When you travel with a bicycle you want to relax in the safe knowledge that you are in capable, experienced hands. Whether you’re on a one day experience or a multi-day journey the need for local expertise, combined with industry leading standards of service and safety, remains the same.

The Qualified Cycle Leader

For over 19 years the UK has had the world leading, government sponsored, MBLA (“Mountain Bike Leader Award”) qualifications available for every guide. There are award levels that cover everything from leading on dirt roads and easy tracks, to high level awards for remote environments or multi-day expeditions. Our international guides hold every level.

FACT: CycleActive is the only UK cycle company to put its guides through the highest level of National Governing Body MBLA leadership training.

So what does it add to your holiday experience?

A major benefit is the smooth, safe running of your holiday, which is of paramount importance when you’re cycling at home or abroad. This safety comes in many forms:

Knowing that your bike is checked daily, by someone qualified to spot mechanical problems and sort them out
Having a leader who can give tips or advice on how to be more skilled or comfortable on your bike, and get maximum enjoyment out of the cycling
having a leader who can manage emergencies (at home and abroad) with calm efficiency and the reassurance of high level Emergency Incident Management first aid training
With all of this comes an ability to inject fun, energy and great experiences into any trip. They are also directly responsible for your holiday, so they really go the extra mile to make sure everything runs perfectly.

The Local Expert

A local guide is your connection to the world around you, a vital link that lets you get closer to the culture, the people and the country you visit. For many this element of cycling is the most important part of any holiday – it’s not so much the cycling, but the connection to the world around you that is so enjoyable.

We select our local guiding partners with real care, and the guides we work with are some of the best you’ll find in the world. The enthusiasm for their home country, and for sharing its magic with you, really sets them apart and adds a dimension to your trip that is hard to explain or put a value on. If there are local guiding qualifications then they will have these too – topping up their knowledge on the history, ecology and other interesting topics that can help to enrich your holiday.

If we are running a trip with partners who have all of the skills, training and experience we look for, we do not send guides from the UK as well. However, in many countries around the world we know that running a tour with a local and a CycleActive guide makes a huge difference to the levels of safety, service and cycling flexibility.

One Guide or Two?

Choosing a cycle tour with two guides has a huge range of benefits, including:

  • Flexible ride choices, with easy options and challenging options on the same day (great if you fancy a lazy day, or for groups/couples of differing abilities)
  • Greater knowledge, thanks to the blend of experiences and skills that two guides can bring to the trip
  • Greater freedom, if you want to try something that’s different from the main itinerary, two guides can help make it happen
  • Smoother service, as everything flows more easily, from loading bikes, to moving bags to everyday tour management
  • In some countries, such as Cuba, we also have expert support drivers to carry the bags, or transfer us from place to place when the distance is too great to cycle (or we want a lift to the top of a long climb!)

If we are running a trip with one guide, we’re careful to ensure that group sizes are kept small, and the cycling level is very clearly shown on this website and discussed at the time of booking. This ensures that we can offer the best possible rides at that level of fitness or skill, with an expert guide who knows what you’ve come for – and how to make sure you get it.

Our approach has been refined over many years, and we’re proud of the enjoyment it brings to cyclists of all ages, abilities and interests. Not to mention the hundreds of “non-cyclists” who simply want to use cycling as a way of exploring and discovering new countries and cultures.

Here are the CV’s of our main UK-based team of international guides and instructors:


Rich Barnard (managing director)

Rich is probably one of the most in-demand cycle instructors in the UK right now. With years of experience on the trails and high in the mountains of the UK, Europe and Africa, Rich’s personal mountain biking skills are very impressive. He has a raft of coaching qualifications under his belt – British Cycling & MBLA Tutor, CTC MBL and National Standards as well as ML and other mountain/water qualifications from his “past life” as a senior instructor with the prestigious Outward Bound Trust.

As a leader Rich has tremendous expertise, and a great ability to get things done, working tirelessly to ensure that wherever he is in the world he’s running a great tour. His ability to manage, lead, motivate and take care of a group is a real asset to him, our team and anyone who travels with him.

Qualifications: British Cycling & MBLA Tutor & Mountain Bike Leader, Expedition Leader. CTC Skills Instructor. National Standards cycle trainer. British Cycling Level 2 Activity Coach. Mountain Leader Training Board - Mountain Leader. BSc Outdoor & Environmental Education.

Jon Chalmers (operations manager)

Jon began his outdoor career as an instructor with the prestigious Outward Bound Trust, working out of their centre at Ullswater in The Lake District. Whilst gaining an excellent reputation for his relaxed but effective style of leadership and training, Jon picked up a wide range of qualifications and experience with groups of all ages and interests.

As a mountain biker Jon developed his skills on England’s highest and most demanding peaks, combined with a great deal of time spent working and exploring in the Alps. His incredible ability to climb, descend, jump and drop off almost anything has to be seen to be believed. He moved to full time mountain bike instruction in 2008, and works for CycleActive full time as both a guide and an instructor, covering the whole range of courses and holidays we offer worldwide.

Qualifications: MBLA Mountain Bike Leader. CTC Skills Instructor. Mountain Leader Training Board - Mountain Leader. BA Outdoor Leadership.

James Richards

James is undoubtedly one of the most talented all-round mountain bikers in the UK right now. His pedigree as a racer both cross country and downhill is hard to beat, and with his high level MBLA qualifications he not only has the skills, he also knows how to pass them on to others.

James studied Outdoor Pursuits and Leadership at College, but before working in this field he worked extensively in the bike industry, first for Orange Mountain Bikes (who he also raced for), then Pace Cycles then finally Biketreks of Ambleside. He now runs as many of our courses as possible from a range of venues and his unstoppable energy is a powerful motivator for everyone he coaches.

Qualifications: MBLA Mountain Bike Leader. British Cycling Level 2 Activity Coach. BSc Outdoor Pursuits and Leadership.


CycleActive runs in the same friendly, well informed and professional way now as when we started out back in 1996.

Travel writer and Adventure Travel Editor of The Telegraph, Richard Madden, came on our very first holiday and even then his comment in the paper read “A fantastic first tour! This has to be a success.”

The secret, we feel, is in our desire to do things as we’d like them done ourselves. If we were visiting a country we’d want to know that our tour operator had been out there, cycled with the local guides, bringing across ideas from their experiences in other parts of the world – in short, we’d want to know that true experts were taking a real interest in every little detail of our holiday.

If we were getting some coaching we’d want the best in the business to deliver it – not just the best riders, but great educators who understand the fine arts of communication, explanation and motivation.We’re not motivated by pure business goals, to us CycleActive is about giving people the very best cycling experiences, whatever their interests, age or ability.

This approach started in 1996 when Chris Ford set up CycleActive and moved to east Africa, after qualifying as a chartered accountant and corporate recovery specialist with Deloittes. With a strong background in professional services Chris was determined to create high quality cycle experiences, delivered in a friendly, approachable and helpful way. By 1999, after three years “cutting our teeth” in Africa we felt confident that we could plan great trips and courses anywhere in the world.

What does this mean for you? – From your first call to us we’ll give honest, clear and practical advice to ensure that you find a course that fits your needs or a holiday to match your abilities and interests. We will ensure that the whole booking process runs smoothly, and so will your trip.

Our commitment to research has also been a vital part of the development of the business. We have worked with leading cycle organisations, outdoor industry experts and educationalists to ensure that we continually improve and evolve our services. From the Olympic Talent Team to magazine-sponsored race teams, committed dirt jumpers, primary and secondary schools or the probation service – we’ve delivered training to fit the needs of every one of our clients.

What does this mean for you? - Our coaching delivers results that have to be seen to be believed, often in a very short time. Whether novice, child, enthusiast or pro/elite racer we know how to bring the best out of your biking and move your skills, confidence and enjoyment forwards at a rapid pace.

Our holidays are more popular each year, as returning clients revisit favourite destinations and discover new ones, with guides they trust. We’re always adding new programmes but this is a slow process, because we insist on taking responsibility for our own detailed research. This is what guarantees the quality of our tours, and allows us to give real, practical advice whenever a new client or old friend calls for advice.

What does this mean for you? - By travelling with a company run by cyclists, who do their own research and have a real passion for this form of travel, you know that you can relax and enjoy a truly amazing holiday.


To prove our commitment to high standards we have been through a range of appraisals, qualifications and service reviews. In many cases we have taken the lead and become the first provider in the UK to go through these processes. We also have some of the leading experts in the fields of outdoor education, mountain biking and bmx as external advisors.

National Skills Academy (Outdoors)
CycleActive is one of sixteen quality assured providers approved by the National Skills Academy, and the only one approved to deliver both MBLA leadership awards and dedicated cycle first aid awards.

This quality assurance scheme for outdoor training and leadership providers was created by former AALA inspector Malcolm Campbell for Cumbria Tourism. It combines rigorous checks on operational procedures, risk management and overall client service standards.

The Mountain Bike Leader Association is the mountain bike leadership arm of Scottish Cycling and British Cycling, and it’s scheme is recognised across the UK. Every leader or instructor at CycleActive must qualify through the MBLA at the highest leadership level.

British Cycling
As the National Governing Body for cycle sport the courses provided by British Cycling represent industry standard for cycle coaches. Our course designers are qualified at Activity Coach, Level 2 Coach and BMX Coach levels – allowing us to bring these ideas and techniques into all of our courses.

The recently redesigned CTC MTB Instructor course was originally co-written by CycleActive’s Chris Ford. We became the first commercial partner to the CTC in the delivery of training that incorporates their skills system.

Expert Advisor (Education & Leadership) - Matt Healey
Matt has a considerable list of outdoor education, leadership and development qualifications to his name, combined with huge experience in these fields. He ran the national Options programme for the Outward Bound Trust before being recruited by the YMCA to lead the creation of their major new outdoor centre in South Wales. Matt was on the first board of 12 tutors appointed by the MBLA when it was formed, and played a key role in its development.

Expert Advisor (Mountain Biking) – Nick Craig
Those in the mountain bike world will know that Nick has a huge number of accolades to his name, including four mtb national championship titles and three consecutive wins at the annual Mountain Mayhem 24 hour race. He also played a key role in the preparation of our two leading xc racers for their Gold and Silver medals at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Nick has been involved with CycleActive since 2006 and is acting as an advisor to British Cycling on the development of their new mountain bike coach award.

Expert Advisor (BMX) – Shaun Calvert
As a coach, club chairman, founder and track designer for Preston’s renowned National Standard BMX track Shaun has become a widely trusted and respected member of the BMX and cycling world. As a racer Shaun was twice British Champion, twice European Champion and once World Champion – and he brings this level of knowledge into every BMX course he designs or delivers. Shaun provides all of our in-house BMX development training and works with us on BMX projects across the UK.

CycleActive and the Environment

Cycling is one of the cleanest, greenest and healthiest forms of travel. Those of us who cycle for leisure, for adventure or as a way of exploring other countries can have a significant impact on the environment around us, and the communities we engage with on our journeys.

This is a statement of the ways in which the company and the staff of CycleActive aim to ensure that the impact we have is positive. This is a constantly evolving document, and we would encourage anyone who is thinking about travel or training with us to comment on our approach. If you have ideas on how we can do things better we would very much like to hear from you.

Rich Barnard

Environment and Community Pledges:

Cycle Travel Plans. Our holidays are all designed to maximise cycling time and minimise driving time, reducing overall distance travelled in vehicles as much as possible. Whether we’re mountain biking in Italy or touring in Cuba we endeavour to plan holidays that give our clients as much time in the outdoors as possible. There is no rushing between locations in vehicles, or rides with long vehicle transfers.

Environmental and Social Awareness. All CycleActive guides are trained in environmental awareness and responsibilities, and we work with partners around the world to ensure that our activities are carried out in a socially aware and sensitive way.

Community Activities. We support a range of cycling and outdoor activity related projects in the UK. Our expertise in the fields of leadership training, cycle coaching and youth development is widely called upon and we work on a no-fee basis for the National Governing Body for mountain bike leadership and the National Skills Academy for the Outdoors. We also give time to community cycling projects that need help and expertise to secure facilities, develop youth training programmes and raise funds through sporting bodies.

International Partnerships and Training. Local guides around the world acknowledge with some cynicism that many “environmental policies” which state that companies only employ local staff are little more than cost saving excuses. We take a radically different approach. Wherever possible tours are led by two guides – one experienced and qualified cycling expert from our UK team, and one skilled and knowledgeable local guide. UK staff provide training to our partners on cycle skills, maintenance, bike setup and related activities, while local staff develop our language skills, social understanding and local knowledge. Together these international teams provide the highest standards of leadership and safety in the cycle travel industry.

In-house operations. We aim to reduce all office waste, to reuse or recycle everything from paper to cycle parts, and to constantly review the operations of the business to ensure that we are being as environmentally conscious as possible. One step taken in 2006 was to stop producing annual brochures, stop all client mailings other than by email, and to provide full holiday, course and company information on our website.

Carbon reduction. With help from one of the UK’s leading experts on Climate Change and Environmental Engineering (a generous client of ours who herself has given her expertise free of charge) we are working on a detailed carbon reduction programme for ourselves and our clients. This will include the purchase of carbon credits to offset all emissions from our operations, and the offering of targeted WWF Gold Standard carbon credits to allow all clients to travel in a way that has no impact on the global climate.

Carbon impact. reduction and offsetting


The process of global industrialisation that has carried on for over 100 years has had a real, proven impact on our climate. At current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere the planet will warm up by 2 degrees before 2050, with significant impact on landscapes, ecology and our society. Even now we release more carbon into the atmosphere than the planet can absorb, accelerating the process of global warming.

There are climate sceptics who still dispute the widely accepted facts about global warming, and others who believe that the largest international polluters have such a significant impact that there is little point in taking individual action.

We take a different view. Like increasing numbers of people across the world we are looking at what we do, and the services we provide to all of our clients, and trying to find ways to reduce the carbon impact of everything that we are involved with.

Carbon Credits and Offsetting

It could seem hypocritical to incite people to travel, then tell them to consider the damage they are doing in the process. We’re fully aware of this rather strange position but our only answer to the question “so why do you do it?” is that we believe our holidays are as environmentally sensitive as possible and therefore travelling with us – since you’re probably going to travel anyway – is a good idea.

We also suggest that all clients do what we do and buy carbon credits to offset the carbon impact of your trip.

Purchasing one carbon credit is simply investing in a project that will result in the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere by one tonne. As with any investment process there are good projects and not so good projects. For this reason we have taken advice from one of the UK’s leading environmental engineers and climate change experts on how to make sure we invest in projects that have real, verifiable impact.

Reducing Our Carbon Footprint to Zero

When you book a holiday or course with CycleActive we will let you know how many carbon credits you would need to offset the volume of carbon being released into the atmosphere by your travels. If you want to purchase these carbon credits then we can organise that for you – or you are welcome to take that information and make your own carbon reduction decision.

Our staff will all have their carbon impact calculated and the full value of this will be offset by the purchase of carbon credits. If every client does the same thing the overall carbon impact of every course or holiday can be reduced to zero.

The projects we recommend are all graded Gold Standard by the WWF. This is the highest standard of carbon offsetting project and is a guarantee to investors that their payment is genuinely being used to effectively reduce carbon in the environment, in a sustainable way.We accept that carbon offsetting is still a matter of choice and so we do not expect you to make any additional payments, or include anything in our prices to cover these costs. However, if you want to find out more about the process, the projects that you could invest in or to make your carbon offsetting investment, please get in touch with us.

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