Inverness-based H+I Adventures have just launched shorter trips to four of their key destinations aimed at intermediate riders.
Pete had a chat with H+I Adventures’ main man Euan Wilson to find out more about the Espresso Adventures and launching new trips in the current climate.
What was the impetus for offering shorter trips?
We’ve always been confident in our model of crafting 7-to-13-day mountain bike adventures across the globe. We like having the time to get to know our riders, enabling them to really get under the skin of a destination and build a connection with the culture of that place, as well as with their fellow riders. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that travel habits are changing, as a result of “that which shall not be named,” and to ignore that, sticking resolutely to what we know, would be foolish.
Having had our movements restricted for such a long time means that, when we are all free to travel again, there are so many things we want to do, places we want to go, people we want to spend time with, so it’s potentially a bit more difficult to commit to a full week – or more – of riding bikes in beautiful places.
The prospect of escaping for a long weekend is more achievable for many people right now, and we wanted to be able to satisfy that desire in our riders, as well as attracting some fresh faces into the H+I family.
How did you narrow it down to the four locations?
As well as the time factor, there’s also a geographical shift to consider; that’s to say that people are planning to travel more locally or regionally for the next while. So, we focused on creating adventure-packed long weekends in the Highlands for our UK rider base, and in mainland Europe (Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, to start) for our European riders.
With travel restrictions in place for most of last year we weren’t able to research and develop new destinations, which would normally take anything up to two years and multiple visits in-country, as well as prospective new guides coming to Scotland for training. That meant we had to work with our existing, trusted teams, whom we asked to create something new and different from what we were already offering in that region.
How do this fit into the greater H+I picture?
Prior to “that which shall not be named” we had already started looking at regional and domestic travel, to offer ways for our riders to minimise their travel miles, as part of a much wider company strategy to manage our carbon footprint. We had to pause the development of this strategy last year, but we will be picking it up again in 2021.
Do you plan to expand the shorter trips to more locations?
Yes, we’re in discussion with other destinations at the moment and planning more in Scotland as well, when the weather improves, travel restrictions are lifted and we can get out to recce trails again.
Will you offer these shorter trips to less experienced riders?
We have two intermediate E-MTB Espresso Adventures on the menu just now, and we will be developing further MTB and E-MTB tours for less experienced riders. These shorter adventures are an ideal way to introduce new people to the joy of travelling by mountain bike or e-mountain bike. Diving straight into a week-long tour can be a bit daunting for a first-time MTB traveller.
Have you had to overcome any major obstacles to get to this point?
No more than any other travel company living through this whole experience
We were delighted to be able to travel to Tuscany at the end of August last year, where we ran a very successful media camp for Shimano. It was a real challenge to pull this one off, having had to change locations at the last minute because of new travel restrictions, and managing all of the health and safety protocols on location, whilst still trying to deliver an enjoyable experience for journalists, and a successful product launch event for Shimano. But everyone pulled together to make it work and we had great support from the local team on trail and in resort, who made us feel like nothing was too much trouble.
Being able to get on a plane again at all was a thrill, but travelling to such a beautiful location, with amazing weather, delicious food and drink, and outstanding trails, was pretty special. The company wasn’t bad either.
I think we probably have a slightly different perspective on the term ‘disaster’ now, so… no. Thankfully, no disasters.
Where next for H+I?
In the immediate future we’re focusing squarely on quality of experience. Our international guide team are using this ‘downtime’ to work together on our in-house training programme (online, of course), led by our Guide Trainer Chris. The purpose of this is to keep each others’ spirits up at this difficult time and to share knowledge and experience to keep their skills sharp, at least from a theoretical perspective. Having waited so long to join one of our tours it’s essential that every one of our riders has the very best experience we can give them, wherever they travel to.
After that, we’re looking forward to getting back out on the trails to develop new Espresso Adventures, and new once-in-a-lifetime adventures. We’ll also be working on our long-term strategy for mitigating our environmental impact.
You can check out H+I Adventures’ shorter Espresso Adventures on their website here.
Read our Wise Words interview with H+I co-founder Euan Wilson here.