Adventure Cycling Strategic Plan 2018-2023

Transformation: From bike travel experts to bike travel community

In September 2018, Adventure Cycling Association’s Board of Directors adopted a new five year strategic plan to steer the organization from 2018 to 2023. This plan includes a major shift in emphasis that transforms Adventure Cycling from being America’s bicycle travel experts to catalyzing and supporting an expansive and interactive bicycle travel community in North America.

Adventure Cycling will continue to produce many of the resources for which we are known and loved -- such as Adventure Cyclist magazine, cycle route maps, tours of all types, and advocacy -- but will also develop a robust digital platform, more events, volunteer opportunities, and ways to engage in the organization and to help people connect to the joys and benefits of bicycle travel.

Read below for an overview of where Adventure Cycling plans to go through 2023 -- and thanks for all the guidance and generous support we’ve received from members and partners to develop this exciting blueprint for the future.

Adventure Cycling’s Mission and Vision


Adventure Cycling Association inspires, empowers and connects people to travel by bicycle.

Long Range Vision

Adventure Cycling Association is the largest community and premier resource for bicycle travel in North America. We envision a future in which:

  • Everyone is aware of the amazing power of traveling by bicycle.
  • People are inspired to explore landscapes and cultures by bicycle for fun, fitness, and self-discovery.
  • There are national and global communities that inspire, empower and connect people to travel by bicycle.
  • Everyone has easy access to a national network of bicycle routes.
  • Barriers to bicycle travel are eliminated.
  • Everyone has the information and tools necessary to travel successfully by bicycle.
  • Bicycle tourism is a thriving part of the economy.

New Directions for Adventure Cycling

We will continue to provide inspiration and tools to help people travel by bicycle, but also create an expansive, interactive and connected community -- online and in the field -- to catalyze bicycle travel discoveries and experiences.

Our overarching strategic goal reflects this shift in emphasis:
By 2023, Adventure Cycling will transform from a relatively concentrated group of bike travel experts into an expansive and collaborative community, in the process connecting millions of new people to bicycle travel.

To fulfill this mission and achieve our overarching goal between 2018 and 2023, we will make the following transformational pivots and pursue five strategic goals:

Transformational Pivots: Big Changes for Adventure Cycling

  • We will move from expert to community in part by creating a digital engagement platform. This platform will transform our communication strategy from providing all information at once (for example, a cluttered website home page) to providing simpler pathways to discovery and engagement for new visitors while maintaining a pathway to more detailed information and interaction for our devoted members and subscribers.
  • We will mobilize and engage a large network of volunteers to help create and deliver bike travel experiences, contribute to route and service information, connect with the public, and advocate for better bike travel conditions.
  • We will offer a much larger palette of bicycle travel experiences, partly through more guided tours but especially through more DIY events such as Bike Overnights created and delivered by volunteers. We will also offer major participation events such as Bike Travel Weekend and Bike Your Park Day. These will be supplemented by larger “peak attendance” paid overnight events.
  • We will fully interconnect the Adventure Cycling Route Network and US Bicycle Route System, in the process connecting America’s major metro areas and foremost national parks.
  • We will transform the Routes and Mapping program into a “digital first” operation, with an emphasis on delivering routes and services through apps and web services, and will perform community-based service data collection and curation.
  • We will amplify our advocacy efforts to include an emphasis on safety, along with continuing to improve bicycle travel conditions, including improved access to parks, rail service and airlines.

Goal #1: Engage

Over five years, develop a top-to-bottom engagement funnel to draw in new visitors, more engaged subscribers, more members and a more diverse and connected bike travel community. Continue to fortify this community through better means of digital communication, existing tools (especially Adventure Cyclist magazine) and leveraged strategic partnerships.

A summary of specific Goal #1 objectives and metrics includes:

  • Create a comprehensive, mobile friendly, digital engagement platform that will attract 12 million unique visitors, 1.2 million inquiries and at least 200,000 dedicated subscribers.
  • Enable subscribers and members to connect and interact more easily through digital engagement, in the field and through bicycle travel experiences.
  • Boost and diversify Adventure Cycling’s membership by sustaining our current membership at approximately 52,000 and adding 48,000 net new members, for a total of 100,000.
  • Research and utilize communication and outreach tactics to connect with underrepresented communities. Such communities would include women, people of color, people under 50, people with disabilities.
  • Make Adventure Cyclist magazine one of the top two circulation cycling magazines in the US, a key element of membership, and a major go-to resource in North America for bicycle travel. This would include creating a digital version of the magazine behind a paywall on the website as a membership value.
  • Establish or expand on partnerships with organizations and businesses that have large, relevant constituencies that can be engaged in bike travel or have expertise that can be leveraged to enhance AC’s diversity, capacity and visibility.

Goal #2: Experience

Over five years, combine our guided tours program with the bike travel outreach program (currently including Bike Travel Weekend and Bike Your Park Day) into a new program area called Bike Travel Experiences. Our “pivots” include:

  • Expanding the existing guided tour program, using our current tour types.
  • Increasing the number and level of trainings of our members and volunteers who organize and deliver thousands of DIY bike-travel experiences throughout the year and across the country.
  • Building on the success of our Bike Travel Weekend (BTW)/Bike Your Park Day (BYPD) format by expanding it to two BTWs and one BYPD.

A summary of specific Goal #2 objectives and metrics includes:

  • Grow the current guided tours program to 3,000 participants (from just under 1,700 currently). We will complement these tours with a series of up to 10 supported bike overnights all around the US, serving 75 to 200 individuals per event, bringing together bike travel newcomers and veterans.
  • Expand volunteer-led bike travel experiences. To do this, we will (a) catalyze DIY volunteer-led events by engaging 2,000 volunteers to create and deliver these mostly overnight events (testing a programmatic approach to Bike Overnights), serving up to 100,000 individuals; (b) connect with underrepresented communities; (c) conduct an outreach and education program composed of clinics, gatherings and social functions; and (d) create an instruction class for volunteer leaders.
  • Elevate bike travel awareness by increasing the national visibility of the Adventure Cycling Experience Program. We will do this by experimenting with field offices, which can serve as “chapter” and volunteer hubs and may also serve as welcome centers for traveling cyclists.
  • We will focus in FY 2019 on reaching out to members and outside organizations on how to build this bike travel experience program, especially the outreach and field elements outside of Adventure Cycling headquarters.

Goal #3: Navigate

Over five years, shift our primary delivery vehicle from printed maps that are updated every three years to a highly interactive, community-driven routes and services database with frequent updates delivered to our Bicycle Route Navigator app, as well as other distribution partners. Our “pivot” areas include:

  • Completing our transition to “digital first” by reorganizing staff, systems and processes to merge and standardize all route and service data into a spatially-enabled database for both the Adventure Cycling Route Network and the US Bicycle Route System. This will allow our own Bicycle Route Navigator app to “consume” this data, and we will secure our position as the premier bicycle route developer by making this data available via open web standards.
  • Exploring the concept of a paid monthly subscription to the BIcycle Route Navigator (BRN) app that gives subscribers access to every route we have, across the ACRN and USBRS. This allows a bicycle traveler to use any and all of our routes to easily plan and undertake their travel.
  • Developing a community-driven data collection program (or partner with an existing one) to power a rating system for essential bike travel services such as bike shops, campgrounds, restaurants, laundromats, and grocery and convenience stores.

A summary of specific Goal #3 objectives and metrics includes:

  • Refine and interconnect the Adventure Cycling Route Network and the US Bicycle Route System. We will do this by (a) interconnecting the two route systems where possible via junctions and spurs and (b) making two nearly adjacent routes the same where possible. We will refine the networks by (c) annually evaluating all routes and determining if we should continue to maintain them. These activities and resources will (d) establish Adventure Cycling as the best custodian and source of route and service information. As we interconnect these systems, by 2023, we will (e) determine whether these systems should be a unified system with a single identity.
  • Develop the route networks to connect major US metropolitan areas and major national park units, in part by creating new Adventure Cycling and US Bicycle Route System routes. (In FY 2019, this will include the release of the new Arkansas High Country Route.)
  • Continue to provide Adventure Cycling’s high quality and specially designed paper maps, to meet demand for these reliable planning and navigation tools.
  • Speed up the delivery of new routes and updates to existing routes while maintaining high quality. We will do this by (a) releasing digital route updates very frequently, (b) shifting resources to prioritize digital data releases, (c) creating a new digital alert system to send out notifications, and (d) speeding up the delivery of new routes.
  • Curate the best digital app experience for bicycle travel. To do this, we will (a) make BRN the hub for the display of multiple layers of external data, and (b) explore a paid map subscription product that will provide access to all ACRN and USBRS routes through the BRN app.
  • Develop a broader, more engaging and more timely cycling-specific-service database that covers both route networks. To do this, we will (a) develop a more timely service update and correction system for the ACRN and USBRS and (b) create a community-driven data collection program or partner with an existing one to power a rating system for essential bike travel services.
  • Reformat route and service data into a format that is readily edited and exported, and can be used by other services and apps. To do this, we will (a) merge the existing route geodatabases into a single spatially-enabled database, and (b) merge the existing service spreadsheets into a single spatially-enabled database.

Goal #4: Advocate

Over five years, broaden and deepen our current efforts to create the best possible bike travel conditions in the United States, through development of the US Bicycle Route System, partnerships with state and national parks, improved bicycle access to long-haul rail and airline systems, and collaboration to promote bicycle tourism. Our “pivot” is a greater investment in advocacy for safe rural and suburban cycling conditions.

A summary of specific Goal #4 objectives and metrics includes:

  • Expand the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) to 25,000 miles, with 10,000 miles signed, in 40 states, and interconnect it with the Adventure Cycling Route Network to provide seamless routes for cyclists.
  • Boost the public profile of the USBRS and provide user-friendly navigation tools and maps for US Bicycle Routes.
  • Advance bicycle travel and tourism as a mainstay of economic prosperity in rural and other communities by ensuring bike-friendly facilities, amenities, services and hospitality for travelling cyclists.
  • Advocate for safer bike travel conditions, especially on Adventure Cycling and U.S. Bicycle Routes, through policy changes and infrastructure improvements.
  • Improve access and amenities for bicyclists and their bicycles on national and regional rail and airline systems.
  • Work with national and state parks and gateway communities, especially along Adventure Cycling and U.S. Bicycle Routes, to provide improved accommodations, amenities, experiences and accessibility for cyclists.

Goal #5: Excel

Over five years, Adventure Cycling will maintain and magnify its role as the largest and most effective cycling organization in North America. We will continue to cultivate a growing and diversified financial base, a talented, well-trained and well-supported staff, and a culture dedicated to helping each other and achieving our mission. We will make special efforts to boost our organizational infrastructure systems, in particular information technology, and our volunteer corps and leadership.

A summary of specific Goal #5 objectives and metrics includes:

  • Increase and diversify contributed revenue -- from membership, donations and grants -- to support our programs and services.
  • Increase annual earned (and net earned) revenues from tours, sales, advertising, sponsorship and affiliate programs.
  • Grow and manage long-term reserves for the organization -- operating reserve, Life Member Fund and endowment -- for the purpose of long-term investments, cash flow management and emergency needs.
  • Attract, develop and retain a high quality workforce.
  • Sustain and improve an excellent work culture, environment and infrastructure.
  • Develop and maintain an appropriate technology infrastructure to support Adventure Cycling and its continued growth.
  • Attract and develop an engaged Board of Directors with diverse skills and backgrounds.