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In my July 14 column, I wrote about how we might maintain the current cycling boom. I received many wonderful letters in response, and I can hardly contain my enjoyment at reading them. I still haven’t been able to make my way through all of them. Some of them detail your history with loving bicycles and draw from your own experience with ideas of how to ensure that as many other people as possible also fall in love with bicycles for good. Fantastic stuff with an abundance of rich prose that could make for several very long columns. It seems stingy for me to be the only one to enjoy them and not put them out in the world.
Also in response to that same post, in which I also wondered out loud why the number of questions I have been receiving had slowed to a trickle, I got a flood of emails. Many were great technical questions, and I will endeavor to answer as many of those as I can in future columns. Many were your thoughts on why the number of questions had slowed down, and I plan on doing something with those in future columns as well. Some of them combined all three topics into one wonderful email.
In this column, I will attempt to distill some of your ideas about maintaining this pandemic-driven bike boom into a manageable size column. I can’t say I’m trying to avoid throwing out too much wheat with the chaff, because it is almost all wheat and very little chaff. Here goes. Thanks again for your letters.
One of the things more experienced cyclists can do is help educate the newcomers. This includes choosing the right bicycle, safety, rules of the road, clubs, routes, and nutrition. I helped a former professor of mine to choose a suitable city bicycle to ride with her children! And don’t forget starting with used bikes before going $%K!!!!
Clean out the garage, find those old (and now in demand!) bikes, fix them up, and either donate them or sell them. A friend runs a charity providing bikes to the homeless so they have free transportation. And near and dear to my heart right now, kids are home and bored; get them on bikes! My 5-, 6-, and 11-year-old kids ride around the block every morning and evening. And the best part is, despite having had these bikes for years, they just learned how to ride during quarantine! I am now looking for a bigger one for my oldest son and can’t find one!
My friends and I have been cycling all through the pandemic and have actually gotten more friends to ride. While a core of us ride century rides, we also bring on others who only have mountain bikes, hybrids, etc.; we ride slower-paced and shorter rides with them. Helping them learn and encouraging them. We recently rode with about 20 people 15 miles at an 11mph pace. Once we returned the newer riders to the start, we went and rode another 45 miles.
I think a lot of people are scared of where to ride, when to ride, rules, etc. Having people willing to help, show them the right ways, etc. and not forcing them into making an expensive purchase of a bike and showing them that they can have fun/get exercise with what they have.
I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and yes, it’s been a tough year. Being a new shop owner, it’s also added another level to the whole thing, but I really do enjoy seeing people bringing in bikes to get back out there. And to start enjoying cycling again like they used to. Two other shops and mine are trying our best to help each other and it’s been great. Let’s all work to keep the love of cycling going.
I’ve been following you for decades and remember the 70’s bike boom too. I, however, am not at the moment as optimistic as you are. Will the current boom last? Dunno, and I’m not sure that I care. I’ve seen so much come and go… hype and empty promises (and some really effective marketing). For me, I’d rather just ride my bike into each day’s sunrise.
Thank you for your piece. Very motivating. It makes me think I can help young kids get on bikes and begin to train. That’s my aim. When I was 11, in the 16th century, guys who were all of 30, veritable grandfathers, taught me to ride in a paceline. So, it’s time to give back.
The lockdown has been transformative when it comes to the bike. It couldn’t have been better. It’s changed me physiologically and mentally, maybe because I’ve had time to sleep a bit after rides to recover. That’s made all the difference. Amazing, the need for it. We all need to go that route at times, don’t we? It’s therapeutic.
I, too, started riding during the bike boom of the 1970s, and I also doubt that it will last. E-bikes may be the salvation.
I just read your article about the current cycling boom and what can be done to maintain the momentum. A few weeks ago, there was another article on VeloNews that was somewhat similar, and it failed to cite what I think is a key aspect: Be kind and encouraging to new cyclists. I worked in bike shops for approximately 15 years, and my philosophy was to “sell cycling, not bikes.” Sadly, most of the shop owners and fellow employees would just give me a weird look when I said that. My guess is that you will get my point. I think that is a key aspect to maintaining the growth boom.
Group rides, while great once you are an established rider, can be very unfriendly and intimidating when you are new. In some ways, I get it; nobody wants to be brought down by a newbie, but how does one move on from newbiehood?
I believe all cyclists benefit if the industry booms; more sales = more R &D budget = more cool new stuff. Who doesn’t like that?
There is a group ride in northwest Tucson, Arizona, where I live that is incredibly unfriendly; while riding solo, I have been nearly run off the road by them. This ride is run out of the parking lot of a bike shop whose owner “leads” (used loosely) this ride. I can only imagine what a new rider would think if they encountered this mass. If such rides were to have a new-rider ride once/month and maybe have a few riders coach and truly lead that group, think of all the new cyclists and resulting sales that could be generated.
In my mind, this is similar to larger and certainly much more important issues we as a nation are struggling with. Simply being nice to each other seems to have been lost. Every improvement is just that.
I also got my first 10-speed bike in the early 70s. Rode it quite a bit at first, then off and on until LeMond was in the Tour de France, which spurred me on. I was already back riding a lot when the “Lance Effect” happened. After that, MTB seemed to take hold, and I hated it when I tried it. Then gravel bikes got to be a thing, since riders were getting killed all over while on the road.
Eventually, I moved to Portland, OR where cycling is huge. But it saw a decline over the last five years until the pandemic. Now I see families out riding ALL day long.
It’s crazy in my neck of the woods (SoCal), but only MTB. There doesn’t seem to be a plethora of bikes being used for commuting, possibly a consequence of individuals not wanting to become hood ornaments (which is why I pretty much don’t use mine for errands anymore). Resolve this, and we could see the “boom” transfer to the street, although I don’t foresee us soft Californians riding in inclement weather.
Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder (www.zinncycles.com) and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes (bikeclydesdale.com), a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of “The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” “DVD, as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.” He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.