Wine Rides - holidays combining cycling with local food and wine in South of England

Alex Baines-Buffery, director of Wine Rides, a new company started with his wife tells us about his new venture - relaxing and enjoyable holidays that combines local food and wine with cycling as the primary mode of transport. The first Wine Ride is happening on the weekend of 25th May and here he tells us how it all started.

I love the freedom you get from cycle touring. It is one of my favourite things in the world. I started Wine Rides because I wanted to show more people what a fantastic and liberating way it is to spend your free time. There is nothing like climbing a hill and finding a majestic view at the top that you have earned, then flying down the other side just a little too fast. But cycling is only one half of Wine Rides. The other essential element is local food and wine. That is why we are really proud to be partnering with the British producers of world class wines.

I am passionate about cycling, and I truly believe that if cycling is to become a mainstream form of transport then those of us who love the bike have to start showing what bikes can do that cars can’t.

I cycle in London and am incredibly heartened by the changes I've seen over the years. When I started cycling in in the capital, it was just men, most of which were bike enthusiasts, who were taking to the roads. Now there are days when I am the only man waiting in the peloton at the lights. I am pleased that has changed for good and can’t wait to see more people discovering the bike.

This progress is fantastic. My perspective is that we (cyclists) have become a politically active group and that has made a massive difference. I believe that if cycling is going to continue to gain equality with other forms of transport then cyclists also need to become an economically active group.

One of the main benefits of cycling is that it is an extremely cheap form of transport and long may that continue. That is the reason I started cycling and it is the major reason why the bike remains my primary mode of transport. But I think it's also important cycling is seen as a high value way to travel.

One reason why town planners prefer the car to the bike is the boot. For retailers, cyclists simply cannot carry as much product as someone who arrives in a car. So while cyclists may be able to write as many letters as car drivers, or cast as many votes in marginal seats, at the moment they’re perceived as having less spending power and therefore being less valuable.

At Wine Rides we see things differently; we don’t think value is just about how much you spend. As a result we are doing something differently. We sell a two night / three day trip staying at two vineyards in Sussex. We meet you at Tunbridge Wells train station; take your bags to the vineyard, supply the food and set up the tents where you will camp overnight. The following day you cycle to the next vineyard where we will have set up a new campsite, leaving you to cycle, relax and enjoy the British countryside tasting a selection of local wines and produce.

But what value do we offer the Vineyards?

The Vineyards want to work with us because we are giving them an opportunity to gain a long-term, on-going relationship with customers. We are trading luggage capacity for loyalty.

In contrast to a car, you see things differently on two wheels. From the direct feel of the road surface to the breeze in your hair, cycling gives an unparalleled sense of appreciation and connection with the surrounding landscape. This in turn can form the basis of a greater understanding of the wine and a meaningful relationship with the vineyard owners.

My hope is that both people who cycle and businesses will recognise this value and the opportunities that we can provide. The bike enables connections between people to be made that a car, an enclosed metal box travelling at 60mph, can never achieve. The core philosophy of Wine Rides is for people to enjoy wine in the same surroundings that it was created in with likeminded company.

My dream is that more companies will see this value, think more about people on bikes and consider potential ways to make our lives easier and more fulfilling.

Wine Rides is only starting because I had an idea, rang up every Vineyard south of London and told them, “I have an idea, I think it’s good and I think people will like it”.

I want more cyclists to say the words “wouldn’t it be great if …..” then go out and speak to people, non-cyclist and see if they agree. If you really care about your rights as a cyclist, then we need to grow our ranks. We have to find new ways of making cycling appealing to people with other interests. I have chosen wine. My enterprise is looking to turn people who like wine into people who like wine and cycling. I would love to hear what other interests you think will marry well with cycling. If you have ever said the words “wouldn’t it be great if ….” Then I implore you, please pick up the phone and speak to someone who might be able to help you make that happen. But these things won’t happen unless we ask for them.

If you would like to see how our little experiment in cycling commerce goes then please like us on Facebook:

Or if you want to help me make Wine Rides a success then please e-mail and register your interest in taking part in the pilot weekend on the 25th May.


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