It Takes a Village to Make a Cyclist

Written by Patrick Stelte - July 2017

el presidente

There was an interesting post on our Facebook page earlier this month. A newer club member asked about group riding skills: how to learn and where to find information. The response was varied and typical of our sport. There has been a large influx of new members the last couple of years, riders wanting to learn more about cycling along with the socialization that happens when joining a club. Cycling has no formalized training that is common with organized sports. Because it is a solo sport in base interest (you can participate without anyone else), skills are parceled as needed. There is a vast difference between a peddle-poke who rides occasionally, stores the bike outside and rides around on rotting tires about to go flat and the deft cyclist riding a several thousand dollar machine thousands of miles a year. To navigate from A to Z, a budding enthusiast will journey through the countless steps of evolution with the help of a sundry village of elders and crafts-people. The first step of enquiry usually starts with a mentor.

When I decided to evolve from a peddle-poke to someone more serious, I knew who to ask - my best friend who I considered a master in cycling. The stories about his adventures on two wheels and knowledge to my ignorant mind stoked my budding interest. I was daft to the right questions after my first: What kind of bike should I buy? From the day I purchased my new ride, my friend was showing and telling me all the little details, taking me on adventures around town to places I had not experienced on a bike. He taught me how to repair mechanicals in the field and preventative maintenance, what to wear and when to ride, how to ride with another and be predictable. He, seemingly, pushed me on every ride, but not enough to fizzle my enthusiasm. After six months, I rode the Hilly Hundred and the die was set and I wanted more.

The village square always has merchants who sell dreams and service desires. Many who thirst for more begin with a visit to a bike shop. Walmart is for peddle-pokes and a step up is an open door to an expert/mentor relationship. Fort Wayne has a strong foundation of cycle shops that are hubs to the spokes of interest. Knowledge is passed with merchandise. Networks are strung from questions of who, what, when and where after how has been answered. Ask anyone in the club about good advice they received and you will hear the names of employees of Summit City Bicycles, Fort Wayne Outfitters, Human Motor Works, Spokesmen, Koehlinger’s, Kern’s (my first bike) and the many small shops that service our passion. Going to a bike shop is a human connection you just can’t get online.

A continuing thirst typically leads to group gatherings. Event rides are the next stepping stone, they pique the interest from looking at the variety of bikes, kits and watching people. ”Where do I fit in” is always spinning just under the surface of recognition. The steady climb for more will lead to the serious undertaking of joining a club or a team. I am reminded of a story of a newbie who sat, terrified, in their car before a club ride. Intimidation by ignorance can be overwhelming. It took me years to go on a club ride because I thought I didn’t have the right bike and gear. When I became president, I wanted newbies to sense showing up at a club ride can be like hugs from friends and family. The welcome mat is out. You can’t go wrong when you can ride, learn and talk all day about your passion to the like-minded.

The mentor, the bike shop and the club mold and shape the clay into a seasoned rider. My favorite stories are about cyclists I have watched grow while in the club. I am still expanding my abilities through expert knowledge of others and I have passed along countless tips, whether I know it or not. And I will always remember my first mentor: Mike Beck.

Group Riding Tips

Here are three articles about group riding that I wrote in the past that I think will be helpful.

Group Riding Tips #1 - Echelon

Group Riding Tips #2 - Communication

Group Riding Tips #3 - Pace vs Average Speed