Adventure Cycling: It’s a thing

Riders have a new lens through which to look at their world of riding, and it is going to shape investment in better attractions and promote riding in places it has never been before.

What were once seen as disparate activities: bike packing, BMX, MTB, gravel grinding, are now a bright and shiny new thing – adventure cycling.

The just released NSW Adventure Cycling Strategy envisages a burgeoning new regional tourism sector based on a bundling existing cycling disciplines in an exciting new way.

If it gets a foothold in NSW, this idea will surely flow across to other Australian states.

According to NSW Government figures, interest in adventure cycling has undergone a sharp uptick in recent years, with a 25% growth in BMX and mountain biking club memberships between 2016 and 2020, while track and trail usage in NSW regional areas is on the up. Since March 2020, the government says there has also been a 50% increase in sales of all types of bikes.

Bicycle touring is also increasing in popularity across the country. But according to the strategy, with its combination of vibrant towns and stunning natural beauty, regional NSW has "strong potential" to offer unique experiences in this area. 

The recently completed Central West Cycle Trail serves as a useful example. Opened in 2020 after being mapped out by industrious volunteers, the 400-km loop to the north-west of Sydney is made up of backcountry roads and fire trails and links Dubbo, Mudgee, Wellington and other towns in the region.

The trail now sees around 15 organised tours and 100 overnight stays in each town each year, providing a boost to local businesses offering food, drink, accommodation and support services like luggage transfers.

“There’s no need to pack your bag for Europe and tackle the climbs of the Tour De France or go off road in New Zealand," said Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole, who launched the Adventure Cycling Strategy in late January.

"There are plenty of amazing sights to experience from your bike right here in NSW. We want regional NSW to be a global destination for adventure cyclists and this strategy is about ensuring we unleash that potential.”

The NSW Adventure Cycling Strategy offers a framework for the planning and prioritisation of investments in adventure cycling infrastructure, and points to a few overarching principles that applicants for funding must address. These include:

  • Support from the local community and stakeholders
  • A sustainable operating model to maintain facilities and infrastructure
  • Approved land access, consideration given to First Nations history and culture and assessment of environmental impacts

As for the successful adventure cycling experiences the strategy is aiming to create, the government points to a few key factors for consideration:

  • Is it an appealing destination with major attractions, natural beauty and other complementary recreational activities?
  • Does it offer easy and inclusive access for all with car parking, safe ride-in and ride-out options and proximity to population centres and public transport?
  • Can it offer a quality experience with well-maintained trails and an ability to host events and competitions?
  •  Are there other reasons to stay in the area, with appropriate accommodation options, proper amenities at parks and trails, and entertainment services such as cafes, pubs, restaurants or breweries?

 The NSW Government sees investment in this area as a key to its Visitor Economy Strategy, which centers on the ambition of turning the state into the premier visitor economy of the Asia-Pacific by 2030.

“Adventure cycling is growing in popularity and what better way to spend time with family and friends while keeping fit and taking in the beautiful sights of our regional communities, just like the Coffs Coast,” said Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour, Gurmesh Singh.

“This plan will help strengthen local tourism and promote riding tracks and trails throughout the regions to riding enthusiasts from around the world.”

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