Whatever you call it — bicycle tourism, bicycle travel, or bikepacking — the Adventure Cycling Association says it is booming.
That’s great news for those of us who like to make overnight excursions by bicycle.
It means that more small towns, or park operators, or entrepreneurs will see the economic benefits of appealing to the 2-wheeled crowd, resulting in more travel opportunities for all of us.
The Missoula, Mont.-based nonprofit takes the temperature of bike travel every two years. In 2016 — the 40th anniversary of Bikecentennial — the group found 11 indicators that things are definitely heating up.
Here’s a quick synopsis of what they found. More details can be found at 11 Indicators that Bicycle Travel and Tourism are Booming:
- A number of bike makers have followed the lead of Surly’s Long-Haul Trucker and are making “multi-purpose bikes that can be used on paved roads, gravel, and for light touring.”
- Bikepacking on single track and unpaved roads is more popular. Adventure Cycling attributes this to off-road bike improvements and improved and lighter travel gear. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is an example of the long-distance touring possibilities; Kansas Cyclist lists shorter gravel road rides in the Sunflower State.
- The US Bicycle Route System has grown from 6,790 miles to 11,243 miles in the past two years.
- More state tourism bureaus are promoting bicycle touring in their states. Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi and joining efforts already underway in Oregon and Minnesota.
- Regional bicycle routes are taking shape that link together existing bike routes or bike rail-trails. One example is a route network in the Southeast. Another is the Grand Illinois Trail that links nearly 500 miles of rail-trails in that state. Also the East Coast Greenway and coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.
- Amtrak is making it easier to take bikes on trains. The carrier has instituted trainside check-in that allows cyclists to check your bike as baggage without use of a bike box.
- Parks are doing more to draw in bicycle travelers. The 2016 Bike Your Park Day was celebrated in September with 1,400 cycling events. Tennessee is preparing a “no turn-away” camping policy for bicyclists, the 8th state to do so.
- Bike overnights are increasing in popularity. The first ever Bike Travel Weekend drew 900 participants in 2016.
- Bicycle tourism hospitality networks are growing in the US to match other areas, such as Canada and Germany. US-based Warm Showers boasts 99,000 members.
- Week-long and cross-state bicycle tours such as Ride Around Washington, Bike Across Kansas, and RAGBRAI continue to thrive. See the BikingBis.com list of these tours at Across State Bicycle Tours.
- Urban specialty bicycle tours, though traveling relatively short distances, demonstrate interest in exploring by bicycle. Seattle Cycling Tours, for instance, presents short local tours with historical and ethnic themes, as well as longer tours outside the city. And Cascade Bicycle Club has the Seattle Bike n Brews tour.