There’s joy and excitement to be had in a short bike trip from cities across the country — and Bike Overnights Ambassador Joe Nocella and his shop, 718 Cyclery & Outdoors, generate business, community, and joy from Brooklyn.
This year’s Bike Travel Weekend was a scorcher for many! 718 Micro-Tour 3 from the shop in Brooklyn to Mountain Lakes Park in North Salem, New York, was no exception. Joe Nocella, 718’s owner, braved the heat with 17 riders for a 58-mile bike overnight.
“And I said, ‘Look, whoever wants to take the train, take the train. If it was up to me, I’d probably take the train. Those of you who wanna get on the road, we’re gonna have an adventure,’” he says in between customers and calls at his Brooklyn shop. “And it took a long time and seven flats. There were a lot of new people but we made it and we made it all the way back.”
Barely a week after returning from the sweltering short trip, Nocella was in the midst of a busy Friday at his shop and prepping for the next trip in mere days, Micro-Tour 3.5.
“I didn’t even unpack from last time. I put the bike up on a table in the middle of the shop so people can look at it, and see all the bags and stuff — I’m not even really going to unpack it. It’s like a cruise ship. We just turn around and keep moving.”
Nocella has truly been an Ambassador for Bike Overnights for almost a decade, as well as a resource for Adventure Cycling, co-hosting a talk with Ambassador Nina Saghrib on camp cooking and kitchens. 718 Adventures began as staff-only trips until customers began joining. The timing was ideal.
“It was right at the beginning of the industry getting into adventure cycling,” he recalls. “We were right on the wave, perfectly lucky. Bikes were starting to change, everything was starting to change, and we were right on top of that.”
Riders from all over the experience spectrum wanted to go on accessible trips like Bike Overnights. The trips were so popular that Nocella had to institute a policy giving first-timers on his Micro-Tours priority.
“It’s not just aggressive dudes in skinsuits with a tent that fits in their pocket.”
“It’s a lot of word of mouth,” he says about promoting the trips. But it’s also pretty simple: “Literally right now in front of the shop, I have a chalkboard sandwich sign, and I put on it, ‘Are you interested in bike camping? Ask me how!’ Just randomly put it out there and people are coming in saying, ‘Hey that’s really cool.’ Sometimes he locks up his bike outside, outfitted in all his bags while prepping for a trip, inviting the adventure-curious in his door.
“These trips have always been about a low barrier for entry,” said Nocella. “It’s not about your gear, it’s not about your bike, it’s not about your fitness. It’s just about the idea of doing this thing.” For him, Bike Overnights, like the trips he hosts, allow everyone to adventure. “It’s not just aggressive dudes in skinsuits with a tent that fits in their pocket.”
He takes a wider view of how his trips benefit his business. “There’s a lot of things we do to monetize it that are very subtle.” When trips from the shop were free, about half the registrants would no-show. “We charge like 25 bucks,” says Nocella. “Twenty-five bucks is enough where their skin’s in the game, and it covers my insurance, campsite fee, and the firewood. It’s kind of a wash. I want to keep it inclusive.”
For 718 Cyclery and Outdoors, Bike Overnights, short trips right out of the city, are a no-brainer for shops to engage customers and the community. With bike shortages and issues with suppliers for many shops, why not think about providing someone with a bike overnight on a bike, not just the bike itself? It can be simple, fun, and act as a business driver.
From his YouTube series, “The Diary of Extremely Small Business” to his extensive website, Nocella engages riders far beyond Brooklyn. He’s taken aback when he hears from followers about their lack of local options. A commenter from Louisville recently lamented how they wished they were closer to New York!
“She said, ‘Well, there’re no bike shops where I live that want to do this.’ And I’m like if you have a bike shop that’s interested and you want them to connect with me, I’ll talk to anybody,” he says. “We’ve had shops from all over the country call and ask how do you guys do this, and I’ll share all of my stuff — how we register, how we plan the trips.”
So how can shops better incorporate Bike Overnights events into their business?
Even during a short chat on a Friday afternoon, Nocella answers inquiries about bags and handlebars, and bikes that are hard to find these days. (“On any given trip at least 15 to 20 percent of the people are on bikes I’ve built from the frame up!”) But the heart of 718 Cyclery is its Adventures, and 718’s Micro-Tours and Shop Rides will continue all summer long.
“New York City has gotta be the hardest city to get out and camp. You spend 15 to 20 miles just getting out of the city.” Still, leading Bike Overnights and shorter trips are now more important than being the typical bike shop, selling frames, and doing repairs. “It turned into what I do for a living which is cool. My job has changed a little bit, and it’s nice.”
Adventure Cycling’s Bike Overnights Initiative (formerly Short Trips Initiative) focuses on ensuring any adventurer can enjoy short trips from their own backyard. If you’re a bike shop or know a bike shop interested in being an Ambassador for Bike Overnights— or if you're interested in leading a trip and being a Bike Overnight Ambassador in your metro area — we’d love to hear from you and help you get some rides planned! Reach out to Carmen at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to get your feedback, thoughts, or see how we can support you in planning events for your community.