An interview with Evan Cohan the guy behind Beer Cycling.
Who is behind Beercycling.com and how did you come up with the idea?
The Beercycling team is headed by Evan Cohan (that’s me!) and our co-guides Henk (Netherlands) and Joel (Southern California). Joel and I set off on a self-guided cycling journey through Flanders three years ago, and had so much fun that we decided to organize similar tours for others. There aren’t any other travel agencies offering a similar themed tour at the moment. We found a need and decided to fill it ourselves. We’re huge beer enthusiasts, home brewers, even hop farmers, and all share a love for cycling and travel. This is truly a dream job for us.
What kind of reactions do you get when you first tell people about Beer Cycling?
“So you just get drunk and ride your bicycles around?” – Pretty much sums up the majority of my first impressions with people! In reality of course safety is a concern, and we tend to enjoy the beers towards the end of each day on the road. Cycling first, then earn your tasty, yeasty reward. I like to call it an “anti-beer belly campaign” I’m not much into pub crawls myself.
How many tours have you completed and to where?
This month marks the start of our second year guiding bicycle tours through northern Belgium (Flanders) and our first year venturing into the Netherlands. We had two successful tours last summer and are doubling our amount of tours for 2012.
How do the tours work? What expenses are covered?
Well, we try to make it easy for everyone so it’s a pretty full service package. Trip registration includes a guide, 9-night hotel reservations, bicycle/bag rental, breakfast and lunch each day, entrance fee at all the breweries, some beer samples along the way, maps, a fancy T-Shirt, and for larger groups we have a local Dutch-speaking co-guide (AKA Henk) who acts as translator / super nice guy. Everyone is on their own for airfare and dinner/drinks each night.
What about people that don’t cycle much, would they have a hard time keeping up?
The primary focus of Beercycling is BEER. So I’ve created cycling routes that are suitable for newer riders. A typical day is only about 30 or so miles. In addition, Flanders is a very flat country, and we tend to keep a leisurely pace. We’ve had several new cyclists on our tours already and they’ve all had no problem going the distance. The special Belgian beers we discover also tend to be very good motivational tool to keep our legs moving!
Any plans to expand to other countries or areas?
Absolutely! San Diego, California is next on our list. It’s year round sunny climate, coastal bike trails, and world class hoppy IPA’s make it an ideal place for a Beercycling holiday. Look for tours from us there starting in Spring 2013.
What is the funniest thing that has happened on one of your tours?
On our inaugural tour the Belgian newspaper got wind of what we were doing and sent a photographer / reporter to meet us in Bruges. After spending a good part of the day on the bikes, right as we entered the city we were immediately requested for a photo shoot in a nearby alley. We had a silly time taking photos and all got to go home with a newspaper with our picture on it at the end of the tour.
What has been your favorite experience to date on one of your tours?
The reception we’ve received from the Belgian / Dutch breweries has been extremely welcoming. Although cycling is popular in the region, organized tours for cyclists (especially those with international riders) are not common at the breweries. We got many a hero’s welcome, and lots of opportunities to talk one on one time with the brewers and owners themselves. Every single brewery we’ve visited has been a positive experience and we all now share those memories every time we drink one of their magical beers back home.
What is the best and worst thing about taking a cycling tour?
Best: On a typical holiday you spend each day finding different activities to spend your time, like going to museums or shops, etc. But on a cycling holiday the cycling is your activity. Its good free fun, great exercise, it lowers stress, and is good for the environment.
Worst: Dealing with rain means you have to DEAL with the rain! But after you master the art of water-proofing you’ll be looking forward to getting out on the trails when they are wet, yet also empty of other riders.
What would you tell someone that is having a hard time deciding if a cycling tour is right for them
If you’ve always wanted to make your “beer pilgrimage” to Belgium, and like the idea of getting some exercise and seeing the country at a slower pace in the process, then this tour is perfect for you. Cycling is a lower impact sport that is great for your body, and a tour can be trained for in a reasonable amount of time. Cycling seems to be the perfect pace to absorb a region; you miss a lot in a car, and can’t cover much ground on foot. I’d recommend doing a short weekend ride near your hometown first. Odds are you’ll love it as much as we do!
In closing do you have any long term plans for Beer Cycling?
In the future I’d really love to run tours in Quebec, Colorado, and in Oregon. But one thing at a time! Just like a good beer our focus is quality not quantity. The website will continue to expand a little each year, as we hope to include more content and interactive information about our tours.
You can find out more about Evan and his crew at Beercycling.com or check him out on Twitter @Beercycling.