycles and cycling tourism. He must be able to carry out some types of repairs himself and travel frequently in different weather and seasons in order to understand the needs of the participants and know what to advise them in a particular situation. He must also be in good physical shape in order to stay in the saddle for days – after all, most often he acts as a guide and author of the route.
Further, an important feature in the portrait is leadership qualities . Such a person should be able to literally and figuratively lead the rest, have some weight and authority in the group and the talent of an organizer. An additional plus if such a person already has some kind of name – perhaps this is a well-known blog or experience as a guide or trainer in related fields.
Also very useful is such a quality as the ability to build relationships . It will be required not only to attract customers, but also to find strategic partners, since cooperation with cycling clubs, bike shops and service centers can remove a huge share of the costs and worries from you.
Ideally, the organizer should have the skills of a creative presenter and storyteller who knows how to make even the shortest trip bright and tasteful. The talent of a psychologist will not hurt either – after all, in groups it is often necessary to prevent clashes and conflicts, creating a positive mood for everyone. Of course, you can find and hire assistants as escorts, but such tours usually develop around the personality of the author, and people often come to a specific person.
How and where to advertise bike tours
Here are the obvious and not very channels for promoting and searching for customers of bike tours.
- Blogging and social networks . Such projects usually grow out of blogs when the audience of readers or viewers is already formed and pushes the content author to something else. In principle, it doesn’t matter whether you develop a YouTube channel, a photoblog or a VKontakte page, the main thing is interesting regular content and your own “party”, that is, live interested people who can follow you and start word of mouth. Advertising posts, advertising in groups of related topics, targeting, barter with other bloggers and much more will help to increase this audience.
- Partnerships with cycling communities. Cyclists, as a rule, are grouped into certain clubs, communities, subscribed to the accounts of bike shops and workshops, participate in cycling marathons, and so on. If you are or become part of, friend and partner of such a community, it can bring you a whole bunch of bonuses, including access to the audience of these groups and advertising, sponsorship conditions, help with repair and maintenance of bicycles, or even bike rental.
- Partnership with travel agencies. It is worth trying to apply with a proposal of cooperation to travel agencies that organize domestic tours around the country and to neighboring regions. Your offer can significantly brighten up the range of their services and become mutually beneficial.
- Distribution advertising . Try handing out flyers near universities where young people are concentrated. There will certainly be those who want to go on a bike tour.
- Souvenirs and reminders . Just as plumbers and appliance repairmen sometimes leave business cards or fridge magnets with phone numbers on their customers that are always in plain sight, so can you. After the end of the bike tour, you can give the participants souvenir magnets with motivating beautiful views or an inscription encouraging you to go on a new tour, and a link to your group or blog.
- Own site. Through the site it is convenient to collect applications and colorfully, but concisely present your services. Today, there are many online designers that will allow you to quickly create a business card website – literally in one evening and at a minimal price.
- Contextual advertising . One of the most obvious methods of driving traffic is to try contextual advertising. But the quality of its return varies greatly in each case, depending on the subject and other factors.
- Announcements . On “Avito”, “Yulya” and similar sites, you can place ads about your services and services for renting bicycles and tourist equipment.
Also remember that tours lasting a week or more need to be advertised several months in advance, and tours for 2-3 days should be advertised at least a month and a half in advance.
Investments. If we assume that the author of the bike tour already has his own blog on bike travel, development of programs and his own bike and hiking equipment, at least for himself, then you can start almost from scratch. It is not necessary to immediately buy bicycles, tents and backpacks for the first trips. While you are only at the trial stage, and the task is more to hold the first tours, and not to earn money on them, you can quite get by with a point rental of what your first participants lack. Renting one adult mountain bike and protection will cost about 1000 rubles per day, renting a tent – 300 rubles, a sleeping bag and a rug – 100 rubles each. Even if a group of ten people does not have all this, 1,500 rubles per day for equipment rental can be included in the cost of the tour, while earning something. That is, with a two-day bike tour with an overnight stay, with the most expensive scenario for renting bicycles and equipment, it will take you 30 thousand rubles. If you do not deal with the organization of meals, overnight stays in hotels, and the search for a transfer during the first tours, then this will be your starting investment.
Revenue and profit . Accordingly, setting the cost of such a two-day tour in the amount of, for example, 5 thousand rubles per person, you will earn 20 thousand rubles from a group of 10 people. And after spending four such races per month (that is, every weekend), you will receive pre-tax profit in the amount of 80 thousand rubles.
Subsequently, with the proceeds, you can gradually buy more bicycles and equipment, and rent out your property already.
Of course, in practice, much more funds may be required, for example, for promotion in social networks, website launch, costs for running the program and organizational questions. But even taking into account all this, it is possible to start carrying out with an amount of up to 100 thousand rubles and recoup them within 2-3 months.