Considering a Bicycle Tour

Bob Smith

If you’d like to save some money and you’re not adverse to camping consider one of the state-wide camping tours such as RAGBRAI, Ride the Rockies and Colorado Bicycle Tour. Nearly every state has a cross state tour of some kind. These tours are more no frills and they generally include some meals, aid stations, sag support, luggage transport, camping area and in some cases gymnasium indoor camping for an extra fee. These tours are general one week and range in size from several hundred to thousands of riders. You are expected to ride the complete route every day. It is important to train for these types of tours.

If you are considering something self-contained in the US, and not sure where to begin join the Adventure Cycling Association. The Adventure Cycling Association was founded in 1975 as Bike Centennial. In 1975 they created the countries first Trans America bicycle route. In 1975 and 76 they operated several tours on Bike Centennial Route 76. Today Adventure Cycling is creating a national network of bicycle routes of the US. Their route maps are excellent and continuously being updated and growing in numbers. Additionally, they offer a complete tour catalog of various tours throughout the country. These tours are excellent and offer varying levels of support. We did our first Southern Arizona with Adventure Cycling in 2008. Their tours are much smaller in size than state-wide tours. Visit their web site at www.adventurecycling.org to learn more.

In the past CSCC has offered multi-day tours for members. The most recent one was several years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota led by Liz Ford.  Cycling clubs such as ours typically concentrate on single day rides of varying distance and difficulty.  There are a few cycling clubs that focus entirely on touring. Possibly the largest one in the country is the Bicycle Adventure Club bicycleadventureclub.org which offers tours throughout North America and Overseas. There is a smaller touring club based in Colorado called Colorado Heart Cycle and their web site is www.heartcycle.org .

Anne and I have been members of the Bicycle Adventure Club (BAC) since 2002 and have participated in about a dozen tours. We have done tours in Appalachia, Northern Ireland, Southwest England, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Northern Spain, Utah National Parks, Olympic Peninsula, Tucson and Southeastern Arizona. This fall we will be touring Cape Cod and the Islands and next spring Mallorca Spain. BAC trips are similar to commercial tours at less than half the per day rate of commercial tours. BAC trips have similar amenities to commercial tours including mostly three star lodging, meals, afternoon social hours, luggage van, route maps and cues and at least one trip leader. BAC overseas trips are generally 14 days not 7-8 day trips offered by most commercial operators. The luggage van on BAC trips is not a sag vehicle. It is typically a cargo van to move luggage from point to point and can also be used for support in case of emergency. The BAC has one halftime office administrator who is paid from the $50 per rider participant fee per tour. The club is non-profit and has nearly 2000 members.  If there are funds remaining at the conclusion of the trip, the funds are refunded to the trip participants. It is more typical than not to receive some refund on BAC trips.

Anne and I have led three BAC trips in England, Spain and Southeastern Arizona. The European trips were coordinated trips where we hired Iron Donkey Bicycle Tours of Northern Ireland to operate the tours. The BAC permits overseas coordinated trips. When working with a commercial tour operator overseas the trip coordinator negotiates fewer services than normally offered and a guaranteed minimum group size. The trips are generally custom designed for the BAC and are 12-14 days in length.  This results in a significant discount from their standard catalog pricing. About a third of overseas trips are commercially assisted, all other overseas trips and all North American trips are designed and directed by members.

In March of this year Anne and I directed our first BAC trip in Southeastern Arizona. The trip was nine days with eight (6 required and 2 optional) riding days. We averaged 50 miles per day with 2500 feet of climbing on the six required days. As part of planning this trip we scouted the entire 300 mile base loop by riding it self-contained in April of 2012. We have created a web page describing the entire trip www.wetandem.com/SEAZ13/SEAZ13.htm. We had a total of 26 participants on the trip. We will be leading that trip again next year in Mid-March. Next year we will be accepting 22 participants which include ourselves and the van driver. The trip was just posted to the BAC web site on May 1, 2013 and filling quickly. Last March we had six couples from Colorado join the trip. Next year’s trip will be one day longer. In addition to this trip the BAC is offering a fixed Tucson ride which starts the week before our trip called Tucson Sunshine and Saguaros. Our trip is called Southeastern AZ Beyond Saguaros.  If you are interested in two and half weeks of cycling and warm sunshine, you can combine the two trips. Here is the link for all BAC trips in 2014  www.bicycleadventureclub.org/html/rides/?year=2014.

Bicycle touring clubs such as the BAC are excellent alternatives to commercial tours and excellent value. Most BAC members have become converts from commercial tours to the touring club concept.
The Bent Fork Chronicles - Volume 6, Issue 3, 1 June 2013

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