Building Bike Tourism

Two cyclists leaving the local soda fountain

Is your community located on the Adventure Cycling Route Network, or near other routes frequented by cyclists? Wondering how your town could welcome and attract cyclists passing through?

Traveling cyclists are looking for services in nearly every town that they visit. By providing some or all of the services listed below, your town could become a favorite destination for bicycle travelers to visit, dine, and spend the night.

Ideas & Resources for Building Bicycle Tourism

Did you know that Adventure Cycling Association has mapped 42,180 miles of bicycle routes across the United States, a number that increases each year? We're also working to establish an official U.S. Bicycle Route System. With the expansion and growth of these networks, bike tourism is growing too!

Attracting cyclists is an economic boon to communities, especially rural towns:

  • A study of touring cyclists (PDF) who visited the state of Montana found that spending tracked at $75 per day and with an average of eight days spent in the state. Forty-one percent of the cyclists stayed in hotels/motels or bed & breakfasts, in addition to visiting historical sites, breweries, and wild-life watching. Cyclists stated that visiting small towns and enjoying the local hospitality were some of the highlights of their trip. This press release (PDF) sums up the findings nicely.
  • A small community investment put Twin Bridges, MT, on the map for cyclists traveling on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail.
  • Farmington, MO, has accomplished the same kind of success with Al's Place — a cyclist-only hostel created by the City. As a result, Farmington has also attracted TransAmerica Cyclery to their community to serve local and touring cyclists.

Identify Routes Near Your Community

Is your town near a known bike route? Check out the Adventure Cycling Route Network, but also check in with your state and county to see if you’re near a state, regional, or county route, such as a rail-trail. Even if you’re not currently on a designated bike route, you can encourage cyclists to make short detours from an existing route by making your area bike-friendly.

If you’re not on or near a designated bike route, but see opportunities to build bike tourism in your community (for example, perhaps you’re near a stunning state park), work to create safe and interesting routes that bike tourists would want to visit and see if it’s possible to connect your routes with other regional or state bike routes, or the budding U.S. Bicycle Route System. Your state bike/ped coordinator or a local bike advocacy organization may be good places to start.

Offer More Services for Cyclists

Does your community offer the basic services that traveling cyclists are looking for? Up the ante by providing more! Perhaps someone in town could offer cyclists-only accommodations.

Our friends at PathLessPedaled.com offer some great tips for businesses wanting to be bike-friendly.

Cyclists looking for services

Build Support and Promote Benefits

Looking to make a case to your community about the importance of welcoming traveling cyclists and the potential benefits of building bike tourism? There is a lot of research supporting the impact of bike travel on the economies of rural communities and states.

Post Welcome Signs & Route Decals

Many communities put up signs on either end of town that say “bicyclists welcome” or “bicycle-friendly town.” These signs are a great way to convey the fact that your town is welcoming to traveling cyclists. Businesses can put up signs in their windows saying “welcome bicyclists” as well. The small town of Farmington, MO, even spray-painted directions on the road to their town’s cyclists-only lodging! A small gesture, but invaluable to a traveler on two wheels.

If your community is on one of the Adventure Cycling routes, ask town businesses to order and display our window-cling route decals to show their support of traveling cyclists and to promote awareness of the Adventure Cycling Route Network.

Promote the Resources Your Town Provides

Tell your local newspaper and radio station what you’re doing to build bike-travel tourism and why. A local travel or lifestyle magazine may be interested in featuring an article about your town’s efforts. Regional and state bike organizations and tourism bureaus are also great allies. The more partners you have in this effort, the more people will help you get the word out.

At Adventure Cycling Association, we provide a visitor's map to cyclists that shows basic resources and services on a map of Missoula. Smaller communities could distribute a map — or even just a list of services for cyclists — at the town cafe, library, a visitor's center, or other business. Does your town have its own website? Post your services for cyclists there — maybe with a nice welcome message!

If you’re on an Adventure Cycling route, let us know! Contact our routes and mapping department and we may be able to list you in the services section of our route maps, which are very popular with touring cyclists. Our routes and mapping team also posts on our blog, often writing about communities or businesses that are cyclist-friendly. On Twitter? Use our route hashtags to reach out to cyclists following the route near you. Make sure to follow @acaroutes and get the latest on our routes from Senior Cartographer Jenn Milyko.

An organized tour group enjoys dinner

Engage with the Bike Travel Community

Connect with Adventure Cycling Association. We’re on Facebook and Twitter; we have an active blog; and we run a discussion forum on our website. Social media is a great way to reach out to traveling cyclists. Contact your state's bicycle pedestrian coordinator. He or she may be able to point you towards bike-travel resources in your region. Finally, talk with traveling cyclists! Passing cyclists often talk to each other, and word of mouth advertising is invaluable.

Contact Other Experts

In addition to Adventure Cycling Association, there may be other valuable resources in your state, including:

Join Adventure Cycling Association

When your local business or group becomes a member of Adventure Cycling Association, you will receive nine issues a year of Adventure Cyclist magazine, which is full of great cycling stories and advice that will help you connect with the traveling bicyclist's lifestyle. Join now!

Become a Bike Travel Friendly Town

Food

Traveling bicyclists are looking for grocery stores and restaurants. Even if your community does not have a full-blown eatery or grocery store, other businesses such as gas stations, convenience stores, or even campgrounds may want to stock some basic cycling foods — such as energy bars, oatmeal, and trail mix. Don't forget to put up a sign that says “snacks available!"

Water

Bicyclists like to fill up their water bottles when they get to towns, so even if your town does not have a public water fountain, sometimes just a spigot outside a shop does the trick. In summer, ice is also appreciated!

Cyclists enjoying some ice cream?

Accommodations

Many small communities along our routes have allowed bicyclists to stay at local churches, community centers, and fairgrounds. Some even have separate tent pads with picnic tables available. Communities should set aside space away from lawn sprinklers. If possible, keep the restrooms open at night, especially at the height of bicycling season. 

Bike Storage

Cyclists need a safe place for their bikes while shopping or staying in a hotel.

There are many options to choose from when providing racks for bike parking at a business, but we recommend the “U” or staple rack, as it can accommodate a wide variety of sizes and styles of bikes. When placing your racks, remember to allow breathing room between the rack and the building! A rack too close to a building or wall can reduce its capacity by half or even make it unusable.

For hotel stays, most cyclists will want to bring their bicycle inside. A hotel/motel where their bike cannot come into the room will not be a first choice for a cyclist. Hear a touring cyclist explain why.

Communications

Making a phone available for use by bicyclists at the local diner, coffee shop, or laundromat is great. Allowing cyclists temporary internet access at the local library is even better! Phone/internet access allows cyclists to keep in touch with loved ones, pay bills back at home, and stay connected with the larger world.

Hygiene

Showers are always a big hit with cyclists, and your local pool, community center, YMCA, or church may have some facilities that could be shared with them. Also, bicyclists usually travel pretty light, so doing laundry becomes a very important task. If your community does not have a laundromat, washers and dryers might be made available through your local YMCA, church, community center, or store.

Bike Tools

Cyclists are often in need of some basic bike tools and supplies. These include things like tubes, spokes, oil, patch kits, etc. If you do not have a local bike shop, some communities stock a basic array of bicycle supplies in their hardware store. Make sure to let folks know about these products with a small sign in the window saying “basic bike tools available.” Having bike pumps available at local gas stations or hardware stores for bicyclists to borrow is also a great service.

If you’re unfamiliar with cycling, here is a list of basic bike tools worth having on hand from 24bikeshop.com (and you can buy a pre-packaged kit from the site!). If you’d like to go above and beyond, follow the example of the Wilder Snail grocery in Vancouver BC — they carry bike items commonly needed in a pinch such as spare tubes, patch kits, blinkie lights, chain lube, leg bands, and more!

Photos by Aaron Teasdale