Saturday, May 27, 2006

What creates a strong cycling scene?

We were discussing the cycling scenes in differnent towns and tryning to pinpoint what characteristics help foster these scenes.

Is it an abundance of great riding?
Strong personalities?
A stable longterm cycling population? College towns are notorious for changing populations.

Some cities/towns have crap riding but have exciting cycling scenes. Others have a core group of personalities that don't move away after a few years. This maintaints a precedence of cycling culture and builds momentum year to year.

For all intents and purposes Blacksburg should have a strong vibrant cycling scene. There is fantastic riding within minutes of town. It can be accessed by bike or a short drive. The one local riding area is good but I could see it getting boring for some after a while, yet there are many options within 1 hr drive.

But for road and mountain there really isn't much of a cycling scene. I don't even know what I mean by scene either. It's how you define it I guess. For me it centers around racing I guess. But you just know when you go to certain places or here people talk about other towns. Harrisonburg, Spartansburg. Minneapolis..The midwest right now seems to be a hot bed for cycling.

Around here there isn't a shortage of people riding. Especially in organized event rides such as centuries. And there is the collegiate racing team whose sole purpose in life is to drop you as soon as possible, which is fine w/me cause it's good training but doesn't do much to foster a cycling culture. But there doesn't seem to be a vibrant group of adult amateur racers.

Mountain bike racing seems dead around here. The parking lot at our local area has maybe 5 cars with bike racks on a sunny Saturday. There is no Tuesday night race series, etc.

One speculation I have relates to the lack of new mountain bikers coming into the sport locally. A lot of the people who might try it seem to gravitate towards road riding right now. I seem to see a lot of riders try it but then stop very soon because of lack of confidence in skills. The riding around here isn't easy. There is one 'easy' trail and from there you either have steep climbs or technical trails. So you are then severely limited by either your fitness or your skills/confidence. It is easy to see how someone can get frustrated.

In order to combat this negative trend, I'm holding a skills class for beginners on June 17th. I'm going to be teaching some of the philosophies that Gene Hamilton taught me. I limited the class to 15 people and already have 13 signed up. To me that says there is a need and desirer for this. My goal is to give people enough confidence and fundamental background in going off road that they can start to build there capabilities and venture to new trails. They'll have more fun which will just keep the excitement building.

Create one new mountain biker at a time. Get one excited person who shares their enthusiasm with another and there it goes.

Another goal is to hold a racing 101 class. Maybe 2 times a month rides/workshops that gives someone all the skills/training to enter and complete the 1st timer's class at our local race, the Rowdy Dawg . Again, give someone the confidence and support to say "Yes, I can do this" and get them out there. Once they race, it's all over because they will get hooked.


At 4:00 PM, Blogger Warren Schimizzi said...

Ashwin, way to go! THAT'S how a cycling scene is built! There should be a place for anyone to find their own level - by that I mean people to ride with. What you will find is that you'll pass on what you know to someone, then they will pass it on when they take someone under their wing. Happens all the time. Make it fun and comfortable for the beginner and he (or she) won't be a beginner for long. Paula has been doing a "Chicky" ride every week since April and has been getting 6 to 7 women every time! Our Thursday night ride at the Cove had 16 this past week. The momentum is building, and it all started by doing what you're doing in B-burg. Great job!!!

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Good luck with your class!

For whatever reason, metro-Detroit has (in my opinion) a decent cycling scene (particularly for mountain biking). I can't tell you how it got started, but I do think you're on the right track.

We have a wide variety of trails around here; probably more easier ones than hard ones (likely helped by our terrain, or lack thereof). There are also a LOT of organized group rides going on during the warmer months (I counted 10 for next week!), and virtually all of them are no-drop rides, so they're fairly accessible for beginners.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashwin, you need to make a trip out to Idaho, for some mountain biking. I live in Boise, and there are so many places to ride, there are 2 mountain bike race series, and lots of groups to join, or clubs for road or mountain.


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