As the spotlight increases on Colorado and the city of Denver, attracting more visitors from around the world, travelers want to see what all of the hype is about. With the increase in interest, we thought it was fitting to highlight a business who could give you a unique perspective on what all of your traveling buddies have been talking about.
Thus, in this customer spotlight, we spoke with Scott Kirkwood, owner of City on the Side, a Sidecar Motorcycle Tour Operator in Denver. Scott tells us about the inspiration for the business, its challenges, what most excites him about distributing with OnceThere, and what travelers will get out of the City on the Side Ural sidecar tour experience.
Q: Where did the idea for City on the Side come from?
A: On December 6, 2015, I attended the 30th Annual Children's Hospital Colorado Toy Run where I noticed a crowd of fellow bikers surrounding "something". Curiously, I walked over to see that they were admiring a 2010 Russian Ural "Retro" Sidecar Motorcycle. I decided that I must have one and after 9 months of searching, I finally found my 2005 "retro" and promptly named her Natasha. Now involved with the Ural sidecar community, I came across a photo on their Instagram page which showed 2 passengers and a Sidecarist on a Ural rig with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I thought “Holy cow, they are doing Sidecar Motorcycle Tours in Paris!” After doing some research, I found 14 other companies also doing the same thing throughout the world (Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia), everywhere but the US. I suddenly realized that this was my mission. I was going to start a company running sidecar motorcycle tours in Denver, Colorado. I couldn't imagine a more beautiful place to chauffeur passengers to see the stunning landscapes of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Thus, planning for City on the Side was off and running.
Q: How long have you been operating for?
A: I started business planning in January 2016. Although I have a very thorough business understanding through years of experience in business and marketing planning, finances and processes and procedures, I still took every relevant course offered by the Denver Small Business Development Committee and utilized all the one-on-one counseling offered by the administration that I could get my hands on. After an enormous amount of legal preparation and negotiation, we were finally granted full approval by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on June 1, 2017 and we ran our first official tour on June 7, 2017.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face with marketing a new business that may be newer to most people?
- Most people have never seen a motorcycle sidecar let alone ridden in one. The concept is foreign and can be a bit intimidating at first because a high percentage of my customers have never been on a motorcycle before. However, we find that we can completely gain their full confidence within minutes of the start of a tour.
No Examples to Rely On / Different Environment
- I have had no road map to work with, except for the operators overseas to be able to research. While I can find out what they are doing from a promotional standpoint and how they are getting the word out, markets like Paris, Barcelona, Sydney, and Beijing have a distinct advantage. They are much more "tourist" driven cities than Denver is. The marketing, customer awareness, promotional aspects of my marketing plan must be very different than more well-traveled cities.
Exposure and Credibility
- Social media credibility, online reviews, and word of mouth do not happen overnight. We have been blessed that every review and social media comment and experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Where we currently have a handful respectively, we need to be patient while these numbers grow to acceptable (in my mind) levels. We will get there.
Q: What is the benefit of getting a tour in a sidecar compared to other more traditional tour options?
A: We provide “An Exhilarating Sidecar Experience” combined with glamour, discovery, and freedom! Our passengers are transported in 2016 Ural sidecar motorcycles, vintage in appearance, yet equipped with modern technology and safety features. They are classic, sophisticated and offer an open-air sensation of freedom that is not possible in any other vehicle. We offer the perfect alternative to the traditional bus or van tour because we can go where other vehicles can't, allowing us to explore much more than just the "typical" sights and points of interest. On a traditional bus and van tour, passengers are taking pictures of what’s around them. On a City on the Side tour, it is our passengers who are being photographed and admired. They immediately become the center of attention, the "movie star"!
Q: Describe the experience someone can look forward to on one of your tours.
A: Passengers discover Colorado in the open-air, unconfined and free with 360° views of its breathtaking landscapes & magnificent beauty, all while taking in the fresh mountain air. Our professional Sidecarists (chauffeurs) will provide passengers with a personalized "private" tour which allows them to discover, in a stylish and unconventional way, the culture, history, landscapes and people of Denver and the Rocky Mountains. There is a true sense of accomplishment for all passengers after each tour.
Q: What are some of the top attractions that people will see on your tours?
A: We offer four meticulously planned tours and each one has its own personality, flair and unique experience depending on the passengers’ interests and level of adventure.
Our 1.5 hour city tours offer the 19 Denver specific points of interest:
Governmental: U.S. Mint, Colorado State Capitol and The Colorado Supreme Court.
Cultural: Big Blue Bear & Colorado Convention Center, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver Zoo, Denver Aquarium and the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Historical: Molly Brown House Museum, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Art Museum, Dinosaur Ridge, Union Station and landmark Denver neighborhoods.
Sporting: Coors Field, Pepsi Center, and Sports Authority Field.
Parks, Recreation and Shopping: Red Rocks Amphitheater, Civic Center Park, City Park, Cheesman Park, 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square.
Our 4.0 and 8.0 mountain tours offer the magnificent scenery of the Colorado Front Range and the Rocky mountains which can be found nowhere else in North America
Q: As the owner I’m sure you like all your tours, but what is the best tour you offer and why?
A: If I had to pick one that I enjoy the most, it would probably be the North Mountain Exploration Tour. I feel the 4-hour duration is just the right amount of time for passengers who are not used to being on a motorcycle or sidecar motorcycle for extended periods of time. Clear Creek Canyon Road "Scenic Byway 6" and Golden Gate Canyon Road "Scenic Byway 46/70" are simply spectacular. They are typically lightly traveled by other vehicles and more times than not, we "own" the road. I believe that Central City is one of the greatest "old cowboy towns" in Colorado, yet most residents of Denver have never seen it. The route contains a variety of twists and turns which gives passengers the true sense of motorcycle riding at its best. I just love this particular route.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most about distributing with OnceThere?
A: We are looking forward to the opportunity to utilize OnceThere to help to communicate to potential visitors of Denver and Colorado that there is an opportunity here which is not available anywhere else in North America.
Q: Anything else you want us to highlight about your business?
A: In addition to the standard tours that we offer, we also provide other value-added services. If there are sights our customers “must see” on their bucket list, they can rely on us to put together a customized route to create an unforgettable day out. We facilitate special events such as weddings, business functions, birthdays, graduations, proms, concerts, etc. We are also happy to organize picnic lunches and film the entire journey and provide customers with a souvenir HD quality video of their City on the Side experience so they can relive the experience over and over and share with friends and family.