What does it mean to you be part of a bicycle community? I'll ask you that question again in a minute or two.
By now, you have had time to reflect on the past season and and are beginning the next. Last year, did you perform as well as you would have liked? Did your event have as many participants as you anticipated. Did you take care of your sponsors? Could you have supported your club better? Did you volunteer your time? How can you make bicycle racing better? I hope you have answers to your questions.
Bicycle racing has been an important part of my life for the past 10 years. During these years, I've learned that many people have a passion for all forms of bicycling. Bicycle commuters, recreational riders, mountain riders, tandem riders, BMX riders, road riders. All bicycle racers, regardless of skill level, gender, or age, are part of a larger bicycle community. Realizing this fact is important in creating a sustainable bicycle community which will fundamentally improve bicycle racing in the United States.
Bicycle racers comprise a very small proportion of the bicycle community. About one person in every one-thousand that ride a bike, probably less, have raced. Its hard to believe that 100 years ago, bicycle racing, next to baseball, was the second most popular spectator sport in this country. Bicycle riding and bicycle racing were an important part of American culture. Cycling's public image can benefit from remembering its history, traditions, and heroes. Every individual bicyclist can contribute to renewing elements of our lost cycling culture by considering that all cyclists have the common goal of broad participation.
The greatest resource bicycle racing has is the person who has never participated. Reach out to every person you know that rides a bike and ask to share a cycling experience. You may find common ground that might include racing. Maybe that person would volunteer at an event or perhaps mentor a new rider to the sport. Make relations with recreational riders. These folk are bike racing fans. Without fans, bike racing doesn't mean a whole lot.
Too often, fellow bicycle riders categorize each other by their discipline. The recreational rider on the ten-speed is easily intimidated by the mountain rider sporting the latest suspension, or the road racer clad in custom team clothing. Its human failure to classify and rank individuals or groups according to some preconceived notion based on appearances alone. The result, as related to bicycle riding, is adversity among people with similar passions. As members of the bicycle community, bicycle racers have a responsibility to embrace our fellow cyclists.
So, what does it mean to you, to be part of the bicycle community? How can you make your bicycle community friendlier? What are you going to do to encourage broad participation?
Beginning this last January, 1998, Cycling USA and NORBA news has found common ground in one publication, Bicycle Racing Nation. At the October 1997 USCF board meeting, a resolution passed to develop a relationship with the League of American Bicyclists. At the recent meeting in March 1998, I laid the foundation for discussing membership issues. I participate on the Salt Lake City Bicycle Advisory Committee. I mentor new and junior riders. All of these actions, contribute to developing a better bicycle community which I believe will strengthen our bicycle racing community. As bicycle racers, nurturing the bicycle community, fundamentally, benefits all of our passions. You can make a difference.
Chuck Collins USCF Board of Trustees
This article is an updated version of one that appeared in Cycling USA, November 1997.