Bike tours may take a bigger piece of the destination vacation market as biking continues to gain favor as an individual recreational alternative, proponents say. Accessibility, time savings, networking potential, health benefits and natural tie-ins with F&B are all cited as reasons for its growth and appeal, compared to golf and other options.
“Biking is the new golf,” Jack Ezon, President of Ovation Vacations in New York, declared during a recent travel-conference panel, according to a recent Yahoo Travel feature on Yahoo.com.
The growing popularity of the activity is perhaps most in evidence by the proliferation of “MAMILS” (middle-aged men in Lycra) who can be seen on a daily basis in every major metropolitan area, Yahoo Travel noted. But biking’s appeal isn’t limited to a certain age group or gender, the website noted. Bike tours all over the world are growing exponentially in popularity, and many more hotels and resort properties are providing free bikes for their guests to use during their stays. Even river-cruise lines are getting in on the biking mania, Yahoo Travel reported.
The market for golf-related destination trips isn’t disappearing, Yahoo Travel reported, but biking might be poised to take a bigger piece of it for a number of reasons, many related to the “much more intimate, immersive experience” that the activity offers. “A bike is a very flexible mode of transport. We call it the ‘art of slow travel,’ and we specialize in gentle cycling and laid-back itineraries,” one proponent told Yahoo Travel. “In the U.K., biking is especially good because of the density of things to see. You don’t have to travel massive distances to see things.”
Yahoo Travel’s report listed these other reasons for biking’s surging popularity and growth as an alternative to golf and other activities:
- It’s become mainstream. The popularity of biking kicked off in the 1980s, Yahoo Travel reported. “It was a confluence of more money in the American market and an appetite for fitness,” Norman Howe, President & CEO of Butterfield & Robinson, a luxury tour organizer, told the website. From this, the desire for tours that could offer biking in scenic areas throughout the world took off. Lance Armstrong’s surge in pre-disgrace popularity also fueled the sport’s growth, much as Tiger Woods did during the same period for golf, Yahoo Travel reported.
- It’s more accessible and takes less time. Even with all of the great women players and hobbyists, golf has traditionally been a men’s sport, Yahoo Travel reported. But with biking, there’s more of an equal-opportunity allure; men and women alike love it. It also takes less time. “There’s a shift to bonding on the back of a bike,” Howe said, “with guys dropping [$5,000-$10,000] on a performance bike, getting together with their buddies on a Saturday morning, and doing a century ride [100 miles]. Golf is a much bigger commitment, but a weekend ride is very appealing.”
- Spin-class fanaticism. The spin class isn’t new, but the sleek studios and sold-out classes filled with bouncing spin devotees are a recent phenomenon, Yahoo Travel reported. “It’s tipped into the pop culture access and awareness,” Howe said. “It’s very intense and there’s an addiction that comes with it.” Classes also help travelers prep for hilly rides throughout the U.S. and in European destinations like Spain, Tuscany, and Portugal.
- It’s a better opportunity to network. Golf has a limited number of participants, Yahoo Travel noted, but a group bike ride offers the opportunity to “develop a community with 20 to 50 people,” according to Natalie Cook, VP of BikeTours.com. “Often, that will end with drinks or dinner somewhere, [extending the] larger group networking opportunity,” Cook told Yahoo Travel.
- Being healthy is more important. Biking incorporates a different kind of health-consciousness into a recreational activity, Yahoo Travel reported. “More than ever, we incorporate activity into our lifestyle, rather than hitting the gym on a lunch break,” said Cook. The drive for a great calorie burn is pushing more towards bike rides, Yahoo Travel reported, and away from driving a golf cart or even walking a course.
- We love food more than ever. American’s passion for food experience while traveling is only growing, Yahoo Travel noted, and for bikers, there is an easier justification for sitting down and truly enjoying a great meal with local wine, cheese, and dessert. “All of us love to eat well and drink well,” Howe said. “But when you feel like you’ve earned it, it’s different. You just don’t get that from golf.”
- E-Biking is exploding. Riding on an e-bike, which provides as much or as little support as wanted by way of a battery, broadens the market for potential bikers, Yahoo Travel reported. “No matter how good you are, [an e-bike] flattens [the terrain], and that’s a good thing,” Howe noted. “It also prolongs the longevity of travelers whose knees and hips gave out. And an e-bike takes away anxiety and fear that a biker can’t keep up or they’re going to hold people back.”