The Friday Group Ride #206

The Friday Group Ride #206

No matter what your interest in cycling is, the last year has been one disappointment after another. The fallout from the USADA investigation and the Reasoned Decision made a mockery of cycling’s favorite rags-to-riches story. The implosion of Divine Cycling Group shuttered three brands—Serotta, Mad Fiber and Blue (though Blue has recently returned)—and stiffed more contractors than an auto-industry bailout. And how can we forget the Café Roubaix debacle? Independent of what we know for sure, people have used this as an example of all they find most reprehensible in American business.

As spectators to all of this, none of these events have really affected us in any personal way. Even the masters doping fiascos involving riders like Rich Meeker and David LeDuc haven’t harmed anyone in any significant way. But what these events have in common is that they have each, at some level, violated what many of us believe to be the social contract of a community we hold dear. We want cycling to be free of cheating, free of bullying, free of the kinds of business deals that make us long for nothing so much a bike ride to get away from the bullshit of business. I write this as someone who’s just been through the wringer with someone I once thought was a friend.

Perhaps we’re naive to think that cycling could be as pure as the joy of a bike ride itself, but because most people don’t work in the bike industry, cycling is meant to be an escape, a way to get away from the rest of the garbage that can make a day a disappointment. That desire is perfectly human. We each need at least one safe harbor, one place where we can turn to be free of the rest of our frustrations, and for those of us who have fallen for the bike, a ride shouldn’t be a reminder that some MBA is driving small brands under so he can make a mint on real estate.

My recent frustration with a business deal in which I think no one really got what they wanted got me to thinking about what could have been done differently, what I could have done differently, what the other side could have done differently, how at the end, we could all have wanted to get a beer together rather than me wanting a shot of whiskey—alone.

Clearly, cycling is in a state of transition. Mom and pop shops are being replaced by bigger, and in some ways more professional, bike shops. Pro racing seems to be the cleanest it has ever been, but at what cost? The rate of innovation on the product side is staggering and while some of those changes have been embraced (who doesn’t love GPS?), others have left some us of wary and suspicious (hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes). The ten-speed boom this ain’t.

So here’s this week’s question: Suppose for an instant you were the president of the UCI or WADA or the new CEO for some big bike company or maybe a brilliant engineer being courted by a bunch of VC money. Better yet, suppose you were some all-powerful  god-like being, but just for 15 minutes. Suppose you had the power to change some fundamental piece of cycling for the better, what would you choose? What would you devote your energy to, how would you improve our world?

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27 comments

  1. Vince

    Make it more affordable.

    Make race ready bikes for less than 500 bucks so we can cultivate the next generation of cyclists.

    I would like to see a pro team throw their legs over a frame that costs lest than 1000 bucks in a word tour race.

  2. Scott G.

    The automobile turned cycling from a mass movement to a sport in the 1950s,
    so $10 a gallon gas, let us make America safe for cycling.

  3. Michael

    I find I get as much (although different) enjoyment from my $20 commuter bike as from my racing bikes, so am not necessarily bothered by the high cost of top-end equipment. I think racing is cleaner and the training more scientific, but the performances remain great to watch. I live in a town of 60,000 with six decent to great locally owned bike stores, so haven’t yet been in a chain bike store. I am even encouraged that the Cafe Roubaix debacle ended so quickly because the community made it clear that it was NOT okay. I like the state of cycling at present, overall. I think Scott G. points out the biggest problem – we should not be dying because of misconduct by automobile drivers. We need safer cycling infrastructure and better safety education for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

  4. Scott

    I would teach everyone to change a flat in under 2 minutes – thereby eliminating lost time spent on club rides.
    I would expand real bike infrastructure (paint is not protection) – I do love my commute on the American River Trail though.
    I would make sure every rider knows how to pull through smoothly – fixing a fundamental safety flaw in group rides.
    I would remove horns from cars – effectively dialing cycling to 11 on the fun scale.
    I would succeed in my quest to discover the next great one and give him the gift of cycling – because I know there’s a 13-year old with world-class talent and no bike.
    I would change the direction of the wind to always come from behind – hey, I’ve got 15 minutes of God-like power and Padraig said I can do anything I want.

  5. SusanJane

    - I would make women’s cycling on par with men’s including pay, equipment, staff, sponsors, etc.
    – I would give the pro riders a real union with real power to influence their profession.
    – I would give teams a portion of the t.v. proceeds.
    – I would probably run out of time.
    – I would also make sure there were a real feeder system up to the pro’s.
    – I would make using your car as a weapon against a cyclist a real crime including the threat to do so (doors, swerving, etc.).
    – I would wake-up all the sponsors out there and point them at the Giro and Velta (these are great races!).
    – O.k. I’ll stop now.

  6. jprumm

    I would make my wife love the bike. We have been together almost 30 years and she has never caught the cycling bug. It would be great to take the two things I love the most and put them together. However she has never once complained about me riding my bike or told me she wished I didn’t ride. Also she never complained about all the bikes in my shop.

  7. Duncan

    I would make it mandatory for all would-be car drivers to ride a bike for 12 months and pass an adult government proficiency test.

    I would make it mandatory for schools to teach the the children’s equivalent.

    I would set-up bike trading/distribution schemes to make cycling accessible for all.

    I would build more velodromes.

    I would control cross-boarder trading so as to secure the future of the LBS vs. Internet retailers: there should be room for everyone.

    I would form a new company for the manufacture of road cycling drive trains: Campagmano (or Shimagnolo, if you prefer!) so we can get the best of the developments without having to choose between two (or more) incompatible systems.

    I would initiate and drive to completion a scheme for establishing cycle-routes globally

    I would brainwash all cyclists with the benefits of wearing a helmet

  8. bigwagon

    As much as I love pro and amateur bike racing, if I worked for a major bike company, I would spend more marketing effort trying to grow the pool of new riders, not trying to trade market share for the highest margin race bikes back and forth between the big brands.

  9. Alan

    1. Bikes and trains dominate transportation. Heavy local deliveries by slow and safe trucks. Very small cars allowed in adverse weather.

    2. Equal women and men in everything (participation, prizes for races, etc).

  10. Rod

    Road safety. Enough ghost bikes around where I live and ride.

    Equal prize money for women, too! That would be a great place to continue that process.

  11. Patrick O'Brien

    Fifteen minutes of omnipotence is heady stuff and quite a burden. I would make myself the richest person in the USA. I would then go to Detroit and LA and start a sustainable, locally sourced to the greatest extent possible, environmentally and community friendly, bicycle company that hired most of the employees from the local workforce supplemented with interns and apprentices from local community colleges, high school vocational, and university cooperation agreements. I would concentrate the business on road and commuter bicycles with quality steel and titanium frames built in house from designs licensed from the best and most innovative USA custom builders. I would keep prices reasonable by automation and increasing employee ownership and management. All profits would be re-invested or shared with all employees including owners. And it would have a state of the art employee lounge, gym, locker room, bike parking area, education and training center, day care, kennel, and pre-school co-located on the production floor. Now, what would we call it?

  12. steve

    I’d start a cycling – based tough mudder like series that had broad appeal for entry level cyclists. For most people , cycling is nothing more than hundred mile races in the Alps.

  13. Derek

    I vote for Patrick’s world. Hell I would move to Detroit. That or get rid of derailleurs and go to internal hubs and gearboxes.

  14. Shawn

    Perhaps 2013 was “one disappointment after another” for the business of selling bike stuff, but for someone who pedals rather than peddles them, it was nothing short of fantastic. For me, it started with building a great bike for a ridiculously low price (brands aren’t important here, because you can find a great bike under every tent these days), went through the Sierras and over Herlan Peak, saw a couple Strava crowns and lots of cups, and, most importantly, was chock full of pedal time with people who make life better.

    So no, for a lot of us with an interest in cycling, it really hasn’t been one disappointment after another. Quite the contrary.

  15. Mike Hancock

    Vince hit it right off the bat- make it more affordable. Very hard to get newbies into riding when a decent, modern road bike (one that inspires a new rider) costs so much.

    Other than that- make it more acceptable. If I had the power to change perceptions in the population as a whole, it would be from “why do you ride a bike?” to “why wouldn’t one ride a bike?”, because that would solve any number of issues riders currently face.

    Of course, then our unique little sport wouldn’t be so unique anymore, and we’d have to take up curling.

  16. Robot

    There is a bike that the masses will ride, the people who corner me at the school drop off and ask me what I think they should get, the people who won’t spend more than $300. There is a bike for them. If I was cycling god for 15 minutes I would whisper its design into the ear of every bike designer at every big bike company in the world. The industry discusses this chimerical bike ad nauseum, but no one has yet built it.

    I wish I knew what it was.

  17. pushgears

    I would design, build and distribute millions of identical single-speed bikes -for free- throughout the world, including underdeveloped countries and hold an international race each year that allows only that design. Go Cutters – or should I say Go Quatars?

  18. TominAlbany

    I’d never let the “bikes on the road” “go away” as they did after the automobile and the suburb became commonplace. There’s always a pack mentality – whether the pack’s roam in automobiles, on bicycles, on foot, etc. I like the latter two almost as much as I loathe the first.

  19. Ransom

    Omnipotence? I would add a generously-sized bike lane, with a degree of spatial or physical separation appropriate to the location, to pretty much every road everywhere, complete with bicycle-roundabouts suspended above intersections (I’ll take the rolling climbs over the stops…). This would involve either magically growing Earth or shortening a lot of front yards and forecourts. But to be able to jump on a bike and *ride*, not just stop-sign-to-red-light, would be magical. If I only have an hour to ride, I spend most of it getting *to* where the riding starts to become uninterrupted. To have a couple of hours of pure riding involves driving for half an hour before and after, and as far as major cities go, I live in a very bike-centric one! Okay, I may have to employ bike-lane wormholes to really make intersections work, but I’m okay with that!

    Perhaps also uncovering a source of titanium and processes for making it cost-effective. The frailty and (as far as I know) unrecyclability of CF frames makes them a little problematic for me, even though I know they constitute a tiny fragment of landfill. Something about an effectively disposable multi-thousand-dollar frame *increasing* in popularity is icky. Minor in the overall scheme of cycling, but sticks in my craw. Not that I’d refuse to ride one…

    And as much as I’ve said I’m in favor of leaps in bike tech, I’d love to see the next era of standardization-after-improvement set in. Inventory is, I think, one of the hardest things for smaller shops (or anybody smaller than Amazon).

  20. mooooo!

    I would erase the concept of bike racing from everyone’s mind. That way companies would develop bikes that actually work for more than 0.000005% of the population and more people would come to appreciate the simple pleasure of going for a ride.

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