Learn The Art Of Pedalling Your Way Through Life’s Adventures, with AoBT

Interviews September 21, 2018

It can evidently be said that the definition and idea of travel have changed, as travellers no longer remain confined to traditional means. Trends have emerged, the number of travellers has increased, more places are being discovered and how people look at a vacation has also witnessed a massive transformation.

The idea of luxury holidays in many cases has evolved into a more ‘active’ one, where travellers actually step out of their rooms and move around from place to place, enjoying the scenic beauty, interacting with locals, tasting their food and getting a feel of the local culture. The modern day traveller has become more conscious and takes an active role in his holiday- right from research and booking to actually participating in every activity. After all, activities make up most of the trip.


Travellers making their way around Sri Lanka on and elephant - AoBT

Travellers making their way around Sri Lanka on an elephant

A Business That Matches Modern Travel Desires

The founder of Art of Bicycle Trips (AoBT), Pankaj Mangal, believes he set the correct trend and his customers are responding with as much excitement and fervor.

Don’t believe us? The number of people that have booked tours with his company will surely strengthen your belief and make you consider going on one of their tours yourself. AoBT has conducted over 1,700 cycling tours since establishment in 2010. They have more than five thousand loyal customers who have pedalled along routes with them.

It is a phenomenal and a great learning experience running a travel company. We are living our dream. At AoBT no one is working purely for the money. Passion supersedes all of it. When travel and business are together, it is always enjoyable. However, most people in India expect you to do the routine and stick to the traditional and obsolete tried and tested methods of travel. New, offbeat and creative ideas are mostly viewed under a lens of suspicion and there is a discouragement to try out innovative processes.

Pankaj Mangal, Founder, Art of Bicycle Trips (AoBT)

AoBTs customers celebrating at the end of their bike trip

AoBT’s customers posing at the end of their bike trip

The Ideation And Emergence Of A Holiday On A Bicycle

Mangal, who is also the director and CEO of the travel start-up narrates how the company and concept were born despite the misconceptions and mental blocks he had around travel in India.

“A friend of mine came visiting from Sweden to Bengaluru. He was on a holiday and wanted to go cycling about 100 kilometers away to the outskirts. I was reluctant initially but did end up cycling all the way to Kaveri Fishing Camp. Considering quick access from cities to the countryside dirt roads in India, It’s good to cycle and combining it with other local experiences is even better. When we began researching, nothing of this sort existed.”


With a major part of the population, the real India, living in villages or rural areas, what better than a cycling trip down the countryside to see and experience it?

Besides the culture walking and hiking tours, and trekking tours, the cycling tours in India and Asia are by far the highlights of what’s offered by this company. With the other two activities (culture + walking and hiking, trekking) slated to begin this year, over 5,000 people have gone for biking (cycling) trips till now. Around 1,000 people go on these trips every year.


A rural road trip with AoBT

A rural road trip with AoBT


With the 35-year-old Mangal already having shifted to London not until very recently, the offices in Kochi (Kerala) and Udaipur (Rajasthan) are very much active and quite a hit with travellers.

Mangal initially commenced his venture by spending his savings to purchase bicycles. However, with that money he had, he could purchase just a pair.

“I used my credit card to buy eight more bikes, and each one cost around 15,000 rupees. I like to see it as reinvestment of profit. The firm, the bookings and the demand have grown organically over time,” he adds.


Setting out on a cycling trip in Bangalore - AoBT

Setting out on a cycling trip in Bangalore

Despite Challenges, Travel Trends Undergo Sea Change

With the definition of travel having changed over time, vacationers are no longer just sticking to their luxurious rooms with a good view but are also more than just willing to explore the beauty of the place, be it treks, bicycle rides or through participation in other activities. Travellers are taking interest in their accommodation, the activities, the places to visit and are definitely more involved in planning their own trips. As compared to traditional means where customers would visit a travel agency and select a package as per the brochure, now they are free to choose as per their likes and create a customised package.

“In India demand for offbeat activities and vacations that involve cycling is witnessing a rise. People are opening up to and are receptive to newer ways of exploring places. There is a change in their mindset. Indians want to go out and take a cycling holiday. This way they appreciate the activity and the scenic beauty of the place. Cycling is the best way to cover places to visit and see because walking will take time and something will get missed out. Driving in a car makes it unfeasible to stop by every now and then. Cycling is the perfect blend. It is going to be the most sought-after activity in India, it should take another 5-10 years before cycling holidays become more popular in India,” says Mangal.


An offbeat vacation at Manali-Leh with AoBT

An offbeat cycling tour from Manali to Leh with AoBT

Intrigue And Creativity Drive Demand But The Challenges Remain The Same

To keep travellers intrigued, activities have increased, some of them even new, unheard of and not experienced before. But, at a time where travel start-ups are witnessing a boom and there are plenty of options, the industry and market are ‘grappling’ with its own set of challenges and worries.

“Guides are not provided with quality and adequate training and that’s a big challenge currently. There is a dearth of good guides.

In something that we do and provide, routes are not readily available. One needs to have knowledge that will help in creating the perfect cycling routes before we ask our patrons to hit the pedal. The only reason we have a plethora of options to offer in terms of cycling routes is that we have spent time cycling through various parts of the country. I personally cycled to many places in India for seven years,” says the travel entrepreneur.

Emergence Of Technology Boosts Travel

An assistance of technology provides a massive boost in terms of ensuring convenience for customers and a growing demand to visit unexplored locations. Tech has changed the game and made it a lot simpler for companies as they can focus on their key functions or core areas of business or whichever needs more time and attention. Managing the bookings part is left up to tech.

Ours is a business in which tech plays a significant role and is irreplaceable. We, to a great extent, are dependent on it. We need to scale it up because we realise that moving ahead without tech support would be difficult. Earlier it was okay for us to do basic bookings on MS Excel, but since operations and demand both have grown, we prefer taking assistance from Vacation Labs. It’s a lot more organised, it has streamlined operations and the back-end management system is quite accurate. Vacations Labs provides great support in terms of collating the database and bringing it together in one place. We found the right tech partner in them, while we focused on our forte. Our business has grown to an extent because of this platform. This has helped us in enhancing our credibility.

Pankaj Mangal, Founder, Art of Bicycle Trips (AoBT)

Not only is the entrepreneur happy with the role tech plays, but his customers and loyal patrons feel Art of Bicycle Trips is highly organised. Over time, it is necessary to have systems in place that allow more focus on products, building processes and to devote time and energies towards marketing and sales.


AoBT-hard at work in the Bangalore office

AoBT hard at work in their Bangalore office


If one closely observes the traditional value chain, the internet has made possible what earlier would have seemed difficult to achieve. New age companies have widened the net. That allows them to target a larger audience. The internet allows them to reach out to (potential) customers internationally too.

“We are one of the most innovative, new age travel companies. There has been an utmost utilisation of new ways of working, leveraging technology and the offerings of unique products in the industry that has helped us redefine travel. We are the pioneers in using certain new concepts.”

Even though Mangal says their Udaipur and Kochi outlets are doing well, where they get an increased demand for walking tours, he feels they need to integrate online and offline means for better results.

The Diverse Range Of Product Offerings

With a promise to deliver unforgettable experiences, Art of Bicycle Trips ensures local specialists will make every trip worthwhile. Amongst the key activities on offer are Biking, Culture + Walking and Hiking + Trekking. Tours in Asian countries encompass Bali, Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Whereas within India some cycling destinations have been paired/ clubbed. For example, there is an all India trip, the northern trail trip covers Rajasthan, Agra, and Delhi, southern sojourn covers Kerala and covers other quaint, beautiful places down south, then the Goa and Mumbai biking trail and to the mighty Indian Himalayas.

These trips can be customised based upon the duration a traveller is looking for- classic holiday (8 – 14 days), short (2 – 7 days) and day trip (1/2 – 1 day).


Myanmar cycling trip with AoBT

Exploring waters during Myanmar cycling trip with AoBT


Vietnam holiday cycling tour with AoBT

Vietnam experience while on a cycling tour with AoBT


To enjoy the thrill of the journey ahead it’s important to have a good bike and safety gear. AoBT’s bike fleet consists of Scott hybrid, Trek, Giant, Marin: some of the best in the cycling tour industry. Helmets and the bikes are included in the cost of each trip.

To ensure their patrons get the most authentic feel, itineraries are designed with stay is restored palaces, resorts on the edge of the backwaters or a Swiss tent in the middle of the jungle. These unique stays provide a truly genuine and unforgettable experience. In order to allow travellers to discover new locations by themselves, on each trip, guests are given the opportunity to dine on their own. Guides make recommendations, but after that the call is yours.

So, are you just going to procrastinate, wait and watch others pedal past, or get onto the cycle and enjoy the breathtaking view of the places countryside? The routes are intricately planned and carved out to give you an experience unheard and not felt before. Ride away as you sink into the natural beauty at a pace that’s just perfect for your eyes to capture and your mind to savor!!


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