What inspired your first (long distance) cycling trip?
After graduating from university (and a French immersion program), I decided to take a year off, took my bike to Europe and cycled for 6 months. I was inspired by seeing photos of Europe and thought that seeing it by bike would be amazing. It was.
Where was it?
On that first trip it was mostly through France which absolutely astounded me.
How did you end up as a cycling tour guide?
On that first cycling trip I met another traveler in France who was a bicycle guide for a tour operator and so applied, got hired and the rest is history.
What is the best thing about guiding trips around the world?
For me, travelling (especially by bike) is like an awakening of the senses which gives me new perspectives and insights into the region I am travelling in. The best thing is often the people one meets, including those we as guides get to travel with and also the locals – whether they be people we are meeting for the first time, or locals we have come to know through travels.
What is the most challenging thing about guiding trips?
Guides usually have many roles: logistics coordinator, bike mechanic, sage, teacher, psychologist, sometimes chef. It’s the most challenging (but most rewarding) occupation I can imagine.
What has been one of the most memorable trips you have had?
I designed and co-guided our first trip to Japan this spring. It was one of the most memorable because of the scenery, food, culture and was so very different from anywhere else in the world I have biked. I can’t wait to go back.
Where was the most surprising place you have visited?
Morocco would have to be on the list. It feels like an Indiana Jones movie sometimes. It has to be one of the most exotic places on earth.
If you could only return to one country to cycle, where would it be?
France is one country that has fabulous cycling and so much variety and everything else that we look for in a great trip. I lived in Provence with my family for 6 months and return almost every year to travel and ride. [I’m returning in March, 2020 with my wife and children (ages 12&14) and this trip is open to other families. Anyone out there with kids who like to ride?]
What has been your least enjoyable destination for biking and why?
When I first cycled in SE Asia, I used the Lonely Planet guidebook called ‘Cycling Vietnam’ which recommended the ride from Hanoi to Saigon all on the main highway that traverses the country. I did this route and found it noisy, dangerous and not enjoyable in any way. The good news is there is, in fact, great cycling in Vietnam but it isn’t on Highway 1. We took the time to find safe, scenic and enjoyable routes that make much more sense to do.
What do you love about cycling?
I like physical exercise and biking is easy on the joints etc. I also love the adrenaline rush and sheer joy of experiencing the speed that two legs and a simple machine can produce. Plus when you meet people in a foreign land on a bicycle, you are usually welcomed warmly. I also love that biking is good for the planet. If we could get people out of vehicles more and onto bikes, we would be all better off.
What keeps you inspired to keep guiding and running worldwide trips?
I have found that inspiring people to cycle and travel gives me great joy and is fulfilling. Having guided trips for 37+ years, I feel I have some wisdom, experiences and stories I can share that will help others.
If you weren’t a cycling tour guide/operator what do you think you would be?
I truly can’t imagine doing anything else.
Interview with founder Robbin McKinney on October 31, 2019.
Vancouverites, want to know more? Come and join us at our Slideshow on Nov 13th!