While out riding with friends, how often have you heard a comment like, “Man, I wish I could get paid to do this!”
While a lucky few of us are skilled enough to ride professionally, or have a lifestyle simple enough to be able to work at a local shop, the vast majority of mountain bikers are regular working stiffs for whom mountain biking is a hobby.
That’s all about to change, if Sacred Rides has anything to do with it.
Sacred Rides is known as a premium mountain bike tour company offering meaningful excursions in spectacular locations around the globe. I recently had a chance to chat with founder Mike Brcic and get the backstory behind Sacred Rides, and the exciting new business opportunity they are working on.
Founded in 1996, by 2011 the company was growing beyond what could be supported with in-house staff. The decision was made to launch a franchise model in order to foster further growth. This model operates similarly to your local fast food chain or niche mall store and involves a substantial up front financial investment and rigorous training in maintaining the Sacred Rides brand. Overall that effort has been successful, and has allowed the company to grow to where today, they have again hit a limit to what can be accomplished within the logistics of that model.
Sacred Rides currently offers trips in about a dozen locations around the world. The trips typically last five days to 14 days or more, and cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $3,500. While these trips are fantastic for both the company and the customer, Mike said he feels like they are missing a portion of the market; specifically, 1-2 day trips in a myriad of locations around the world that may not be a major destination per se, but that would be good add-ons to an existing trip.
The Near Future
While there is clearly a market for shorter, more localized trips, the logistics of managing them from a corporate base would be overwhelming, and the cost and legal complexity of extending the franchise model would be prohibitive. Undeterred, Mike and company analysed current business trends and realized that a mix of virtual services like those from Uber to AirBnB could be crafted into a solution to make the Sacred Rides growth vision a reality. Think of it as “GuideShare,” for lack of a better term.
While there are still a number of details to be worked out over the next several months, here is what Mike was able to share so far:
- Partners in the GuideShare system will receive their own website and their own customized reservation/operations system. They’ll be able to post their 1- or 2-day trips, create as many departure dates as they like, and have their own blog and lead generation system. All trips will feed into a central website where users can browse based on various search or sort criteria, similar to AirBnB or Homeaway.
- The initial investment will be very affordable–less than the average tax return for an average American.
- A monthly fee will be assessed by Sacred Rides. All booking revenue will go directly to the tour operator. All that is required is a PayPal or Stripe account, and an associated checking account.
- Sacred Rides will provide all of the booking, scheduling, and payment infrastructure, as well as marketing and branding.
- Rides will be 1-2 days, 3 days max, with optional local lodging. (This is not bikepacking.)
- Tour Operators can offer as few or as many departure dates as they want. It can be a way to pay for your mountain biking
obsessionhobby, or a means of making a decent living by riding your bike.
- Location. Location. Location. If you already live in a mountain biking destination, you will have a huge advantage.
- Most tour customers opt to bring their own bikes, but operators are free to try to hook up a deal with local shops for rentals.
- The same is true for local lodging, or customers can arrange their own lodging.
- Tour Operators will be expected to positively represent Sacred Rides, and there will also be a customer-driven review platform. Well-reviewed operators will build their business, and poorly-reviewed ones will receive help from Sacred Rides staff to try to improve their offering.
- Problem operators, as identified by repeated poor reviews, will be removed from the program.
- Promising operators will be identified as potential partners for the development of 5- to 14-day trips via Sacred Rides’ current model.
Still Being Worked On
As previously mentioned, there are a number of challenges to be faced when adapting this business model to the premium ride experience:
- Licensing and Permits–Necessary licensing can vary wildly in various locations. Mike said they can’t possibly compile all of that data themselves, but they are working on identifying resources to help potential operators do so.
- Skill Sets–Not every mountain biker is fit to be a tour guide. Similar to the previous franchise model, the process will still involve Sacred Rides staff interviewing potential operators to make sure they are up to the task and that they will properly represent the brand. Sacred Rides is currently developing a comprehensive, multi-level online training program for guides. This will be released by July of 2016. There will also be opportunities to attend in-person training events at various locations around the world.
- Insurance–Mike said they are hoping to be able to provide basic insurance, for a cost, similar to what home sharing sites like HomeAway and AirBnB do currently. Operators will likely still need personal liability insurance, or may even want to form an LLC. This too will vary based on the location of the operator.
- Equipment–Sacred Rides is in discussions with bike manufacturers to provide access to wholesale pricing for any operators who want to maintain their own fleet of bikes.
- Trail Saturation–A number of operators attempting to lead rides on the same trail system would be counter productive. Licenses will be distributed on a geographical basis to ensure there are no territory overlaps.
The Bottom Line
If Sacred Rides can pull this off successfully, it has the potential to be disruptive and revolutionary in the mountain bike tourism industry in the same way that AirBnB, Uber, etc. have been in their respective market spaces.
And that’s just for the tour customers… for those of us who want to get paid to ride our bikes, it could be life-changing!
If you think this opportunity is perfect for you and you want to sign up for advance info as it becomes available, head over here and enter your contact info.
Singletracks may receive compensation for purchases made through any affiliate links in this article.