By Dave Berman · Originally published in Florida Today January 13, 2017
Space Coast tourism officials are looking to create a niche ecotourism market for bicycling enthusiasts who want to do more than be on the road all day.
Retired St. Louis homicide detective Bubba Barron, a winter resident of Viera since 2002, is bringing his Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers tours to the Space Coast, offering a diverse tour of the region.
Thirty-four riders from throughout the country will be here from Jan. 22-28, in a tour coordinated by Barron and Lil Leber, a winter resident of Cocoa since 2010, who will be the assistant ride director.
Separately, another bicycling entrepreneur, Alan Snel, last month opened a Vero Beach branch of Escape Adventures, a Las Vegas-based bicycle touring company that has been in operation for 25 years. Its business model focuses on single-day tours, rather than multiday tours, and this is its first presence in Florida.
Snel, a Vero Beach resident, is offering seven bicycling day-tour itineraries throughout Florida, including one called the A1A Ocean Ride that encompasses southern Brevard County and Indian River County. He also will customize tours for individual riders or small groups.
Titusville Mayor Walt Johnson, a member of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council, said the development of bicycle tours “works hand-in-hand both ways” with efforts to develop and publicize a bicycle trail system along the Space Coast. Space Coast tourism experienced huge jump in 2016
Participants in Barron’s Space Coast tour will stay at The Inn at Cocoa Beach, eat at some of Brevard County’s top restaurants and see a play at Cocoa Village Playhouse. Each day will have an itinerary of things that make the Space Coast and adjacent communities unique. One day, participants will cycle through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore. Another day, they will tour the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. On yet another day, they will tour the Deseret Ranch, one of the nation’s largest working cattle ranches, and take an airboat ride.
Bubba Barron of Viera, right, owner of Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers, is working with assistant ride director Lil Leber of Cocoa on a Jan. 22-28 bicycle tour of the Space Coast. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
“Our whole thing is to give them an experience they’ve never had before,” said Barron, who also coordinates long-distance multistate and coast-to-coast bicycle tours that have been as long as 3,000 miles and up to 52 days.
Leber, a retired customer service representative with PPG Industries in Pittsburgh, said participants will experience lots of surprises as part of the tour of the Space Coast.
“People will say: ‘I didn’t know this was here,’ ” Leber said. “The destinations are unique each day.”
The tour will include four days of riding, with an average of about 30 miles a day. Barron’s company arranges for the bikes and the riders to be transported by van to various venues on the tour, so there is no riding on busy roads like U.S. 1 or State Road A1A.
Unlike some long-distance bike tours, Barron said, “We’re not killing with mileage.”Space Coast tourism marketing aims at video, millennials
Participants are coming here from throughout the country, including California, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Texas. Most are bringing their own bikes for the tour, although bike rentals will be available.
“We’re going to showcase this area for people who’ve never been here,” Barron said. “I know they’re going to eat this up. It’s going to be a cool tour. It’s a vacation — with bicycles thrown in.”
That also could spin off into future visits to the Space Coast by bicycle tour participants impressed by what they see here.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.
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Among those who have signed up for the tour is Doug Kaufman, an editor for a public relations company in St. Louis, who has been on 10 previous bike tours coordinated by Barron since 2002.
The Space Coast tour “sounded fantastic,” Kaufman said. “It combined bike-riding and seeing new things. Plus, it’s January in Florida, rather than in St. Louis, where we’re having freezing rain. So it’s a win-win-win.”
Riders pay $2,190 if occupying a single room at the inn, and $1,790 per person if two people are sharing a room. The fee also covers meals, admission to tour venues and transportation to the venues.
Anne Satterlee of Vero Beach and Mike Brunner of Fort Pierce were part of a recent Escape Adventures’ Jungle Trail Intercoastal Ride along the Indian River Lagoon in northern Indian River County. (Photo: Provided photo)
Snel said bicycling is “an ideal tourism activity” for Florida, where the terrain is relatively flat and the morning temperatures generally are comfortable for bike-riding year-round.
“We’re focusing mostly on natural scenic settings,” said Snel, a long-distance cyclist who has biked across America twice and has written a number of Florida cycling-related travel stories. “Our particular rides focus on pure natural beauty. We feel as though Florida is ready” for this type of tourism business.
Snel’s guided day tours include shuttle service to and from participants’ hotels, bike rentals, helmets, water and snacks. The tours can be modified for casual to experienced cyclists, and range from 8 to 60 miles in length. The cost is $189 per person.
“It’s basically one-stop shopping,” said Snel, who typically has one to seven people per tour.
Escape Adventures founder and owner Jared Fisher said the Florida bike tours complement his company’s mountain bike and road bicycle tours throughout the western United States.
“We are excited to be providing seven different tours of various lengths in a variety of settings that will give people a great taste of what Florida nature has to offer,” Fisher said.
Additionally, Snel said bicycle tourism has untapped potential for the economy.
“It’s just an unknown jewel for the state of Florida,” Snel said.