We first learned about the Great Shasta Rail Trail several months ago, and have since been following the progress with great interest. The 80-mile corridor cuts through the forest south of Mt Shasta in Northern California, crossing several trestle bridges and connecting the communities of McCloud and Burney – which means it will be an incredible bike tourism route when complete.
Currently, there are 37 miles open and rideable, and we had the opportunity to check it out on our way back to Portland from LA. During our visit, we also had the opportunity to connect with some of the advocates behind the Great Shasta Rail Trail. We’ll cut the footage into a short video in the near future, but we wanted to share two big takeaways from the interviews – because we feel it’s information that could be helpful for other trail and bike tourism advocates.
1. Work Together & Communicate Openly
We’ve heard this from other successful trails and bike tourism destinations (most famously, from our interviews about the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand) – but it bears repeating.
The Great Shasta Rail Trail morphed from vague idea to 37 miles open in just six years – which feels like lightening speed compared to other large destination trails. What moved it forward so quickly was the coalition of people working together. April Gray is the woman at the helm, but she quickly recognized the importance of building a team to work on the trail with her. Before there was a Great Shasta Rail Trail Association (who now manages the trail construction and maintenance), there was April and representatives from several other organizations (from land trusts to trail builders), who all saw the vision. Together, they reached out to their contacts, leaned on each others’ strengths, and put a plan in motion.
Equally as important, this diverse group met every month. Not only did regular meetings keep them all on track, it also kept them in contact with community members and land owners. For bike tourism to be successful in a small town, it’s important that nobody be alienated during the process – which happens best when there’s constant, consistent communication.
2. Name Wisely & Invest in Quality Branding
Often, we encounter trails (or other named routes) which are built without much marketing forethought. Names are long or confusing or otherwise uninspiring, and the routes aren’t branded in a way that brings in visitors. We understand that naming is complicated, and there are serious budget considerations in creating quality marketing – but potential visitors make snap decisions based on how they perceive an experience.
What helped the Great Shasta Rail Trail stand out to us, in the middle of all of the noise of the internet, is its incredible logo and iconic name. In talking to April, it was great to hear that they recognized the importance of good branding at the beginning. For everyone involved, the primary goal of the Great Shasta Rail Trail is to bring economic development via tourism to these communities – and they understood that potential visitors needed to find out about the trail in order to plan a visit. Hiring a professional graphic designer to create their branding imagery was, in our opinion, money very-well-spent.
But it turns out that selecting the name wasn’t so cut and dry. In fact, “Great Shasta Rail Trail” didn’t come along as a name until the committee kept squabbling about which town name should go first. It turns out that the original name was the McCloud-Burney Rail Trail, which the residents of Burney wanted reversed to be the Burney-McCloud Rail Trail. When nobody could agree to be second, someone suggested just leaving the town names out, and that’s when the hunt began for a new name. Our feeling is that, whatever it took, the new (and current) name is much better. Naming is tricky, because we often want to recognize an important person or reference a locally-known icon. But it’s important to think about an outsider coming in – who doesn’t know one regionally-important person from another – and who will likely choose a route based on the experience that it promises. The name “Great Shasta Rail Trail” promises incredible scenery, views of Mt Shasta, an epic trail experience – which will help it stand out above other potential destinations with less-exciting names.
We’ve long been dumbfounded that with the popularity of bicycling, bike travel, bike touring and bikepacking that there currently isn’t a single show on TV about it. Clearly, there are far more people interested in cake making and what is sold in Vegas pawn shops. We figured, we could either wait until something magically appears or try to make our own. We’ve had a Youtube channel since the very beginning of our adventures in 2009. The early videos are pretty rough and they are a little embarrassing to watch now, but they capture where we were at the time.
Fast forward to the present and we’ve matured as people, our video production skills have vastly improved and we do professional client work. We’ve made the decision to reinvigorate our Youtube Channel with content we’d like to see. Short well-produced reviews, helpful how-to’s, interviews with interesting cyclists and recommendations for bicycle destinations. We’ve been slowly updating videos the last three weeks (hopefully you’ve noticed!) and have been working out a formula and tenor that suits us. I think we’ve got it to a pretty good place now. Expect some flubs here and there as we try different things, but we feel good enough about it to formally make an announcement.
So, in short, welcome to our Bicycle Travel Channel! Check out the new reviews, tell us what you like and what you don’t and what you’d like to see. Youtube is new-ish waters for us to navigate, so we could use some direction. If you like the vids and want to see some more, show your support by subscribing and share the vids!
This is the last week to register for the National Bicycle Tourism Conference!
We’re putting the finishing touches on our portions of the National Bicycle Tourism Conference, checking off to-do lists, reaching out to our colleagues who we’ll see in a few weeks – and we wanted to write up one last pitch for you to join us in San Diego.
If you’re interested in where and how bicycling and tourism intersect, then we think you should consider attending the conference. This year’s agenda is full of interesting topics and conversation starters – from mountain bike tourism to urban bike tourism – from the big picture experience of a bicycle visitor to the nitty-gritty of putting together a route or a ride.
And, of course, the most valuable component is the opportunity to connect with folks from around the country (and beyond), to learn from each other, and to brainstorm interesting new ways to bring bike tourism into your community.
DMOs/CVBs: If you’re a tourism industry professional or work for your local Chamber or Business District, and you want to learn current best practices and how you can better incorporate bicycling into your tourism offerings, you should attend.
Bicycle Advocates: If you want to broaden your message of bicycles as economic development, or want to be able to speak to constituents who aren’t necessarily cyclists, you should attend.
If you’re interested in starting a Bike-Related Business, and you want to see what the gaps are in the market and learn from others who have started similar businesses, you should attend.
Trail Advocates: If you want to attract more visitors to your trail and learn about successes from other trails, you should attend.
If you’re involved in Economic Development, whether at a local or larger level, and you want to learn more about using bicycling to kickstart new opportunities, you should attend.
If you represent a Bicycle Brand or work in the Bicycle Industry, and you want to get in on the discussion of combining bicycling and tourism, which will ultimately help you sell more bikes, you should attend.
Over the last two years, we’ve seen the conference grow and change to become more inclusive of destinations and styles of riding beyond just fast-paced road events. We’re proud to be involved and look forward to the interactions that we’ll have this year – and we hope that you’ll consider joining us.
Registration ends on October 20. So, if you’re going to jump on the opportunity, now is the time to do so.
For the past many months, we have been working on a video project with the Oregon Department of Transportation and Travel Oregon, to highlight the ongoing effort to re-connect the Historic Columbia River Highway as a walkable-bikeable State Trail.
We’ve long been supporters of the trail project – so it’s been fun to help highlight the opportunities for increased bike tourism through the Columbia River Gorge.
Now it’s time to celebrate! Join us at the video premiere party:
When: Tuesday, July 14.. 6-8pm
Where: Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland
Check out the Facebook event page for the full event details. We look forward to seeing you there!
Our first full day in Alabama, we borrowed some bikes and joined a small group of folks on a 20-mile loop through the farmland outside of Montgomery. The overcast sky threatened rain and thunderstorms at any minute, and we passed old, crumbling farmsteads and small pre-Civil War cemeteries.
The traffic was nonexistent. I asked Jeff if it was because it was Sunday or if that was the normal traffic volume – and he smiled and said it’s normal to not see any cars out there. So far, so good.
We were in Alabama to speak at the first statewide bicycle summit, and to meet with a few communities interested in bicycle tourism. We were excited (after all, the South is the frontier for bike advocacy), but we truly had no idea what to expect from our week-long visit. Would it be a living stereotype? Would there be more to eat than fried chicken? Was it a joke to think that anyone might ride a bicycle there?
On our second day in Alabama, we drove to Selma. It turned out that we happened to be there on the same week as the voter rights march from Selma to Montgomery, 50 years ago. A large group was walking the route in honor of that historic event, and the visitor’s center was buzzing with activity. For me, it was surprising and humbling to find ourselves in the middle of something so significant.
In Selma, the blocks of empty downtown buildings met us with sadness and resignation. The tall brick buildings date back to the early 1800s, and you can almost envision what it must have been like when there was enough commerce to support them all.
The Montgomery Bicycle Club put on a ride to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the march. They expected only a handful of people – and had to cut off registration when it reached 350. They estimate an economic impact of $300,000. But they had to bus participants to the beginning in Selma, because there’s no lodging.
Could this really be a bicycle tourism destination? The history and culture are incredibly strong draws, but is that enough?
At Redemptive Cycles in Birmingham, a large and diverse group turned out for pizza and beer and talk about cycling. Here, there is a burgeoning bike culture, with tall bike jousting and an independent coffee roaster and a new bike share system which is slated to open in the fall.
Several hours to the South, we visited the town of Fairhope, along the Mobile Bay. Fairhope is a small community, literally built around utopian ideals. The downtown is exceedingly walkable, they’re starting to stripe bike lanes, and the whole town shows up along the beach each evening to watch the sun sink into the bay. It couldn’t have been more different from Selma.
In Fairhope, we were treated to a round-town bicycle tour so we could see the “castle” built by a local artist and a segment of the Eastern Shore Trail. We ate gumbo and jambalaya and far too many beignets.
And we learned about a new mountain bike park in the nearby community of Foley. One day, someone noticed that people were biking on the hiking trails through a nature area. Rather than kick them out, they worked with the local bike shop to design purpose-built mountain biking trails.
Back in Montgomery, there was an interview on Alabama Live, followed by a short bike ride with staff from the Mayor’s office and a pre-Summit happy hour. The manager at the restaurant suggested the First White House of the Confederacy, just around the corner, as the one thing we should see before leaving town.
Alabama is a surprisingly beautiful state, and a bit of a conundrum. Rolling hills in the North, the Gulf and Mobile Bay in the South. Trees and farms and the most biologically diverse waterways in the US. And, yet, outdoor recreation hasn’t really caught on.
The Summit, which initially drew us to Alabama, was the finale of our trip. After five days spent in various parts of the state, talking with folks about bikes and tourism, reading visitor brochures and trying to grasp the various experiences on offer, we joined 30 or so folks to talk about bicycling in Alabama. From DOT to tourism to Forest Service to advocates across the state, the most striking thing about the Summit was that it brought together people who had never before been in the same room. Maybe that’s what all Summits are about, but it felt remarkable in a place like Alabama, which seems like one of the last places to consider adopting cycling as a part of its culture.
Our week was spent digging in and questioning the possibility of cycling in Alabama. In many ways, bike tourism is already happening. There are pockets of opportunity for cycling and there are energetic, enthusiastic people who are working for safer, more comfortable riding experiences. And, yet, there’s no denying the incredible uphill battle that advocates are facing. What happens next is anyone’s guess. But we’ll definitely be watching, with our fingers crossed.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be presenting about bike tourism at this year’s Alabama Statewide Bicycle Summit. At first blush, Alabama might not seem like an obvious bike tourism destination – and that’s exciting for us, because bike tourism brings new people to the bicycling conversation.
We’re also excited because we have the opportunity to visit a few parts of the state before the Summit. We’ve never been to Alabama, so we’re looking forward to exploring a bit, as well as meeting with community leaders and bike advocates, and seeing what bike tourism can look like in Alabama.
If you’re local and want to join in the fun, we’d love to meet up! There are some events already planned or in the works, and hopefully there will be impromptu meet-ups along the way as well.
We’ll be in the following places on the following dates:
– Birmingham: Monday 3/23
– Fairhope: Tuesday 3/24 & Wednesday 3/25
– Montgomery: Thursday 3/26 & Friday 3/27 (the Summit is Friday)
If there’s anything we should see and do (or eat), we’re all ears!
We’re thrilled to start the pre-production for another Scenic Bikeway video shoot with Travel Oregon. In June, we’ll be filming the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway, and we’re on the hunt for potential talent. If you’re local and interested, check out the details below and contact us for the full call-out.
Who: A couple + a dog (preferably a large breed, like a lab). Talent must provide their own bicycles and camping gear. Ideally, talent will provide their own trailer to carry their own dog, so that the dog is familiar with being on a bike.
When: 2 full days in mid-to-late June, to be scheduled with talent.
In case you’re not familiar with the series, check out the Madras Mountain View Scenic Bikeway video below…
When I last looked at the weather for Minneapolis, it promised a whopping 5 degrees when we arrive this afternoon. It’s not lost on us that this may not the best time of year to visit, especially since we don’t really like the cold. But it is when QBP is hosting Frostbike, so we’re packing all of our layers (literally) and planning to make the best of the silly cold weather.
We’re looking forward to meeting (and meeting again) the good folks at Salsa (and Surly and Cogburn), and maybe tossing around some new project ideas. We’re looking forward to seeing some of the behind-the-scenes, and getting a glimpse into what’s coming up. And, despite the cold, we’re looking forward to exploring a bit of Minneapolis, although we have conceded that biking in this weather is not in the cards for this trip (unless anyone wants to lend us proper snow biking gear).
How do you tell a story from five years ago? How do you describe a memory that looms so large in your head that you’re not sure if you completely remember the “truth”? And, as you search for all the little details, how do you know what you were really scared of and what the lesson really was?
Tonight, I will be one of four storytellers at a bike-themed fundraising event here in Portland. (If you’re in town, join us!) Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with the creative souls behind the Portland Story Theater, slowly fine-tuning our stories and how to tell them in front of a live audience. And the thing that has struck me most about this process is the way it has dug out all of the details that I haven’t thought about in years, leaving me pondering the “truth” of my memories and the extent of that “truth” that I’m brave enough to share.
Five years ago, we were in the West Texas desert. We were exhausted, and we desperately wanted winter to be over. Yet, we were also in awe of the beautifully rugged landscape and the immense quiet. And set right in the middle of this frontier is the story that I’ll be sharing tonight.
At its core, it’s a story about bravery. Not the “bravado” that Hollywood tries to sell as bravery – but the quiet bravery of being anxious about an impending situation, while not wanting to admit it, and then going ahead because there are no other good options, and finding a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I easily could have missed.
Which means that, as I have found my way to the precise words that I will be stringing together on stage, I have thought a lot about the concept of bravery.
Sometimes we don’t see our own bravery, because we assume that “being brave” means doing something “epic” or “hard-core.” But we’re not all afraid of the same things, so I’ve come to believe that bravery operates on a sliding scale. I didn’t see it at the time, but the more that I think back on our travels and prepare my story for tonight, the more I believe that bike travel is inherently brave. Not because of the unknown or the bears or the strange people – but because traveling by bike has an incredible knack for breaking down barriers and giving us glimpses into worlds that we would never otherwise see – and the simple act of being open to these experiences is bravery.
Bicycle adventures come in all shapes and sizes. From epic multi-month tours on dirt roads in remote places, to shorter trips not too far from town. Since putting down some roots in Portland to get serious about promoting bicycle tourism, our trips have been of the far shorter variety. I had coffee with our friend Joshua Bryant a local frame builder in town the other day. He had just come back from a snowy bike overnight testing out his latest creation, the NFD (National Forest Development) bike. We talked briefly about the idea of doing a bike tour every month, calling it an “S24O R-12” or something like that.
For the non bike geeks out there “S24O” is a bike tour that you complete in less than 24 hours. You essentially ride out in the afternoon, overnight somewhere and come back the next morning. “R-12” is a term borrowed from the randonneuring community, that denotes a rider that completes a randonneuring event of 200k or longer in 12 consecutive months.
What I’m proposing is nothing as rigid or stringent, but just a little impetus to get people “out there” on the bike. Looking back (way back), I had set this as a New Year’s resolution in 2008, little did I know where it would take us. It seems like a good time to take on this resolution again. Who’s with us?!
So here’s the ground rules.
-You must complete one overnight bike trip per month for 12 consecutive months.
-Since this whole challenge thing is starting mid-January, you can double up in February.
-You can stay for more than one night.
-While tenting is preferred, an overnight to a cabin or yurt is perfectly acceptable especially in the colder months.
-Bikepacking or bike touring or bike whatevering is OK!
-There is no minimum or maximum distance you have to ride.
-You must have fun. This is not meant to be a death march.
-If you use Instagram, tag your photos #BikeTourR12 (to avoid a nonsensical hashtag like S24OR12 or something).
-Post some photos to the Bike Tour a Month Flickr Group! Prep and gear photos are totally OK and encouraged.
-Use the tag #BikeTourR12
That’s it! Again, this is really meant to just get us out there having fun.
This month, we are biking out to Stub Stewart State Park this week to stay in a cabin. We’ve toured there before and have usually treated it as the end destination. This time, we’re spending a few days there so we can use it to explore some local gravel roads. We’ll put up a separate post about that when we get back. If you want to follow along on Instagram we’re using the tag #gravelgetaway.