Cycling Portugal, guided tours

The Long And The Short

After five years or so running the Pedal Portugal website simply as an information resource for fellow cyclists, I took the leap and decided to try running my own guided tours at the end of last year.

My ‘guinea pig’ bike tour set off from Lagos on 31st January and since then I’ve run two more tours, a second in the Algarve and one in the Alentejo. I’ve also got two more coming up in the autumn that are definitely happening (with more on the schedule).

A cold beer seemed a good way to relax after a big climb on a sunny February day
A cold beer seemed a good way to help the group relax after a big climb on a sunny February day

It’s been a huge amount of fun too and very rewarding. But also a pretty intense experience – making sure everything goes to plan (or as near as possible), ensuring everyone’s happy, dealing with all the logistics of airport transfers, vehicle and bike hire, booking hotels, choosing restaurant menus etc. etc.

So, a cycle tour isn’t all just about relaxing and enjoying the scenery if you’re in charge? Well, I never though it would be. I’ll also probably never make my fortune doing them. But then there’s the cycling – and that’s really what it’s all about. So if this ‘job‘ lets me and Carolyn spend several months of the year riding around Portugal what’s not to like?

Would I rather be stuck in England stuck in front of a computer screen? Doesn’t need an answer does it.

There could be worse places to be in April
There could be worse places to be in April

Plus I have got a huge kick out of seeing the pleasure that other people – many of whom have never been to Portugal before – have got out of the places we’ve taken them. I’ll also always remember Dave saying on day three or four of our Border Castles tour: “I don’t really know where I am or what day of the week it is but I don’t really care.”

Needless to say, the group were definitely starting to relax into the experience by that stage.

But although the first three tours all seem to have worked pretty well, planning them has been a bit of a ‘finger in the air’ type of process. Sure, I have made some educated guesses but most of it has been based on what would suit me and what I think would appeal to other people.

There's more to Portugal than riding bikes
There’s more to Portugal than riding bikes

One thing I decided early on was that the tours would be 10-12 days long. I wanted to give people a couple of days to get to Portugal and wherever we were starting from, enough time to enjoy the experience and then – assuming they’re in Portugal for a couple of weeks – the option to have a few days to explore on their own.

I also ruled out doing 14 day tours as that would mean me and Carolyn would either be doing tours back-to-back or would end up with at least a week between every tour.

But as the next touring season approaches – Portugal being way too hot for doing any serious cycling in the summer months – I can’t help wondering if I’ve got the formula completely right, particularly in terms of how long to make the tours.

For instance, should we offer some shorter tours for people who can only get away for a week?

I’d love to know what you think. There’s a very short poll below or a longer questionnaire for anyone who is willing to spend a bit more time.

All input would be hugely appreciated. 

(NB. With the question about the length of a tour, these are for the whole tour – i.e. including time to get to and from an airport – not just the number of days spent cycling.)

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