It’s not often when you can be involved in a good positive way in the community you are part of. Being a biker I feel that doing good for the fellow bikers is good for me too. So, I’m very happy to be involved and try to help up the creation of Kevlar jeans for bikers which looks like it’s going t save some serious ass!
The good news is that you can do some good too! Support Tobacco Motorwear on kickstarter and this might save your ass someday. Here is the interview about the Kevlar Jeans with David Ackerman where he is explaining what is he up to and how you can help.
Robert: Yes, Christian, we are an independent company but official solution touring partner of BMW Turkey. We specialise in providing adventure motorcycle tours on the latest BMW bikes, the most popular being the BMW R1200 GS. We cater for intermediate to experienced riders who want to explore this fabulous country by motorcycle. Everyone in the company is an experienced rider and we pride ourselves in understanding the needs of the touring/adventure motorcyclist.
Cristian: How did you started? You are an Englishman but co-founded a motorcycle touring business in Turkey. I bet there is an interesting story behind this.
Robert: Yes, I was formerly a TV Director in the UK, it was a very stressful occupation and one day, after 27 years, I decided enough was enough. I packed up on an adventure and arrived in Turkey. Some called it a mid-life crisis, I call it mid-life heaven. I thought this was the best-kept secret in motorcycling. The riding here is something special and I wanted to share it with other bikers, hence the birth of Bike Turkey.
Robert: What might surprise a lot of people, is that Turkey has a huge ‘adventure biking fraternity’. There is also an advanced rider training programme that is second only to what is offered in the UK. As far I’m aware it’s the only place outside of the UK that you can take the IAM advanced riding exam and our group regularly run advanced courses from intermediate to instructor level. Over the years, through contact with other like-minded riders, we’ve built up a team of professionals who have become specialists in both touring and training. I believe we have one of the largest and most experienced teams of any bike touring company in the world.
Cristian: When thinking about motorcycle touring, most people think about touring in Europe. But from the pictures I saw on your site, Turkey might just be a lifetime experience. How would you describe touring in rural Turkey?
Robert: Turkey is the only country that spans two continents – Europe And Asia. Here there is complete freedom on a motorcycle. It’s a very bike-friendly country and wherever you go, you are greeted with warmth and hospitality. Combine that with wonderful weather, unbelievable scenery and amazing historical sites and you have a place that is like nowhere else on earth. True, at times the road surfaces might not be perfect, but we find that most riders don’t want the sterility of perfect asphalt and it’s the challenging days that they remember most. Also we ride here all-year round, so as you visit the same place during the different seasons, it’s never the same.
Cristian: What is the most spectacular tour you have?
Robert: Well I would say our tour to Cappadocia is the one that guests enjoy the most. The route to Cappadocia winds through miles of mountains and takes us along the beautiful coastal route of the Turquoise Mediterranean to turn inland and finally reach Cappadocia. The moonscape landscape there always leaves riders in awe. Sleeping in cave hotels, visiting the multi-storey underground cities where five or six thousand early settlers lived thousands of years ago and the opportunity to take a balloon ride and see the landscape from above is something really special and guests often vow to come back for longer.
Cristian: And how many tours in total?
Robert: We run a regular tour programme comprising of three different six-day tours for riders in need of a ‘weeks fix’ and three different ten-day tour programmes. Add to this weekend tours, special four day training tours and tailor made tours and it adds up to quite a lot. Next year we are introducing some longer expedition tours taking in Eastern and North Eastern Turkey. These are extreme places in the winter and so can only be accessed during the milder months. They will run around 21 days and will be for the more experienced adventure rider.
Cristian: You are also providing the rental bikes for the tour. What bikes do you provide?
Robert: We provide four main models from the BMW range. The workhorse being the R1200GS, if ever a bike was designed for a country it’s the GS for Turkey. During any single day of our tours, riders use every aspect of the GS’s capability. Whether it be fast road riding, comfort touring or some light off-road, the versatility of the bike, combined with the press button electronic suspension, is the perfect tool for these parts. We also offer the 650GS, 800GS and the adventure model for self-guide rentals.
Cristian: How does the touring go, let’s say from booking the tour? What are the main steps?
Robert: Guests normally have a few questions about a specific tour which we do our best to answer. Once they have decided to make a booking, they simply fill out the booking form, receive initial confirmation that the bikes/tour is reserved for them and then send a small deposit to secure the booking. If guests are self-guiding, we provide a suggested itinerary depending on there preferences. Guests then notify us of flight details and we arrange the rest, including airport transfers, hotels, etc. We normally provide an on-road support vehicle that can carry luggage, spares and a non-riding guest if they so choose.
Cristian: From what part of the World do most of your customers come?
Robert: The riders come from many places including, Australia, North and South America, South Africa, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, UK and of course many Turkish riders join us.
Cristian: Any great stories from the tours?
Robert: There was one group of five sports-bike riders that had only ever ridden on perfect, European asphalt. In fact they want to rent sports bikes, which we don’t supply. I think they were thinking that the GS might be a bit tame for them. However, they arrived and took the GS’s – all with the new 110HP boxer engine. After seeing and experiencing what the bikes could do in the right hands, on every type of road or terrain, they left with huge smiles on the faces and as converts to the GS. Back home four of them sold their sports bikes and now ride GS’s. They are returning next year!
Cristian: I know the Turkish cuisine is really mouth watering, so I’m sure the evenings are reserved to try different foods. What do you recommend?
Robert: Well we had a journalist from the USA visit us and this is what he wrote, do I need to say more?
“Dinner was a sumptuous blend of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, and we feasted on fried zucchini in garlic and yoghourt, grape leaves stuffed with rice and walnut and red pepper dip served with fresh, oven baked, flat bread. For the main course I had to go for the şiş kebab – skewered lamb cooked on charcoal with onions, peppers and herbs. With my taste buds buzzing and my willpower shot, I opted for the dessert of roasted sesame halva followed by Turkish coffee.”
Cristian: And to have an idea of how many of these spectacular dishes I could have, how many days is a typical tour?
Robert: Well all these dishes were just one meal, so one day might be enough! Seriously though, a 10 day tour covers the best locations and the best food.
Cristian: The riding season is about to start in Europe, so I guess bikers are already making plans for the next great tour they are going to have. What tour shouldn’t they miss this year from yours?
Robert: Well as I said, the Cappadocia tour is a ‘must’ for a first time visit to Turkey. I go there several times a year and I never tire of the wonderful landscape. Have a look at the pictures on our website:www.bike-turkey.com they say it all. And just on that point of the riding season, as I mentioned, with the climate here, we’re able to bike all year round, so there is no real set season for the biker. In the UK, I used to winter my bike for three months, but not here. We have riders visiting throughout the year and it’s worth mentioning we are only two and a half hours flying time from central Europe.
Cristian: Finally what would you say to riders considering Turkey as a touring vacation.
Robert: Of course I would say ‘come to Turkey’. But seriously, as our website slogan says – ‘it’s a bikers paradise’, and it really is. We can assure riders they will have an adventure of a lifetime that will have them wanting to return hopefully, time and time again.
Cristian: Hi Linda and thank you for accepting the interview. Tell us a few words about yourself.
Linda: I’m a team member with my husband, and we wear many hats… Architectural Design Business: Thornapple Design Company, my business training business: Training Focus, and our Motorcycle Tour Business: Canyon Vista Motorcycle Tours.
Cristian: So, you’re also running a motorcycle touring business? What is it about?
Linda: We cater to groups of 8 or more riders and provide tours customized to the group’s riding ability and interests. Most of our tours are headquartered in Historic Wellsboro, PA – home to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Scenic Route 6, and gateway to the PA Wilds. We also take groups into the Finger Lake District of Southern New York State, and often include “the other grand canyon of the east” – the Letchworth Gorge.
Cristian: What are the most appreciated tours?
Linda: The Big Woods West tour seems to be the most popular… it’s a great tour, and people usually find us when they’re looking for the PA Grand Canyon. It starts with a look at the canyon from above, and ends with dinner in the bottom of the canyon. Depending on the group’s interest, it can include a couple of historical museum stops, stops at MC Shops, a picnic lunch or lunch on your own. The tour moves into the big woods west of the PA Grand Canyon and includes scenic vistas along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, as well as a ride up the twists and turns to Hyner View. We often see hang gliders from that vista. We then come back down and follow the Pine Creek through the bottom of the canyon, stopping for dinner at one of our favorite Creek side restaurants, then back to Wellsboro by dark. Tours usually include 2 nights lodging, a welcome party or dinner on the first night, Breakfast Buffet before kick stands up, Dinner the night of the ride; a bountiful Breakfast Brunch at our historical hotel on Sunday morning, and a surprise route toward home for the group… selected after a brunch discussion. Our knowledgeable tour guide rides with the group for ½ a day, then sends them off toward home.
Cristian: Who is your typical customer?
Linda: We mostly get groups who ride together anyway… clubs, organizations, and families. We’ve had Suzuki groups, Harley Groups, Mixed groups, Scooters, … you name it. We really enjoy the Women’s groups we’ve had! They know how to be safe and have a good time together!
Cristian: How are these tours organized? I’m talking about the logistics.
Linda: it all starts with a look at our web site at WWW.CanyonVistaMotorcycleTours.com
Then a call to either myself, or Bob our tour director. (570-724-2535 or 570-439-1006 cell.) Usually we deal with a group representative, who speaks for the group. We discuss the options, suggest they meet with their group and fill out our Ride application, which points out the choices they have to make. Eventually, once a ride is established, we send individual registration sheets out for each rider to complete that tells us the sizes and makes of bikes, any medical issues, etc.
Payment is usually ½ down to hold the tour date, and the balance due 30 days in advance. One group evaluation commented that it felt like a free tour by the time they got here. Paying in two installments was easy. And it hardly cost them anything other than some souvenirs and private refreshments after they got here.
Cristian: What do the tours include?
Linda: Tours include 1 and ½ day (or more) touring with a knowledgeable guide who will provide historical background and interesting stories about the area you are visiting; lodging, most meals, special attractions, a welcome night party or dinner. Can include other options such as an ice cream or dinner train ride on the Tioga Central; a covered wagon ride through the canyon; whatever the group sets up. We do all of the booking and arranging, the group just comes and enjoys!
Cristian: How did you come with the idea?
Linda: Bob has been riding since he bought his first scooter – a Bella – when he was 14 years old. We’ve been riding in this area since we came here in l975, and love the area. Bob figured we’d get to share the area we love with others, we’d help the community by bringing people here, and mostly, he’d get to go riding more and not feel guilty that he wasn’t working! We both love meeting the people and making good things happen for them.
Cristian: What would you say it’s different about the way you’re doing tours?
Linda: Ours are very personal… customized to suit the group. And we are personally involved with all the groups. We’ve made good friends along the way. Some of the comments are that the riders feel like they know us! We treat them like good friends and/or family and try to provide the kind of experience we’d like to have.
Cristian: Any success stories you would like to share?
Linda: Wow! I guess the very first tour we did was a success story because we were new at it and had a group of over 30 people as our first time out. I don’t know if Bob was as nervous as I was… but it all went really well with no major problems.
But as far as real successes, being chosen to do a tour option for the International Norton Owners Association annual Rally was a great experience. They were “camped” just outside of Wellsboro, and we provided a day tour to Watkins Glen, as described above , for I think 58 of them. It was so cool seeing them all lined up ready to take off from Ives Run Camp Ground, and then watching them along the highway! We brought them back to Wellsboro for a Bike Night sponsored by Canyon Vista and The Frog Hut. We’re still friends with a lot of those riders.
Cristian: What are the most important benefits as opposed to hitting the road by yourself?
Linda: Our Tour director knows the roads in the area, and will take you on roads you might find by yourself, but probably not on your first time out… or even second or third. He also keeps track of construction on the roads, and any issues that need to be dealt with. Because we live here, we know what’s going on where and when, and will provide that info to our groups. For example, we do not recommend a tour during Wellsboro’s Annual Laurel Festival which brings 40,000 people to the area, and fills all of the lodging a year in advance. The roads we’d like to travel are crowded at that time as well. It just isn’t a good time for a tour. A great time to come to Wellsboro for the Festival, however.
Another benefit is the safety factor. CVMctours has contacts in all of the places we ride incase we have a breakdown of any kind (people or bikes). If we have larger groups, we provide extra follow riders who communicate with the leader. Keeps us from losing any stragglers and we know if there is a problem behind us.
Cristian: Riding the motorcycle is also about food (at least in my case). What would be the most interesting places to eat in your tours?
Linda: Arrival night could be hearty snacks and beverages by the pool at the motel; a sit down white table cloth dinner at a local restaurant; a family style dinner at another restaurant; fun food like smoked pork barbecue or dynamite fried chicken or burgers at our local Dairy Bar – The Frog Hut; or bar food and beverages at one of our taverns who serve food.
Dinner in the Canyon overlooking Pine Creek is a great place to eat- everything from fantastic cheese steak sandwiches to pasta dinners. Depending on the size of the group and the weather, we can eat out on the deck and often see eagles, deer and fishermen. One group was large enough that they actually catered a Barbecue for us out on the lawn by the creek.
Brunch at the Penn Wells hotel is copious! There is food for breakfast or dinner spread out on the hot and cold buffet and it is all you can eat! Usually there is even a chocolate fountain for covering strawberries, pretzels, or sweets! And Starbucks Coffee.
In Watkins Glen we like to stop at the Seneca Harbor, which has a wonderful selection of great food and looks out over the length of Seneca Lake.
We try to schedule some ice cream stops along the way as well. Seems that Motorcycle riders crave ice cream!
Cristian: What makes a perfect tour in your opinion?
Linda: Having everything run smoothly as planned and everyone having a great time and getting along well, and all telling us at the end that they want to come back! Bob and I feel personally responsible… just as we would if we invited a group to our home for a party. We want everyone to be safe and have fun!
Cristian: I bet you get to meet a lot of nice folks on the bike on tours. But what about the friendship of bikers?
Linda: We’ve established some good friendships on the rides that we keep in touch with. We have two guys who come back every year and become the core group (which has now extended to include two other guys) for our “European/British bikes tour excursion” This one we let people sign into as singles or couples and actually build the group. That has been fun, and we’ve seen friendships develop with the riders as well.
Cristian: Tell me a bit about Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes/Glen Curtis Tour
Linda: This tour starts, like the others, in Wellsboro, with the group arriving in the evening – usually a Friday evening, though we encourage week day tours. In the morning, after breakfast, Bob leads them north on a surreptitious route toward Watkins Glen. Depending on the plan for the day, the tour may include the Glen Curtis Museum on the way, or wait and do that after the Watkins Glen part of the tour. The Museum features motorcycles and sea planes and a lot of history about a man who was once billed as “The fastest man on earth” on a motorcycle. He was a pioneer of flying at the same time the Wright Brothers were working on their planes. Lots of good History.
In Watkins Glen, if the timing is right and there are no races going on, we can arrange to get the group on several laps of the race track behind a pace car. One of our other loves is Vintage Racing, and Bob and I both work with the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association and the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Committee to help put on the Vintage Festival held in the Glen each September. So, Bob has lots of stories to tell about how racing started in Watkins Glen. After leaving the track he will lead the group along the original race through the streets and back into town for dinner at the Seneca Harbor. Then a leisurely trip back home… with maybe an ice cream stop along the way.
Cristian: If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?
Linda: I wouldn’t try to do my own Web Site to begin with. The second one we did was so much better and was done by someone who knows what they are doing: Electron Monkey from Wellsboro. . We’re about to work together to re-do it again, just because it’s time for a change. Otherwise, I think we’ve done pretty well. We tweak and change a bit each time we do a tour, so it gets better and better, but it’s all worked well for us.
Cristian: And any plans for the future?
Linda: We plan to keep the tours we have, but are looking at some other options… just expansion on what we already do. Always looking for better ways to get the word out to people, so I really appreciate your interview, Christian.
You can contact Canyon Vista Motorcycle Tours at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 570-439-1006.