How experienced do I need to be to participate?

Alter’s trips are meant to be challenging. They are meant to help you redefine what’s possible—for you. Of course, “challenging” is a relative term, and all efforts will be made to push your limits while respecting absolute boundaries. Therefore, you should have considerable fitness in order for the trip to be both safe and enjoyable, for you and the group. Likewise, you should be mentally prepared to test your limits.

Alter’s trips also require excellent skills on mixed terrain, because the intention is to hit the lesser-known gravel and dirt trails on occasion (or always, if that is the group’s desire). In other words, if you’ve only ever ridden a road bike and you’re just starting out on gravel, then Alter’s typical tours are not for you. But, write to us—we have alternatives just for you.

If you already have a lot of experience on a mountain bike, then you already have the basic technical skills to take on our trips.

What kind of bike do I need?

It depends on the tour, and the proportion of paved and gravel roads the group decides to ride, but we can make general recommendations. First, tires should be a minimum width of 28mm. Of course, if the tour is slated to focus on mostly gravel roads, a 40mm tire would be much more appropriate. If we end up riding on silky smooth pavement, no worries—descending and cornering with all that extra rubber will be incredible.

The ideal gear range to tackle the steepest climbs, whether in the Dolomites, Boulder, Iceland, or anywhere else, is a 34-tooth front chainring and at least a 34-tooth gear on the cassette. However, in most instances, something with a much larger range will be preferable.

What is most important is that your bike (whether it is a gravel bike, an all-road bike, or a disc-road bike) is in excellent condition. Have it checked by an experienced mechanic before the trip, and have parts like disc brake pads replaced. We also recommend bringing extra small parts—things like brake pads, parts from lesser-known brands that may be difficult to find in our specialized shops, and electronic shifting chargers and cables, as appropriate.

What if it rains?

First, the group can discuss what they’d like to do. Ultimately, Alter will make the final decision in compromising weather conditions. It could be that we ride all day, part of the day, or find alternatives such as hiking or museums to visit.

What specific clothing and gear do you recommend?

A certified helmet is mandatory at all times during Alter tours. The helmet must be worn and fastened throughout the entire tour and throughout all of the riding stages without exception. If this rule is not followed, Alter will not be able to allow your participation in the remainder of the tour and you will be asked to leave the group.

Bring clothing that is easy to layer, including a lightly insulated jacket, rain gear, and gloves. Keep in mind that the weather in the mountains can change quickly and the temperature can drop suddenly. A beautiful, sunny morning can turn wet and cold by afternoon; so be prepared for everything.

What is your sustainable travel policy?

At Alter Exploration, we wholeheartedly embrace the fact that cycling, trail running, and hiking are some of the most efficient and sustainable ways to experience the world. Discovering destinations by bike or on foot are fantastic ways to reduce the impact we have on the local environment. With that said, we also know that there is much work to do in making the travel industry more sustainable.

Likewise, as we strive to increase awareness of the environmental issues of our time by taking people to fragile, threatened locations, we also play a part in potentially causing harm. Therefore, we take precautions to travel with minimal impact, to discuss that impact with our guests, and to offer solutions and strategies for reducing our impact, increasing awareness, and pledging to improve our practices whenever possible.

What is a respectable tip to show my appreciation for Alter’s efforts?

While tips are not expected, they are very much appreciated. The simple guidelines below should help you determine an amount that feels appropriate.

  • For a good tour that went as advertised — 10% of trip total
  • For an excellent tour that exceeded expectations — 15-20% of trip total
  • For a transformative tour, one on which your life was altered — 25% and above trip total