For the past 13 years, Owen Gue and his team of bicycling enthusiasts have been taking people all over the world or showing them the best of what Montana has to offer, all based out of their headquarters in Missoula.
Gue, the co-founder and president of The Cycling House, has spent the past two years pulling back the reins on the company’s growth, instead focusing in investing in staff and the company’s core mission, which is to provide a world-class riding experience to its customers and build a loyal following.
But now, along with their well-established trips to places like Tuscany, Italy; Majorca, Spain; Tuscon, Arizona, and a Glacier-to-Yellowstone ride along the Rocky Mountain Front, they have rolled out a new trip to islands, glaciers and volcanoes in Chile.
“The big thing for us is we’re starting to grow again,” Gue explains from his company’s office on Fourth Street in Missoula near the Loyola football field. “We’re adding more trips in gravel and mixed terrain. We’re finding that more and more, riders are wanting to have a little bit more of an adventurous experience on a bike rather than just getting from Point A to Point B. It’s more of an adventure element, which gravel can deliver, that gets you into new terrain and off the beaten path.”
Adventures with the Cycling House are fairly long-distance cycling trips where Gue’s staff ride along with the group, whether its members are experienced or beginners. A van rides along to provide support. Chefs provide healthy, endurance-sport-specific food, and there’s a bike mechanic on hand.
Local families often provide home-stays where guests can learn about the area culture. On Montana trips, out-of-state guests can even stay at Gue’s parents' house and enjoy a bonfire.
Beth Graff, who lives in Washington, has taken more than 10 trips with the company.
“I call them my addiction, because I love being on my bike,” she said. “It’s my very healthy addiction. Owen, here’s a guy who developed this incredible business around his passion of cycling. It’s grown by leaps and bounds, but they never lost the quality of the venues, the quality of the staff, or the quality of the food. They make everybody feel like a top-rated person. It’s phenomenal.”
Graff said that the meals on the trip are meant to help riders get the most out of their experience.
“They always have really healthy, fresh food that fits recovery and fits your ability to ride,” she said. “They accommodate any type of diet. Even if we’re on route, they’re bringing stuff out of the van for picnic lunches. It’s top-notch.”
Graff said she’s bringing a group of friends for a trip through Glacier this summer.
“I’m 62 years old,” she said. “A friend told me about The Cycling House. I just can’t say enough about them.”
Gue said his staff has grown to 30 people, and right now they’re busy planning trips to Arizona. Most of their riders are from the United States, but they also have a sizable number of customers from Canada and a few from Europe.
“Up until two years ago we were growing a lot,” he said. “Then we pulled the reins back and focused on the core of our business and our staff, the team. We wanted to have that rock-solid before we grew again. It’s really easy to think bigger is better and you should always be growing, but that’s not necessarily our approach. We focused on making sure we’re delivering the most high- quality experience we can.”
Gue said they’ve developed meaningful relationships with their partners in Chile, and they’re excited to be planning a new adventure.
Chile is known for its agriculture, and the trip in the northern Patagonia region will focus on produce stands and restaurants that source food locally and regionally.
“Food is always just a big part of the experience for our trips,” Gue explained. “Good food enhances the experience.”
The bicycle tourism industry is constantly growing as baby boomers decide they want to ride and see the world rather than play tennis and golf, Gue explained, so the company is poised to take advantage of that trend.
“When I grew up there was only two of us who had mountain bikes,” he said. “Now I’m blown away because I see whole families ripping on trails. It’s amazing to see. We’re continuing to get more people getting into riding all the time. It makes me pretty excited and proud to be here in Missoula to see that.”