Bicycle Lafayette: A Call To Action

I <3 My Bike

I haven’t always been as passionate about cycling as I am now. I started riding just to get in shape on a bike I bought at Target. Over two months I rode that bike so much and so hard that it actually fell apart. Shortly after that I invested in my first road bike from Zoe down at Virtuous Cycles in downtown Lafayette. Ever since that purchase my love of all things cycling has only grown. Now, a couple of years later, I am feeling a strong urge to do what anyone who becomes passionate about something wants to do, share my love with those around me. What is great is that the more I look the more I realize there is already a growing love of all things cycling in our community. I have met touring cyclists, racers (mountain bike, cyclocross, BMX, road racing, alleycat, and even track racing), bike polo players, mountain bikers, fixed gear enthusiasts, recumbent cyclists, and everything in between. We have two fantastic bike shops that cater to slightly different demographics, but are both equally as helpful and love contributing to our cycling community. Whether it is on Purdue’s campus, the streets of downtown, or the county roads just outside the city limits, you can’t go far without seeing someone out riding their bike.

And yet, all of these different groups seem to function pretty much independently of each other. I don’t feel that in most cases it is by choice. I honestly believe that, despite the existence of local cycling cliques, for the most part these groups just don’t know about each other. That is a problem that I think we can solve. Cycling is not restricted by age, nor is it restricted by the type of music you listen to, the clothes you wear, or even the bike you ride. Cycling is a hobby that anyone can join in, and everyone should.

So what do we need to do? How can we do it? Who will do it?

There are others that feel the same way about cycling in the river valley area besides me. We are already discussing what we want to do to promote cycling in our area and the answers to those questions. I believe in order to truly promote cycling in our area we need a central group to help bring it all together . What follows are some of my ideas for promoting cycling in our community. I post these here as a way to open this discussion to our awesome readers. A big goal of this group for me will be to listen to the wants and needs of our community. Accomplishing this part of my mission starts here.

1. Education:

When I started riding I turned to my community first for information. I felt a little shy about just heading into the local shops to ask for advice. It seems silly now, but that was how I felt. When I didn’t find much available I turned to the almighty Google. I found plenty of information and support via websites and social media, but it always stuck with me that I didn’t actually find anything in my local community to help. As I continued to get interested in new forms of cycling I kept encountering the same theme. Most of the different aspects of cycling I have gotten interested in are a direct result of meeting someone randomly that happens to be into that particular type of cycling. With all the knowledge out there in our community I think it should be simple to create a page, possibly even on this site, of cycling information. I want to create a local wiki dedicated to our hobby and available for any who are interested. Furthermore, I want our group to host events teaching everything from safety and beginners tips, to maintenance practices, to explaining gear ratios, racing techniques, or even how to build your own bike. We will already be taking a first swing at this task on October 6th at the Amphitheater in West Lafayette during which we will be teaching some of these basics during Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. Mark your calendars and come ride with us!

2. The Law:

Cycling laws are kind of like jay-walking laws… everyone has heard part of the truth, but the facts are strangely hard to come by. Do you have to wear a helmet or is it just a good idea? Can I ride on a sidewalk or not? Not only is it important that cyclists know the laws, it is important that we raise awareness for drivers so they understand that when we are pedaling slowly up a hill, we are actually following the laws, so don’t get mad and beat us up. As a regular commuter I get yelled at on a daily basis. I would love to be able to hand each person that flips me off or swerves towards me to try to scare me into a ditch a nice card with a link to a page outlining the laws that tell me I have to ride with traffic.

3. Events:

Indianapolis holds several community events that feature races each year. I had the privilege of not only attending, but participating in these events this year. The races don’t take up a tremendous amount of space and there were a host of great activities for the entire family. All of the elements that came together to make these events a success we already have in this town, we just need someone to organize them. It was sad to attend the Purdue Cycle Club’s Grand Prix a month ago and be one of only a handful of spectators for this highly prestigious race. In addition to races, I want to host legal, law-abiding, family friendly Critical Mass rides. There is already a group that does this and I think it is a fun and exciting way to promote cycling for the whole family. The downtown area has been host to a very prestigious bike polo tournament that is attended by teams from around the country. I want to help promote this event and make it even bigger than it already is. Bike polo is being strongly considered as an Olympic Sport…why can’t the first Team USA feature someone from our fair cities on the river? The triathlon is not a cycling sport that tends to lend itself to group riding. That doesn’t mean we can’t provide some events to bring these high-gear athletes together to help them train and introduce others to the sport. In addition to hosting our own events, I want to make sure that we have a presence at all the big events that already are established in the Greater Lafayette Area. The Taste of Tippecanoe, Mosey Down Main street, The Fiddlers Gathering, Outfest all great opportunities to promote cycling and introduce new riders to our sports.

4. Team Rides:

There are always great rides, events, and races going on throughout our state. I want to make sure that if a rider wants to participate in one of these rides they have a team already ready to support them. Attending my first race was incredibly intimidating all by myself, I would have loved to have had someone with a little experience by my side. I want our city to be a recognizable presence at all events, not just our own, and not just races. Riding a bike is always more fun when you have someone to ride with.

5. Fun:

Cycling should always be fun. I want to make sure that at any point, at any time, and anywhere in our county, if someone wants someone to ride with, they need only ask. I want to organize weekly rides with leaders to help riders of all levels get to know the area. There are mountain bike trails all over this city that I still haven’t ridden myself. It’s great to have someone to show you which roads are less busy to ride on. The Wabash River Cycle Club does a great job of accomplishing this goal and I hope to learn from their example and possibly even co-host rides at some point in the future.

6. Providing Bikes:

This will be a hard task, but it’s one that I think is tremendously important. Each year Purdue collects the bikes left behind by students. I would like to try to acquire some of these bikes, hold clinics to teach interested parties how to fix them up, then give them away. No one should ever be denied the enjoyment of riding a bike. There is a group in Indianapolis that does this quite successfully and I would hope to talk with them to find out some best practices for trying the same thing.

These are ambitious goals, but I believe they are important, and possible. I love everything about cycling and I want others to experience the joy cycling has brought me. I am committed to this task. If you love cycling as much as I do, believe in promoting cycling, or are just interested in helping enrich the lives of our community through healthy fun, let me know! We are already working to take some steps in the direction of making this all a reality but we will need help. If you have ideas, complaints, disagreements, or words of wisdom we are listening.

Keep the rubber side down.

Originally posted at Think Lafayette.

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