Full contact details here. Proper names and full address. Not just a PO box number.
Don't you think that the "About Us" section of a website is often the most interesting part? It tells you a bit about how the organisation ticks. What are its ideals & aspirations and its very raison d'etre. Are the pictures REAL not just nicked off the Interweb?
I think Bike Tours UK is unique in the way trips are run. Read on down and you may understand why. A sanitised, tame, well-packaged tour is not my style. There's almost always an adventure element to it :) It's almost a disappointment if EVERYTHING runs entirely according to plan :)
That's me, pictured left, dressed in hot-weather trail riding gear, having just arrived in Khun Yuam, after a long, 150km hard day's off-road adventure from Mae Chaem (Thailand). This was the only off-road tour I offer, but it's just so amazing, I have to plug it from time to time. I now offer Iceland as well, where much of the trip is on unsurfaced, gravel roads.
Ha - I used to think this Thailand section was a hard day's riding - then I did Morocco!!!!!!!! With hindsight, Thailand is EASY :)
Bike Tours UK is a small enterprise, in fact, just me.
I could start by telling you about my days in the corporate world, and bore you to death with exciting tales from within the various Personnel & Training departments, and the thrill of delivering Health & Safety courses, But I wont.
You don't want to hear a word about ISO9000, SPC, just-in-time manufacturing or any of that old management-speak either , do you? No, I thought not. No "Blue Sky Thinking" here.
So let's talk about bikes, and travel.
The story starts at the age of 8 years old...
I was an angelic well-behaved schoolboy, taught by Nuns whilst at Primary School. After school, I'd cycle miles and miles with my mate, "racing" around newly built 1960s housing estates, cornering hard on all the bends. After hitting a sportscar head-on, I learned that "T" junctions should not be regarded as bends. On leaving hospital, I had a new-found respect for hard crunchy things on 4 wheels. Don't mess with them!
I went on to be a perfectly average pupil at an all-boys, Roman Catholic Grammar school, and even played classical violin in the Yorkshire Schools Youth Orchestra for a while. I could have been heading for a safe career in something like Accountancy, until I discovered internal combustion engines at the age of about 14.
I built & flew model aeroplanes, powered by small glo-plug or tiny model diesel engines. These planes made a lot of noise, and strangley enough, attracted girls to come and watch. A local lad with a proper, brand new Trials Bike (an Ossa 250) also hung around watching my displays of aerobatics.
So, out went the violin practice I'm afraid, and in came the girlfriends & motorbikes. Trials boy Nick, would say someting like, "introduce me to the girls over there, and I'll give you a go on my bike". This seemed like a very fair exchange to me. He got a snog, and I got to learn to ride a top class trials bike around the fields and up in the woods around Mirfield, West Yorkshire.
(to be continued - a time consuming story - I'll elaborate on it one day, when I have time to dress up the website)
Although my Dad never owned or rode a bike while I was little, he never stopped talking about the Vincent he used to own, how he bought it brand new (£260, " A lot of money in those days, Son" 6 months wages or something similar). He droned on about touring holidays to Scotland with his mates "Ginger", and "Squiffy", and how "Chuffer Dandridge" (this one's nicked from Terry) ran off the road, through a hedge into a field. Oh how they laughed. In the great years of his youth, not long after the war. "Before he met my mother" etc etc. Blah blah blah.......
This must have planted a seed.
When I was about 10, he fixed a bike for someone who knew he'd been a Mechanic, and was good with engines. After the work to get it running, he had to test ride it, of course. He took me on the back, and I remember being terrified, but very excited at the same time. NO HELMET, no jacket, NO TERRIBLY IMPORTANT GLOVES of course, no back protector, no kidney support, no knee sliders, no stretch kevlar panels. None of the stuff that has obviously made motorcycling so damn safe today. Just little me, on the pillion, in shorts & t-shirt, leaning the wrong way into bends.
Aged 15, had a go on a mate's Ossa 250 trials bike in the woods, as previously described, and the slippery slope into motorcycle owenership had begun.
Aged 16.5, I saw an advert in the corner shop window for a BSA Starfire 250cc. £60 ono. I'd saved enough money from my part time supermarket job at Hillards, and my Dad reluctantly came long to demonstrate how to haggle and beat the price down to account for its many faults. Little did my parents know, that while they were out - that 250 did a few unauthorised sorties into the countryside - before I was even 17. I hoped the engine would cool down and stop ticking before they got back.
My parents didn't want me to have a bike, and actually bought me an old Moggie Minor at one point (which I ungratefully spurned - not passing my car test until 25).
But they could hardly stop me could they? - it was Dad's fault after all - all that talk of his Vincent, and the adventures it brought him, plus his fond memories of the TT in the early 50s, when Geoff Duke was his hero. This isn't just how I got into biking - it's why I first went to the TT Races; in a home-built micro-light. But that's another story entirely.
A question I was asked
Someone setting up a new bike tour company in a far away, remote part of the world just asked me what qualifications one needs to run a Bike Tour company. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I said this..
There don't appear to be any recognised qualifications or aptitudes for being a Bike Tour Operator.
I haven't produced a CV for years. The last one I did was probably way back in 1997, and I don't have a copy on Word. That's the beauty of doing this - I don't have to jump through those hoops anymore.
I no longer have an official current CV, and have no need, or desire, to produce one.
Probably of almost zero value, but here's an informal summary.
DOB 1958. Married with 3 kids.
1970-77 Cardinal Hinsley Boys Roman Catholic Grammar School. Bradford. 8 O levels and 3 A levels - crucially (?), with A grades in French & Geography.
1977-80 Trent Polytechnic, now known as Nottingham Trent University. BA (Hons) Degree in Modern European Studies (main subjects French & Geography).
1980 to 1985. Set off to the South of France on a motorcycle to "discover the world". Various short term jobs - some temporary, like casual work in the South of France for 3 summers (sales on beaches, plus grape harvest, plus restaurant work), some supposedly good "career" moves - i.e. trainee manager in textiles industry (so entirely not for me). I was actually a motorcycle despatch rider for about 6 months once as well, right though the long cold Winter.
Spent one year as a Rep for Dream Machine - selling custom motorcycle paintwork right across the UK - covering 65,000 miles in that one year!
1985 - Holiday Rep for Haven Leisure - based in Dordogne, France.
1985-1986 - back to university to do a PGCE (post-grad Teaching qualification). Guess which subjects? French & Geography of course. Did a little bit of teaching at a run-down inner city school. Taught a tiny bit of French in between crowd control and breaking up fights between illiterate youths. Pretty much decided that it was pointless trying to teach a foreign language to inner city Chavs who could scarcely master English. And that was back in 1986 - things have really gone further downhill since then. I became sensible for a while.
1986 to 1997 - Kodak Limited. First 2 years in Quality Assurance, then moving up to semi-managerial position of Site training Officer for all 400 staff. I managed the provision of training, did some direct training in Health & Safely & other subjects, and kept all the training records. I was on the implementation team for the introduction of ISO 9002 and Investors in People. (that did 'em a fat lot of good eh?)
1997 - made redundant in the first major wave of thousands of job losses worldwide. The manufacturing plant where I worked was subsequently closed down a few years later. The whole world went digital, and no-one wanted conventional Silver Halide 35mm film anymore.
1997 to 2000. Divisional Training Officer for Balfour Kilpatrick (part of Balfour Beatty - Civil Engineering). Based in Derby.
2000 - started Bike Tours UK. Began very small with low risks, low overheads and low potential losses. It grew to become profitable after a couple of years. Now a stable and viable "lifestyle business", although scarcely viable by conventional monetary standards.
Travel - I've visited perhaps 25+ (I've lost count) different countries across the world. Most of this has not been on standard package tours where everything is done for you. Nearly every trip I've done has been independent, and self-drive either by car or motorcycle. I've had some scrapes; blown up some engines & gearboxes in France, suffered tyre blow outs in India, 6 punctures in one day in Sri Lanka, and I once slid a jeep into a drainage ditch in central Kenya. All these minor mishaps were taken in my stride, and dealt with minimal external assistance. I firmly believe in "self-rescue".
I've attended several short first aid courses, some aimed specificaly at bike injuries.
Completed the Bike Safe course run by North Wales Police and the IAM.
Attended several photography courses (amongst other topics) whist in the employment of Kodak limited.
Attended or presented courses in HS&E, instructional techniques, presentation skills, quality assurance systems, SPC, basic PC skills, personality profiling & personal assessment interview methods. More training courses than I can remember.
Motorcycling since age of 15 - first off road, then on roads since age of 17. Passed both motorcycle and car driving tests at first attempt. Got back into off-road riding again in 1998.
Art house films - mainly French Cinema - not predicatable Hollywood car chase rubbish.
Music - both live concerts and extensive LP / CD collection. Tendency toward rock, folk & blues (despite playing classical violin at school). I like Hi-Fi & gadgets!
"Adventure Sports" still enjoy regular skiing and some easy mountain biking, and in the past have been fairly accomplished at caving (Speleology), rock climbing and white-water kayking.
Pubs, Real Ale and socialising.
Food & Cooking. There's a surprise! Curries & Chillies :)
Must take up swimming again to reduce the ever expanding beer gut :(
I've never been pushed to do so, but if I had to say why I'm suited to this "job", I'd have to say.....
Sociable and usually able to mix quite well with wide range of customers, but there always exceptions.
Knowledgeable in European Geography & fairly well travelled.
Fluent in French (degree level).
Still reasonably fit & active (errr ? "relatively" fit for my advacning years). I don't tell really big lies.
Can handle the admin (but I hate the paperwork side) and have good enough computer skills to get by.
I still have a sense of adventure, which is a bonus to most customers, but a serious worry to others.
Back to the present day
The most rewarding thing for me is to see the real country, meet the real people and see the things you wouldn't usually find on the main tourist trail. I cannot abide sterile 4 star package tours; mass-produced holidays for the none-too-discerning.
Bike Tours UK trips just aren't like that. Not at all. Not one bit.
My website normally appears pretty high up on Google's first page. Well, it's either me or White Rose, depending on the search terms you use. I'm proud of this, and it's not accidental. I try and add good content to the website, and do not use any irritiating pop-up and banner ads, and and I don't sell junk.
I try and link only to decent, interesting websites which offer some value or entertainment to you. I generally avoid linking to directory sites.
All the information on here will help you to decide whether my trips would suit you, or whether you should go for the softer options instead. (scroll right on down to see a description of YOU)
I do this Bike Tours thing because most of the time, I enjoy it. I tend to treat every tour as if it's a group of friends with me - like the way it started off in the beginning.
I have a pretty laid back attitude to life and I prefer the trips to be fun, even chaotic, with plenty of flexibility & transgressions allowed. (It doesn't always work like this, but it doesn't stop me trying anyway)
I have no ambition for this business to become a massive organisation - that would be like working in a proper job again - no thanks!
Because I also still have fairly children to look after, I only run a small handful of trips per year (6-8 trips maximum). Because of this, I limit my motorcycle tours to destinations which I genuinely believe to offer a superlative riding experience.
My tours are not sterile over-organised affairs as they are supposed to be fun - expect the unexpected sometimes - especially in Thailand or Iceland.
Things do not always run like clockwork, with even the best planning, things go wrong from time to time, but life's like that. At least you have a group with you to offer support & help should it be needed.
Photo, below right, my wife & I riding an Enfield 350 in Goa, India. Now there's a great place for a biking holiday! Sunshine, classic Enfields, great beaches, cheap cold beer and curry. What more do you need?