The Great Victorian Bike Ride (GVBR) is the world’s biggest fully supported one week cycling holiday. Ride Director Nikki Tyler says that this year they are expecting around 4,000 people to take part in the event which will start and finish in Ballarat, Victoria.
Now in its 25th year, Ms Tyler says that the secret to the success of the event is that it’s not just about riding a bike: “the cycling is a major attraction, but for many it’s the social side, being part of a community event that makes this the best week of their year.
“And people come from all walks of life, a variety of fitness levels and ages range from under two to 80 – it’s all equal on a bike.”
Bicycle Victoria begins the planning for each GVBR about 18 months before the start date, visiting regions and key stakeholders including local councils, communities, sponsors, and emergency services to garner support for the event.
“Once a region is confirmed, planning a cycling route to cover nine days begins,” says Ms Tyler. “This involves assessment of key factors including road type, distance, terrain, and scenery and then there must be towns that can facilitate the ride throughout.”
To keep cyclists as engaged as possible over the week, organisers aim to include a variety of interesting small country towns with a range of attractions for the visitors.
Making sure that enough people attend the GVBR is a matter if the right publicity and Bicycle Victoria devises a marketing plan well in advance to maximise attendance. As well as producing 100,000 colour brochures, they also use direct mail, electronic marketing and the media to get the message out.
Ms Tyler says that although these measures are important in raising awareness of the event, their most successful marketing tool is the word of mouth generated by previous attendees.
“We strive to put on a fantastic event so people will tell others to come. The majority of people that attend the event based on the recommendation of family or friends that had previously taken part.”
All not-for-profit groups rely on their volunteers and Bicycle Victoria is no exception. For every ten riders on the GVBR there is a volunteer with medical, entertainment, luggage, campsite and route marking duties to perform.
“Without volunteers there would be no ride, it’s that simple,” stresses Ms Tyler. “To be able to provide fantastic value for money, we rely on the support of over 400 volunteers.”
Despite the best efforts of organisers, sometimes the GVBR does not go quite as planned. In 2004, the largest ever GVBR took place with over 8,000 participants and it proved to be very challenging for organisers.
“For many of the logistics and services we had to re-think the way we did things,” explains Ms Tyler. “The biggest challenge was feeding everyone. We changed our catering a lot that year, the food and the way we served it, the layout of the tents, the logistics of delivery and it has helped us so much in the following years.”
For guidance on the logistics of feeding 8,000 people, Bicycle Victoria turned to the catering industry who were able to provide them with the advice and help they required.
“One thing we have learnt is that there are always people out there who know more about certain aspects of the event,” she says. “We don’t claim to be experts at everything, when we don’t know something, we find someone who does!”
For other groups looking to stage a public event, Ms Tyler stresses that when planning, it is important to get the fundamentals right and this means planning early and engaging all stakeholders from the beginning.
“Whilst the planning and operations are crucial, you need people to attend, so marketing and promotion should be treated with equal importance.”
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