This weeks Business of the Week is a cyclo tour outfit , Ride International, run by two delightful people, Pat and Grace.
- You own a business called Ride International Tours, what are you about?
Ride International Tours combines all our passions to host great events around biking, but includes our love of sharing great food, wine, craft bees, coffee and most things artisan produced. Our cycling tours to the Grand Tours and Grand Fondo are for riders and non cyclists/non cycling partners enjoy the experience of travel and the brilliant atmosphere of the great European bike races.
Ride International Tours is about sharing our passions. Grace has an Italian background and has been involved with hospitality and tourism since 1994. She was a Wine Appreciation Lecturere in the Barossa Valley and has always had an passion for local produce and the stories behind them. Patrick comes from 4 generations of British cycling. He’s uncles, grandfather, grandmother and great grandfather all won prestigious events, championships and held a number of records in their day.
- Where is home?
Pat is originally from Gawler, near the Barossa Valley, and Grace is a Melbournian and has lived in London, the Barossa Valley and the Mornington Peninsular.
Ride international are now based out of Brunswick, Melbourne for six months of the year – the remaining six months of the year they are based out of Els Casots, a quaint village just outside of Barcelona.
Not by chance they are based near the headquarters for the beautiful Spanish sparkling wine Cava.
- How/why did it start?
Prior to formation of Ride International Tours, Grace & Pat ran MTB events around Adelaide in the mid 1990’s. We were involved with promoting the then known Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under within local communities, the spirit still continues today.
We ran cycling trips to Asia in 2005 and skills coaching sessions in Australia and Asia around the same time, and still do a lot of skills coaching sessions when in Australia.
In 2007 we established Ride International. In 2008 Patrick was approached by a travel agent to run a Tour de France tour and was asked to design and run the non-cyclist itinerary. That was the beginning of a new chapter and Grace and Patrick’s speciality was running cycling trips that catered to both cyclists and their non-cycling partners to le Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Tour Down Under and la Vuelta.
We consider ourselves very fortunate, we absolutely love what we do and love showing our guest all of our favourite places on and off the bike. It’s been great to take so many people to experience Europe’s many great countries, rides, roads and races.
- What’s your cycling background and how did that lead into Ride International?
Pat: I guess you could say cycling is in our blood, yet that’s not why I ride bikes, I just love everything about biking, whether it be on road or off road, I could probably write Phd on it all. I’m pretty fortunate, we have over 110 years of continuous competitive cycling in my family which goes back to early bike racing in the UK. My Grandparents Lil and Bob Ruffle emigrated from the Uk and continued racing in South Australia when they arrived and were active racing and social members of everything that was going in Adelaide, Grand mother Lil was one of the founding members of the SA Touring Club which later then morphed into bike SA.
Grace: I always had a support role in Pat’s cycling passion. Whether he was in an event, or riding long distances for his own pleasure, I had cool water, food, took photos and cheered him on.
- You’ve hosted a lot of tours and ridden a lot of fantastic roads, if you were to head off somewhere without a tour group, just for your please, where would that be?
Grace : The Sella Ronda in the Dolomites is without a doubt one of the most spectacular settings that’s absolutely breathtaking – and is a pleasure for both cyclists and non-cyclists because of the incredible beauty. It’s about a 50 km loop over 4-passes and 3,000 metres of climbing (Pat can confirm actual stats)
- Is it possible to get a good cup of coffee in France?
Pat: Yes absolutely, but it takes a lot of research to find good coffee in most of Europe. I’m like a hound dog for good coffee, there’s plenty of small coffee places in Europe now, funnily most of the owners have spent time in New Zealand and Australia and have acquired their knowledge of coffee there. If good coffee is available I’ll find it. I take mine Double Espresso is a shot glass – Always 😉
Grace: Yes. they’re not easy to find but specialist small roasters are popping up in parts of France that would please the the most discerning Australian coffee palate.
- Whats the hardest climb you’ve come across on your travels?
Pat: In Europe Both Zoncolan and Angliru are unbelievably tough, I rate them equally number 1 – though Zoncolan always seems a bit harder.
Recently I rode the Haleakalā Volcano in Maui from sea level up to 3055m over about 60km of all climbing, unbelievable tough climb. I love it, but was super unprepared and suffered hard 😉
Grace : As a support van driver, the Mortirolo was by far the most difficult with very narrow, steep hairpin turns it was very difficult to navigate through. Then I later heard that Lance Armstrong said it was his hardest climb… I’m not surprised.
Patrick says both Zoncolan and Angliru are tough, though Zoncolan wins ‘hardest’ climb for Pat.
- I’ve travelled to France on a cycling trip last year and found moving from a cold winter to a hot summer, and the time zone difference, and the jet lag… a struggle initially. What tips would you give to people coming from a winter in Australia to a Summer on the continent?
Grace : If you can afford to schedule an overnight stop en route – that really helps you arrive in better condition. Some airports have hotels inside their terminals (Singapore, KL, Hond Kong and Dubai) so you don’t have to go through immigration – you just disembark, go to your room, have a shower, sleep in a big bed and complete the flight the next day. If you can choose a flight where you arrive at your destination at night time so you can go straight to bed, that also helps get into the time zone quicker. And finally, make sure you allow at least a day’s recovery when you’ve reached your destination before starting a tour – as you’ll get so much more out of it if you’re well rested (and hydrated – remember to drink LOTS of water!)
Pat: Arrive in Europe minimum one day prior to a trip start, arrive in the evening so you can go to bed relatively quickly, once you start riding, take it easy for the first few days no matter what rides you are doing, going full gas, chasing mates and revving you motor before you’ve acclimatised inveriably results in sickness. Take it easy and build into your riding form no matter how fit you are.
- How do you help cyclists train for your trips so that can get the best from the trips?
We offer social rides around where we meet and greet our guests before their trips and discuss their goals and respond accordingly. Everyone is different and everyone has different goals so we don’t offer cookie cutter programs, but rather guide them to resources that can help them prepare as best as possible.
- I assume there was a lot of learning during the early days of your tours, what were some of the key issues form the early days?
Understanding all the intricacies of how the Grand Tours operate with road closures and how the race can change depending on conditions and the authorites. This is something that becomes ‘wisdom’ over the years. Many people come to us after they’ve tried to do a grand tour by themselves and have been caught out and have had a stressful experience.
- Who are your current crop of guides?
Our current key staff are Patrick, Myself and Steve Cunningham (former pro-rider).
We also have a family of guides that reside in Europe that we call upon.
- How do you recruit your guides? (what do you look for?)
We have a network of guides that we’ve worked with in the past that currently fill our needs. We basically look for people who can read a map and are good people with good hearts… not only from a fitness perspective, but from a service perspective. Service is a very key component to our business that we pride ourselves on. We tend to attract like-minded people, so finding good guides is quite an organic process for us.
How many on the support team would you generally have for your tours.
We generally have 1 support van with driver for all our trips that carries water, food, day packs, tools and spare parts…. and the ability to cheer.
- What is the typical size of your tour groups?
Groups sizes can vary depending on the popularity of the tour and we’ve run private trips of 4-people to big bus tours for 40 people and everything in between. Our typical groups size however is 14-20 people, which we find is a lovely sweet spot.
Would you recommend hard or soft cases for transporting bikes.
Grace : Soft cases are far more practical with your bike packed well and protected.
Pat: Soft cases are best – hard cases are incredibly heavy even before you load your bike and kit in, they are incredibly tricky to transport around once you arrive at your destination. That being said, the perfect bike case has yet to be built.
- What is your bike you travel with?
Pat: I travel with various bikes, it all depends on the trip type, but generally it’s my Scott Addict, light weight, but built with reliability and durability as the priority. Spare parts can be hard to come by in Europe which comes as a bit of a surprise for many people travelling to Europe to ride for the first time, we are spoilt for choice of bikes, service and after sales servicing and support in Australia
- What do you love about cycling?
Pat: Adventure by bike is beautiful in every sense, I recently drove around a stunning loop in Hawaii with our family, the next day I cycled it – it was like I hadn’t seen anything the day before.
Grace : Even though I’m a non-cycling guide, I actually commute by bicycle and I love getting from A to B on my own steam power. I love how I can feel my environment – the temperature, the smells, the light and atmosphere. Cycling is so sensory, perfect for this former wine lecturer 😉
- If you could have dinner with 3 people in the cycling world, who would they be, why and where would you take them to eat?
Grace : Phil Ligget, Paul Sherwin and Phil Anderson – on top of the Eifel tower (with my husband Pat) I think it would be a hilarious and insightful dinner with lots of laughs and great stories.
Pat: I’ll agree with that, we love to laugh and see the funny side of things in life and I know those guys all like a good giggle – & some a beer too;-)
- What is the biggest cycling lie you have told your partner?
Grace : n/a – we don’t tell lies (haha)
Pat: Haha no need, Grace is an enabler for all things biking, in fact when we first met she even loaned me some money to get a new race bike I had my eye on 😉
- What is your non-cycling go-to place when people come to your City?
Pat: Thats a really good questions as I’m always on the bike and stop off all round the place on the bike. If kids are involved it would be the Collingwood childrens farm, If we are in Adelaide, its the central Market, Mt Lofty lookout and the Gold Fields area out from Gawler on the edge of the Parra Wirra National Park.
Grace : The laneways of Melbourne city are great to meander around and find lovely eateries and speciality shops.
- If you had 10 minutes with your incumbent State Premier, what would you tell them?
Pat: I’d ask them about themselves first and find out what they like and what their passions are outside of their job. I love finding out what makes people tick and their story. If they strayed toward biking, I suggest continued improvement of biking infrastructure to make sure kids are riding bikes – riding bikes to school, I see cycle tourism in Australia needs a helping hand to encourage more internationals to come and explore Australia by bike.
Grace : We need to change the culture and relationships between cyclists and motorists and that needs to start from learning to drive. We are all human beings and whether we cycle or drive does not define us. Cycling safety and lands need to be better considered throughout the state and not be a token gesture. Perhaps we should have a “cyclist appreciation day” where every cyclist drives into work for that particular day so motorists can actually appreciate that the more cyclists the commute to work, the freer the roads are.
- Is there anything else you feel like talking about?
Grace : I think it’s imperative that in relationships where there is one cyclist and one non-cyclist – that the non-cyclist feels included and important in that relationship… I’m very mindful of this in our tours and I’m always thinking about making their experience as fun, interesting and valuable as their cycling partner.
Pat: Thanks for the opportunity to talk and think about bikes. Riding and travelling the world by bike is special, it’s a beautiful and we encourage everyone we meet to travel it changes everyone for the better – the world is a safe place don’t worry about the 1%, the world is full of great people.
You can find out more information about Ride International here.
Thanks Grace and Pat for your effort in responding at a time when you are busy travelling with your two young kids and preparations for tours. Love your work, and looking forward to catching up with you at some time in the future, preferably over a beer.