Some of our customers are doing such important, innovative, and amazing things with their spaces online that we can’t help but ask them to share their secrets.
TDA Global Cycling is an adventure cycling tour company that takes guests on incredible rides in over 60 countries. Starting out as Tour d’Afrique, TDA Global Cycling changed their name in 2015 to reflect their ever-growing portfolio of breathtaking and challenging rides on 6 different continents. From Cairo to Khartoum, Bogota to Quito, and everywhere in between, TDA Global Cycling has been crossing the world on two wheels since the late 1980’s.
In this instalment of Rebel Stories, we chat with Shanny Hill, bicycle tour leader with TDA Global Cycling.
What’s TDA Global Cycling’s story? How did it come to be?
TDA Global Cycling was conceived in the late 1980’s when Henry Gold, the company’s Founder and Director, was managing an international NGO that delivered humanitarian assistance to disadvantaged communities in Ethiopia and other African countries. His original concept was to produce inexpensive, rugged mountain bikes in Africa, for Africans, as a low cost solution to local transportation needs, and to market this new bicycle by organizing a cycling race across the continent – the Tour d’Afrique.
While the mountain bike project did not take off, the pioneering vision of the Tour d’Afrique event proved irresistible. In early 2002, Henry and Michael de Jong began the preparations in earnest, undaunted by enormous skepticism and the mountain of logistical challenges to be overcome, and, on January 15, 2003, thirty-three cyclists saddled up at the Pyramids at Giza and started pedaling south. Four months later, with Table Mountain and Cape Town in sight, they celebrated the realization of their dream and the establishment of the Guinness World Record for the fastest human powered crossing of Africa.
We now have 13 incredible cycling adventures on six continents. Our longest is crossing South America from top to bottom. We have three European continental crossings, two in Asia (including the Silk Route from Beijing to Istanbul, currently underway in Mongolia), and two in North America, including the inaugural French Connection from Quebec City to New Orleans this summer.
In 2015, we became TDA Global Cycling, a new name that reflects our growing portfolio of adventure cycling tours.
How did you decide on a name? What did that decision process look like?
TDA Global Cycling is an evolution of our original name: Tour d’Afrique Ltd. When the company started, we only had one tour once a year from Cairo to Cape Town. But as the years went by, we added many more routes. We have tours as short as 10 days to expeditions as long as five and a half months.
As the tours piled up, the name was quickly becoming out of date. We changed it to TDA Global Cycling to both keep some of our roots (TDA used to be our abbreviation for the Tour d’Afrique) while also conveying the scope of what we do.
Why is your online presence so important for building awareness around your company?
It is nearly everything for us. Our small company that started in 2002 with no marketing budget would have never survived without a website. We would not be able to find cyclists from all corners of the globe to participate in these tours. It is not just any person who decides they want to cycle across a continent, so we typically get a handful of people from 10 – 12 different nations participating in each tour. It’s the United Nations of cycling tours with participants from places like the UK, Brazil, South Africa, Holland, North America, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand, to name a few.
Where do you go for inspiration/what inspires you?
Amongst our permanent staff we have probably been to over 100 countries. We love travel. We read a lot and are genuinely interested in geography, history, maps, and current events. (We also have a giant world map in our office and more than one tour has been born out of a Friday afternoon discussion over beers looking at that map.)
What’s the bravest thing you’ve had to do as a business?
I think the concept of offering bike tours to amateurs that cross continents might appear as more crazy than brave. But I’ll settle on daring. The founder dared to do something different. We have disrupted the concept of what a cycling holiday is.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Those were the wise words of the company founder the first time I was flying off to a country I had never been to before to lead a group of cyclists across a continent.
When it comes down to it, you can plan, plan some more, stress, and worry a lot. But when it’s time to go, you have to try to let that go and just have fun with it! If we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?
We love that you guys use a .bike domain! What made you decide to secure a .bike? In what ways has it helped your brand stand out online?
It’s a new way to gain exposure online, and I predict that these new domains will have an increased search ranking in the coming years.
What do you think of all the new domain extensions like .bike and .global? How do you envision people using these in the future?
I think the big advantage is that, if used right, they are easier for customers to remember. They become less technical and more similar to how we speak.
What are you most proud about in your work?
I am most proud that we have managed, over 14 years, to build up a roster of very impressive cycling expeditions. I’m also proud of the fact that they have opened up a wider range of people to cycling and travel. Our hope is that through these cycling adventures, which connect the dots between popular tourist attractions, our participants get a richer and more balanced view of these countries. When you go beyond the tourist enclaves and into the real villages and meet people at a roadside tea stand, you start to understand a tiny little bit more about their culture. That has real value in each of our lives, I think.
These trips are often transformative – not only for the participants, but for us as well.
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