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‘Airbnb’ of mountain biking… crazy? stupid?

HOME FORUM RIDING FEELS GOOD FORUM TALKING ABOUT BIKES ‘Airbnb’ of mountain biking… crazy? stupid?

This topic contains 15 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Dirty C4 3 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #815338

    sacredridesmtb
    Participant

    Hey all, as some of you know, Sacred Rides (based here into Toronto) has been offering award-winning mountain bike tours around the world for over 20 years. I’ve been blessed to make this my life and to travel the world with my mountain bike.

    For the last year and a half I’ve been working on a program to enable passionate mountain bikers around the world (like yourselves) to do the same: earn a living (or at least some extra $) on your mountain bikes.

    The result is our new Getaways program http://sacredrid.es/2kSe5Pt We have 20 affiliates already launched and offering 1 and 2-day mountain bike adventures in their backyard, and we are looking to bring on 100 more this year.

    We provide everything you could possibly need to get up and running as quickly as possible: a beautiful website, an advanced booking and operations system, marketing training and materials, operations and guide training, industry discounts on bikes and other gear, and much much more.

    I’d love to know what you all think of this. Is it crazy? Awesome? Stupid? Revolutionary? All of the above?

    p.s. I’m happy to accept criticism and helpful suggestions about the program, but please know we didn’t go about this quickly or lightly. We’ve put a TON of work into this program and into developing the tools and training our affiliates need in order to succeed and offer safe, amazing adventures on their local trails. All of our affiliates will be required to have permits and insurance and undergo extensive training.

    If you have issues with it and want to give me feedback and criticism, that’s great (and appreciated), but if you just want to shit-talk the idea because you like shit-talking other people’s ideas instead of coming up with your own, why not find another thread to waste your time on?

    #815342

    Whynot
    Participant

    Curious… but linky no worky to get further info 😉

    Sounds like either a franchise or the uber model applied to guiding.

    Curious if affiliates could benefit from group insurance through the company…. insurance is best when diluted to share cost and risk, and this is likely one of the biggest costs your affiliates will face (liability insurance in some provinces may be prohibitive for an individual). Something to consider to reduce the barriers a potential affiliate may face and help you reach your goal.

    My primary concern is as a contributing member to a trail organization. I’m not immediately thrilled with the idea of someone making a commercial living off of the the memberships’ funds and handiwork. I hope you are encouraging – if not mandating – that your affiliates contribute a portion of their operating income to the association(s) that provide them with the trails they will be using for commercial purposes. At minimum any rider, affiliate and customer, should be required to pay for all related trail passes, including an annual membership if day passes are not available, even both are optional.

    Sounds interesting and viable (except the insurance thing, I know what I pay as a business consultant, can’t imagine what the cost would be with a real present risk of personal injury), just make sure to consider the impact to the local riding community, especially those where the existence of MTB infrastructure may already be tenuous.

    And don’t be uber, regulations that tell a tale of employment while skirting the responsibilities that come as an employer under the guise of independence.

    Best of luck!

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    #815349

    fietser
    Participant

    Interesting @sacredridesmtb

    Also peaked my curiosity so I took a minute to check it out, here is the link @whynothttp://getaways.sacredrides.com/become-a-guide

    It is clear you have put a lot of time and effort into the program – very comprehensive.

    I will echo the concerns that were already mentioned about the effect that increased use with the potential of no checks and balances will have on trail networks (kinda like Trailforks – in a local context anyway). In the brief amount of reading that I did the only mention of funds being directed back to trails was (under ‘What does it cost?”) – ‘The projects funds will fund trail maintenance and other community projects in Gateway locations around the world’ – so I guess not necessarily on the trails that you might be ‘guiding’ on – did I read that correctly?

    I think the concept is cool – riding with locals, I always try and do this when traveling with my bike. However, my concern would be the sustainability of the program in some locations – let’s say, oh, Toronto for example. I think it would be awesome to have a couple day ‘getaway’ showcasing the trails that run through the Ravines with stops at local establishments and the like as part of the package (it seems that is the Sacred Rides model – I don’t know that much about them). Needless to say there is ample opportunity for people off the bike as well (or non-riders). However, I wonder how this works when trails are informal and not ‘maintained’ by any official group? Where does this leave the liability if someone were to get hurt (I know you mentioned insurance)? Who maintains these ‘informal’ trails? I see that permits etc. are the requirement of the Guide but if there are no permits to be had, due to the trails not officially existing, can the guide still run the rides?

    I can see this model working in locations where there is an legal established network of trails and a dedicated group who will receive funds which can be put back into the trail network how the membership sees fit (it looks like there is already an excursion to Turkey Point?). In these cases it could be an excellent way for trail organizations to potentially increase revenue and great potential to draw in local businesses who could benefit from increase tourism dollars. (Heck maybe the CoT would want to partner with you to legitimatize the trails… not sure how the community/ builders would feel about that…)

    On the flip side, if I were a hard working volunteer I would perhaps questions the ability for someone to make a profit off of what I was doing for free. Obviously, these are discussions that would need to be had by Clubs and hopefully the membership as well.

    Be really interested to hear some of the many Ontario based MTB clubs and members weigh in on this model. Have you already been approached by potential ‘guides’? Are you open to commercial operations on Club maintained trails? Do you have a choice under your permits/ landmanager agreements?

    #815356

    Tom Shaw
    Participant

    SCMBC is a trail building and maintaining club. Everything we do is viewed through that window. If it makes money for the trails without interfering with regular riders fun then it sounds good. But if it just promotes use without trail work support then why would we want it ?

    Always open to ideas.

    #815362

    Whynot
    Participant

    i think this is the issue that must be addressed. The comparison to Airbnb isn’t accurate – the service providers do not own the infrastructure related to the service they are providing.

    Think of the good folks down at Kingston MTB. Stellar, private trails. This is a great opportunity for them to bring in new riders and expand their business. But if I rolled up with a small crew to take on a guided ride unannounced and tried to ride without paying fees I doubt they’d be very impressed. Trail orgs on publicly available land and public land would rightly have similar concerns (which raises whether the TRCA and similar bodies would even allow the use of their land for private commercial operations… which may sadly kill the concept for a lot of riders here in Ontario given how little land is truly public).

    #815363

    fietser
    Participant

    Sooooo, since I hadn’t heard back from @sacredridesmtb yet about and I was still curious I decided to look (briefly) into permits. Truth be told the City of Toronto Fun Guide just came out and I was flipping through it while my kids were at swimming lessons last night and stumbled upon the permit section at the back.

    While it isn’t exactly riding bikes I think Boot Camps would be not too far of a stretch for comparison purposes here – but maybe I am wrong? I just figured it is a fitness/ recreational activity by a private business/ person for paying clients using public lands in Toronto. In any event, it is possible to get a permit (http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=9bb1c7f33c551410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextchannel=3f4adada600f0410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD ) to run a Boot Camp, it is called a Commercial Recreation Permit. However, while most green spaces are available to ‘permit’ (rates are by the hour) it stipulates that the following areas are not available for recreational permits:

    Natural or environmentally sensitive areas including: designated ravines, wooded or savannah areas, sites of natural and/or scientific interest, areas which have undergone significant habitat restoration, wetlands or their buffer zones

    Given that information, it seems like it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that obtaining a permit to guide a group of riders (for commercial/ profit purposes) on Toronto trails which tend to be in designated ravines (Etobicoke Creek, Don Valley etc.) would not be possible.

    This is not my area of expertise so if I am way off feel free to let me know.

    Thanks for weighing in from a club perspective @tom_shaw – reality is that many club trails/ zones in areas outside of the GTA will likely be the focus of destinations rides that are marketed through this ‘Getaway Program’ makes sense right? Who doesn’t like getting away from the City to ride trails?

    @sacredridesmtb – not trying to fling poo here just trying to have an honest conversation about the program. I know you are likely a busy person but you obviously chose to engage the community here and it would be great to hear back from you regarding some of the points that have been raised in the thread.

    Thanks (I would say Happy Trails but I think you are in TO and there is sadly nothing happy about the trails given our current weather)

    #815364

    sacredridesmtb
    Participant

    Hey Fietser, thanks for your post. It has been a busy week indeed, and it’s great to see some good dialogue going on around this. I’m going to respond in more detail in a couple of hours and I also invite anyone who wants to chat directly to email me at mike@sacredrides.com.

    #815366

    Tom Shaw
    Participant

    sacredridesmtb would there be any interest in being a club sponsor of the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club ?

    Club Sponsors

    We are one of the largest clubs in Ontario so you will have many eyeballs on your business giving some good exposure. It is only $500 per year and all of it will be spent on singletrack building and maintaining. We are always on the lookout for ways to fund our good works because there is lots of fantastic land to expand our growing system.

    Singletrack funding ideas and helpful suggestions are most welcome. Please let us know what you think when you have some time to comment. Thanks in advance.


    Attachments:
    #815370

    sacredridesmtb
    Participant

    Curious… but linky no worky to get further info 😉

    Sounds like either a franchise or the uber model applied to guiding.

    Curious if affiliates could benefit from group insurance through the company…. insurance is best when diluted to share cost and risk, and this is likely one of the biggest costs your affiliates will face (liability insurance in some provinces may be prohibitive for an individual). Something to consider to reduce the barriers a potential affiliate may face and help you reach your goal.

    My primary concern is as a contributing member to a trail organization. I’m not immediately thrilled with the idea of someone making a commercial living off of the the memberships’ funds and handiwork. I hope you are encouraging – if not mandating – that your affiliates contribute a portion of their operating income to the association(s) that provide them with the trails they will be using for commercial purposes. At minimum any rider, affiliate and customer, should be required to pay for all related trail passes, including an annual membership if day passes are not available, even both are optional.

    Sounds interesting and viable (except the insurance thing, I know what I pay as a business consultant, can’t imagine what the cost would be with a real present risk of personal injury), just make sure to consider the impact to the local riding community, especially those where the existence of MTB infrastructure may already be tenuous.

    And don’t be uber, regulations that tell a tale of employment while skirting the responsibilities that come as an employer under the guise of independence.

    Best of luck!

    Hi Whynot,

    thanks for your comments – great feedback.

    1) Here is the proper link (doh!): http://sacredrid.es/2kWgFbg

    2) Yes, we have sourced group insurance rates for our affiliates – in Canada and the USA so far. It took a lot of work, but we managed to find insurance for as low as $850/year (depending on total aggregate coverage amount desired/required for permits). We’re still stickhandling to try and find even better rates, but so far that’s pretty good. Next job will be to find brokers who can help our international affiliates.

    3) Good relationships with stakeholders, clubs, riding groups, community groups and others have always been a big part of our mandate. Over the years we have donated tens of thousands of dollars to clubs and community organizations and we recognize it would be unethical and, frankly, bad business to allow people to profit off of the hard work and labour of others.

    So with that in mind…

    A) 5% of every booking under this program will go to a fund that will give back to local communities. Local clubs and trail maintenance orgs will be a big focus of the fund, but we are also looking at projects that encourage people to enjoy and try out mountain biking, and that provide access to the sport who can’t otherwise afford it (there are some great nonprofits doing this type of work).

    We’re still exploring whether that means dividing up funds equally among all destinations, or selecting a few orgs/clubs each year to be able to offer fewer but much more significant donations (this could be the type of thing where all of our affiliates can submit proposals and then they all collectively vote on where the funds go). Feedback is welcome on this.

    B) Affiliates are strongly encouraged to purchase a corporate membership with, or donate to, any local club or trail maintenance org that oversees the trails they’re guiding on.

    C) Affiliates are also strongly encouraged to donate their time, and their guides’ time, toward trail maintenance and trail building.

    With respect to B and C… We cannot feasibly enforce or ‘police’ this all over the world. What we are doing is communicating to our affiliates that their success is inextricably linked to their standing as good corporate and good mountain bike citizens in their local community. Affiliates cannot succeed if they are creating resentment in the community, and conversely, their good efforts will be rewarded with support in the local community.

    I should note that most of, if not all of, our existing affiliates already have deep roots in their communities and are already contributing their time, and this is part of the vetting process, but if they are not already then we are strongly encouraging them to do so.

    4) And yes, definitely not going to follow the Uber model/philosophy (FYI, 50% of our office staff are women, and we make a lot of efforts to involve more women in the industry and the sport)

    I appreciate all of the feedback and passion in this thread, and welcome further discussion (I’ll try and find some time this weekend to respond to all of the other posts – but I have 3 young kids and they tend to take up most of my time on the weekend).

    Cheers,
    Mike

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    #815371

    repack
    Participant

    As I recall the issue of permits specific to the Don valley came up several years ago, and I believe sacred rides indicated they had the appropriate permits at that time. Boot camps I think is the model that well matches the guided rides that were offered directly by sacred rides over the years. My guess is that the affiliate model of business works around permits, although perhaps sacred rides would confirm otherwise. I’ve actually no objection, assuming a percentage of fees like 5% does come back to the trails in some form, I don’t think it has to be via city permits per se.

    #815372

    sacredridesmtb
    Participant

    As I recall the issue of permits specific to the Don valley came up several years ago, and I believe sacred rides indicated they had the appropriate permits at that time. Boot camps I think is the model that well matches the guided rides that were offered directly by sacred rides over the years. My guess is that the affiliate model of business works around permits, although perhaps sacred rides would confirm otherwise. I’ve actually no objection, assuming a percentage of fees like 5% does come back to the trails in some form, I don’t think it has to be via city permits per se.

    @repack We applied for permits with the city. After about 6 months, someone from the city told me “It’s going to take a while, but in the meantime you have our tacit approval to go ahead.” Which we did for 2 years. In the meantime, I kept at the city to get official permits (it made me nervous to operate with only verbal approval). I called every week for almost 2 years. In the end, our permit crossed no fewer than 18 desks. I finally gave up and we stopped doing the camps because I didn’t want to get shut down in the middle of doing a camp.

    Hopefully the city has cleaned up their bureaucracy a bit, but I doubt it. That would be a solid mandate for Tory to pursue that I would get behind.

    #815416

    fietser
    Participant

    @sacredridesmtb thanks for the replies always great to see people in the industry engaging with the community here.

    As per your comment regarding the City and bureaucracy, I think it is fair to say little if anything has changed in that regard. Glacial pace is a term I often hear when people are referencing change and approvals with the City.

    It was interesting to hear that someone invested in the MTB industry ‘gave up’ on the City due to frustration when dealing with the red tape/ bureaucracy around permits etc. (specifically where mountain bikes on trails were concerned) . I say this because this seems to be the long documented outcome of engaging with the City where bikes/ trails are concerned. I am sure many who have experienced the same level of stagnation and run around in a volunteer capacity would be comforted to hear their experience is not unlike that of companies who have paid employees trying to accomplish things with the City.

    As a fellow parent, I was somewhat saddened to once again see no bike programming in the City of Toronto’s Fun Guide this season. I would have hoped that by this point in time the City would have been able to put together some programming at Sunnyside to help fund the facility with at least some sort of user pay/ programming fee (not unlike other City Recreation infrastructure). Next door in Mississauga they seem to have this figured out for their dirt jump facility in Clarkson ( https://www.activemississauga.ca/#/registered-programs?search=Bike&category=all-programs&page=1). If the City isn’t going to be providing the recreational programming and experiences that people are looking for than it strikes me as odd that they are not allowing private companies to step in.

    #815481

    Dirty C4
    Participant

    Think of the good folks down at Kingston MTB. Stellar, private trails. This is a great opportunity for them to bring in new riders and expand their business.

    Just to be clear , MTB Kingston trails are entirely on private land, not a public land system. It has taken many years of work to get land owners to allow us access. And the only way to access is if you are a member of MTB Kingston. So even if one wanted to guide groups there one would have to not only engage the club to discuss if this was a direction it wanted to go. Then you would have to deal with each individual land owner as this obviously would be a completely different agreement from the club.

    Racing is a completely different set up.

    Now, we have run into major problems in the last year of trespassers riding without a membership. And with a new land owner we have to be careful. So now days the ride tag rules are strictly enforced.

    #815484

    repack
    Participant

    Re bike programming, while not a city initiative per se I was encouraged to see a bike oriented programme at Brickworks for this summer. It’s only offered for a few weeks, so still not certain whether I can fit it in to our schedule. I suspect an organization like Brick works probably has access at city hall that individual entrepreneurs can only dream of, but at least it’s something.

    #815485

    Tom Shaw
    Participant

    I hear really good things about MTB Kingston. Amazing what has been put together there by a dedicated group of people using their own money to build something cool. The club I volunteer for is mostly public land open to all, but we need and have private connectors to link up more public tracts. The land owners we speak to are fine with the 1000 or so members with names and addresses using their property for a club rental fee, but do not want it open to the world, same as MTB Kingston. We have tags and are trying to get everyone to hang them. most do. Trespassing remains an issue that is currently halting our expansion.

    Dirty C4 if you do not mind, would you share ideas MTB Kingston is using to lessen the amount of offenders?

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