Martin Muller is an Explore Tour Leader who we also work closely with to design and build new tours across the world. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his life on two wheels...
How did you come to work in cycling?
By sheer coincidence! I'd been riding bikes all my life but only bumped into the tourism side of it when a specialist travel agent in Barcelona needed some Tour Leaders for cycling tours in 1999. After that I never looked back!
How long have you been running cycling tours for Explore?
For a long time! I first started in 2005 and have led tours all over the world for almost ten years now.
Which ones do you lead?
Of those tours currently offered by Explore, I lead or have led Cycle Nicaragua to the Panama Canal, Cycle Cuba!, Cycle the Backroads of Cuba, Backroads and Tea Trails and Cycle Spain, Morocco and Gibralter. A great selection!
What is it about the destinations you lead in that makes them good for exploring by bike?
The good thing about them is that all these tours are not too demanding. They're mainly riding on tarmac and so allow anyone with normal fitness to have a great time and see things up close along the way. While providing gentle exercise, the holidays don't become too exhausing a workout or a technical challenge.
Do you need to be an expert and experienced cyclist to join an Explore cycling tour?
Not at all; the great thing about them is that they're for anyone in decent shape, regardless of whether you're an experienced cyclist or not.
What equipment do people need to bring with them?
I'd say the best things to bring if you have them are padded cycling pants to make cycling more comfortable, cycling gloves, lycra shirts (or similar tops suitable for cycling) a water bottle and a helmet. Then you'll be good to go.
What sort of bikes are provided?
We include the use of bikes in the tour prices which helps when budgetting. The tours I lead use hybrid bikes with 24 or 27 gears, front suspension and a pannier for day things.
Are hybrid bikes sturdy enough for bad roads?
Absolutely; the thicker tyres give the feel of additional suspension and the riding position in general is so much more relaxed than on a mountain bike. The large 28 inch wheels make it better as well; I wouldn't want to ride 40 or 50 miles on good tarmac roads using a mountain bike with 26 inch wheels - the hybrids are definitely the best for the tours.
Can customers cycle at their own pace?
That depends on each tour and even each day of the tour. Often we'll arrange meeting points along the way where everyone gathers to wait for each other, or on some days you can pace it for a good length of the ride at your own preference. This will all be made clear at the start of each ride so everyone knows what they're doing and where they need to be.
Would you advise people bring their own pedals or own seat on a tour?
Bringing your own gear is no problem; we can quickly fit it to our bikes to make your holiday more comfortable. It's not necessary though as we will provide them and ensure everything is suitable for you before we start any rides.
Are there support vehicles available during the rides?
On most tours there is a support vehicle with the group almost every day. In Cuba, Central America and Sri Lanka it goes one step further with passengers easily able to take a break by skipping sections of a ride and sitting on the support bus if they need to.
Any advice for people joining one of your cycling holidays?
Relax! Any worries people have are usually unfounded; many people worry about not being able to complete any climbs which are on the itinerary - but it's usually great fun to conquer and see yourself achieve more than you thought possible!
What's your favourite thing about being an Explore Tour Leader?
Meeting new people from so many different parts of the world. The tours are often a truly international gathering and people can learn so much from each other.
Do you have any favourite memories of life on tour?
Many! One which comes to mind is dancing into the night at a party we organized with the group in a local farmer's home in the Cuban countryside with spit roast pork being prepared under the stars. Or the visit to the snake bite natural healer in a Sri Lankan village, when he presented the different poisonous local snakes to us, right there in front of him; he was talking and laughing and barefoot...
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not Tour Leading? How do you spend your leisure time?
I have a weak spot about old motorcycles and love fixing or restoring them. I'm all about the bikes!
Find out more about all our cycling holidays.