One thing I’ve learned from being a cycle tour guide is that you have to be a morning person – Luckily that suits me just fine! We rise early, before our guests, and get straight to sorting out the day and the bikes. Those two wheels are the life force of our adventures: no bikes = no tour, so their upkeep and maintenance fill up the first slot of our day. Bikes clean and our hands more than a little grubby already we often take the opportunity for some fresh coffee and toast (I do like my coffee in the morning!) while we meet guests and talk through the day’s route and activities.
As much as possible we like to set off early in the morning to give us the whole day to cycle, explore and visit the different places on our itinerary. So helmets on and well breakfasted we lead the guests from the hotel and begin our day’s ride, normally around 9 am.
All of our routes take us through the beautiful English countryside. We avoid busy roads as much as possible and much prefer pedalling down country lanes between fields and past honey-coloured cottages. The Cotswolds area is made up of a long limestone escarpment running from North to South that forms hills and valleys in a rolling fashion. We tour up, down and along this Ridgeway, weaving between the best views and the prettiest villages. There are no Tour de France type mountain climbs but most of our guests enjoy the challenge of these hills combined with the lazy flat stretches and downhills. If you’re not feeling up to a particular hill, or simply want to laugh at your friends from the comfort of the van, our vehicle is always close at hand to get you up some of the steeper slopes.
As well as the van nearby there will always be at least one guide cycling with the group. This is what makes the job special for me -I love being out on the bike each day, exploring the landscape with people. All of our guides are local to the Cotswolds and enjoy sharing our knowledge (wisdom!) of all the beautiful places that we visit together. No question is a silly question – from whether we use miles or kilometres, to what the name of that bird is, or why does everyone drive on the wrong side of the road? – The left side of the road is the correct side of the road here!
Most days we stop for a mid-morning tea and cake break, to refuel and refresh. The Cotswolds is full of local cafés, tearooms and National Trust gardens to enjoy a break in a cosy setting. Some days we give walking tours of Bath, Oxford, Stratford and other larger towns and cities, other days the places we visit are smaller villages like Bourton-on-the-Water or Bibury. On many days we cycle right into the heart of a historical site, like our Blenheim Palace day where we bike all the way up to the Castle through the Parklands surrounding it – with special permission from the owners of the Palace! One of our days is called the ‘Neolithic Day’, as we visit three major Neolithic monuments: White Horse Hill, which again we cycle right up to, Avebury and Stonehenge (during our Classic Walking and Cycling Tours)
Following the day’s major attractions there is the option of a cycle ride back to the hotel in the afternoon, often with a stop in a local pub for a well-earned refreshment to celebrate our successful day’s cycle, and perhaps sample some local ales. And of course, there is always the (rather popular) option for those with tired legs to drive straight to the pub and then back to the hotel! We will most often stay for a drink or a meal at the end of the day to chat and relax with guests as well as answer any questions about the following day’s ride.
As tour guides, our work is not yet done and we spend some time in the evening sorting out the bikes, checking them over and making sure they are safely stored away ready for the next day before heading home for our own supper and a good night’s sleep!