Profile: Bike Basque Cycling Tours
A quick chat with Xavier Lopez, owner of Bike Basque cycling tours.
Firstly, what's the origin story behind Bike Basque?
Back in 2010, I decided to live in London for two years, which was a great experience. While I was in London, I noticed straight away the love for road cycling in the UK. In 2011, Mark Cavendish became the world champion, then the next year Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France. It was a brilliant time for UK cycling!
I founded Bike Basque in 2013. I'm a passionate cyclist myself, and an ex-competitor at the national level in France. When I was racing, I always loved to attend organised training camps and cycling tours with my teammates around the Basque Country. I wanted to replicate these experiences for amateur cyclists!
Bike Basque offers several different types of tours. Is there one that has been more popular than the others?
Well, given that the company is called Bike Basque, lots of people are coming to us for cycling tours in the Basque Country.
"In the Basque Country" is one of our more difficult tours, with rides averaging 100km and featuring some of the more difficult climbs the region has to offer.
"Luxury Basque Tour" provides a different experience - it's more about fine hotels and, most importantly, food and wine, as the Basque Country is one of the most Michelin starred regions in the world, with more than 25 Michelin stars over 10 restaurants.
But we also launched the "Raid Pyrenees" tour in 2014 and every year this tour is becoming more popular as many cyclists from around the globe love to challenge themselves on classic climbs such as the Tourmalet and the Aubisque. Many people also enjoy the fact that you can cycle from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean.
Are your tours geared more towards recreational riders, or do they also appeal to competitive cyclists?
Our "Luxury Tours", such as in the Basque Country, Burgundy and the Bordeaux region, are more recreational tours that prioritize food and wine almost as much as cycling.
The "Sportive Tours", such as those in the Pyrennes, the Basque Country and the Alps are more geared toward serious cyclists, as they are quite challenging.
Do you offer bike rentals for those who aren't able to travel with their own bike?
Yes - since 2016 we've invested in quality carbon bikes, equipped with Ultegra. At this point we've got a fleet of 9 bikes - we rent them during our tours of course, but we can also deliver them for free around Biarritz, where we are based, for other cities in the Basque Country (like San Sebastian, Bilbao, etc.). We just charge a fee depending on the distance we have to drive to deliver the bikes.
Given the hilly nature of the Basque Country, do you expect a certain level of fitness from riders, or can anyone enjoy one of your tours?
We always provide a support car or van to support our clients, with food, water etc. - and it's always possible to jump in to enjoy the countryside on four wheels (and of course our staff always plays the best musics while they're driving).
Do you have many requests for custom tours?
Actually, yes - almost half of our requests are for custom tours, to fit specific dates or requesting specific routes that may not be on our website. Those tours are very exciting to organize, too - after speaking to the clients and understanding their goals, we try to create exactly what they want.
How many guides accompany each tour, and is there a maximum number of riders per tour?
We're working with a ratio of 1 guide per 4 clients (for the Sportive Tours), and 1 guide per 3 clients (for the Luxury Tours), which is a bit lower than the other cycling travel companies, but we really want our customers to feel supported.
As we're working most of the time with boutique-hotels, the number of available rooms is typically limited, so we're trying to keep the number of clients under 14. But if a bigger group (for example a whole club) wants a specific tour just for them, we can handle that as well.
What do you see as the next steps for Bike Basque?
Initially we were operating exclusively in the Basque Country, then to the Pyrenees, then to Burgundy...I've even gotten a request from a group of 10 Australian ex-pats living in Italy! We will continue expanding so long as we have interest! We love exploring new regions and finding the best gems for our clients.
The most important thing for us is to keep the same "spirit" we currently have - meaning good atmosphere, hotels, restaurants and friendly staff. As long as we can maintain that, Bike Basque will continue to grow!