BikeSherpa: Bike Touring Adventure meets Social Networks
BikeSherpa Combines Social Networking with Bike Touring Adventure
By Helena Wahlstrom
Social networking is used for just about everything these days, with online groups forming around every interest imaginable. Now bike enthusiasts can take that social group and go on a cycling adventure in Europe with BikeSherpa.
BikeSherpa, co-founded by Robert Reimann, aims to take the guesswork out of group tours. Using their site, bikesherpa.com, prospective tour participants can sign up, meet like-minded people, and create or join groups.
“When people take a bike tour, they want to ride with a group, but they worry about who’s in the group,” Reimann said. With BikeSherpa, travelers can know in advance who they will be riding with, whether they plan to travel with a large group or with just one other person.
Choosing the Right People
“We know that taking a tour with the right people is as important as choosing the right trip, so we have revolutionized the bike tour business model by allowing customers to do both. This makes the tour search and selection process more intuitive and the trip itself more social and enjoyable.”
Participants have the option of meeting up with new people on the website, or planning a trip with friends using the site’s private group setting. Reimann wants to offer travelers a more independent European-style tour instead of a highly structured experience.
While participating in traditional guided tours in the past, Reimann found them to be too constricting, causing travelers to lose touch with the places they were visiting. He felt like he was “traveling in a bubble.”
European self-supported tours, meanwhile, made him feel “more like a traveler than a tourist.”
His company combines the freedom of independent travel with the convenience of “top-notch” local services. Partnering up with local businesses, BikeSherpa allows travelers to enjoy the location without worrying about where to stay or what to eat. “All the services are taken care of for you,” Reimann said.
On a BikeSherpa tour, this means “You’re provided hotel accommodations, bike rentals, maps and route guides and daily luggage transfer. You ride the daily route at your own pace using the directions provided.”
Reimann and his partner Anna Graefe act as American contacts for participants, while local businesses take care of leading tours and providing services.
A History of Success
“BikeSherpa chooses the best local and regional tour operators to run our tours in order to assure premium service and value. We work with companies that have a long history of success in the regions they operate in.”
“We carefully review and select our tours, the nicest hotels and guides to make sure our clients get an amazing trip and a great price. And we're here to help before, during and after each tour, by phone, Skype and email,” Reimann said.
Reimann feels that bike travel is an ideal way to get to know the heart and soul of a location. “There is no better way to experience a country than by bike,” he said. “Bike travel is really a different, unique way to see a country. The speed is ideal for learning about the places in between places.”
“Another important thing is that people understand and relate to bikes and bike travel.” Cyclists don’t get treated like normal tourists; instead, locals are more welcoming and sympathetic, and travelers have more contact with them.
In addition to these benefits, cycling has another delicious perk. “Your food, wine, beer and refreshments taste better after a nice day on the road.” Cyclists sleep better after a day of riding, and instead of feeling drained, they find themselves refreshed after the trip. “There’s no need for a ‘vacation after your vacation,’” Reimann said.
BikeSherpa has just finished its first full season. Reimann, an expert long-distance road cyclist and traveler, co-founded the company with Graefe after the office of his software company, Sherpa Corp., was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
He created BikeSherpa after a two-week bike tour through Iran just after 9/11, with the aim of helping to foster communication in the cycling world.
When coming up with a name for his new company, BikeSherpa immediately came to mind, Reimann said. “Like Sherpas, we provide our clients with all the support that lets them fully enjoy the experience of travel and the place they're visiting.”
BikeSherpa offers more than 70 different tours in countries like Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Spain and Belgium. New locations are constantly being added. In addition to common destinations, “We want to be a leader at unique locations,” Reimann said. BikeSherpa will be adding many new, unique locations for next season, including Greece, Slovenia, Poland — and maybe even Iran, the country that inspired Reimann to found his company.
One Brewery Per Kilometer
BikeSherpa’s tours include the Bavarian Beer Bike Fest, which, not surprisingly, is one of their most popular tours. On this tour, participants cycle through Bavaria, sampling the region’s — and perhaps even the world’s — best beers. The tour takes beer lovers through an area of Franconia with breweries aplenty: it has the highest concentration of breweries anywhere in the world, one per kilometer. Participants visit Rothenburg, Nuremberg and Bamberg during their quest for the most delicious beers, riding in the shadow of stunning medieval castles.
Another popular tour combines relaxation on a yacht with the excitement of cycling in Southern Dalmatia, Croatia. In this region, the smallest and most sparsely populated in Croatia, participants bike and cruise their way past picturesque villages and beautiful islands. The tour takes visitors to a variety of gorgeous locations from lush wine country to a 12th century Benedictine monastery.
Chris Lowe of Tacoma, Washington, counts himself among the company’s many satisfied customers. After graduating from medical school in the spring, Lowe planned to go on a big trip.
When his original plan, a road trip to the West Coast, fell through when his car broke down, he looked
into the Tour of Flanders that was set to begin in a week, and found BikeSherpa online. Despite the last-minute timing, Lowe was added to the trip to visit one of the biggest cycling races of the year.
For the two weeks he spent in Belgium, Lowe also traveled independently, trained and participated in an amateur version of the Tour, met new people and had lots of fun. “I also drank a lot of Belgian beer,” Lowe said.
“I would definitely recommend BikeSherpa to anyone out there looking to go on a cycling trip. I really can't say enough about it. The trip was absolutely amazing and really the last thing I expected after my car broke down and was destroyed in Oklahoma.”
Learning from his last-minute experience, Lowe said, “The only thing I wish I had done is planned it out a little further in advance. Also, get [BikeSherpa] your bike measurements — it makes fitting a bike in Europe a lot easier.”
Cecilia Bermudez of New Rochelle, New York, echoes Lowe’s praise. She participated in the Bavarian Beer Bike Fest tour, her first ever bike tour, with her friend Katia.
“BikeSherpa was very accommodating from start to finish. Every hotel that they booked for us was great. One was better than the next,” Bermudez said. “Robert was very helpful. He made suggestions and answered all our numerous questions.”
Bermudez and her friend enjoyed the beauty of Bavaria and its bike paths. “We were so impressed with everything.” Of course, they also sampled the beers. “The smoked beer is definitely an acquired taste,” Bermudez said.
Bermudez is very satisfied with her experience with BikeSherpa. “The bike trip was better than I expected, and I would definitely book my tour through Robert with BikeSherpa again!”
She would also recommend the company to others. “I feel like I made a friend with Robert,” she said.
According to Reimann, BikeSherpa has had a great response during their first season. The company is already gearing up for an exciting 2012.
BikeSherpa knows that the best experiences are created in the company of the most congenial people. So bring your group together, hop on your bikes and head out to experience the best of the places in between places.
Helena Walstrom was born in Helsinki, Finland where she grew up. She was an intern for GoNOMAD, and was one of the best. She now lives in New Hampshire and works as an editor.