Road biking tours in North America: 10 questions with bike tour outfitter Brad Barnard

bicycle touring

Based in Redmond, Washington, Bicycle Adventures is one of the top bicycle touring companies in America with 60+ different tours in the U.S. and other countries and 220+ departure dates. It offers more North America tours than any other company. Most trips last 6 days and may cover 25 to 125 miles a day depending on the riders’ interest and level of biking experience. Vice president and co-owner Brad Barnard is a former bike racer and passionate rider who has traveled the world scouting bike routes. He talked to Brown’s Guides about who spends their vacation riding a bike maybe 60 to 70 miles a day and why they do it.

What’s the co-owner of Bicycle Adventures personal favorite bicycle adventure?

The Bryce National Park to Zion National Park trip. That one blows my mind. You just don’t find scenery like you can find in southern Utah.

Who are your customers?

Retired baby boomers, doctors, lawyers, teachers – a broad spectrum of people who love to ride their bikes but don’t have a lot of time to spend on planning. They trust us to take them to astounding places. Some riders cover twenty-five or thirty miles a day; the crazies do seventy to a hundred and twenty. It depends on their interest and riding experience. About sixty percent of our business is repeat customers.

Is there a biking “season”?

We run tours twelve months a year in areas where the weather and riding are good. But seventy percent of our guests join us in July, August, and September.

What do you consider the most important elements of a successful bike tour?

Guides, guests, and destinations. It takes us seven or eight months to hire and train a guide. It would be hard to overstate the importance of the relationship between guides and guests. It goes from meeting a stranger to developing life-long friendships.

Of your 200 tours a year what are your most popular destinations

Ninety percent are in North America: Washington’s San Juan Islands, Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, Utah’s Bryce and Zion National Parks and of course Glacier, Banff (Canada) and Jasper (Canada) National Parks. Those are our most popular destinations.

Why so heavy in the U.S? Other tour companies feature more european destinations.

Why not? We discovered that people associated bike tours with Europe, but there are so many amazing places to ride right here in our country. We have had plenty of guests who have ridden all over Europe but haven’t ever been to Bryce and Zion national parks, which have some incredible riding. There are areas here that for one reason or another are not developed from a bike touring standpoint. We open up incredible places that people just don’t know about. We’ve done that numerous times in the past – our Idaho tours being one good example – and our customers love it. We operate trips to Spain, New Zealand, Taiwan and Chile when it’s good riding weather there and winter here.

What kind of bikes to you use?

All our bikes are  Orbea bicycles – both road bikes and hybrid bikes. Bicycles are included in the tour prices, but if someone is interested in riding an especially high-end bike, we offer  an Orbea Avant M20D for an extra charge. (See Brad’s “Gear I Can’t Live Without” comments about the Avant M20D). Some customers bring their own bikes.

What’s the average cost of a trip?

We have tours from nineteen hundred dollars for the six-day Lewis and Clark Number Five to five thousand three hundred dollars for an eleven-day tour around the island of Taiwan. Add in transportation to and from the starting point of the tour, lodging before and after, tips and other costs and a Bicycle Adventures trip probably averages around four thousand dollars.

Ouch! Four thousand dollars for a bike ride? You get any pushback?

Sometimes. But we can break it down for them. We eat well and stay in first class places.  We choose the best lodging available. Some of our hotels would average five-hundred to seven-hundred a night if you were staying on your own. Usually by the time people get to us they have already chewed through the cost issues. And they know the value of having everything planned and included. As I said before, sixty percent of our customers have ridden with us before.

Your catalog’s spectacular

Thank you. That’s the idea! You can sit with the catalog and dream. The tangible, physical feeling of having a catalog in your hand means a great deal, especially for our customers who prefer paper over the Internet. The main reason for the catalog is to get you excited enough to go to the website.

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About Brown's Guide 195 Articles
Brown’s Guides is a website about the top outdoor experiences in America and about the professional outfitters and guides who know them best. Hiking, biking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and over 100 other outdoor activities are indexed on the site. BG has been doing this type of thing since 1972 in books, magazines, maps and on the Internet.

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