The Transition from Crescent City Bike Tours to Flambeaux Bicycle Tours
“Wasn’t this place once Crescent City Bike Tours?” A customer asked us the other day. “Yes! In fact it was!” Flambeaux Bicycle Tours is building on a 3 and a half year legacy built by Kristine Bacharach and Richie Runnels. Crescent City Bike Tours was founded in 2013 and I purchased the business in May 2017.
Though Flambeaux Bicycle Tours was given birth in 2017 it was conceived years before then. It can be traced to a long held love for bicycles and for the city of New Orleans. I’m from New Orleans, but I lived in San Francisco for 8 years. For most of my stay in that amazing city I didn’t have a vehicle…and really didn’t need one. During my first year there a friend gave me a Specialized bicycle, and I later acquired a Dahon folding bike.
I found that it was the most enjoyable way to get around town. A bicycle provided a way to experience the city in an organic way that immersed all 5 senses. There were no windows or roofs from preventing one from taking in the cityscape. Additionally a bicyclist can move at a slower pace, or stop at will without having to find parking. The smell of fresh baked goods waifing from the coffee houses beckoning the cyclist in for a taste, the sounds of the cable cars, and the feel of the fresh wind blowing off the bay started a continuing love affair I with bicycles.
When I moved back to New Orleans in 2011 I brought my Dahon folding bike with me. It was my main means of transport and it instantly gave me a new appreciation for my hometown. I worked for a nonprofit organization when I returned but was constantly thinking about how I could put my passion for cycling to work.
That door initially opened for me when the pedicab industry started in New Orleans. I quickly became a pedicab operator with Nola Pedicabs. Driving a pedicab was one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had. At one of the company meetings the manager, Sal Palmisano, shared some of his personal story as an entrepreneur with the drivers. He stated that starting a business seems hard, and it does come with its challenges, but that it’s posible with determination. He then challenged us to start our own businesses. His talk at that meeting stayed with me and I used it as a catalyst.
I operated a pedicab for 4 years. Pedicabbing in New Orleans was like being in a street level business school. As an independent contractor that leased pedicab equipment it taught me the basics of how to run a small business. Not only did I acquire the skills of running a small business, I was constantly studying my surroundings by observing how the tourist industry in our city operated.
The biggest encouragement however, came from my customers. I would hear on a nightly basis that the services that I offered was the highlight of their trip. They would suggest that I needed to start my own business. Following their advice I started to make preparations for my next move…In 2013 I obtained my tour guide permit. I continued to pedicab and I built a cliental with tourist that made regular trips to New Orleans. These three elements forged an inspiration that helped me take the step into owning my own small business.
While I was in the process of starting Flambeaux Bicycle Tours I was approached with an offer to buy Crescent City Bike Tours. When we purchased their inventory we started rebranding and changing the business model. The first step we took to move the business in a new direction was the implementation of new bicycles. Crescent City Bike Tours used Worksman Cycles. Worksman Cycles were initially designed for industrial use…like bike deliveries and to haul food carts. Resultantly, these bikes have extremely heavy steal frames. While they are durable, they are not the most pleasant bikes to tour on.
We are now using Public Bikes C1 model. So whats the difference?
The biggest factor, Public Bikes have hand brakes. This was one of our biggest priorities. On almost every tour customers would complain about the coaster brakes. It was like an unpleasant step back in time to the customers childhood. Coaster brakes function when the cyclist pedals backwards. After stopping the cyclist can not reset the position of the peddles either. This leaves the cyclist with an unpleasant starting position. Public Bikes have a free wheel that allows the cyclist to freely peddle backwards and reset the pedals to a power position when embarking after a stop.
Public Bike C1 frames also come in two different sizes which allows us to offer our tour to people as short as 4’10”. The frames are made of chromoly steel, which means they are light weight, yet able to handle some of the rugged streets of New Orleans. We selected bicycles that are the same color as the Creole color schemes you will see on the homes around town. So not only will you be taking in the beauty of New Orleans, you will also be riding on the same elegant colors on the streets.
Along with the change in our tour bikes, we have also changed the routes and narratives of the tours. The bicycles along with the suspenseful narrative of our tours have been the talk of the town. We currently have 344 Trip Advisor reviews. Flambeaux Bicycle Tours earned 70 of those reviews in the short 5 months that we have been in operation. In recent months we have also earned more reviews then some of our competitors.
Trip Advisor ranks tour companies by both the quantity and quality of reviews a tour business has. While we don’t have the same quantity, we certainly have the quality. Not having the same quantity has given us more then an incentive to work harder and offer the best service, bicycles, and tours in the industry. On Trip Advisors platform we have already advanced from the #8 outdoor activity in New Orleans to the #6. Keep your eyes on the top 10 tours in the city…we’ll be there soon.
Thanks to everyone who has been a part of Flambeaux’s blooming success. Thanks, first and foremost, to our customers for choosing us even though the quantity of reviews we have ranks us lower on the list of tours in the city. Thanks to friends and family who have been a constant encouragement as we grow. Last, but not least, thank you Kristine Bacharach and Richie Runnels for giving us an amazing foundation to build on.