Melanie Gentz and Steve Grace from Grasshopper Adventures tag teamed this interview to talk about the bicycle tour company’s shift to a U.S. tour product in 2021.
Started by two active Australians who took a remote cycling trip in Vietnam, Grasshopper Adventures has been helping travelers discover that there’s beautiful cycle touring all across Asia. Over the past decade and a half, the company has transitioned from being uber-adventure to a mix of culture, food and local entertainment with cycling as the key outdoor component.
“Selfishly, we were all getting older and realized there was a much larger market,” said Steve Grace. “They were better trips, easier trips in some ways for us to operate. There was more consistency. As you raise the level of accommodation the expectations of the clients change. It was a conscious decision to look at larger market opportunities.”
With international borders closed, Grasshopper is launching a domestic bicycle tour product in three U.S. states in 2021—Maine, Florida and Alaska.
“We had been thinking over the years of expanding our tour operation base outside of Asia, but we just got so busy in Asia, there’s so many countries here and so many places to go,” said Grace. “The pandemic forced this on to us. Our business basically stopped in March and probably won’t resume in Asia until maybe late summer 2021.”
Gentz said that the firm is recruiting travelers from its large database of North Americans who have been on its Asia tours. Before launching the new products, Grasshopper did some testing with its database, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve had long tours in Asia for about 12 years, and we’re the largest day tour bike operator in Asia,” Grace said. “So, this was part of the lightbulb moment that we knew we had a large North American database of past travelers, and without exception our tours are generally the highest rated of any tour of our type in Asia. We had loyal customers, a large database, so it was really just putting those two pieces together.”
Trips will average between 6 and 14 passengers. “In this uncertainty we’ll be able to keep the groups small,” said Gentz. Trips will average 6-7 days in length. “All of our tours are guided with daily ride distances ranging anywhere from 30-40 miles a day, he added.
Grace said, “Over the course of a day, there are stops. There’s a lot of time to explore. What’s nice is because they are small groups, if someone is able to stay a little longer somewhere, they have the ability to do so. There’s a van that sags along so if someone is tired, they can hop in the van and catch up with the group.”
“With cycling you use a lot of calories throughout the day, so meals taste a little better at night, and everybody has a chance to sit around the table and talk about their experiences,” commented Gentz. “They’re intimate and they’re wonderful.”
When asked about common concerns of first-time tour participants, Grace said the riding length is always the biggest question. “People ask, ‘I ride a bike, but can I ride 25-40 miles a day?’ I like to tell people, if you can ride a bike for 15-20 minutes at a time, you can do a bike tour. Because this is where the local guides come in. We are constantly stopping. If you’re an avid cyclist, we’ll give you the route if you want to go from point A to B and just haul, but most people are there for the experience and the immersion. There is truly no better way to fit into a community than to arrive by bike. It’s the most disarming entry into someone’s life when they see someone pedaling up. You flatten any culture or economic barrier between people.”
With a new line-up of domestic tours and the anticipated return of bike touring in Asia in the latter half of 2021, Grasshopper aims to show there is truly no better way to see the world.