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Adventure Cycling Shows Growth in 2009

Published November 12, 2009

MISSOULA, MT (BRAIN)—Adventure Cycling Association—North America's largest membership cycling organization—reported strong income numbers for FY09 (ending September 30) with overall growth in its membership, sales, development and tours' programs.

Surprisingly, in a year where many tour companies suffered, the big star for Adventure Cycling was its guided cycling tours. Total tours participants were up 9 percent over FY08, with total tours revenue increasing 23 percent. Adventure Cycling offers more than 40 cycling tours each year, including supported trips, self-contained tours and educational trips such as its unique Intro to Road Touring course.

"We have been fortunate this year," said Jim Sayer, Adventure Cycling's executive director. "But we've also worked diligently on our tours' program over the last few seasons, honing our systems and ensuring that we're offering excellent travel value at an affordable price."

While Adventure Cycling's membership grew slowly overall in FY09 (up only 1 percent over FY08), the organization saw a solid uptick in inquiries (people asking about services) and in membership renewals. However, fewer new members joined Adventure Cycling this year as compared to 2008 when the organization enjoyed a record 12.2 percent jump in new memberships. On average, new members increase between 2 and 3 percent annually.

"In this kind of analysis, we tend to look at the big picture. Our membership numbers have trended upward for years now, growing 9 percent over the last five years, and 30 percent over the last decade," said Julie Huck, Adventure Cycling's membership director. "To me, this is incredible and it shows that, despite some ups and downs in the economy, interest in cycling of all types continues to flourish."

The most surprising area of growth in memberships? "The 35 percent increase in members making a long-term commitment to Adventure Cycling by joining as life members," said Huck. "We so appreciate this level of commitment, and this year's leap in new life members is poignant, given what a tumultuous year it's been." An individual life membership costs $1,000, while a joint life membership runs $1,500.

Adventure Cycling Association's 44,500 members hail from 46 countries, from Argentina to Uruguay. Every state in the U.S. is represented, with the most members residing in California (5,500) and the fewest in North Dakota (76); 1,300 members live outside of the U.S. Adventure Cycling members receive the Association's award-winning publication, Adventure Cyclist (which features how-to information, gear reviews, and bicycle travel stories from around the world) as well as a host of other benefits.

Adventure Cycling is also a popular provider of bicycle travel gear as well as a distributor of its own, renowned bicycle maps. While the Association saw record map unit sales in 2008 (up 10 percent over the year before), map unit sales dipped 4 percent in 2009. However, overall sales income from Adventure Cycling's online store and catalog decreased only slightly, down less than 1 percent from 2008.

Adventure Cycling's development program also stood firm in 2009 as grant monies and donations for many nonprofits declined. Unrestricted cash donations ended just $5,000 under 2008 levels and grant monies increased slightly.

Julie Emnett, Adventure Cycling's associate development director, said, "Strong financial donations sustained important program efforts to promote cycling and bicycle travel. We are especially pleased by the enthusiasm for some of our key initiatives, such as establishing an official U.S. Bicycle Route System, creating new bike-friendly routes around North America, and attracting new people to bike travel."

"In retrospect, we worked incredibly hard last year to keep our services at the highest quality and to keep our costs in check," Sayer said. "The net results were a healthy organization and satisfied members in a tough environment—and best of all, we succeeded in bringing more people than ever to the life-changing activity of bicycle travel."

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