Bicycle tourism isn’t a common term. Most people would nod their heads and say “mm hmm” if you tried to start a conversation with the term, but chances are that they wouldn’t know the first thing about it. In their minds, they would be thinking, ‘What exactly is bicycle tourism?’ The term sounds self-explanatory but most people wouldn’t be able to elaborate on it.
It’s not often that business, tourism, and advocacy meet. That is what makes bicycle tourism so special; it provides a developing way of comprehending economic activities involving bicycling. There is some difficulty in defining what bicycle tourism is because bicycle use is so wide-ranging. You might get a different answer from every person you ask. For that reason, we would like to define bicycle tourism very broadly as a travel-related activity that involves a bicycle. There are several examples of cycling activities that would be considered bicycle tourism.
Long Distance Self-Supported Touring
There are few things more precious to a cyclist than loading up their bike with overnight and camping supplies and riding to whatever destination they think of. Cyclists have to be extremely budget savvy when traveling this way. Some cyclists ride along the Pacific Coast which takes over two months, and isn’t cheap and can go downhill fast if you don’t know how to economize. On the other hand, this works out well for businesses along Adventure Cycling routes. This type of touring is also known as fully loaded touring.
Overnight/Short Form Touring
Short form touring is popular with those who can’t afford the time and money that long-distance touring requires. These tours are also big with families. Millennials especially want to bring the carefree lifestyle of their youth into their adult lives. Incorporating bicycling in their family lifestyles is a good way to do this. A weekend trip with your significant other and children riding through the open air on whichever path you so choose is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. Also, it isn’t ‘family time’ that will soon be forgotten. These sort of short getaways are great for bonding with your family and nature.
Organized Tour bicycling is when a large number of cyclist and their supporters travel through an area. RAGBRAI is a good example of this. The host town, as well as the cyclists, are encouraged to intermingle. These interactions inspire cyclist to revisit the towns they pass through, which is good for the local economy in the short and long term. Often times a cyclist will go on an organized tour and enjoy the town enough to come back with their family.
Bicycle events and festivals are another visible form of bicycle tourism. These events draw in visitors from out of town, for example, the Tour of California brings in spectators from all over the country. Cyclists usually travel to the festivals with their families who need food and accommodations, which is good for the local economy. The crowds are large enough that everyone is able to grab a bit of business.
Destination bicycling is when cyclists are drawn to a place because of a particular attraction. For road biking, people flock to places like; Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Pacific Coast, annually. For mountain biking UT (specifically Moab) and Whistler, BC, are popular. Local and regional trails are smaller but still have a regular influx of cyclists. The Bob Jones trail in San Luis Obispo is only a 4-mile paved path that leads to Avila Beach, it isn’t much but families come year-round to enjoy an afternoon of riding and beach time. Santa Monica also has a beach path that people travel to from all over the world. There are a lot of nice business around the pier to spend money and make memories.
Day touring is a bit different in that it can vary in purpose, methods of support and therefore vary in length and size of the group. From fitness to riding for pleasure, or to raise money for a charitable event the purposes of these day tours are endless. Some of these rides are self-supported and others are supported by small groups or even large organizations. The range of day touring rides can be anywhere from a few miles to 100 miles.
As you can see bicycle tourism is as diverse as the people who love it. Bicycle tourism can happen anywhere bikes are allowed, which makes the possibilities close to endless. You can ride a bike in the city, on mountains, country roads, and even on a beach and in the snow. Any town, city, or region can promote and profit from bicycle tourism whether it’s a large event ride or a solo trip. Bicyclists around the world will tell you nothing compares to the freedom and connection to the environment they feel when they are riding.