Cycle Adirondacks goes for fewer, longer stops

High Peaks route planned; state grant to support marketing

Cycle Adirondacks rider’s bikes and tents are lined up neatly in the Petrova School field during their two-night stay in Saranac Lake in August 2016. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Cycle Adirondacks will make longer stops in a shorter list of communities during its third run through the Park this year.

Instead of a week-long tour with stops in six towns, the catered road cycling tour will make two-night stops in three towns over six days, Aug. 19 to 25. The exact route of Cycle Adirondacks 2017 won’t be announced until later this month, but organizers have said it will feature the High Peaks Wilderness.

Cycle Adirondacks is a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Saranac Lake-based Adirondack Program. Program Director Zoe Smith said this new plan will make the event less expensive and easier to run, more enjoyable for participants and volunteers, and more of a benefit to its host communities.

“It was definitely a financial decision, but it also was based on the feedback we got from our riders,” Smith said. “Some people weren’t used to being on a bike for six days in a row, and they also weren’t used to the mountains.”

“What we also noticed last year was that we would come to town at 3 or 4 o’clock, the riders would eat, shower, have a beer, listen to some music, go to bed, get up at 7 and leave. Some of them never saw the town, and we felt like it was a missed opportunity for our communities.”

This year, participants will get two nights in each community.

“So, for example, people will come to a town, and people will spend the night,” Smith explained. “The next day they can take one of two optional bike rides, or if not, we’re giving people a day off if they want. That will drive people to our outfitters, our guides, our museums, our restaurants, our shops. They’ll spend some money, explore the town a little bit. It really caters more to what our riders want and brings benefit to our communities.”

Smith said this new plan will also be easier on volunteers “so they’re not constantly moving.”

Cycle Adirondacks drew 160 riders in its first year and 310 last year. Smith said organizers hope to break 350 this year.

She said WCS plans to use a $75,000 state marketing grant to draw in more riders. The grant was handed out in December as part of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council awards.

“It’s to help us create more of a buzz about the event to attract more riders and volunteers involved with it, and to help spread the word about the event in our local communities,” Smith said.

In the last two years, Cycle Adirondacks has drawn people from over 30 states and several Canadian provinces. This year, with the help of the grant, WCS is targeting urban areas like New York City.

“We think this is the kind of experience people in an urban demographic would be interested in, because they could come up here essentially with a guided, week-long trip doing something they love,” Smith said. “Part of that is to focus on the New York City market through our connections there, and creating a mechanism so people from the city can get here easier, like looking at public transportation or providing shuttles for people who don’t have cars.”

This is the second time the state has invested in Cycle Adirondacks. Prior to the event’s first year, it was awarded $211,000 grant. Smith said the state’s investment is part of an effort to grow bike tourism in New York.

“The first year was to get it off the ground and try out this idea,” she said. “Now we feel like we’ve learned a lot and we’re really dialed in. We’re hoping with this new grant we can really grow this event so it has momentum to be self-sustaining into the future.”

WCS’ primary mission is wildlife conservation, but Smith said the organization also believes that healthier communities in the Park are more likely to support conservation. Cycle Adirondacks is designed to do that by bringing people to the area in a way that benefits towns and villages in the Park, she said.