It’s officially the season for cycling tour guide recruitment and hiring. All the major companies are accepting applications for guides and trip leaders for the 2014 season.
If you dream of ditching your cubicle and getting paid to ride bikes for a living, working as a cycling tour guide can be a spectacular dream job. However, there is a lot more to the job than riding your bike around Europe for the summer. The top companies like Backroads, Trek Travel and Duvine want foreign language fluency, gourmet food and wine knowledge, mechanical skills, leadership skills and over-the-top customer service, all while having limitless energy and enthusiasm. In other words, they demand perfection.
Here are 6 things to consider when interviewing or taking a job with one of the major tour companies.
1. Interview process
You will likely have at least one Skype interview before being invited to a group hiring interview. Be prepared to be interviewed in whichever foreign language you speak, as well as your native language. This is something you can’t fake. Also, do your research on food and wine of the region of Europe you’re applying to work in.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a group hiring interview, realize that you will pay your own way to the interview location. Whether you travel to their US office or a European office, be prepared to pay for your airfare, hotel, food, and all ground transportation to and from the interview.
The group interview itself is usually with 30-40 people and will include public speaking, bike mechanics and teamwork exercises, and role playing in various customer service situations. There will likely be another interview in your non-native language as well.
2. The European tour season
If you are hired to work in Europe and you live in the US, there are good chances that you will be away from home from April through October. If you have a family, this might present some difficulty. The company should pay your airfare at the very beginning and very end of the season, but in the middle you will likely stay in local guide housing with other staff working in your same region.
3. Long working hours
Your work day will go well beyond the scheduled daily ride itinerary. Before the actual tour starts, there will be days of prep at the warehouse, then days of driving to your tour location. During the actual tour, you will need to get up before breakfast to prep food, load vans, ride all day, unload vans, wash 10-20 bikes, be cheerful and engaging at dinner, and generally make sure every guest has the time of their lives, when all you really want to do is collapse into bed. This will happen for 7-14 days in a row.
4. Wages and Tips
In the industry, daily rates for first-year guides range from $75 – $150 per day while guiding a tour. There is also an hourly rate for prep days, travel days, and training days. Working 12-15 hour days like I described above, you can do the math. Tips from tour guests can be a nice part of a guide’s compensation, though they are never guaranteed.
5. You might not be cycling all the time
Even though you’re a cycling tour guide, you might not be riding every day. Warehouse work, support van driving, luggage transfer, food shopping, sight seeing detours, and picnic preparation are all important behind-the-scenes parts of the job. You will likely be working with one other guide, and can expect to alternate riding and van driving days with them.
None of the above is meant to discourage you, but meant to give you a very real, non-romantic portrait of what it’s like to be a guide. It’s hard work, but also highly rewarding. It’s Europe and you’re getting paid to tour there all summer! I’ve met some absolutely amazing and inspirational people that I’m still dear friends with, and have been to some equally splendid places in Europe. It really can be a dream job for the right person.
Any guides care to share other tips? Have further questions about being a guide? Let’s chat in the comments!