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Ever been an unofficial tour guide?

Old 02-08-11, 09:54 PM
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Ever been an unofficial tour guide?

I only have five tour outings under my belt-- the longest a mere 10 days-- but I've got some friends fired up to go on a 6-7 day self supported mostly off road tour this May. For two of them, its their first and I kind of feel like I'm their guide. Its not a bad thing and I don't resent it in any way, it just feels strange because I consider myself still new to touring. Nevertheless, I have the experience and feel I should look after them.

Anyone been in this position before?
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Old 02-09-11, 01:35 AM
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Why not try and do a couple weekenders with them close to home before your big ride?

It will provide a good opportunity to work out the wrinkles and everyone will enjoy the long ride more.
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Old 02-09-11, 08:02 AM
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Yes, I've been in that position a few times. Once I organized a 3-day weekend tour for 8. Everything worked out well. Another time I was the de facto leader of a group of 4 of us who were touring in France for several weeks. I was the only person who spoke French so that gave me certain responsibilities. I did all of the planning on both of these tours. I got frustrated in France because my friends wouldn't carry maps. That left me with the task of having to make sure nobody got lost. After we split up for 10 minutes once and the others proceeded to each get lost individually, one of the other 3 riders agreed to start carrying a map.
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Old 02-09-11, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by skilsaw
Why not try and do a couple weekenders with them close to home before your big ride?
+1

I've led a few rides including friends I've taken on week long tours and also mini-tours I organized with my local cycling club. One thing I like to do is take a shorter shake-down ride that is proportional to the longer trip we're taking. For example, prior to a week-long trip (particularly off road), I'll make sure we have at least day rides and preferably an overnight shakedown outing to check equipment, riding, etc. Prior to a month long trip, I'd take a week-long trip. On the club rides we would have ridden weekends together, so nothing special there before a three-day ride.

This gives everyone a time to try things as a group, and also gives newest a stepping stone to do first before the (longer) trip.
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Old 02-09-11, 12:28 PM
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Yes, I have served as "guide" to several first timers. It's no big deal. 99% of the time you are simply riding together. Decisions about when and where to stop, shop, eat, turn, change course, and stay for the night generally come about as the result of a conversation. I was only nominally the leader.

By the way, the adjectives "mere 10 days" do not necessarily agree with the noun phrase "tour outings." Not everybody is able to hit the road for weeks or months at a time, so I view a ten day tour as an accomplishment!!! I have been bicycle touring for decades, and it's been a long time since I have been able to get away for more than a week at a time.

Enjoy your tour.
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Old 02-09-11, 12:41 PM
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I was kind of a guide on our Trans America in that I was the one who was a cyclist and had been looking into touring for a while. None of the three of us had toured before though. That said we all were experienced in various outdoor sports including backpacking among other things.

I did most of the gear choices and advance planning, but once underway we all contributed our as our various skills allowed. In some ways they looked out for me more than I did them, since in some areas, like putting on sunscreen, knowing enough to come in out of the rain, and eating properly for example, I am told I lack good sense

None of this is rocket science so a lot of guiding isn't necessary for folks with some basic outdoor experience and skills.
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Old 02-09-11, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuckie J.
Anyone been in this position before?
Yep. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.

It's not a bad thing. You will learn the most of all of them!

Speedo
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Old 02-09-11, 04:20 PM
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Been there after only a few tours. It is amazing how much most riders want a leader, even if they do not pay much attention. I agree with another guy that posted, most decisions come from conversations.
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Old 02-09-11, 05:02 PM
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BikeArkansas, I just read your signature. How true for many of us. Big deal when you get older.
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Old 02-09-11, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum
BikeArkansas, I just read your signature. How true for many of us. Big deal when you get older.
Yes, getting older was a part of writing that. Also, I was trying to get over a nagging injury at the same time I wanted to design a signature. It all came together.
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Old 02-09-11, 08:02 PM
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Been right there with you, and it was a blast. I liked being in charge, because all it meant was that I made the decisions, and they followed. The two riders knew I had only toured once before, once more than them, they just wanted to go along for the ride.

This seems to be a perfect place for a short recap of how the trip panned out, so I will share: I graduated college and was heading back to Ohio from Indiana, so we were gonna be in the road for three days, 220 miles. Me and Rusty were getting ready in the morning while Big Al was all ready and getting anxious, so he drank 2 beers while we geared up in the morning. All our friends were there from the party the night before to see us off, and everyone was in good spirits. Rusty lost panniers within the first mile to pick up his dad, who was going to join us for the day. So we swapped all his gear into different panniers while we waited for his dad. Finally, at 10 o-clock, we were on the road for a perfect first day. Sunny, 60 degrees, and a tailwind. After our first snack stop I drank a small bottle of wine while riding through cornfields, and Rusty and Big Al ate a special type of brownie. From there we proceeded to have a great time and great conversation until lunch, where beer was had by all. We then decided to try to make it to a place I knew was free stealth camping with toilets, so we kicked ass for the second half of the day and ended up hitting 90 miles on day one. And the quote from the day still comes up whenever we see each other. My guiding skills at there finest, when asked how much further... "As soon as you see it you'll know we're close." Good times...

My advice is to have a sense of humor, it won't go perfectly, but everyone will laugh later...
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Old 02-09-11, 08:45 PM
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Many years ago my wife and I took a female med student and a ,male Korean grad. student on a tour of the Lost Coast, their first time touring. I remember realizing I didn't have a lighter or matches when we reached the last store for quite a ways. The grad. student assured me he had a lighter. My wife, who had worked with him, asked to see his "lighter". Sure enough, it was a flashlight. It would have been a couple of lousy meals without a fire-starter.

The Korean was quite a sexist. My wife had told him how the gravel roads are so steep she fell down while trying to go up them. He scoffed at the notion that her experience was relevant to him. Well, he couldn't get up the hills. I could have put his gear on my bike, but instead we put all his gear on the women's bikes. By the end of the trip he was no longer a sexist, as least as far as athletic endeavors go. I'm sure his wife has appreciated what we did, even if she doesn't know. In spite of our little game, he did have the trip of his life. He still keeps a photo from that trip, twenty-five years ago, on his desk.
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Old 02-11-11, 06:13 PM
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I've planned and, I suppose, "lead" groups of friends on independent tours to Ireland, Romania, and a couple shorter trips in U.S.A. I'm always nervous about whether they'll be happy, but they always have been. The main thing is if the friends are all pretty compatible as people and riders. If you have a wide range of cycling speeds, is there any slow person who will be left alone, and need to have others take turns holding back?

I noticed that on the first trip, everyone was very reluctant to go on their own or make decisions, and I had to do it. After they adjust to touring, they're more independent.

What surprises me is that most people (women at least) are happy to most things, but they really, really want someone else to plan it! That is just too much trouble for most people.
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Old 02-11-11, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Frida1

What surprises me is that most people (women at least) are happy to most things, but they really, really want someone else to plan it! That is just too much trouble for most people.
That's why people pay thousands of dollars to go on guided trips when they can do the same trip themselves for 1/4 of the cost or less!
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Old 05-09-11, 04:15 PM
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Update!

Well, our group is now up to SEVEN people with only two of us with experience. We leave in 6 days....

There have been some ups and downs with bikes. One guy bought a used bike for the trip-- a Giant Innova? "hybrid" that was supposedly in "great shape," hardly ever used. Well, it was also a good 16 years old with all original stuff. One look at it and I started replacing stuff. I have a garage full of spare and used parts so this bike went from a seven speed to an eight, with new rear derailleur, new chain, new cassette, new brakes, new right shifter, new brake levers, and new tires. Trued the wheels. Lots of work but at least his bike will be ridable.

I've had to do bike overhauls on a bunch of the others but that was the worst one.

We've got a dinner system where two people cook dinner for the group each night. I think that should be fun plus you only have to cook 2 of the 6 nights. Its been a LOT of organizing but I think I'm planting some seeds of obsession. People are pumped!
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Old 05-09-11, 08:48 PM
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recommend mirrors, high viz safety vests, daytime conspicuity flashers - PB superflash and a Cateye El-135 are sufficient, 45 bucks of visibility, and a slow motion triangle on the back of the panniers

are highly highly recommended. Also, a quick primer on assertive lane positioning when necessary for safety would also be invaluable. mirrors and visibility aids tie in with taking the lane when needed for your safety.
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Old 05-10-11, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
recommend mirrors, high viz safety vests, daytime conspicuity flashers - PB superflash and a Cateye El-135 are sufficient, 45 bucks of visibility, and a slow motion triangle on the back of the panniers

are highly highly recommended. Also, a quick primer on assertive lane positioning when necessary for safety would also be invaluable. mirrors and visibility aids tie in with taking the lane when needed for your safety.
1+

Not only for the protection of the riders, but of the motorists too. They have no interest at all in hitting a cyclist. Way too messy.
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Old 05-10-11, 02:23 PM
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I may be in the position of being a tour guide later this summer. It would be a short tour, just one or two nights and it would be a couple of adults and two or three teens. I'm playing around with a few routes. The ones who want the trip are people who don't have anything even remotely resembling touring experience. This could get interesting.
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Old 05-11-11, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
The ones who want the trip are people who don't have anything even remotely resembling touring experience. This could get interesting.
I'm finding the same thing and actually enjoy watching people "discover" stuff like having one piece of gear cover two duties. The big thing for me is making sure folks are prepared but not killing their joy by giving them a list of items they need to get because I've done this before and I know it all.

We had a planning meeting last night and changed the entire route so we no longer need to get dropped off at the first destination. Very exciting. We're doing the whole trip by train and bike-- a big loop.
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Old 05-22-11, 09:08 AM
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Follow Up:

So we did it-- and it was a crazy trip. First off, I would not recommend such a large group. We had 7 for the first three days and 5 for the last three. Social dynamics become the central theme of the trip and not the actual biking. We were governed by a "consensus" system (had to, really because we couldn't leave an inexperienced person behind) and that meant that one person could change your ride in a heart beat.

I was not a good tour guide, even if it was unofficial. My route was much too difficult for a good portion of the group. We took "the backroad to Bandlier," or NM 289, which is a monster of a road. Had to push the loaded bikes for miles of it. It stopped the group from getting to our planned camp site so we changed it on the fly. Not a big deal but we ended up having a real short third day and everything had to be rearranged to keep "the loop." I take responsibility for that...

What I don't take responsibility for is the weather! We got two inches of SNOW on day four. A wonderful camp host let us set up under a big group camping pavilion and all of our stuff was STILL covered in snow the next day. Shoes that were left out between tents and under a 50 foot covering were still covered in snow. The mountains are amazing monsters, to be handled with great respect at any time of the year. Boy, did I learn a lot; we all did.

Still, it was a fantastic trip. There's nothing like being on the edge of disaster and surviving it. Attitudes of the individuals were all pretty good, considering. I took them through some of the hardest roads and conditions one can go through on a tour: impossible roads, rain, mud, snow. Its roses from here on out! Well, other challenges await.


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Old 05-22-11, 09:26 AM
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Sounds like a quick, thorough, and memorable education for all. Short learning curves are good. Congrats.
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