Wine Rides Meets Tally Hoby Alexander on July 26th, 2013
One of the best things about starting a new company is the people it has opened me up to. As Hayley and I drove back from the Wine Rides pilot weekend, we noticed that a company called Tally Ho cycles had liked us on Facebook. I had seen the name Tally Ho before. It is a great name, but I hadn’t remembered where they were based.
In fact, if I’m honest, I had remembered their name wrong and thought it was a “Ahoy there Cycles” which is presumably some marina based guided cycling tour company which Jack and I have yet to create.
It turns out that Tally Ho run guided cycle tours through central London on vintage style Pashley bicycles. As a result of Jack the owner getting in touch with me, I thought it would be wise to go and meet and have a chat with him. He’s run Tally Ho for three years and Trip Advisor gives him five stars. They are also widely regarded as one of the best things you can do in London. It therefore seemed wise for me to go out on one of his cycling tours and see “what good looks like” when it comes to giving people an excellent bike tour.
I also have to confess that I’m absolutely addicted to guided tours of cities. However the one city I’ve never done it in is London. Which when you think about it is mad. Having a tour of Dublin or Barcelona is fine, but you don’t live there, so you have no historical context and are very unlikely to remember the information. If you live in London, that information will be stored and is infinitely more useful to you because you can share it with anybody who comes to visit and appear to be super knowledgeable.
Having done Jack’s tour, I have to say it does not disappoint at all.
Firstly, the Pashley bicycles are amazingly comfortable, and wonderfully girly, especially if like me you chose the girls option: the Princess. The riding position is really different, when you ride a Pashley, it really is a more laid-back experience. The saddle is one of those wide Brooks leather jobbies, and the riding position is almost completely vertical. As a result, the entire three-hour East London tour that I went on was taken at a leisurely pace, equivalent to a stroll.
We covered 9 miles of London and I managed to see places that I’ve yet to come across, even having lived here for over a decade. The magic thing about living in London is that it’s so large, even when you’ve been here for a third of your life, it can still surprise.
Guided by Jack, we set off through the back streets of Waterloo. We passed the only street in the UK where graffiti is legal, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre before heading up to Brick Lane and back around again to Tower Bridge.
It dawned on me, taking a walking or cycling tour through London is probably the best way to do it. Obviously I had seen about half these sites before. But the point is, even though I had walked along the street with all the graffiti almost daily when I worked on the South Bank, I had never realised that it was a world mecca for graffiti artists. It came about because Banksy had started the “Can festival” here. It’s only by doing something like this that you get to see your city as though you were a tourist and in so doing you see it with new eyes and learn to love it again.
So what did I learn from Jack about giving tours? The way he was with his guests was fantastic. I was really impressed by his ability to seamlessly share his own knowledge and also incorporate things that his guests happened to know. On the tour I went on, all but one of us was from London, and the last person was from Tokyo. I don’t think many in the group were cycle commuters; most people were taking this opportunity to be guided through London’s beautiful streets down safe routes by someone who’s taken the trouble to study the history of the city, and I will definitely be incorporating some aspects of Jacks style into my own on Wine Rides.
The other aspect that made this a hugely enjoyable trip is that riding in a flock of Pashley bicycles with their loud bells gave us real road presence. Although we could only have been doing about 7 miles an hour for the vast majority of the ride, I was two abreast with the other guests chatting freely about cycling and the everyday trials of living in London.
If you’re looking for something interesting, and special to do this weekend and I can’t recommend Tally Ho highly enough. I don’t have any financial relationship with Jack at all, but he’s been a really generous and friendly person, he’s given me a lot of good advice. His tours are great, and as far as I’m aware they are the only opportunity you have in London to try out a bicycle called “the Princess” and use the excuse that it’s easier to get on and off of while you’re seeing the sights.