Big Wheel Tours offers an outdoor outlet during the current shutdown.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY BIG WHEEL TOURS
At least 2020 started great for Big Wheel Tours (BWT). “It was our best January and February ever, by far,” Evan Trubee recalls.
Trubee is the owner of BWT, one of the Coachella Valley’s bike rental and touring outfits, and during the first months of 2020 he saw encouraging signs that his 22-year-old company was starting to realize the benefits of such recent initiatives as opening a new store in Palm Springs.
But then, COVID.
“Basically, everything fell off a cliff,” he says. “All we were doing for about a month or two was issuing refunds.” The next few months were bleak, to say the least – a disheartening time for small business owners everywhere. But Trubee is buoyantly optimistic by nature and has somehow managed to find silver linings even in the pandemic’s darkest clouds.
To begin with, Big Wheel Tours, as an outdoor-based enterprise, never had to shut its doors. There was a stretch when Trubee was the only one working at BWT, and the company did lose many of its seasoned tour guides. Currently, however, with gyms closed and people looking for COVID-safe outdoor exercise during the latest lockdown, BWT offers an outlet.
BWT also managed to update its fleet of bicycles during 2020, navigating successfully through a period when the cycling industry’s supply chain was seriously disrupted and demand for bikes skyrocketed.
With 2021 just underway, how are Trubee and BWT continuing to be COVID-safe for their clientele?
Trubee points first to the fact that BWT’s guided tours are private: you, your group, and your guide are always the only ones in the vehicle.
“That’s really the major change for us,” Trubee explains. “Pre-COVID, if we had three couples book the same tour, I would put them together in one vehicle. But now we keep the parties separate – three couples means three tours, three vehicles.”
The other COVID-conscious protocols that BWT has in place are set forth in the email each customer receives after booking a tour or a rental. These protocols include the following:
• Bike rentals are transacted outside – “it’s a completely outdoors experience,” in Trubee’s words.
• Tour guides are temperature checked every day pre-tour.
• Vehicles and bikes are meticulously sanitized before use.
• Guides and clients must all wear masks.
• Vehicle windows are kept down (weather permitting) to promote the free flow of air.
At the same time, some things haven’t changed at BWT. For instance, the roster of tours is the same, and so are the prices: refusing to take advantage of the pandemic, Trubee says he never even considered raising his rates. Thus, a four-to-six-hour guided mountain bike tour for your group still ranges from $125 to $250 per person, depending on the group’s size, while the popular Joshua Tree National Park Jeep Adventure is still $169 a head.
“I am very, very grateful that we’re still able to operate,” Trubee says. “It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happened to the indoor-based tourism and hospitality industries. So I thank my lucky stars that we can still accommodate tourists and snowbirds and year-round residents with a COVID-safe option to get out and explore.”