Day 3 of the 2013 National Bicycle Tourism Conference

Bipartisan Tshirt

Day 3 of the 2013 National Bicycle Tourism Conference

Laura, Russ, and Jim

Laura Crawford and Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled share a photo with Jim Sayer of Adventure Cycling Association

The third day of the conference kicked off with a big bang as Russ & Laura of The Path Less Pedaled, gave their presentation on marketing to the attendees of the conference.  We were then entertained by Andy Clarke, the Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, who delivered an important message on why we should join the organization to help give bicyclists a voice in the national front.  The Director of Licensing & Athletic Hall of Fame for University of Iowa Athletics, Dale Arens, spoke to us about the key to successful merchandising opportunities.  We were then encouraged by Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of President Obama’s Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition on government programs to help kids stay active and eat healthy.  After a short film about the DALMAC bicycle tour, which highlighted its founder, Dick Allen, we jumped into a panel discussion with 4 tour veterans who shared their perspectives on bicycle tourism.  We capped off the remainder of our day by enjoying dinner and visiting the vendors of the show.

Creative Bicycle Tourism Marketing

Russ & Laura’s second presentation at the conference was a very informative one in which they shared common practice and marketing strategies for tour organizers.  They highlighted 3 keys to marketing:

  1. Tell a story

  2. Make it visual

  3. Share

The most important tip of their presentation was the fact that you need to tell a story to get people engaged.  This needs to be well thought out in order to attract the sympathy of visitors.  Once you have that story, you need to be able to bring that story to life.  They explained to the audience their process in producing effective videos for Travel Oregon The videos should evoke an emotional connection.  Once you have that visual story, you must promote and share it with your social networks.



I’ve been a big fan of their work and their blog and have seen these videos prior to them showing it at the conference.  I’ve definitely learned a thing or two from them and plan to apply some of their suggestions for Milestone Rides.

Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists

Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists

National Bicycle Advocacy

Andy Clarke, the Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, shared some key statistics gathered by his organization immediately after Russ & Laura’s presentation.  Andy is a great story-teller, and he got the audience to laugh several times at his self-deprecating recounts about himself and bicycling.  He gave a general overview on how the League is trying to help cyclists all over the country to be recognized on a national level in Washington D.C. with our government leaders.  He mentioned that it’s not about being anti-bicycling, but it is about changing the branding of bicycling to be more inclusive to the majority of the population.


When it comes to merchandising, the University of Iowa does a really good job in promoting their brand all across the world.  Their Director of Licensing & Athletic Hall of Fame, Dale Arens, spoke to us about the importance of branding and merchandising.  He went over the nuts-and-bolts of running a merchandise-based business in which the importance of per capita income is the bottom line of knowing how well your business is doing.  Knowing when to buy the merchandise is key to fulfilling the demands of your customers a few seasons before to ensure that your inventory is ready.

How does this relate to bicycle tourism?  For event rides, this will help sell their rides and knowing what type of jersey to buy or offer for their customers.  Dale emphasized that you always request a “production quality sample” before signing up to buying bulk orders.  He also mentioned that building your relationship with sales representatives will allow you to have higher margins, higher quality, and more customers.

Here are some other points that Dale spoke about which may or may not apply to bicycle tourism, but is still worth noting for those who plan to sell merchandise.

  • Where do you buy your merchandise? Tradeshows, sales representatives, and direct.

  • Location, location, location.  Be conscious of where you set up your trailer, tents, tables, and buildings.

  • Don’t burn your bridges.  Even if you think your industry is big, you just don’t know how people are connected and they’ll know what you’ve done to another individual or company.  Play it safe and treat others fairly and with respect.

  • Be sure your presentation of your merchandise is appropriately thought out.  He gave examples of either hanging versus folding clothing.

  • Customer service is key to get return buyers.

  • Dale also shared his “Tootsie roll” story about his childhood. When he was young, his mother would take him to shop for shoes at 3 different stores.  His siblings would never settle for the shoes in the first 2 stores, but they would hold out in picking out a pair of shoes every time because the shop owner gave Tootsie rolls with every purchase.  Appealing to kids is something you shouldn’t overlook as they will be the most important influencers for their parents to spend money at your store.

  • Engage your constituencies and nurture that relationship.  Building the store one brick at a time will foster loyalty towards your store or brand.  This also works for online shops.  Be sure to take advantage of social media.  If you can’t or don’t want to do it, hire someone to do it for you.  It is a free way of promoting your product and instantly engaging your customers.

  • Don’t forget to build those email distribution lists and engage your customers that way.  Those will be your most loyal followers and customers.

A National Perspective of Being Active

Bipartisan Tshirt

Bikes Are Bipartisan T-shirt via American League of Bicyclists

The last speaker of the day was Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of President Obama’s Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, who was from Iowa and is working in Washington, D.C. alongside the likes of Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes.  Shellie explained how the United States has changed their testing standards for kids, as well as for nutritional requirements.  Those grade school fitness test requirements are set through Shellie’s organization.  Find out more by visiting and

Panel Discussion

We wrapped up the day with a panel of 4 local bicycle tourists who went through a series of questions about their touring experiences and what they liked and didn’t like.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get their names, but there were 3 travelers who bike on paved roads, while 1 person was interested in single track mountain biking.

Here are some questions and answers that were discussed:

  • How do you decide on a tour? The cost, distance, places to eat, sites to see, challenge level of the ride, and the places you visit.

  • When do you decide on your next tour? Usually during winter time for the summer rides.

  • What do you look forward to on a tour? Scenery, meeting the people on these rides, low-traffic riding, and excellent road marking for directions.

  • What are some things you don’t like?

    • No information about the difficulty of the ride.

    • Poor communication.

    • Lack of attention to details.

    • Dependable vehicles.

    • Poor support.

    • Inadequate cue sheets.

    • No map or poor signage.

The most fascinating fact about the 3 road riders was that nobody ever traveled overseas.  All of them have extensive experience traveling within the United States for over 10+ years.

If you attended the conference and have other details to add, please provide your comments below.

Me, Laura, and Russ

Me with Laura and Russ of Path Less Pedaled.

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