How to organise a mountain bike group holiday
Save yourself a world of pain with these top tips
What could be better than a mountain bike holiday?
Endless trails, lift access on tap and a chance to get away from the sludge of Britain. In theory it’s the perfect getaway. In practice it can be more of a logistical nightmare than solving a Rubik’s cube while riding a bull.
The friends you ride with week in, week out are suddenly replaced with a rabble of headless chickens with all the reliability of a Skoda.
Of course, we’re not saying you shouldn’t do it, some of the best times in Dirt’s history have been had on our annual road trips, but just be prepared for tantrums, last minute panics and an awful lot of faffing.
As with all things in life there are ways to avoid the worst of the hassle, and what better way to express them than in an internet list (because God knows there aren’t enough of them)?
Cheers to our friends at Whitelines for the inspiration
Commit to a date early
The date will be the hardest thing to pin down. Holiday leave gets booked up fast and summer is, of course, the busiest time of everyone’s year. Get this nailed down and then worry about where you’re going after.
Most bike parks are generally open from mid-June to late-August (although the seasons have been getting longer in recent years). The trails will be quieter and in better condition at the start of the season, but the weather could be more changeable.
The Doodle planner can be useful for this – if everyone marks off the days they definitely can’t do, then the likely options will soon present themselves.
When you’re in, you’re in
Be very wary of that friend who always ditches on the weekend ride at the last minute. Make it clear from the start that when someone is committed there’s no backing out. There’s nothing worse than someone declaring they can’t afford it at the 11th hour after everything’s been paid for.
Communication is key
Everyone who’s going needs to be in the loop from the start. As soon as people start hearing details second hand, you’re asking for trouble.
Email can be a proper holiday killer – the first time someone hits ‘Reply’ instead of ‘Reply ALL’ then the whole thing is potentially fucked. Whatsapp is best, and ensures that the whole history of the conversation is in one place. It also ensures that anyone who’s slack at replying is identified early, and shamed accordingly.
Try and keep it to the essentials, though. If you need to track back to find a crucial booking reference number, the last thing you want to do is scroll through endless waffle about new trails, boozing plans and how great it is that Lycra Colin isn’t coming – maybe have a separate group chat for the general holiday banter.
Assign a leader
This is the first time there could potentially be some conflict. You have to bear in mind that if the process is a democracy you’ll end up with a bigger shambles than the Brexit referendum.
The leader isn’t going to decide the details of the trip but they will be the person that books the big stuff like accommodation, flights etc.
Figuring out who that is won’t be hard; they’ve probably already got a nickname along the lines of Captain Sensible or The Spreadsheet Whisperer. Come on, we’re mountain bikers, finding an accountant among us can’t be that hard!
They’ll probably grumble about having to shoulder the extra responsibility, but you all know that they’re secretly happier to do it themselves than leave it in the hands of someone that doesn’t even have their own set of different-coloured highlighters.
Go with the majority
We’ve all got that perfect holiday we’ve been dreaming about for years but if you go as a group you aren’t going to get it, simple as that. The bigger the group the harder this gets.
The biggest decision is going to be on location. Do you go with the masses to Morzine and Whistler, or try to find somewhere a bit more niche like Les Arcs or Vallnord? On top of that you have to pick between splurging on a chalet or slumming in a tent.
Honestly the best thing to do is draw up a shortlist and have a vote. Something like SurveyMonkey keeps it anonymous so you can avoid grudges that get harboured throughout the holiday.
Plan your transport
The big question – fly or drive? In an ideal world flying would be the best choice. In practice it’s not always so great. Airlines (especially budget ones) are really clamping down on bikes, and it’s a real pain if your bike gets lost in transit. Plus the resorts aren’t near any airports so there will still be a hefty amount of time spent on the road.
If you’re driving, make sure the car (or preferably van) has enough room for you and all your kit. Don’t burden one person with all the driving either. They’ll be knackered by the time they get there and it will ruin their holiday.
Manage your money
Apps like Tilt allow you to manage a group payment, and ensure the record of who has paid what is easily tracked.
Look for group deals while you book, if you shop smart you can often get one person free accommodation or some lift passes included in the deal
Once you get there, it might be a good idea to pool your money in a kitty, especially if you’re likely to spend similar amounts on food and booze.
So the group didn’t decide to go to the resort you suggested. So they opted for the cheaper place that’s a little further away from the chairlifts. So they chose half board rather than self-catering. So two of the group got leathered and made a bit of a racket at 3am while attempting to find their bunks in the dark. So… what?
In a group situation, you can expect to please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time – but not both. If things don’t quite go your way, then for the love of God, don’t say ‘I told you so’.
It may sound corny, but having the right attitude cannot be overstated. It’s never going to go 100% smoothly so take your cue from the Python boys and make the best of it.