The classic motorcycle and sidecar …
“It’s the only mode of transport, at least for tourism, that allows the guests to experience a city using all five of their senses,” says Dapper Tours NYC founder Will Davis, who credits his love of Urals, travel and people for the creation of his unique DUMBO-based sightseeing company.
It all started a few years back, when Davis – now 38 – first set eyes on a Ural while on a Christmas Day photo shoot in Brooklyn Heights.
“I came upon the street called, of all things, ‘Love Lane’, saw a Ural sidecar motorcycle, and as cliché as it sounds, fell in love with the bike and said, ‘One day I have to get one,’ Davis recalls. “From there, I did some traveling, and later it literally hit me – I won’t be able to travel as much as I used to, the older I get. Why not take my love of traveling, motorcycles and people and combine it, and bring the people to me instead … the best of both worlds?”
That initial idea has now turned into both an obsession and a passion for the West African immigrant, who last year soft launched Dapper Tours NYC and booked more than five dozen guest groups during peak tourism season in the city. This year there are already 24 tours in the books, guests from all over Europe, Australia, South Africa, and even locals looking to discover something special about their own town.
“You’d be surprised … most people would be classified as ‘tourists in their own city’,” Davis says. “Most of us have lived here for years but never really venture outside of our comfort zones. I always get a kick when locals do the tours … the main thing they say repeatedly is, ‘I never realized how amazing NYC was and how much I took it for granted.’”
Flatiron Building & Brooklyn Bridge — Brian Eden Photography | Sunny's Bar & Manhattan Bridge — Marketing Images
It’s the only mode of transport, at least for tourism, that allows the guests to experience a city using all five of their senses.
The company currently has three 750cc two-cylinder Urals (with a reverse gear), and five tours guides in training, in addition to Davis, with plans for further expansion down the line, both in NYC and to other cities in the US.
Many local studios – producing movie and music video shoots, and even wedding planners, are also using Dapper Tours’ services for rentals and event curation.
Davis points to two things he sees as markers for his company’s rising success. The first is offering clients a ‘locals’ view of the city … visiting those hidden gems that you won’t see from the seat of the average tour bus. And the second is simply the experience of being on the bike.
“The main treasure, as cheesy as it sounds, is New Yorkers,” he says. “People’s reaction to the bikes is like nothing I’ve ever seen … it’s a magic formula … so, tourists walk away feeling like a rock star on their tour in NYC. When they are on a double decker bus tour or any other type of tour, they are often with strangers and are timid or sometimes even feel alone because this city is intimidating at times. When they do a tour with Dapper Tours, they are the star, they have a friend that they are experiencing the city with, and we take them to locales where we are fused into the (culture), so to speak. With New York, people want to leave feeling like a ‘New Yorker’, and they want to interact with New Yorkers genuinely.”
Davis’ own travel experiences around the world – to Australia, almost all of Scandinavia, Europe, South America, and different parts of the U.S and Canada – and even his upbringing in war-torn, Monrovia, Liberia, have all influenced how he wants his guests to enjoy the ‘Big Apple’.
“I have met the most amazing people in those places. I deem a trip ‘amazing’, not just by the place alone, but more importantly by the cohesion of the place, the people and the time with all those components.”
Will Davis, Dapper Tours NYC — Marketing Image
When they do a tour with Dapper Tours, they are the star, they have a friend that they are experiencing the city with, and we take them to locales where we are fused into the (culture), so to speak.
Whether you ride as a pillion (on the back of the bike’s seat), or in the sidecar of the open-aired, three-wheeled conveyance, you get a unique look at the city, made even more special by the public’s reaction to the Urals, Davis adds.
“The nostalgia of the bikes is what does it. They have this ability to melt prejudices and stereotypes of people, and their negative emotions. People are nicer when you’re on a sidecar motorcycle. They beam. They want to connect because it reminds them of a time long ago, in a way, whether they are young or old. It’s unique, and for me personally, as well as the other guides, it’s the best part of our day … being able to use these rigs to make people feel happy, even for a few moments.”
All on the tours – guide and guests – have Bluetooth headsets to communicate easily as a group.
So even larger groups can be accomodated using multiple bikes.
As to those ‘hidden gems’, Davis admits the city has too many to bring up in one sitting.
“When it comes to places and things – there are so many, man – things that are staring at us right in the face sometimes. The hidden stories about the Brooklyn Bridge, the carriage house streets of Brooklyn Heights, the fascinating history of neighborhoods like Vinegar Hill and Red Hook … Dapper Tours specializes in making cities come to life via storytelling. There is no city I know of with better stories than NYC, and we tell them better than anyone.”
“People usually don’t ask us for specific things to see,” Davis adds of the New York tours. “We usually ask them what their interests are regarding life in general – art, photography, history, street art … and from there they trust us to curate that experience for them. That’s part of the beauty – people want to feel like their individual needs are totally taken into account on vacation, (so they don’t have) to do a lot of heavy lifting and thinking on holiday. And we try to make that seamless.”
Will Davis, Dapper Tours NYC — Marketing Image
The hidden stories about the Brooklyn Bridge, the carriage house streets of Brooklyn Heights, the fascinating history of neighborhoods like Vinegar Hill and Red Hook … Dapper Tours specializes in making cities come to life via storytelling. There is no city I know of with better stories than NYC, and we tell them better than anyone.
Davis, himself, started riding motorcycles five years ago, though he’s been skirting the city on scooters for the better part of a decade.
“My current personal ride is a 2005 Aprilia Scarabeo 500. It’s an Italian touring scooter with a lot of power. I like it because it still handles quite well, like a Vespa, and it’s just easy for commuting to the shop where we keep the Ural motorcycles. I sold any other motorcycles I had when I started Dapper Tours. I went ‘all in’.”
As to the future, Davis hopes to expand to include offices on both coasts … adding locations such as San Francisco and New Orleans into the mix.
“What we’re trying to build at Dapper Tours is a genuine customer obsession, like Jeff Bezos talks about … going above and beyond for your guests and curating a once-in-lifetime experience for them. That will include many nuances, like female drivers and (tours offered in) several languages. We are going at a slow-and-steady pace because to create these things with the right culture, you need to allow enough time for the ingredients to simmer, like a great meal would while cooking. But the next five years will be an extremely fun and rewarding ride for all parties involved. We promise!”
For more information on pricing and packages, or to book a tour, visit dapper-tours.com, or email: email@example.com.