eGuide Scotland is a small family business operating from a large workshop located in Aboyne. Primarily run by Tony Yule, eguide Scotland has been a long time supporter of Scottish Adventure and business member. We caught up with Tony to tell us more about eguide Scotland, the brand and hopes for the future.
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): Let’s start off by tell us a bit about yourself. How did you find yourself running an e-guiding service in Aboyne?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): I have always been laser-focussed in my ambition and determination…. And when I decided to set up eguide Scotland in 2019 I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had worked in the Oil Industry for 20 years and had spent much of that time in management roles, dealing at Boardroom level through contract negotiations and commercial claims.
I’d like to think I have a pretty good handle on “business expectation” and I wanted to bring the professionalism I had instilled in me through industry into my own business. I have 2 degrees and a post-grad in law… my 1st degree was in Forest Management which sort of gives an insight into my passions and outlook towards life.
My 2nd degree and post-grad demonstrate more of my pragmatism towards “getting on with it” and forging a career in an industry which I didn’t have much love for; but one which I knew could set me up for better things in the future.
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): Scottish Adventure have other business members based in Aboyne – what do you think makes it so attractive to set up an adventure business there? Do you think it’s got the potential to become the next Innerleithen?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): I would love to think that Aboyne has the potential to be the next Innerleithen or Peebles or any other Scottish town where adventure tourism has taken off…… Aviemore, Dunkeld would make that list for me too.
Aboyne has a long way to go before it could stand on its own 2-feet in that regard…. But a tag-team approach with Ballater (which is only 10mins away by car) would be quite realistic and I believe the 2 villages combined can offer adventure tourism a real viable alternative to other established destinations in the UK.
For me personally, Aboyne was home first before I had thought about establishing eguide. We have lived here for a few years now and it seemed to be a natural fit to base the business here as we are next door to the Deeside Way and Tarland Way as well as a myriad of amazing natural mountain bike trails and large estates teeming with land rover tracks which are ideal for a gravel ride.
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): Did you foresee the recent explosion of e-bikes and what do you think has made them more accessible and acceptable?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): I certainly knew that ebikes were here to stay – and in that regard they were only going to get better and become more widely adopted. My own ebike journey started from necessity as I had lower back problems, but I now find that despite my back being stronger, the ebike is still my go to…... as I can ride further in a shorter space of time. For me, this is one major reason why ebikes have become so popular.
The accessibility factor can take many forms – time poor riders or riders recovering from some illness or injury or riders looking to get fitter or riders looking to simply go and explore…… an ebike can be used for some many different reasons. They have become the SUV of the bike world! But with accessibility…. and the apparent ease of getting into the hills also comes the biggest negative of the ebike explosion…... and it’s an issue which we are trying to resolve at eguide.
We are seeing an increase in new riders getting into mountain biking as a sport using ebikes as their first bike. They have the equipment to get far into the hills – but they don’t always have the skills or experience to adapt or deal with incidents.
We have a real need to educate new riders into the sport of ebiking so that they are safe and that they are also aware of the potential impact that their ebike can have on fragile terrain.
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): You don’t only hire e-bikes but you provide a guiding service as well. What are your favourite routes to guide on in the local area and was the guiding aspect of the business there to start with or did that develop later?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): So, I started eguide with 4 ebikes but we are now up to 20…... with another 5 or 10 on the way! It’s mainly e-mtbs with full suspension but we also have a small number of e-gravel bikes too which are just bloody great fun!
And as of 2022 we will also have several non-ebikes predominantly to cater for the holiday visitors in the summer months when an afternoon cycle along the Deeside Way followed by an ice-cream is a popular way to spend time in Aboyne!
eguide was always going to be a guiding business. First and foremost, in my mind I wanted to get more people out riding ebikes and I wanted to provide them with the amazing experience that an ebike can give a rider. I would say that my own business focus has changed somewhat for 2022 due to the number of bikes we now have as a business.
I am acutely aware that if I am out guiding then I can’t be “manning the workshop” sorting out rentals…. So, I intend to guide less myself this year and spend more time managing the business. I have a team of awesome freelance guides who can pick up my slack!
One of my all-time favourite routes to guide must be the Mount Keen – Tarfside loop which we regularly take riders during the warmer months. It has a real epic feel to it despite it never being too far from civilisation. The views are worth the climbs and as it’s a “2-battery” ride you certainly feel like you have had the full adventure experience!
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): Can you let us in on any of your plans for the business in 2022? And have you planned any adventures for yourself in the coming year?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): eguide started at the end of 2019 and I vowed to have a small “retirement-style” business. However, in 2020 we quadrupled the number of rental bikes and in 2021 we doubled the size of our workshop premises to try and keep up with demand. In 2022 I would love to just consolidate our position! … but I know that to be complacent and to stand still is to make way for your competition to come right on by!
We are working more closely than ever with Merida UK, and it’s going to be exciting to see just exactly how this direct relationship blossoms as the bike industry gets back to some form of normality.
I would say that eguide has no intention of sitting back and standing still…... plans and developments might not be as obvious to the outside world this year, but that’s not to say that we aren’t working hard on continuous improvement. For one thing, it’s my intention to guide less this year and focus on running the workshop and rental fleets. I will use our fantastic freelance guides more this year than we have in the past which should mean more guided rides for our customers – and a more diverse and interesting offering too. We already have some very exciting large bookings confirmed which we are enjoying planning for, and once our new online booking system goes live there will be several guided rides made available for people to book onto.
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): You are an active advocate for mental health awareness. How does being active in the outdoors help you with mental health?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): I have found that the vastness of the outdoors can make my own personal problems feel insignificant. Sometimes only for a brief second…. but sometimes that’s all I need. It’s a double-edged sword tbh…… sometimes being alone with your thoughts is not a good thing…. especially miles from anywhere! – but generally speaking…. Scotland is such a majestic place that being able to immerse yourself in it can certainly help to cleanse the soul. I struggle desperately with my mental health daily – but the ebikes have allowed me to quickly get out and into the hills where it does help me to re-balance.
Scottish Adventure Club (SAC): You can only ride one E-bike for the rest of your life. What is it and why?
Tony Yule, eGuide Scotland (TY): That’s tough! I am very lucky to get to ride all sorts of bikes as part of my job…… and although I spent most of lockdown riding Santa Cruz ebikes, I must say that I am delighted to be back on my own Merida ebike again. Merida was the first ebike brand that I ever rode, and my rental bikes have always been Merida’s too. I have a soft spot for them – especially their top-end models…... so if I could only ride one ebike again for the rest of my life then it would absolutely have to be a Merida e160 10K!