RAAW Ambassador Niki rides 260 days a year, averaging more than 1,000,000 vertical meters and 8,000 kilometers per year on Finale Ligure's trails. He also proves that entrepreneurs can spend a lot of time on their bikes - at least if their business is shuttle services. Let us introduce you to the "endurance tester" among our Ambassadors and, of course, take a look at his work vehicle, the Madonna V2.2.
If you see Niki on the trail or driving one of the two shuttle vehicles for "Niki Rad Service", it would be hard to imagine that he has ever done anything else. But just a few years ago, his life was very different: He was an "International Sales Manager" who spent his days cold-calling customers at conventions and knocking on doors. Over half of Niki's year was spent on the road in field sales. Biking, his escape from the mundane daily life, was only possible on weekends or during way too rare bike vacations, which he spent in Finale Ligure, among other places.
A point in Niki's life came when he realized, " If I don't radically change something now, the rest of my life is almost certain to look the same. Do I really want that? " He didn't. Then everything happened very quickly: He quit his job, moved to Finale and started working there as a guide for various shuttle companies. " Successful salesman to happy day laborer - it can happen that fast! " he comments with tongue in cheek.
" At first, everything was great: shredding bikes all day, partying every night, and plenty of after-ride-beers," Niki recalls. "After a while, my common sense kicked in (or at least my German roots): The biking was great, but I didn't want to live from hand to mouth every day anymore, but build something solid up here on site. "
Said, done: In April 2019, "Niki Rad Service" was launched and since then, almost every day has been fully booked. Well, at least the days on which shuttle operations were possible, because in 2020 Corona confronted the still young company directly with a major challenge: " Of course, I had to close down my shuttle business directly. It's rather obvious that 9 strange, sweaty people from different households in a closed van is not ideal in the face of a worldwide pandemic. During this time, I went back to Germany and kept my head above water with various jobs, " Niki recalls of this difficult time full of doubts as to whether things could ever go on again. It wasn't until May 2021 that he and the other shuttle service providers in Finale were permitted to restart their operations, and since then "Niki Rad Service" has been back on track for success. Since February this year, in addition to the van, a Toyota Hilux pickup truck has also been in operation, which can also be booked without a guide.
260 days per year on the bike - the insane workload of an MTB guide
Even though he now operates two vehicles, Niki still guides his customers most of the time - often six days a week. The longest time he has gone without a break is 39 days! "But that was borderline", he admits. Finale Ligure's season lasts 10 months. That's roughly 260 shuttle days a year for Niki. He averages between 3,000 and 6,000 vertical meters per shuttle day, depending on the group and trail selection. He thus collects more than a million vertical meters and 8,000 kilometers on the challenging and often rough trails of Finale every year with his Madonna V2.2.
When you look at the component wear, you can see how heavy this load is: Niki wears out four pairs of brake pads and three or four tires per month. Even a rear derailleur usually lasts only 1-2 months. " Not as a result of crashing or hitting it with stones, but because of the constant load destroying the material. Especially the clutch cannot stand up to it for very long. "
We are all the more pleased that our Madonna has so far withstood the extreme loads without any problems: " The only thing that is still the same after a season is the frame. I haven't even had to change the bearings yet. Nothing rattles and everything sits bombproof! " reports Niki. It can't be due to a loving care program, according to his own statement he cleans as little as possible. The only exception is that after each day of work, the drivetrain and suspension are meticulously cleaned and lubricated.
Taking a closer look at Niki's Madonna V2.2's components, it becomes obvious that maximum durability was the top priority. Those who are interested in lightweight bikes can therefore safely skip the spec list; however, those who ride as much as Niki can maybe find some inspiration:
|Frame||Madonna V2.2, raw, Size L|
|Fork||Öhlins RXF38 170mm|
|Rear Shock||Öhlins TTX22M Coil|
|Tires||Maxxis Assegai DD|
|Headset||Acros ZS44/ ZS56|
|Stem||Acros MTB Stem 40mm|
|Handlebar||Acros Handlebar 25mm Rise|
|Brakes||TRP DH & Trail with Sinter Switzerland Brake Pads|
|Derailleur||SRAM GX AXS 12sp.|
|Shifter||SRAM GX AXS|
|Cassette||Sram GX Eagle|
|Chain||Sram GX Eagle|
3 questions for Niki
Can you share an insider tip about Finale Ligure with us?
One of Italy's most beautiful and rustic waterfalls. You can ask me personally how to get there - after all, it should remain a secret!
How is Niki Rad Service different from other shuttle services?
My guides and I don't just see ourselves as guides, but as part of the group. We decide together in the vehicles what is to be ridden. Different skill levels? No problem: the guide rides an easy trail with the beginners, while the pros ride 2 or 3. Thanks to precise coordination among each other and especially with the most relaxed bus drivers, there are no nasty surprises à la "we're lost".
Your brake lever is broken? No, your day is not over: the guide will forego lunch and organize a replacement in the meantime - if the tone is right. The customer is king, but not a commander.
Fast and somewhat healthy lunch breaks! One hour at most, not 2-3h like other companies - you’re here to bike, aren’t you? Rather than riding from 9 to 5, we ride until everyone is satisfied!
What surprised you the most when you took the step to start your own shuttle
The biggest surprise? Quite simple: suddenly being your own boss after years of permanent employment. Suddenly you're the one who decides whether or not to buy a second car after Corona. Suddenly you're the one who has to handle criticism sensitively. But the biggest surprise is the realization that you can make a living riding bikes and being outside with nice people!
Check out Niki's personal Instagram page to see his adventures and trips, and if you're looking for shuttle tours in Finale Ligure, subscribe to @niki.rad.service or visit the website. You can find our other Ambassadors and information about the application process on this page.