Algarve Bike Holidays is run by experienced cyclists who, between them, know most of the cycling routes in the region. Paul and Fred, joint owners, came together as a natural result of setting up complementary businesses in the field of cycling tours. They have a mutual love of cycling and decided it was about time they shared the secret of the Algarve with the rest of the world!Take a look at this brief interview with Paul and Fred and find out a bit more about the personalities behind the company.
Were you always into cycling?
“Actually, when I came to the Algarve in 2006 I was a bit of a novice rider as it had been quite some time since I’d really done any serious cycling in the UK. My work in the IT industry took up so much time and also cycling was quite a specialist hobby in those days. Though as a youngster I had cycled a lot as this was one of the few leisure pursuits that were freely available. Have a bike and off you go! I recall one summer at the age of around 15 a couple of school friends and I decided we would cycle to Scarborough and back in a day, a steady 115 mile round trip with no preparation, no tool kits, spare tubes or anything , but we made it, though I could barely sit down for a week!”
How did you make cycling your business?
“When I first got here I had the idea of offering daily bike tours, which I did with a company I established, called ‘Activity Algarve’ in 2006. It started well and, almost immediately, I started to get clients for guided tours. I soon realised that holiday makers didn’t know where to go to find the best tracks and trails and there was very little information available to them. This largely remains the case, in fact. In the early days, the routes that I knew were quite tough for many clients and I identified a need for different routes for varying levels of fitness and abilities.”
Where did the idea about Algarve Bike Holidays come from?
“In the early years of selling tours, I recruited a number of local agents/resellers and that’s how I came to meet up with Fred who had just set up his own business, “Tours & Tracks”, in Albufeira. Being a keen mountain biker himself, Fred was clearly interested in what I was doing and we agreed to work together on selling tours.
Around the same time, the ‘Ecovia do Litoral’, a dedicated coastal cycle path, was being built. So I introduced holidays along this route, including quality hotels and luggage transfer services along the way. I soon realised that the Algarve could be an attractive destination for cyclists, so I began to develop other touring holidays, such as the Best of the Algarve and the more challenging MTB holidays along the Via Algarviana. Fred and I both saw the market and the opportunity in the same way and this is how we came up with the idea of Algarve Bike Holidays.”
What does the future hold for cycling here in the Algarve?
“We are both aware that in the last 10 years or so, Majorca has become well established as a bike holiday destination, with many ‘pro’ teams and others going there for the excellent climate and the spectacular roads and scenery. We believe that the Algarve has a similar, if not even better, potential to become a popular destination. We, too, have an exceptional climate and great potential for road bikers with endless smooth and empty tarmac roads, plus a similarly endless network of dirt tracks to keep mountain bikers happy. We also have some of the finest single tracks right on our doorstep and some excellent technical tracks for the most serious die hard mountain bikers!”
What is your ultimate goal?
“We believe that the Algarve has a tremendous and largely untapped potential as a cycling destination and our goal is to help to establish the Algarve on the map for the growing number of vacation cyclists throughout Europe and the rest of the world! Our experience shows that many cyclists like to try different places for their cycling holidays and, usually, they have the cycling shirt to show their friends when they get home. So our goal is simply to be one of those “Must Go To” destinations. In doing so, we can contribute to the Algarve economy and help a growing number of cyclists increase their shirt collection!”
Fred van der Meer
How did you come to live in the sunny Algarve?
“I came to the Algarve in 1995. The years before, after finishing school and studies I enjoyed working abroad and loved travelling. I particularly enjoyed southern Europe because it is so much more relaxed. We have more space to live in we are much closer to nature than in the crowded West of Holland, where I’m from. All this, plus having the blessing of a sunny climate all year round, gastronomical treats and a very friendly local population. It was a no-brainer!”
When did you get into cycling?
“In the part of Holland where I lived, cycling was the most efficient way to transport yourself from A to B and, as for many others, cycling was already a daily activity. Other than that I was enthusiastic ice speed skater and road cyclist.
But when I came to the Algarve, I soon discovered the joys of cycling closer to nature and mountain biking opened a whole new world of active fun. As a hobby it was an excellent way to get to know the region and country, especially when cross country races started to be accompanied by longer marathon rides on the events calendar.”
Why is the Algarve so good for cycling?
“By taking part in lots of cycling events I found out more and more what an excellent area the Algarve is for all sorts of outdoor activities in general, and cycling and mountain biking in particular. This is mostly because of the variety in scenery. We have trails and roads with great coastal views on one side and rural mountain scenery in the hilly interior. With a bit of planning these can be combined within one bike ride from almost any location in the Algarve! There aren’t many places in Europe where this is possible.”
How did you set up in business here?
“In those years of cycling around and working in tourism it occurred to me that there was very little information available for visitors wanting to see and do something more than sunbathing at pretty beaches. This lead to starting the ‘Tours & Tracks Algarve’ agency in 2008, where we inform visitors about the many different cultural and natural aspects of the Algarve and the best ways of seeing and experiencing these. We provide activities such as walking, cycling and kayak tours, horse riding hacks, balloon flights, bird watching excursions, dolphin observation trips, etc.”
And what made you set up Algarve Bike Holidays with Paul?
“Promoting these activities as an agent is where the cooperation with Paul original company, ‘Activity Algarve’ started. It soon became apparent that we share a passion for cycling in the Algarve, which resulted in us doing many cycle tours together.
Our attention is now shifting from one day occasional bike rides to multiple day cycling adventures and we hope that visitors will appreciate the many qualities of the Algarve as a cycling holiday destination just as much as we do. Cycling, after all, is the best way to get to know a new country or surroundings and a cycling holiday in the Algarve never lasts long enough!”