FORTUNE Small Business:

Destination bike tours go wireless

The owner of a bike-tour company improves his business using various wireless technologies.

By Joe Tonon, FSB Magazine

(FSB Magazine) -- After racing bicycles professionally for two years and realizing that I was no Lance Armstrong, I found another way to make a living on a bike. I had spent 20 years organizing bike treks with friends through the Alps, the hills of Tuscany and the countryside of Provence. Noticing a growing appetite for such trips, I founded Destination Cycling ( in 2002. I now run tours on my bike 70 days a year.

We began offering trips for serious cyclists that duplicated famous races such as the Tour de France in 2005. Our clients are typically Fortune 500 executives. The journeys are very complex for me to manage. We ride 100 miles or more a day for 21 days. I never know when a tire will blow or a hail storm will strike. Our customers pay us $30,000 for the experience of a lifetime and, in some instances, six figures for exclusive tours. They expect us to plan for the unexpected.

Built for speed: Tonon's tools keep him connected during bike tours.

This is where technology helps. Once a race's Web site releases the route for an upcoming event, I upload it into Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500) Auto-Route, the GPS trip-planning software on my laptop. The program helps me plot our journey with information on everything from local restaurants to hotels.

My computer is a Dell (Charts, Fortune 500) Inspiron 600M. It is trustworthy and small enough to stow in a shoulder bag in our van, but has good visuals. I book as much of the trip as I can from the U.S., down to the hotel massage rooms where the riders will recover. I also e-mail the GPSed route to my staff - a rotating group of 14 semi-pro riders, logistics experts, van drivers and trained massage therapists. On the trips, our van drivers keep laptops with our itinerary next to them in the passenger seat.

As a trip approaches, I monitor my clients' training. They ride CycleOps Indoor Cycle Pro PT300 indoor cycling machines equipped with gadgets that let me evaluate their physical condition. They e-mail me the data on their weekly rides, and I tweak their training regimes as needed.

When I'm cycling with clients on the bike trips, I wear an ear piece connected to a Motorola (Charts, Fortune 500) two-way radio that allows me to communicate with my staff at any time. An ActiveBLU Wireless Bluetooth headset is built into my helmet. It gives me hands-free communication on a BlackBerry that I stash in my back jersey pocket.

One Sunday about a year ago, our support van broke down in a village in the French Pyrenees. I quickly used the BlackBerry to summon a backup van, which found us easily, thanks to the GPS. The BlackBerry also allows me call-forwarding from the home office. I carry a European cell phone too. Even when I am riding through the breathtaking scenery of the Dolomites in Italy, if a customer needs me, I want to be reachable.

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Alessandra Bianchi contributed to this article. Top of page

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