An Interview with the Founder

We sat down for an interview with Tony Blakey, the founder of LifeCycle Adventures to understand why he started the business and to understand how it has evolved over the years.

Why did you start the company?

In my past life, I worked as a management consultant in London.  In 2001, I took a sabbatical to spend time riding from village to village across the Pyrenees Mountains.  From that point I was hooked on bike touring and started to dream about starting a cycling business.  After moving to San Francisco, I finally worked up the courage to leave the corporate world and start LifeCycle Adventures.

What is special about a Lifecycle Adventure’s bike tour?

It was – and still is – important to me that LifeCycle Adventures isn’t just another group tour operator.  I want to give guests flexibility and options; combining advice from locals while giving them the freedom to discover by themselves.

I also want our service to be personal and attentive, but it shouldn’t get in the way of our guests creating their own adventures.

This flexibility and independence is found in both our Self-Guided and Private Guided tours.

What is a typical tour?

All our tours are private and typically cater to smaller groups.  For example, most of our self-guided tours are for a couple or a small group of friends.  Our Private Guided tours tend to be for extended family groups or larger groups of friends – typically 6 to 12 people.

Because the tours are private, the guests choose their start date, how long they travel for, and what level of accommodation they stay at.  When on tour, the guide does not have to manage a large group of disparate guests. Rather they are totally focused on you and your group.

We also prefer not to tell guests what to do.  Our style is to provide information so that guests can decide for themselves what they do.  Some days this might mean doing a big ride in the hills.  On other days, it might mean doing an easy cruise with a long, leisurely lunch at a small vineyard.

How has the company changed since it first started?

We started out just running tours in the California Wine Country and all the tours were run by me.  Now we have guides all over North America and Europe.  But our ethos is unchanged: helping guests discover for themselves with personalized service and customized itineraries.

The other major change is that, when we started, all our guests were new to LifeCycle Adventures.  Now more than half our guests are repeat travelers or referred to us by someone who has travelled with us before.

How has your role changed since you started the company?

When I started the company, I would do everything: design the tours, sell the trips, prep the bikes, guide the trips, and clean the vans.  While I still enjoy being hands-on, I’m now more focused on developing new areas and improving how we deliver an exceptional experience for guests whilst on tour.

What has been your greatest challenge in relation to LifeCycle Adventures?

Without a doubt, our most challenging year was 2020, during the COVID pandemic.  The whole industry shut down and we needed to cancel all our booked tours.  However, I’m very proud of how we were able to take care of our guests as well as weather the storm as a business.  Thankfully, we have bounced back stronger and our current bookings are almost double pre-pandemic levels.

What’s your favorite memory related to starting LifeCycle Adventures

In 2015, I moved to Tuscany with my wife and two young sons to create our first European tours.  We lived in a small Tuscan village, our children went to the local school, and our daily bike rides were through the Tuscan countryside.  As you can imagine, I have many fond memories of that time.

What are you currently working on?

I’m very excited by the two areas we have in development: Croatia and the Loire Valley.  When I lived in Italy, I’d often go through Slovenia to ride in Croatia.  It’s a very beautiful country with a rich cultural history.  I’m also a massive fan of the Loire Valley.  The castles and food are world class.  It’s also a great destination for guests who want some more gentle riding.  As I get older, I can certainly appreciate that!

My other big project at the moment is redesigning all our tour materials.  Historically, we have had the best guidebooks, directions and cycling maps of any tour operator.  We are now in the process of redesigning and rewriting all our guidebooks.  We are also building an app that gives guests all the information they need to travel from hotel to hotel whilst exploring the area they travel through.  (Obviously, we will also have paper copies available for those that don’t want to use their phones on vacation.)  With the guidebook and the app, our aim is to allow guests to direct their own immersive exploration – whatever that means to them.