SAVVY CYCLING TOURS
“I am not a travel agent or a professional tour operator. While I do pick the tour’s location, designate our charity partner and negotiate with the hotel, I do not do this as a business or plan the event to make a profit. I use these trips to make new friends and as a vehicle to fund those charities whose good works help make the world a better place for all.” Richard Sheff, Director Sportif
I have known Richard Sheff for over 20 years now. In fact, he was on the cover of this magazine about 15 years ago. We are both members of the Bicycle Club of Irvine, but there is one thing that sets Richard apart from all the other 350 members – he is the creator and director of Savvy Cycling Tours.
Just the name “Savvy Cycling Tours” is pretty catchy for a bicycle tour group. I suppose Richard came up with the name because he may have felt that riders must be pretty savvy to know that they’re getting something special for very little money. There are some very good tour companies available to riders such as Vermont Bicycle Tours, Backroads and Trek Travel which are three of the bigger companies. All are expensive. Savvy Cycling Tours cost a fraction of what the big boys charge.
Savvy Cycling Tours don’t have a whole array of tours to select from throughout the year. They offer just one tour and it usually takes place around September. The tour group stays at one central hotel from which daily rides emanate.
Prior to the tour, careful planning allows riders to start out from the front door of the hotel and explore different routes each day. Typically, another BCI member, Wayne Broadhag researches the area by checking with local bike clubs for the best riding areas and routes. He factors in elevation gains and traffic and then determines which routes are best suited for different levels of riders.
Tour Cost in the $100’s, Not the $1000’s
Part of Richard’s criteria for his tours is the price. Prior to selecting a hotel, Richard and his wife, Arlene, are extremely diligent in getting a good price on rooms and food. When you sign up for a tour with Savvy the cost doesn’t run in the thousands but more like the hundreds! Richard’s main goal is finding a pleasurable location while, at the same time, keeping the rider’s costs to a modest level.
A good example of how Richard gets you the most bang for your buck, is how he gets your bicycle to a destination. For us folks who live in Southern California, Richard has a system whereby he has a regular driver and a large truck that transports the bikes from Irvine to the hotel destination; no dismantling of the bike, no packing it into a bike shipping case and hoping for the best.
Sometimes a track record speaks for itself. Savvy Cycling Tours has traveled to many interesting locations over the years. Back in 2006, the group visited Riccione in northern Italy and the group stayed at the Hotel Dory that also provided them with top-of-the-line carbon fiber Scott bicycles. Ten years later, the Savvy group returned for a second go.
The Italian trips were the only international trips Savvy has organized, but here are some of the continental U.S. trips that have taken place: starting in 2008 and with a different location each succeeding year, Savvy Cycling Tours visited San Diego, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon, Wisconsin, Portland, Nashville and Spokane in 2015.
Membership not Required
Every year at the annual BCI Banquet, Richard makes a much-anticipated announcement of where and when the next tour will take place. Concurrent with that he sends out e-mail announcements to past riders about the newest location. While many of the participants are BCI members, there are many riders who are not members who flow in from all parts of the country for each year’s ride.
Typically, there are different rides for each day that are suitable for all levels of riders. Breakfast is something that Savvy likes to have the hotels include in the room price. After a day of riding, there is happy hour and that has been one of the most popular times of each day and a great time to meet, make new friends and chat.
I have been on four Savvy tours and given a choice, I suppose I liked the Nashville event most of all. We stayed at the Drury Hotel in Franklin, Tennessee (which is a suburb of Nashville and where many top country singers have their expensive homes set amongst beautiful, sprawling lawns and gardens). The hotel was new at the time and served us magnificent breakfasts and an array of delicious munchies during happy hours each night. Basically, the cost of each event involves the suggested donation to the charity, a registration fee, airfare if needed, bike transport by truck (depends on distance) and hotel costs and meals.
Richard Sheff designates a worthy charity each year. Some of the charities have included UCI Brain Tumor Research, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Big Brother Big Sister of Orange County, The Hunger Project Empowering Women and Men to End Their Own Hunger and the National Brain Tumor Society.
This year, Savvy Cycling Tours will be cycling and hiking in beautiful Lexington, Kentucky and be staying at the Four Points by Sheraton Lexington Hotel. It is right in the middle of the famous Bluegrass Region with its slow rolling hills and, of course, horse country. A great stage for bicycle touring!