Triathlons tend to attract very detail-oriented and determined people. Back in the 80’s and 90’s when Russ Hoefer was racing in three or so Olympic-distance triathlons a year and a handful of marathons, he was very dedicated to his training. After long days in the office working in the publishing industry, he would immediately head over to the gym, often not retiring to home until after ten at night.
When business took him out of town, he would go to great lengths to make sure he could get in a workout. “I remember this one time I was travelling. I was in Dallas and I didn’t have time to leave my hotel, so I ran in place for half an hour.” But the traveling proved to be too much, so Hoefer eventually stopped racing.
While travel hindered his athletic lifestyle, it did open a new door. In a hotel in Florida, he saw what he describes as “a really junky tourism magazine.” “I had spent all this time in hotels during my travels. I had all these ideas about what you’re looking for when you’re sitting in a hotel room.” Hoefer looked at the Chicago market and discovered that there were three publishers in the city, but none in the suburbs. His wife, Tina, suggested they could fill that gap. Together, the Hoefers created Chicago Windy City Guide in 2001.
A few years later, a friend of theirs bought a mountain bike and invited Hoefer to start riding with him. Tina encouraged Russ by purchasing him a mountain bike at Higher Gear. “We started riding together. We were mountain biking – nothing serious, only on the DesPlaines River Trail.” When his friend bought a road bike, Hoefer upgraded his old road bike and the pair hit the road together.
When his friend moved to Colorado, he began telling Hoefer about “the crazy week-long rides out there. He would talk to me about the Ride the Rockies – the rain, the sleet, the snow. I thought it was really cool.” In 2006, Hoefer joined his friend and his wife and a group of seven others for Hoefer’s first Ride the Rockies. The following year, Tina joined them.
As the couple rode their bikes more frequently, they would meet people who would tell them about bike tours and travels they had done. The Hoefers learned about cycling opportunities from friends and strangers, but they found there was little information available online. “When I went online, all I could find were a bunch of lists and all of them were incomplete.”
At Tina’s suggestion, they created a Facebook page to see if there was any interest in the topic. They called their page Bike Tour Finder. Within three years, they’ve picked up more than 12,000 followers. There was definitely an interest.
At the end of 2014, the Hoefers launched the Bike Tour Finder website. In the five months it’s been available, 3,800 people have visited the site each month. “I think that there are lots of people who would like to travel. This is a type of vacation that’s getting more popular.”
Hoefer has heard it over and over. “People just like me, people who used to run, people who used to be lighter… They’re getting longer in their career, they have money to buy a decent bike… Instead of going to Puerto Rico to sit on the beach all day, they’re looking for something healthy. They’re looking for an active vacation”
What these active vacation seekers were not privy to before Bike Tour Finder is that there are a variety of options out there. Of course there are well-known tour operators out there charging $4000 per person for a trip, but there’s so much more.
Hoefer explains that guided tours, where you’re on a tour company’s schedule, represent only a fraction of what is out there. Lots of companies offer self-guided tours, where they set you up with GPS and cue sheets, accommodations and meals, if you wish, and even offer SAG support. They’ll set up as much or as little as you like. There are options to do rides on your own or, if you enjoy spending your vacations meeting like-minded people, there are options to go with a group.
There is something out there for every cyclist – no matter how far you want to travel or how independent you prefer to be. Hoefer tells us there are lots of bike clubs, like the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, out there who offer .pdf maps so that you can follow routes on your own schedule. “Bike clubs offer a whole network of people you can contact when traveling to an area.” Hoeffer also shares with us the growing popularity of “bike hotels,” like the Garda Bike Hotel, in Europe. These are bike-friendly hotels that typically offer a bike cleaning room, a mechanic’s stand, tools and a place to store your bike. Hoefer insists, “People don’t have to spend thousands of dollars.”
Whether traveling solo or with a group, an added benefit of traveling by bike is the great group of people you meet out there. Hoefer tells us, “There’s a whole culture of people to meet.” The people running the tours and the people who chose to take them tend to be really friendly. Hoefer tells us about people he’s encountered of the state who he’s then crossed paths with at local rides and events.
Higher Gear customers will be the first to tell you that riding a bike through an area is the best way to get to know a place and its people. Bike Tour Finder opens up a world of possibilities for you to do just that. No matter your budget or your preferences, there is a perfect bike tour for you. “There are so many just incredible places. We have about 600 tours on the site right now.”
For a couple like the Hoefers, whose presents to each other for their “major Birthdays” last year were a Roubaix (for him) and a customized Ruby (for her), Bike Tour Finder provides them a way to share their passion and their experience. The two have a combined 55+ years of travel and publishing experience. They also have the knowledge and passion for what cycling enthusiasts are seeking.
Whether you have your own Trico Iron Case, like the Hoefers do, you need to figure out the best way to transport your bike or you are looking for a bike rental, Bike Tour Finder can help you plan your dream bike trip. Now, the question is, where will you ride this summer? Visit Bike Tour Finder now to start planning your vacation >>