WisBusiness: Madison-based Trek Travel offers cycling tours around the globe

By Brian E. Clark

For WisBusiness.com

How do you add value when you are already one of the leaders in the $6 billion U.S. bicycle industry?

By adding a travel division that takes cyclists on tours that range from relatively easy 25-mile daily jaunts in California’s wine country to rugged trips that include some of the climbs featured in the Tour de France.

That’s what John Burke, head of Waterloo-based Trek Bicycles did in 2002 after taking a trip with another company.

“He thought we could do a better job,” said Tania Worgull, president of Madison-based Trek Travel.

She said that while the recession caused a downturn in the company’s business in 2009, it rebounded last year and is posting a large increase in 2012.

“We saw a trend toward cheaper trips (during the recession), but luxury has seen a strong resurgence this year,” explained Worgull, who said her favorite place to ride abroad is Tuscany in Italy.

Tour prices range from $1,700 for six-day rides in the California wine country or Brice and Zion national parks to $7,500 for a week-long spin in the Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain that includes access to the Trek-sponsored Tour de France team.

Or, you can spend $16,000 on a 41-day trip that goes from Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and covers more than 3,100 miles, she noted. The company also offers tours in New Zealand, Cambodia and Costa Rica, but nothing in the Midwest.

A native of Pewaukee and a Marquette University graduate, Worgull worked in finance for several years after finishing college. When she needed a break, she took off six months and moved to Aspen, Colo. to work as a cycling and rafting guide.

“I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do,” she recalled. “I never went back to finance.”

Worgull skied, kayaked and rafted in the West before landing with a job with Backroads, a California active travel company that offers cycling, walking and hiking trips around the world.

She worked for Backroads for five years before Trek scooped her up to run its new travel company. Trek spun off the company in 2007 when Worgull and several other investors bought it. The two firms continue to cooperate on marketing and trip participants usually ride on carbon Trek 5.2 Madone bikes, which retail for around $3,500.

A Wisconsin native, Worgull said it was a good fit to return to the Badger State. On a typical week from spring through fall, she rides between 150 and 200 miles. She recently did a 100-mile loop from Madison to Spring Green and back.

Though riders on Trek Travel tours range from novices to serious athletes, she said the sweet spot for her company is “right about in the middle.” The typical client is a professional in his or her mid-40s.

Non-cycling friends or spouses often can accompany riders and hike, view wildlife, shop, take a cooking class or visit sites on their own. In addition, some trips are oriented to families.

And while it sounds imposing, she said the Canadian Rockies tour is one of the easiest. Rather than climbing peaks, the tour leads through flat valleys.

“You can always take a day off and ride in the ‘sag wagon,’ or use an ‘electric-assist’ bike,” she said. “You still have to pedal, but it gives you a boost.”

For more information on Trek Travel, visit http://www.trektravel.com.