The Bicycle Adventure Club: Bike Touring Made Simple

Country scenery in France
Country scenery in France.Photos: Ken Bertran

By Lou Melini

Eve Bertran likes to ride her bike and travel. Since 1983 she has taken traveled in Mexico, the U.S. and in Europe as a member of the Bicycle Adventure Club (BAC).

Cycling Utah: Eve, tell me about the Bicycle Adventure Club. It sounds like something I may be interested in.

Eve Bertran: BAC was founded in 1983 by a group of individuals wanting to do bike tours in the US and in other parts of the world. They decided to offer these tours to other like-minded people. BAC did grow out of club founded in the 1970’s however I believe the premise for that club was not to offer tours outside of the immediate group. BAC’s mission is to offer rides led by members to those who join the club.

Farmer's Market.
Farmer's Market. Photo: Ken Bertran

The tours are posted on the BAC website http://www.bicycleadventureclub.org/ and members sign up by clicking on the tour and emailing the specific ride leaders. Typically, rides are 7 – 9 days long in domestic and 2 weeks in Europe. They could be a bit longer in faraway places like New Zealand. Domestic fixed base rides are generally 5 days long.

There are 40 – 50 rides each year. It used to be about 50/50 domestic and overseas but lately there have been more domestic rides and fewer overseas rides (probably because of the economy). Tours are rated as to difficulty – both climbing and mileage – and vary from flat and 30 – 40 miles a day to very hilly and 60 – 70 miles a day.

There are approximately 1800 members in BAC, membership is nation-wide and there are a few overseas members. The largest number of members is in California, with the Pacific Northwest and Colorado next on the list.

C.U.: How did you get involved in the BAC? Is there a group of members from the SLC area?

More great French scenery.
More great French scenery. Photo: Ken Bertran

E.B.: In 2003 Ken and I wanted to do a bike tour outside the US and we found the BAC website and liked the places were the tours were being led. One of the first tours was a tour across the Yucatan, never having been there we wanted to go with someone that knew the area and had scouted out the best roads.

There are a number of BAC members in SLC. Rick Kirkland was on a tour with Ken and I several years ago. Lucy Ormond has led a BAC tour in Southern Utah just last year.

C.U.: How many trips have you done with the BAC? Have you led any trips?

E.B.: I have done 8 tours with BAC and enjoyed each one for different reasons. Either for the choice of accommodations, the food or the people, but always enjoyed the scenery.

Ken and I were planning a tour in England in 2008, however he passed away suddenly in 2007. I am once again thinking of leading a tour for BAC it may be the PEI tour or one of my making. Literally the world is open for biking if you are adventuresome enough.

C.U.: Give an overview of the trips you have done with the club.

E.B.: The first tour was to the Yucatan – 2003 – it was posted as a 1-A; which means not a long distance per day and basically flat. The tour leader planned not only a great route, but also stops along the way to visit the Mayan ruins and to learn about the culture of the area and it’s impact on the rest of Mexico. We visited the Mayan cultural village and saw a wonderful cultural show, visited places only the locals know about. This was a point-to point tour and we had a van to carry our luggage. Which means it was so easy to just get on your bike and ride for the day and find the hotel in the afternoon and relax.

Bicycle Adventure Club members on tour in France.
Bicycle Adventure Club members on tour in France. Photo: Ken Bertan

Next Ireland’s Northern Shores – May 2005 – it was posted as a 2-B which is 40 – 60 miles a day and a bit hilly. Once again the scenery, the people, the food and the mingling with the locals made this trip exciting. Tours were set up at various villages and we were treated to a concert by one of the Chieftains in his own pub. I especially liked Ireland as that is my background – I’ve been to Ireland several times and would go again tomorrow. This was a point to point and we used a van.

Scenic Provence in Sept. 2005 – 2-B; Good year for traveling. France seemed to be the place to go. We did a tour led by a long time BAC member who was leading it for the last time. We did not want to miss it. This tour was listed as a 2-B and was a bit hilly than most – it was after all the French Alps. The scenery was stupendous – views of vineyards, flowers and of course the breath taking Alps. It was a perfect blend of great food, cheeses to tempt all pallets and the accommodations ranged from very posh to downright funky. This was a point to point and we used a van again.

Canyonlands and Arches National Park – May 2006 -1-A; By now we have a few friends in the club and one was leading this tour (he hoped we would continue to lead it). This was in our backyard of course and we enjoyed Moab and the surrounding area. The friends on the tour were an added delight. Most people in either Bonneville Cycling Club or Wasatch Mountain Club have biked this area and have enjoyed the almost ethereal scenery and loved the wide-open spaces the area provides. This was a fixed base and we would sometimes use a van to transport riders to outer areas.

Burgundy/Beaujolais Tour – Sept. 2006-2–B; Once again a tour in France – This one was led by a member who lives up in Park City. It was an exceptional tour with of course the marvelous food, breathtaking scenery and we stayed in some pretty interesting villages. This was a point to point and we utilized a van for luggage.

Tuscany on the Mediterranean-Sept 2009-2-B; This was my first tour alone and I wanted to make sure I could still travel and bike without my sweet husband. It was a different tour for me, as I seem to be testing myself to see what I could do on my own. The tour leaders were marvelous and of course being in Italy is always exciting. We had a wonderful hotel to use as our base and the rides were interesting as well as educational. This was a fixed base ride and we did not have a van at all.

The Michigan Easy – June 2010–1–A; This ride was in Chelsey, Michigan and I at first wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the area. How wrong I was. I am so glad I took binoculars along as there were so many different birds to see and each days ride consisted of taking time to spot the various species migrating or mating or bringing out their young. The rides were through the beautiful villages and the myriad of lakes that are in the region. I would love to go back just to go to some of the deli’s there. This was a fixed base and we did not have a van.

Tucson Sunshine and Saguaros – March 2011–1-A; This ride was filled with the excitement of riding in warm weather (after being in so much snow here) it was like being on a bike for the first time. We had wonderful weather, several parks to ride to and ride through, good food and a great hotel as our base. I plan to do this again just to get out of SLC during the cold month of March. This was a fixed base ride without a van.

C.U.: What has been your favorite trip and why? Have you had any disappointing tours?

E.B.: My favorite tour was the Scenic Provence in Sept. 2005 – It was the most difficult tour I’ve ever done as well. I complained to Ken everyday about how difficult the ride was and how I just knew it was not a 2-B but had to be a 3-C and was very pleased with myself every night that if it were a 3-C I was doing it!! At the end of that tour I knew I could climb (slowly perhaps but I could climb), I knew I could handle maps (I now know what those chevrons meant) and I felt comfortable riding in another country. Of course the delicious food and the breath taking scenery of the Alps with views of vineyards added to the experience. For me the feeling of being independent of others and being on my own – although it was only for a day at a time – it was quite exhilarating. I became more aware of how important it is to know your bike and how to fix the little things as well as how to make myself more comfortable by adjusting my seat, working with the pedals and how important it is to keep your cleats and shoes clean.

Bicycle Adventure Rider
Eve on her bike. Photo: Ken Bertan

I have not had a disappointing experience with bike touring be it with BAC or on our own. I’ve never been on roads that were disappointing or been in any accommodations that were uncomfortable. There have been some funky rooms and those I liked the best – they stay in your memory. I have had more fun with certain people on a given tour than with others. Ken and I did over 35 motorcycle tours and 14 bike tours so after awhile you realize that the other people on the trip can affect how much fun a trip is – you can also not allow that un-fun element to affect your tour experience. It is better to laugh at those memories than to give them credence.

C.U.: Does the club ever use professional guides or touring companies to do a tour especially for overseas travel?

E.B.: The use of professional tour companies is at the discretion of the person planning the tour. When someone is planning a tour they are to scout out the area in question, plan the daily rides, find accommodations, plan meals and if needed find a van and driver. I like a tour planned by members but am aware that it isn’t always possible for someone to take the time to go to another country and spend the time and money necessary to plan a bike tour. There are times when a tour leader in the past that has info about a given area will give a new tour leader that information. There are tours that have been offered for a number of years and the person who planned the tour wants to go on to plan another tour in a different area. In this situation they can make the information available for others to use so someone else can take over that tour.

C.U.: What is a typical day like on a tour? Do most people ride as a group or as individuals so that early risers such as myself can get an early start?

Are meals a group or individual activity? Basically how much freedom does one have to be on their own?

E.B.: Motorcycle and bicycle riders have a great deal in common – they are quite often independent and loners. Not to say they don’t play well with others. But they feel capable of being on their own. Bike tours are planned accordingly. Every bike tour I have been on is planned so that you can do your own thing. Hotels are planned and you are given info concerning the hotel and maps to find them. Routes are planned and you are given maps to follow the route – or you can plan your own way to the hotel for the night.

Meals are planned and that is the only time we are together by the plan. In the morning most people have breakfast around the same time and if there are any questions or suggestions the tour leader is on hand to help. He also reminds those who have extra charges on the room tab to take care of them before they head out for the day. He will sometimes reiterate the road rules of the country, how to handle your baggage, talk about a good place for lunch etc.

Dinner is where we tend to meet and talk about the day – what we saw, how everyone got along – and at some point in the tour you have discovered your riding style is the same as another persons and you gravitate to that person or group. The next day’s ride is discussed and any questions or concerns are addressed. These are the times we really have an opportunity to get to know others in the group and then we will recognize each other on the road.

If you are an early riser and want to get on the road; good for you. It is fun to ride early in the AM and enjoy the area without a lot of people around. If you are a late riser and like to enjoy that breakfast and move at a more leisurely pace; good for you. There is no set time to leave for the day. The only set time is when dinner is served at night. If you are not going to make dinner because you wanted to go exploring it is important to let the tour director know with a call or if you know before you leave in the morning make sure he/she is aware.

A typical day is as follows: Before coming to breakfast I try to have my bags all packed except toothbrush – sometimes I will even carry that with me during the day. I love breakfast and I enjoy talking with the people on the tour. When riding with Ken we would sometimes ride with others or we would ride just the two of us. We’ve already talked about the days ride so we eat, get our bikes out and check them for the day. Off you go!!!! Another day of riding in beautiful environs. If riding alone we would occasionally pull over to sit and enjoy the views and have a snack, or if we are in a group the group will stop and enjoy the moment. There are sights to see along the way almost every day. Sometimes we will all meet up for lunch – the faster riders are just leaving or just left while the more leisurely riders are just getting there to have a bite. Depending on the country, a stop for coffee is anytime of the day. (Ice cream as well.)

We ride to the hotel for the night – get our luggage and take a nice hot shower or tub. Relax and depending on the time you arrived at the hotel you can go sightseeing or have a nap or if you are running late get ready for dinner. Again we meet for dinner at a specific time and talk about the days ride and plan for the next day.

As for freedom one has to be on their own, the only set times you are to be with the group is when the ride begins on the first day – getting acquainted – talking about the basics of the tour and dinner each night. You can research and plan more stops for sight seeing during the day or longer distances than the tour director has planned.

C.U.: Does the club charter flights or is air travel done as individuals?

E.B.: The club does not charter flights for a tour. Each person is responsible for their own flight arrangements to get to the start of the tour. I generally plan to either visit friends on the way or extend my time in the chosen area if there are more places I want to visit.

C.U.: Does the club have any commercial aspects? For example, does the BAC have sponsors or discounts with certain vendors?

E.B.: The club is set up to be a non-profit organization. It doesn’t have commercial aspects to it. If you were to plan a ride in Southern Utah, setting up hotels and planning meals etc., the cost to the participants is just the cost of the tour, not as money-maker for the club or ride leader. The only time it is not planned this way is when a tour company is used to plan the tour; they, of course, are doing it for the money. Club members do not.

C.U.: Thanks Eve. The BAC sounds great. Maybe Julie and I will put away our tent and stove!

For information on the Bicycle Adventure Club, visit: www.bicycleadventureclub.org

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