VeloNews to launch bike touring site and retail operation

Encouraged by the success of its sister website, soon will branch out once again — this time, into the largely untapped bicycle-touring market.

Encouraged by the success of its sister website, soon will branch out once again — this time, into the largely untapped bicycle-touring market.

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“Cycling journalism is a niche, and there are niches within that niche — road racing, track, mountain biking, cyclocross — why not chisel one more little chip off that old block?” says Patrick O’Grady, a longtime VeloNews contributor who will spearhead the editorial side of the new venture, VeloTourisme.

The niche is not entirely unfilled — websites and ’zines like Bicycle Times, Dirt Rag and Urban Velo regularly discuss the bicycle as transportation. The big dog on the block may be Adventure Cyclist magazine, published nine times per year for the 44,500-member Adventure Cycling Association.

Nevertheless, Competitor Group Inc. sees untapped potential in the bicycle-tourism market, and O’Grady says the VeloNews staff can bring some special skills and strengths to bear.

“For starters, we both serve a graying market. The median age of the VeloNews audience is 46, and Adventure Cycling’s bunch is 52, so it’s not like you’re having to learn a new language that’s all ‘fixie’ this and ‘schweet’ that,” he said. “We’re talking the wool-shorts crowd, and with some deep pockets in those shorts, too. Plus if we can stuff our bunch and their bunch into one sack — one big happy handlebar bag, if you will — then we’ve got something to sell to advertisers.”

O’Grady recently did some boots-on-the-ground research for the new venture, riding the ACA’s Southern Arizona Road Adventure, a weeklong supported tour from Tucson to Benson, and came away pleased with the possibilities.

“What isn’t there to write about?” asks O’Grady. “Which panniers to buy, and how to pack them. Why road pedals and shoes suck when you’re on and off your bike a lot. The joys of the triple crankset, bar-end shifters and an 11-32 eight-speed cassette when you’re pedaling up an 8 percent grade with your bedroom, kitchen and clothes closet on your bike.”

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And with the bicycle business still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, O’Grady adds, it will be comforting to have a broader advertising base — along with a VeloGear-style online store catering to the cyclo-tourist’s every need, which will debut alongside the new quarterly magazine and website just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

“These people aren’t bike racers,” he says flatly. “When they hit the road, they don’t travel five to a Subaru, split a two-bed Motel 6 room and then wipe out the food bar at Wendy’s. They ride all day long, sleep on the ground, cook their own meals. That means featherweight tents, ThermaRest pads and sleeping bags, titanium cookware and itty-bitty butane stoves, water filters, first-aid kits, alcohol wipes, solar cell-phone chargers, spare parts, tools, those geeky little mirrors that clip to your sunglasses and clothes that you can wear off the bike without looking like the King of the Dorks.”

Adds O’Grady: “About the only thing we won’t be able to sell them? Leg razors. Not even to the chicks.”