Jim Johnson, Founder & President
The idea for BikeTours.com came from president and founder Jim Johnson, an avid cyclist and former Corporate America nine-to-fiver whose bike tour brokerage idea came from his own experiences abroad.
In the early 90s, Jim was a freelance travel writer who felt that bicycling is the best way to explore a country, meet local people, and research destinations. And, of course, it allows for frequent stops for pastries or ice cream along the way.
“When I was 15, I got bored in a summer exchange program in northern Europe and made my way across six countries before flying home. I’ve been back to Europe at least 30 times. Wanderlust is part of my soul.”
When he first started touring in Europe by bike in the early 1990s, he couldn't find an economical alternative to the $3,000–4,000 European tours offered by American companies. He also didn't want to do self-contained tours, where he would have to plan routes, book hotels and carry his own gear. He found that local European bike tour companies offer superb tours at a fraction of what their North American counterparts charge. Self-guided bike tours are often 50-70% less expensive than their U.S. counterparts but still include lodging, luggage transfers, rental bikes, detailed maps and route instructions, service hotlines, and other services. Many also offer guided bike tours — still half the price or less.
In the late 90s, Jim told some friends about his travels, and they asked if they could come along. The next year, more friends — and friends of friends — joined the group. At one point, someone said, “You love bicycling and you love travel. You know Europe, and you have the contacts. Why don't you do this for a living?”
In 2003, he left corporate America and launched BikeToursDirect (which recently became BikeTours.com) — not organizing his own trips but representing the local European companies he'd been working with for years. Over time, the number of companies has grown to nearly 100, who together offer 450+ tours on six continents.
At home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jim was president of the local bike club for two years. He describes himself as a recreational cyclist — the same type of customer who uses BikeTours.com's services.
“Travel, writing, bicycling, tour planning — over a period of time I have been able to integrate my passions into a livelihood,” Jim says. “People tell me I have a dream job, but that’s only partially true. My job is making other people's dreams come true.”
Rachel Browder, Product Manager & Tour Operator Relations
Rachel’s favorite travel experiences have been serendipitous, like wandering into a bar in Quito, Ecuador and finding walls covered with handwritten poetry from fellow travelers, or unwittingly stepping out onto the beach in Scheveningen, Netherlands on New Year’s Day and seeing thousands of people diving into the North Sea. Unplanned travel accidents are the best of all adventures.
Favorite quote: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” — Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Best lesson learned while traveling: Be kind. Be curious.
Weekend whereabouts: Remodeling houses with my husband, Daniel, or hiking in the woods with my kids.
Brittany Williamson, Client Service Director
A travel planning enthusiast, Brittany is great with the small details of your trip, even ones not in her job description, such as finding cheap flights, checking train times in Europe, etc. Her kind and reassuring tone keeps her on the phone chatting with clients to help plan a stress-free trip.
Favorite quotation: “Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that damn mountain.” — Jack Kerouac
Best lesson learned while traveling: I have to be reminded to stop and smell the flowers. Such a cliché, but the ride is as much about the journey as the destination — if not more!
Weekend whereabouts: On an ultimate frisbee field anywhere from New York to Texas or backpacking/cross-country skiing along the Appalachian trail or national forest, dog in tow.
Amy Bishel, Finance and Accounting Coordinator
Amy grew up in Illinois and has lived in Colorado and Hawaii. She moved to Chattanooga to experience Southern hospitality and the Great Smoky Mountains. At BikeTours.com, Amy keeps our accounts balanced; she loves the puzzle of working with the numbers. Outside of the office, Amy enjoys umpiring girls' fast pitch softball and watching the young ladies grow in their confidence and abilities throughout their careers.
Number one reason #whyibiketour: It allows you to experience a different and more hands-on perspective of various cultures compared to tradition sightseeing tours.
Favorite quotation: “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Weekend whereabouts: Working in the yard, doing a wood-working project, hanging around the Koi pond playing croquet, or riding around the Chickamauga battlefield on my road bike.
Liv Leeds, Tour Advisor
Liv grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, near the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. She spent her youth hiking throughout the southeast. In search of a new adventure, Liv moved to the Pacific Northwest, where she filled her afternoons with rock climbing and her weekends backpacking. After working in the adventure travel industry, she joined Biketours.com to promote sustainable travel.
Number one reason #whyibiketour: To be fully immersed in a country's culture and nature.
Best lesson I've learned while traveling: Solo travel isn't for everyone, but traveling alone has done a lot for me in terms of self-reflection and learning to love every bit of myself.
Weekend whereabouts: Backpacking or bouldering anywhere from the Appalachians to Alaska alongside my two furry kids and my super cute ginger friend.
Matt Lesperance, Tour Advisor
Matt grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Arizona State University with a Masters of Sustainable Tourism, and has lived and worked throughout the world, including 5 years in Asia and Africa. An enthusiastic, inquisitive individual at heart, Matt loves discovering the world one step (or revolution) at a time.
Why I travel: I love to travel because it’s when I feel the most alive. Travel inspires us to create new stories and to discover the world from a different point of view with a renewed interest in life.
Favorite travel moment: Proposing to my girlfriend at sunset, engulfed by the cheers of the elephants and baboons. Our camp was deep in the Addo Elephant Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She said yes!
Countries I've visited: England, Ireland, Germany, South Korea, North Korea (DMZ), China, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, South Africa, Morocco, Canada, Peru, Panama, Honduras, Croatia (September/October 2017), and Bosnia/Herzegovina (October 2017).
Alexandra Pitzer, Tour Advisor
Raised in Tennessee, Alexandra studied French and International Business at UT Knoxville. She studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, and completed an internship in the Loire Valley. She lived in Martinique, an overseas department of France. She has traveled extensively in Europe and is excited to revisit her favorite locales of France, Switzerland, and Martinique while expanding her knowledge of travel destinations around the globe.
Why I travel: I travel to experience Earth's incredible diversity, to ditch my comfort zone, to make dear friends, to avoid stagnation, to challenge my pre-existing notions, to live authentically, and to grow.
Favorite European destination: France: diverse geography, excellent cuisine, wine, lingering over meals, the importance of family and friends, wine, fairytale cities and towns, a rich history, exceptional culture, and did I mention the wine?
Favorite quotation: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” — T. S. Eliot