Looking for a job in which you can ride your bike in the sun every day? Want to spend your days guiding people around dry and dusty trails? Ever considered being a mountain bike guide?
BikeRadar Training spoke to Chris Gleeson, who’s a mountain bike guide on the Greek island of Rhodes. Here he offers insight into a typical day as a mountain bike guide and what it’s like riding on the island – and shares with us some of his favourite routes.
What is your role and what do you do?
My position here as mountain bike guide at the Levante Beach Resort in Greece involves offering advice to guests about using the bikes, as well as routes they can take around the area, and leading various bike tours out across the beautiful island of Rhodes. I plan routes and group the tours into easy going, intermediate and challenging so that any level of cyclist can join us and take the opportunity of getting out of the resort and seeing the local area.
Describe a typical day…
I start at 8am to carry out any maintenance on the bikes before the guests arrive for their first tour. The morning tour (10am-12pm) is the ‘Easy Tour’ for novices, so it’s a fairly gentle start to the day and a chance for riders to ‘feel their wheels’ and encourage them to practice basic skills on a ride of about nine miles, usually along the scenic coastal path. You can explore the morning route here.
Lunch is back at the hotel and usually includes pizza, pasta, mezzes, grills and salads. I’m pretty lucky with this holiday company as we have really good chefs, so refuelling is never an issue!
The afternoon tour (3-5pm) is aimed at more experienced cyclists. We cover more challenging tracks in the nearby mountains. I try to make sure that the route is varied and that uphill climbs are rewarded with a great view or break. The most challenging route has a 5km road climb and leads guests to an off road track through the hidden valleys of Rio Guli Forest. You can explore the challenging route here.
How long have you been a mountain biking guide and what made you up sticks to go abroad and do it?
This is my second season with Mark Warner and my first season as a mountain bike guide. I came straight from a ski season in Les Deux Alpes as a ski host. A massive pull to work abroad was the weather, scenery and terrain for adrenalin sports.
I was keen to travel and find a guiding job that allowed me to use my biking experience to offer a range of routes over a variety of terrains. My office is the picturesque Rhodes countryside – miles of coastal tracks, mountain and forest trails.
How much of the year do you spend being a guide abroad? Do you plan on doing this long-term?
Summer seasons can start as early as March for pre-season training and set up and run through to November for post-season lay-up. I don’t plan on doing this job long-term, although it is tempting!
It’s possible to travel the world with this job, and there are plenty of opportunities for guiding or instructing in the resorts and mountain ranges in Europe. I’ve know of guides who have headed out to guide riders across more adventurous terrain – like Whistler in Canada. For those wanting to stay in the holiday industry, there are also plenty of opportunities to branch out into other activity sports and progress to management roles such as activity centre managers.
It’s one of those jobs that many cyclists would love to do but are possibly too daunted or have too many responsibilities to take the step. What do you enjoy most and find hardest about your job – and do you have any regrets about leaving Britain?
I don’t have any regrets and I certainly don’t miss home! I’m an active person, so being outdoors most of the day and building on fitness is a real plus of the job. It’s great to explore the island and the various routes, here’s an example of one of the challenging ones I ride to keep my fitness up.
The social elements are great too. We have a really nice bunch of staff here, and they are never boring!
I’ve made some amazing friends and they are all people who like the active lifestyle that I love. I think the hard bit will be settling back into life once home – but I guess you don’t have to do a 9-5 if you don’t want to; there are other options out there for those that are passionate about sports.
Chris keeps his fitness up by exploring the island on his bike
What qualifications do you need to become a holiday resort mountain bike guide?
For my position, no specific qualifications were needed, just a good level of fitness and knowledge of bike maintenance. Employers want to know that you will relate well to guests, so being able to demonstrate this through past customer facing roles is an advantage. Generally, being sociable is a good quality to have. First aid and a language can help you get ahead.
What advice would you give someone looking to do what you do?
I’d work on getting the experience you need to successfully demonstrate that you have the skills needed for guiding. You might already be a competent mountain biker with a real passion for the sport; but demonstrate this through taking part in races, charity rides, anything to show you have done more than the average person with an interest in cycling.
If you have organised sporting activities or events then make sure you mention this on applications: it shows your leadership skills. Think about how you can show that you are good with people and can put their needs first – anything from customer service roles to bar work will demonstrate this. Most of all show off your passion!
Chris works for Mark Warner, a holiday company offering mountain biking holidays in a range of great locations. Having led the way in activity holidays for over 30 years, they also offer a variety of watersports, tennis and childcare facilities. For more information, visit www.markwarner.co.uk.
If you’re looking to increase your fitness or to explore routes before jetting off to that holiday destination visit our new site BikeRadar Training. It’s a free online resource for you to record and analyse all aspects of your training, log your training routes, get yourself tailored training plans, see how you’re doing on our leaderboards, set goals and plan your season with our comprehensive events guide.