Kevin and Julia Sanders of motorcycling touring company GlobeBusters gave us some sterling advice when it comes to booking a motorcycle adventure with an operator.
Nothing frustrates Julia Sanders more than hearing tales of woe from disappointed adventure-seeking riders.
“They will usually say they went on a trip but won’t be doing it again in a hurry because it wasn’t the great experience they were expecting,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s down to the fact that they haven’t done their homework upfront or asked the right questions before they booked a trip.”
Julia, one half of the Tiger-riding GlobeBusters team with husband Kevin, gives her answers to the top 12 questions every rider should ask of their potential tour operator.
And with two Guinness World Records under her belt for circumnavigating the world by motorcycle in 19.5 days and riding the length of the Americas in 35 days, she should know.
1. Is my money safe – are you bonded to a recognised governing body?
The motorcycle industry, like any other, has more than its fair share of amateur enthusiasts offering tours. They’ll say ‘come along with us and some mates and it will be fine’. It may well be, but if you are paying a lot of money up front, it should be protected. If it isn’t and you’re happy with that, then it’s your risk.
I would say always read the terms and conditions and look for the clause that says the money the company receives in advance is protected for the customer under 1992 Package Travel Regulations.
2. How long have you been established?
Am I going with a reputable company or one that doesn’t have a proven track record? Every operator has to start somewhere, but it’s wise to be aware. Check on the date their website was set up or if their pictures show groups of motorcyclists in the places advertised on tours.
It’s best to avoid using companies that have never actually done the tours they are selling, unless they openly advertise ‘scouting’ or ‘inaugural’ tours.
Look at the person running the company, check their background and make sure they know their stuff.
3. What insurances do you have?
Every company should have minimum public liability insurance in place. That’s always a question worth asking. Some operators have other insurances, like professional indemnity and crisis management insurance, so if things do go wrong, you know you’ll be looked after.
4. What experience have you got?
Check the company’s About Us page on its website. Avoid generic descriptions and look for details of the individuals who will be your tour guide on the trip.
If you can see a team of three or four people listed with information about where they’ve ridden, then take it a step further and Google them and the company for any reviews.
5. Have the tour guides been to the places before?
Once you’ve checked the website, it’s definitely worth asking the question direct about who your tour leader will be. While a tour operator may have been to a destination before, the tour guide they use may not have.
6. Are your guides first aid trained?
Look at the quality of the team that are going to be there with you. Best practice is that tour guides should be first aid trained so they at least have the basics to deal with any medical emergency.
A one-day first aid certificate might be fine if you’re on a quick trip in Europe, but if you’re heading to Africa, you will want people with outdoor expedition first aid skills.
Motorcycle riders tend to take things at face value, but this is your holiday of a lifetime, so don’t ruin it and remember you do tend to get what you pay for.
7. How many people are in the support crew?
In Europe, we normally work on a ratio of one tour guide to 10 or 12 riders, but some operators may use one tour guide to 25 or 30 riders. The guide-to-customer ratio makes a big difference to the price of a tour. The more people for the tour guide to look after, the lower your price should be, so also ask about what the average group size is on a tour.
For those bigger trips, we operate on having one or two guides and a support vehicle driver, particularly for an unusual long-haul destination, making a ratio of one tour guide to six or seven riders.
8. Is there a daily tour itinerary?
This might seem obvious but it’s important. If your tour company can’t send you a detailed breakdown of the daily itinerary, then beware.
Generic descriptions of the tour are often a telltale sign that the company aren’t quite sure where they’re heading at any given time.
9. What daily mileage do you do and are there any rest days?
This ties in with the previous question and is to a large degree dependent on the type of rider you are and what trip you want.
Some people just want to ride 300 miles in a day but others, often couples, want to arrive at the hotel by mid-afternoon and do some sightseeing.
Make sure you get the right trip for you by asking itinerary specific questions to understand that the nature of the tour is what you want.
10. Are the hotels pre-booked and checked?
Maybe it’s an urban myth… some guides arriving in a town, leaving their 20 riders in the local square and telling them they’ll be back soon while they search for a hotel.
Ask if your hotels are pre-booked and get the hotel names so you can check that they are the standard you’re looking for.
It’s important to know the hotel star rating because this is a big differentiator on your tour price. A cut-price trip to Morocco might be cheap because you’re staying in a basic riad. If that’s what you want it’s fine, but it’s best to know before you go. You will pay a lot more for a trip that guarantees 4* hotels.
11. Do you look after any motorcycle freight?
Motorcycle transportation can add a lot to the cost of a trip, so again read the small print to see if getting your bike to or from where you need it is included in the price.
Reputable operators will assist with the paperwork.
12. How much of the admin is taken care of?
This can be one of the biggest headaches of planning a trip. Having copies of documents, passports, invitations and visas is essential, especially on a longer trip.
A good tour company will offer a back office support that sets your mind at rest. They will have on file all your emergency contact details, medical conditions and travel insurance policy, so they can help you if you have an illness or injury.
Again, ask questions if you’re not sure.