How can we get more people interested in cycling?

In the mainstream media nowadays, the word doping is now autofilled after cycling. Not good from a PR standpoint. I also know that if I can spend a few minutes with a person, I can generally impart a little appreciation for the nuances of the sport to get them to watch a little.

How do we tap into the primal love of the bike? How can we get people to understand the beauty of an echelon? Know how bad it is to when you first start to lose a wheel going up hill? Most professional riders have given up laptops for major races. That has removed one avenue. If you have been reading from the beginning, you know I have been looking to exploit the video phenomenon to show off the good side of the sport. Some of the riders who dropped the laptop and picked up a camera. The Broadband Racer is trying to show those videos. VeloNews is also trying to get into the action. But that is talking to ourselves. How do we get on YouTube? There has to be a way to use this medium to reach a new audience.

I have been following some of the key video blog sites and recently have seen a couple of posts on one of the leading video sites Will Video for Food. In fact, I convinced the owner to write a blog on cycling videos. The writer is a prolific blogger who has been invited to industry gatherings to speak on the booming market for online videos. He also has consulted to fledgling online video sites such as Revver.
Recently, he posted on the do’s and dont’s of online videos. Here are some:

Here is my challange. Stop by Will Video For Food. Read up on how to do it right. I know it is a new world but we need to break out of our shell. Take your camera out. Video the purest part of our sport. Take people beyond the headlines of Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton.

Post and spread the word. What do you say?

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13 Responses to How can we get more people interested in cycling?

  1. Daniel M says:

    Jim,

    That’s been the age-old question ever since I started racing back in 1990. One club I was part of, the Ann Arbor Velo Club came up with a rather innovative solution: promote the sport to juniors, and make it more accessible for them. As part of the program, riders even loaned old bikes to some of the kids who joined up, to make it less costly for them to try the sport out.

    Your idea sounds pretty good, too. Reaching out to people by taking advantage of the current media forms is an excellent approach.

    I hope it works. We could definitely use the good PR for a change.

    – Rant

  2. pelotonjim says:

    Thanks. So do I. I figure every kid has a myspace account. Everyone is watching YouTube and Google Videos. How do we go where they are and speak their language?

    Also, my secondary fear has always been if everykid is now logged in, who is out riding? Who is falling in love with going fast on a bike?

  3. Daniel M says:

    The idea of YouTube and Google Videos is good. It certainly gets the message out to the places where kids would be most likely to see them.

    And you’re right in being concerned about whether anyone is out riding. Maybe the soccer moms and dads of the world should give their kids bikes, helmets, and a backpack to carry their things and then let their kids get around on their own.

    That way we’d have kids riding more (and actually getting exercise) while their stressed-out parents wouldn’t have to drive as much, which means less gas being burned and less oil being imported.

    Sounds like a win-win situation to me. :-)

    (And perhaps parents should set a rule with their kids: No Internet until you’ve done your homework.)

  4. [...] Even the niche interest groups are looking at online video. Jim’s blog on bikingdiscusses how to use online video to enhance the community of bicycling. Jim’s a friend, and I have no idea about the biking world (except that Tour de France accidents are interesting to watch on video). But he’s performed in a number of my videos and inspired a few. So visit his blog today. Or at least click the link so his traffic goes up. [...]

  5. Brian says:

    I’ve given some though to this in the past. For anything to be successful, some money needs to be behind it. USA Cycling needs to promote cycling as an activity essential to a healthy lifestyle. Subway revived thier restaurant by promoting some fat dude getting thin. Get enough people on bikes and a percentage of them will naturally gravitate towards racing, given man’s competitive nature. The problem is, this takes foresight and patience to be successful – two things USAC has proven they have none of time and time again.

  6. pelotonjim says:

    Well said Brian. My hope is we can start some kind of grass roots effort that will begin to move the wheels in the right direction. I’m done waiting for USAC to do something.

  7. [...] Yesterday, I offered the idea to begin a grass roots campaign to take the allure of cycling to a broader audience. The method I suggested was through the emerging medium. I did some research on online video sites to learn how wee can do what they do. How do we create something that others (non-cyclists) would watch? [...]

  8. joe serious says:

    Anything on pavement is boring. Stop shoving this boring and useless sport down the throats of innocent people. Take up mountain biking.

  9. pelotonjim says:

    Drive my car in order to ride? No thanks.

  10. Patrick says:

    How can we get more people interested in cycling?

    We need some additional “flavors” of the sport that do not involve road or velodrome racing. And I mean this particularly at the “young tike” stage of development. Road racing for an 8 year old is irresponsible on the part of parents. Velodrome track racing is dangerous and inaccessible for most.

    Someone mentioned “grass roots”. Why not “Grass Track”?

    If you go to the local park, you’ll see 7 year olds having soccer practice, and most of their mom or dads will be sitting in lawn chairs at the edge of the field, confident that their kid is safe. Nothing happens that is not right in front of them.

    With today’s growing traffic congestion, I know that I would have difficulty allowing my 12 year old to go out road riding for 90 minuntes in my city. Traffic these days is far more dangerous. There are way more cars on the road. Many of the roads I used to tear-up as a junior, I find myself fearful riding today.

    I think if we took “grass roots” and applied it literally, and developed a local park-based cycling league (along the lines of little league) it has the potential of creating a love for bike racing among younger kids. Parents would be able to participate in not only racing, but training/practice too. My own parents saw me race perhaps 2-3 times out of several hundred starts. They never once had anything to do with my actual training.

    We could spec bikes along the lines of the AMF roadmasters in “Breaking Away”. Simple bikes, easy to afford, no tech advantages, etc. We could create suggested grass-track ovals that can be implemented in any local park. It could be packaged in a manner that any local parent could conceivably start a league (just like little league).

    But waiting for USAC to somehow create some “grassroots solution”, I think, is unrealistic. Whatthey consider to be “roots” is not even deep enough into the ground.

    If a kid goes through the grass-track leagues, he/she can then aspire to compete at the USAC events and then do what is needed to put in the training miles and travel required to attend races. The only kids who start out younger than age 14 (and seem to stick with the sport) are kids who have parents who also race)d)

  11. pelotonjim says:

    I love the idea. I also am apprehensive about taking my guys on the open road. Grass track is a safer alternative while giving them the feeling of competition.

  12. Patrick says:

    Thanks.

    I think if a kid falls in a grass-track crash, the worst injury he might face is a sprained wrist, or perhaps a pedal scrape. The bumpiness of the lawn would put a natural speed governor on how fast things can get, and force a natural emphasis on tactics and bike handling.

    The kids would not need $100 worth of spandex “kits” to ride, but could wear tennis shoes, a t-shirt and shorts if they desired. It could be just like the “Cutters”. Just a helmet, t-shirt and cut-offs. That could be the uniform. Each “team” could customize it.

    Kids leaving the sport could easily their bikes to kids coming in, or the leagues could own the bikes and “rent” them. It would probably be possible to get a manufacturer (such as Trek) involved in creating a low cost-point bike for use in the league (or perhaps several manufacturers). The goal would be to eliminate “equipment envy” and make the focus on the racing…This would be crucial. The benefit to the manufacturer would be to establish brand loyalty with the kid early in his/her bike racing career.

    I think the concept has legs and am going to explore the idea of doing this further. Let me know if you would like to get involved.

    Patrick
    pjmanyun@yahoo.com

  13. Patrick says:

    Also, people bash USAC for not doing enough to promote the sport at the grass-roots level, but if you look at it, the classic practice of our sport is really not too approriate for kids who are really young. In retrospect, personally, I think that 14 should be the minimum entry age for road and track racing (the way it is done today). Perhaps even 15 or 16.

    8th grade is when I got my first 10-speed bike and came up with the idea of riding it really far one day. It was rather scary riding the 20 miles to the destination (and then home). I did it alone, and I remember how it freaked my mom out that I’d gotten up at 3AM and ridden in the dark to make this trip.

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