ExperiencePlus! Blog

The Chalk Arrow Advantage

The Chalk Arrow Advantage

Our time-tested navigation tool – how it all started

In the era of limitless navigation devices (Smartphone, GPS, good ‘old fashioned’ maps), ExperiencePlus! simplifies complex routes by marking each day’s route with chalk arrows, guiding our cyclists from the start to the finish of each day’s journey. Over our many years (more than 40!) of leading bike tours, we’ve found our cyclists still prefer the chalk arrow method above any other. It’s simple, straightforward and is the perfect tool for enabling what we like to call “guided independence”. What exactly is guided independence? It’s our way of leaving proverbial bread crumbs for you to follow each day so you can have the freedom to ride at your own pace, and explore as you wish, with the peace of mind that you won’t get lost!

How do they work?

If you haven’t traveled with us, you may wonder –  how do these arrows work? Each morning one of our tour leaders sets out ahead of the rest of the riders to ‘chalk’ the route. Literally, we use chalk dust and lay down the arrows one by one! We still provide all our travelers with “Daysheets” that include daily maps, highlights of the day and points of interest. Upon request, we are happy to send you the GPS tracks before you arrive on tour so you can use your own GPS. That said, as more and more people become comfortable with new GPS technology, our riders still report back that chalk arrows are flawless for bicycle travel.

How did we come up with the idea?

Many people who have traveled with us have often wondered “how did you get this idea”?  We were recently reminded of the arrow origin story when we were contacted by the intrepid travelers (pictured below) who endured countless hours of wandering with some purposeful off-route exploration,  on their Bike Across Italy tour in June of 1985!  The story goes that after a few days of getting ‘off track’, over lunch in Vinci, the group brainstormed with Rick and Paola how to improve the navigation for a group of people with different cycling speeds, interests, and desires as they pedal through the Italian countryside.  Fueled by Italian pasta, wine, and coffee – the idea to put down white arrows was born.  The very next day, Rick marked his first route from Lucca to Vinci – a route we still pedal on our Bike Across Italy trip!One of the first Bike Across Italy groups with ExperiencePlus

Rick recalls learning a few key things that first day of marking a route:

I can still remember the day we left Lucca.  Just across the Serchio River the road came to a “Y”.  I put a couple of arrows down at that point to turn left.  A big dump truck came along and picked that wet whitewash up, then stamping about six arrows off to the right  in the direction it was driving.  It was as if someone had painted those arrows on the pavement. At that point I learned a lot:  

  1. don’t put 2 arrows close together;
  2. the water wasn’t necessary, dry arrows would be fine;
  3. put arrows before, at and after the turn;
  4. though valid the concept needed some work!

While technology has improved our ability to map off-the-beaten path routes, the chalk arrows we lay down still today, after 40+ years of testing, provide the easiest way for our travelers to navigate without fear of getting lost, dying batteries, zooming in on digital maps, or needing to hear your device as it indicates to turn right. Our arrows are eco-friendly, visible and bright “turn here” signals, along with the occasional bit of humor, motivation, or noteworthy stop peppered along the way.  Read more about our sustainability efforts here.