Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Racing - What Would YOU Do To Improve Racing?

Say I had a lot of money to pitch into the bike racing scene. How would you use it? Your goals can vary, but the basic one is to grow the sport. Cycling is not broadcast on prime time in this country, but it is in others. How would you make it so that the powers-that-be would find it worthwhile to broadcast the Tour live on one of the major networks?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

- Recruit racers from the collegiate scene.
- Have some kind of program to encourage Juniors and Women to race.
- Clinics to teach new racers how to race.
- More weekday training races.
- More National level races in the area, including the National Championships.
- Build an indoor velodrome.
- Build bike-only trails.
- Build permanent training race venues.

Think of specifics. If you want to recruit some of the collegiate racers in the area, think about what draws them into the sport. What graduating from school does to their life. What appeals to the student about the sport? For Juniors, why would they want to race? Ditto women.

Although I pose this question hypothetically, the reality is that there is some money out there. It's to be spent to grow bike racing.

Unfortunately, the money's just been accumulating for years because, get this...

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH IT!

To make sure there's no misunderstanding, I don't know what to do with it either, at least not in a concrete way.

But maybe if we do the Wiki thing to attack this problem, we can find some potential uses for the money together. Spread the word and let's get some ideas together.

8 comments:

No One Line said...

one program that impressed me is I Challenge Myself, which is more fitness and personal-accomplishment oriented but can carry over into racing. The program runs cycling programs in a handful of NYC public schools. Road bikes are loaned to the program participants, who "graduate" with a ride to Bear Mountain.

A good way to get cycling to grow outside of the well-off white-dude demographic would be to run similar programs in cities across the country. Give kids in public schools the opportunity to race bikes before they have to plunk down a whole bunch of money for it. Cycling will benefit from more people being exposed to the sport at young ages.

I also like the notion of indoor velodromes, but not as much as I like the notion of outdoor velodromes. Liz Reap came to race at Kissena and said "It would be great if they took the money it took to build one ADT center and built ten Kissenas." Small dromes in cities all over - more people will race, less investment in the building. And I wonder if indoor velodromes could be built cheaper than a whole complex. Find a warehouse with a basement, build some facilities on a dime and throw up a velodrome indoors.

Where is all this money? Are those holding the money putting out requests for proposals on how to spend it? Maybe the first step is formally soliciting ideas from people who might want to take that money and use it well. People who have the organizational brains and experience and contacts to budget and run an excellent program. Find a dozen of those people across the country and disburse funds, monitor the progress...

Anonymous said...

Where is the money?

Anonymous said...

how much money are you talking about? How do you want to grow the sport?
1. # of participants or
2. do you just want a bunch of fat guys sitting on the couch at home, drinking beer, watching the tour in an "Armstrong" jersey?
Go Cards! McNabb Sucks!

Sigberto said...

Howdy - just a fellow bike forums guy here, and I'm glad you mentioned collegiate cycling. I started riding during college after I stopped rowing, and Collegiate Cycling has to be one of the best ways to introduce folks to this sport. Me? I've been trying to make sure that our team keeps bringing in new folks - here's the blog I put up a few weeks ago about it.

http://sigberto.blogspot.com/2009/01/finding-some-freshman-for-gw.html

Cheers,

-sig.

ridethecliche said...

I think it's a good idea to start up young rider mentorship programs where a coach/experienced rider/racer gets with a few kids (high school/collegiate level) and rides and trains with them. I think that would help.

I feel like the collegiate atmosphere is great for starting up a program because students live together and can train and race together without too much additional effort.

The outdoor velodrome area is a great idea as well, but it's just not accessible in the winter or in bad weather which is unfortunate, but the factory basement idea might be awesome for that.

I think it's a good idea to move and try to establish more high school/collegiate programs since you want to start when athletes are young and enthusiastic so it becomes a way of life instead of something you do on the side. I think that's the best way to do it.

Aki said...

I guess some concrete numbers would be good. How about doubling the number of racers in New England in the next 3-5 years? That would mean a 100% increase in the number of racers. Currently we're growing the number of riders at single digit percentage points.

Money? $20k per year, up to $40k per year, and maybe some state funding if more than 7 high schools decide to request cycling as a high school sport.

My particular post was inspired by the fact that the New England Bicycle Racing Association wants to grow bike racing in the area, and, in fact, is soliciting ideas on just how to do that. This is just another place where someone can ask the question.

Anonymous said...

Here's my 2 cents.
Juniors get a reduced fee. Not more than $12/race for any race Catetgory B and under, be it pre-reg or day of. Category A races would be up to the promoter.
Have the local races or series races set-up as high school races with each race garnering points towards going to a state championship race. Say any rider getting 25 points will get them to go onto the states, and then the top 10 in the states go onto a regional championship.
The same could be done in Mtn races. Hopefully this would inspire younger riders to get into the sport. This is an expensive sport so the only way to attract younger riders into it is to make just the up front costs seem high.
This also could let the rider carry over their enthusiasm to collegiate racing, which is only on a club basis with most univer-sities.
How do we grow racing? We grow racing by investing in its youth, not in its established fields. Masters have been doing fine for years. Its the younger riders we need to support.
As far as velodromes are concerned, building from scratch is expensive. How about abandoned/closed done athletic fields or tracks. All tracks are 440 yards/400 meters. The distance is already set. All that would have to be done is building up the banking and the lanes. Now the hard part of velodromes. How do we officiate all of these new races? Promoters and riders alike are already complaining that there are not enough officials for the num-ber of races. Do we make it mandatory for each club to have an official? Do we make all current officials work/officiate at least 5 non-team related races? And how do we validate this. All questions that need to be addressed.

Years back the USCF tried to align themselves with the Boys Club of America. Maybe its time to look into that again.
How about boys and girls scouts. I've helped out with merit badges by going over bicycle safety. Is there a way we could tap into that outlet of youth. Maybe the girls scouts could deliver the cookies by bike. MMMMMMMMMMM Thin Mints.
I degress.

Aki, instead of giving a discount on your fees for the coming year, how about sponsoring the juniors and women. just charge the juniors for the insurance fee and give a reduced fee to women. You need more juniors and the women have been coming out, but they need more of an incentive to race. If you get 30-40 women that is a windfall much like an "in season" race. And if you get 10 juniors then you have doubled your field from previous years.

More ideas, but not enough time to type. A great topic to discuss while clubs meet or on a ride.

De.Corday said...

I think that an interesting portion of the problem is the seemingly unattainable nature of pro & cat 1/2 level equipment, and a marketing community that stresses its necessity.

I decided that I wanted to race road bikes about a year and a half ago, after years of commuting / bumming around on hardtail mtbs and old touring bikes. When I started looking around at rides, I was pretty floored at the cost of a basic aluminum / carbon frame with 105 components... in other words a basic upgradable amateur racing frame.

Luckily, I had some friends and mentors who quickly steered me towards a cheap old 531 frame, and regularly encouraged me to go mix it up with the chaps on 2 year old carbon atop my 30 year old steel. But in doing the research while restoring my old Raleigh frame, I realized something: back in the "golden age" of racing, the difference between entry level racing bike and pro level racing bike was relatively small... both had 32 spoke wheels, downtube shifters, a 52 tooth chainring and a 42 tooth chainring. It was easier to look at your bike and at least imagine it in the pro peleton... The pros were essentially riding on the same technology as you and your club buddies. So the goal seemed attainable. With the sheer turnover of technology since the mid 90's, the bike you can scrounge together enough cash to buy and start training is so different than the bikes populating the tour. There's no simple money-fix to that, other than building more and better mid-level gruppos to drive the price down...

I think that High School programs are totally the way to go, paired with simply more visibility for the sport. More Cat 5 crits in more places, more local club-teams (aki, your post a while back about the importance of clubs was excellent). And I think that this kind of thing would be more and more doable if the price of a race-worthy bike didn't *seem* so prohibitively expensive.

Just my scatter-shot .02