Reprinted from Dirt Rag #194.
Thank you, thank you. Thank you very much.
Friends, readers and fellow cyclists: I humbly and gratefully thank you for bothering to read another edition of The Rant. Who would have believed that when I started this journey—because I started out packing boxes at Dirt Rag headquarters more than eight years ago—that I would now have a column in every issue. Who would have believed this? Who would have believed this?
This column occurs at a moment of crisis for our industry. Continuing to slice thinner the white-guy pie that is the cycling market threatens our very way of life. Any cyclist who does not grasp this danger is obviously a nitwit. Not good. Not good!
Cyclists reading this have seen the recent images of skids on our trails and the bro-ification of our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: The bro-ification that today afflicts our trails will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end.
The most basic duty of cycling media is to be the change we want to see. Any media that fails to do so is media unworthy to read. It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our industry. I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so homogenous anymore. So if you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully crafted lies and the media myths, Interbike is in September. Go there. But here, in this column, there will be no lies. We will honor American cyclists with the truth, and nothing else.
In our nation, adult bicycle sales have dropped from a high of 15.2 million in 1973 to 12.5 million in 2015. The adult population has risen from 160 million to 239 million. That is a per capita drop from 95 bikes per 1,000 adults to 52 bikes per 1,000. Bikes have never been better. The industry pumps out ever better models every year. And yet, what do we have to show for it? Our trails become more and more alike and our shops are closing at an alarming rate. We should be huge by now. We should be huge.
Be we aren’t. Let’s change this in 2017, OK? The problems we face now—flat sales and decreasing participation—will last only as long as we continue relying on the same group of riders. A change in direction is required to produce a change in outcomes. Today I will share with you my action plan for the industry.
Inclusion, not bro-ification, will be our credo. As long as we continue to market cycling as solely the domain of fit white men (and sometimes fit white women), then we can be assured that other parts of the population will continue to view cycling as exclusionary, expensive and unobtainable. My plan will begin at home—which means a better job in the pages of our own magazine, where we fail as much as the rest of the industry.
Our nation is full of people that don’t look like the images we all see in magazines and websites. We have great people riding bikes already, let’s get the rest of the best of them on bikes, too. And by best, I mean the rest of the people. Your race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender should all be welcome under the huge tent of cycling. It will be huge. I promise you. The biggest tent. The biggest. These people have so much to contribute to cycling, yet our industry does a terrible job representing them in marketing and media. Their voices have never really been heard. I am going to work very hard to change that and have the things we read and look at better reflect all Americans.
We can accomplish these great things, and so much more—all we need to do is start believing in ourselves and in cycling again. Start believing. It is time to show the whole world that Cycling Is Back—bigger and better and stronger than ever before. But to do this, we must break free from the petty politics of the past. Cycling is made up of believers, dreamers and strivers that will lead us into a better future. No longer can we rely on those same people in the media and industry.
Instead, we must choose to Believe In Cycling. History is watching us now. We don’t have much time, but history is watching. It’s waiting to see if we will rise to the occasion, and if we will show the whole world that cycling is for all people. I am asking for your support in this column so others can be the champions for this needed change. I can’t do it alone. To all cyclists, in all of our cities and in all of our towns, I make this promise: We Will Make Cycling Strong Again. We Will Make Cycling Proud Again. We Will Make Cycling Safe Again. And We Will Make Cycling Great for Everyone, not just Upper Middle Class White Guys.
God bless you, and good night. I love you