As the bicycle retail industry continues to evolve, more and more retailers are looking to differentiate themselves to customers via unique experiences and services—whether that’s selling coffee or beer, offering ride clinics, hosting art openings and film screenings or providing mobile service—rather than the more traditional, product-based approach. For several industry-leading shops, offering bicycle tours has been an effective way to generate extra revenue, diversify revenue streams, attract new customers and increase customer loyalty.
Of course, “bicycle tour” might conjure very different images for you, depending on your location and preferred riding style. An urban shop in NYC’s Greenwich Village, for example, can be city tour-focused, while a Sedona-based shop is much more likely to be guiding pilgrims to local single track treasures.
Here are a couple of examples of how diverse shops have successfully turned bike tours into a key part of their business strategies:
Retailers located near destination trails and large tracts of public land have the opportunity to use their “locals’ knowledge” to help serve visitors. While it’s common for visiting riders to ask these retailers about local trails and how to access them, many would gladly pay a guide to just take them there. Their experience can be greatly enhanced knowing they’re riding the best trails, and that they never have to worry about getting lost.
Guides enhance customers’ overall experience with their local knowledge of not only the trails, but also the town and its surrounding mountains. But bike retailers say that guiding bicycles is quite different from being a raft guide, where everyone is in the same boat at the start and finish. If a group comes in for a tour, experts suggest keeping the entire group together for safety reasons, regardless of apparent ability gaps. That requires guides to be keen observers who can assess individuals’ ability levels on the fly, and make course changes, as necessary.
Many bike retailers, see the real value in showing off its city’s rich heritage on urban bike tours. Some retailers have spent great time and resources developing and guiding tours themselves. But after a season or two, came to realized they could effectively outsource much of the work by partnering with local nonprofits to develop the tours.
For example, the once-a-month Urban Agriculture tour was developed by an organization called Keep Growing Detroit that works with local gardeners and farmers to promote food sovereignty. Keep Growing developed both the route and the content of the tour, which someone from their organization guides. A bike retailer, in turn, pays the organization for every tour they give. It’s a win-win” for the retailer and the non-profit.
Bonus: A Readymade Touring Solution
Another option for bicycle retailers who want to offer their customers destination tours while outsourcing some or all of the logistics is to partner with an organization like Roar Adventures, a division of BikeRoar that’s built a vetted network of existing bike tour operators throughout the world. In addition to the hand-picked tours available on their website, the company is working with bicycle retailers to offer private and bespoke tours.
“It’s exciting to partner with bicycle retailers for bike tours,” says Chika Sakane, BikeRoar and Roar Adventures founder. “We’ve always felt strongly about supporting local bike shops, and as cyclists and adventurers ourselves, it’s a privilege that comes naturally.”
Roar Adventures can help you choose or build the right tour for your group, and even create a professional-looking, co-branded web page for your specific tour to coordinate bookings and keep your customers in the loop on tour travel plans. In many cases, too, shop owners can realize additional benefits, like turning a bike tour into a revenue generator, or having his/her trip paid for via group discounting which is applied as a credit to the owner.
Make sure you’re appropriately covered
Offering tours (as an owner-operator) poses additional liability risks for bicycle retailers, so most tend to create a separate legal entity for their tours with separate insurance. In some cases, though, an insurer can add those exposures to an existing policy, with approval. If a shop chooses to work with a vendor like RoarAdventures, it will need to be listed as “Additional Insured.”
For specific questions about providing tours and other liability concerns, contact Scott Chapin, Marsh & McLennan Agency’s bicycle enthusiast and insurance consultant.