cycling utah May 1999
My reasons to ride are simple
By David R. Ward
Reading Ron Dillon's article prompted me to reflect on and reveal some of my personal biases regarding races, rides, prizes and events. It is a puzzle I have pondered on for some time.
I have been racing and participating in events for almost fifteen years now. In that time, I have attended everything from small-time races with marginal organization to huge, highly-organized events with 10,000 participants. With that background, let me explain what I have found that I want from an event.
First, and foremost, I want to have a good time riding my bike. Forget the prizes, raffles, t-shirts and other schmuck. What is most likely to get me to an event is the venue. If the course is a good one, whether for a race or a ride, I will be tempted to go.
As an example, two extremely opposite events have fired my passion these last two years. First is the STP (Seattle to Portland) which, with its extensive planning and execution, draws and shepherds up to 10,000 riders along its route. This 200-mile ride excites me, and prompts me to spend a sizeable sum to participate. With a $60 entry fee, flight fare, and a couple days off from work, it is an expensive proposition. But the beautiful rolling back roads through farm and forest, spread out over a 2-day period, are what first caught my interest, and have been the highlight of this event.
Second is the Race to the Angel in Wells, Nevada, a combined event for walkers, runners, and road and mountain bicyclists. This is a local event which, frankly, I hope never grows up. Instead of 10,000 participants, it may pull 100, but I love its hometown atmosphere. The course is a 13-mile hill climb from Wells to a Angel Lake at the base of a mountain cirque high in the adjacent mountain range. Now, I am no climber, but I love a good ride, and this is a good ride.
My next criteria is cost. Once I have considered the venue, I have to review my wallet. The fact is, I can do one, maybe two STP-type events a year. After that, I have to be more rational. I do not need t-shirts or trinkets. Please keep my costs down
As an example, I actually enjoy the weekly race series as much as any other riding I do. After the initial outlay of $30 for registration and a number, the weekly RMR Crit Series race only costs me $6. That is a bargain, and it buys me an hour of some of the best fun I will have that week. The same holds true for the Decker Dash Mountain Bike Race Series which beats me up for 45 minutes for a mere $8 per race.
For those not into the race scene, the Bonneville Bicycle Touring Club (BBTC), and the Utah League of Tandem Riders Association (ULTRA) both hold regular, and at least weekly, rides that do not cost a thing. You just show up and have a good time.
Close to cost in the priority list is time. As the saying goes, I "have a life". That is, there is work around the house to do, children's events to attend, church responsibilities to fulfill, hikes to take, movies to see, and on ad nauseum. The point is, to take the better part of a Saturday or weekend to attend an event is simply not something I can do, or even want to do, every week.
This, then, is another good plug for the several weekly race series and organized rides we have in our region. It is also a statement that, on a regular basis, I will give serious consideration to attending a race or ride that sees me back home no more than 4-5 hours after I leave.
Somewhat lower on my priority list is the companionship factor. One reason I like the tandem approach to events is that I can take my own good company with me. Also, if someone I enjoy being with is planning on attending an event, that may motivate me as well. But frankly, I have usually enjoyed myself even when I have gone alone. There will usually be several people there whom I know well already. More importantly, I am always able to renew old acquaintances, and make new ones.
Do you notice what is conspicuously missing from my collected criteria? Money, prizes and trinkets. Even in the years when I seriously contended for race victories and placings, I cared little for the stuff I won. If I really needed or wanted something, I probably already had it. And if I didn't, they seldom gave it away as a prize anyway.
What I really wanted from racing was the thrill of the sport itself, and being able to perform at a winning level. After that, it was not money or winnings that I hoped for, but recognition. Those who were there, or even interested, knew or soon learned of my achievements. And a trophy, medal or ribbon could be shown off more easily than money or out-dated and/or needless bike parts and accessories.
If I made the rules, which of course I do not, the only racers to win money and serious prizes would be the professional, expert and 1-2 categories. They are the ones for whom racing is more than a sideline or hobby, and can really use money and useful prizes. For the rest, the reward is in moving up to those categories or in just participating in a fun, competitive event.
Whether it be a race or a recreational ride, give me a good course and make it affordable, and you are much more likely to procure my participation. In this, I suspect I am not an exception, but actually representative of most people.
So, I think Ron Dillon makes a good point and is on the right track. I hope so. I wish him good luck, and will be watching to see how things go for him. To other promoters and event organizers, I recommend you give serious thought to what is most important: A good ride.