Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

From the blank canvas to the finished article!

Want to know what goes on behind the scenes to make your tour or holiday just perfect well here it is, and we start with a blank canvas!

Before we even decide on a new area a few things must happen. All ideas from the team and guests go into a location matrix, here we review many things such as airports, road quality, restaurants, access to the right accommodation and does it have any cycling focal points. The location matrix has 14 points to consider. If a location gets a certain amount of yes, then it can go on the list of future areas or tours. Once we have some space (in our heads) as well as in the calendar we can start to look to bring a new area in. The final choice of new area isn’t always ours and we often run it passed the people who know the best…our cycling family. Cycle Retreats has a private Facebook group for all people who have visited before, we nickname them Retreaters and this bunch of cycling enthusiasts help us choose where to next.

Once decided the team is put to work, Mark will give a location for a fixed retreat with a very small radius or villages/towns for tours. It is then the job of newly appointed head of hospitality Diana to find out if the accommodation (at the right quality and size,) can be sourced and if not, before any more work is done, feedback to Mark. Once the area is the given the green light from Diana and Mark then its operations a go go. At this point we raise awareness to our Retreaters about the new location when and where and they can book before anyone else or before we even go out to market.

So, location sourced, accommodation search started, best put the routes together. Mark uses Ride with GPS to create routes and looking at areas that cyclist would want to visit, for history, the vistas or just blooming great tarmac. Cycle Retreats have an ethos to not use routes already available as this stops creativity and isn’t unique to us. Once the routes are ready and with at least 5 months to spare the route recce is done for the first time. Normally a few days in the area getting a feel for it, making sure no amazing bits have been missed and any epic fails are taken out. This is also a chance to meet the accommodations and feed back where any changes are needed. Everything at this point can be changed. Once the first viewing is done, its back to HQ where office manager and the real boss Karren will organise the website information and all the rider information for the latest offering and Mark starts the wonderful job of risk assessing everything…. Oh joys!

Who is crewing, who is the Retreat or tour manager and how many cars do we need, can we access good quality hire bikes, wines and where is the local organic supermarket, plus should it be needed where are the medical services for the area? All this work gets done before the final recce.

At least 4 weeks before any new tour or Retreat goes live the final recce is done. This normally involves a very sulky Achie (the dog) who knows he is in for long days in the van, it also involves a bike or two to see how a route really feels on the legs, or Zoe being thrown out of the van with a bike to check a cycle path is suitable, plus to practice any navigations around busy towns so for the guests all goes smoothly. Café stops are added to route notes and Diana starts booking them in.

Final route adjustments are made, rider packs are prepared and day notes for the team. The blank canvas is now looking somewhat colourful, but not had its finishing touches just yet, because Mr Retreats OCD will want one final check to make sure nothing has changed since last time. These final checks are supper important with areas like French Alps where mountain passes can be closed with little warning, or Spain where a once acceptable font now has not acceptable drinking water. Only now can the full picture be seen, and we like to think there are some master pieces within our collection.

Want to know what is on the future acceptable list? Well, it is vast and varied from other areas in Europe like Portugal or a Spanish coast to coast, but some far away areas are also making it up the matrix like Sri Lanka, new cycling areas with Cycle Retreats could be just round the corner, stay tuned.