March 2019 Top Talk

Pat McManus, President

Who are we? We are a club of approximately 600 members. We share in common that we love to ride our bikes, but otherwise, can we generalize as to who we are?  I think not. Some of us are happy to ride 15-25 miles once or twice a week year round or maybe not even that long or that often, whereas others routinely ride 50-75 miles multiple times a week. Some like to socialize while riding at a slow to leisurely pace, whereas others like to pedal hard and fast without a breath spared for chatting. Some members may never ride on any of our rides, but like to read the newsletter and enjoy adventures of others as they build courage or time to join us. Some members only join our limited tours and bike camping weekends. Some, including me, strictly ride flat pedals, whereas others click into every ride. This diversity of riding types and our many personalities are why I love our club! I love that there is a place for all types of riders, but is this something nonmembers know about us?  We have done a couple in-club surveys recently, plus our move to change our club name attracted the attention of followers of (Bike Portland Blog: PWTC considering name change Dec 4). Survey and online comments suggest that in some ways we are not understood. Next month we may change our name, hoping it will be a better fit, but criticisms should be addressed because changing our name may not instantly change the way we are perceived.

We have been accused of being an aging group. It is true that the average age of our most active riders is in retirement range, but of course, that makes sense considering that retired people have more time to ride and volunteer. Many of our older riders have been members for decades, grew the club to where it is, and still comprise our core. However, if we want the club’s legacy to be sustained into the future, if we want a club that continues to meet its stated goal (“founded in 1971 to promote cycling, to provide a social organization for bicyclists, and to support safe cycling and programs for youth.”) we must attract our replacements, i.e., younger riders. In short, we need to give younger riders a reason to join us. Many potential members, particularly if they have young children, may only be able to ride on weekends and need shorter slower rides. Money in their lives is being invested in daycare and the routine expenses of raising a family, not, light weight, high efficiency road bikes. They are buying less costly heavy, around-the-town bikes that may accommodate tag-alongs or work well at a pace suitable for kids. I propose a regular series of bike rides that are slower, shorter, and welcoming to these riders. We’ll start this series in May to run every weekend through September. Reach out to me if interested in participating. The club offers ‘family memberships’ up to 5 at one address, so let’s offer these families a regular option to ride with us!

Nonmembers also say we drop riders and go too fast.  Yes there are definitely non-group rides out there that may drop you if you are not ready for them, but we also have group rides and regroup rides that require our ride leaders to account for all riders. Our ride categories can help guide selection of a ride suitable for your skills and strength and checking for the word ‘social’ can often direct you to rides that are gender mixed.

Some survey responders suggested we need a regular option of rides that are women only. Women only rides would allow a woman to work herself into feeling comfortable joining us on other rides. Our Monday Morning Meander and weekday evening rides tend to attract mostly men. Plus, out of a rotation of eight ride leaders, none of them are women. Are women not coming to these rides because they correctly perceive them as mostly men? I don’t know if that is the reason, but if you are one of these reticent women, consider starting a series of Monday Morning Women-only rides that start at a park (maybe with parking and a restroom?), and similarly, consider starting a summer evening or weekend series of rides for women only. Let our Road Captains know of your interest; they can help you connect with other women. Until our membership is more evenly divided men and women, we need to address the need for inclusion and these rides may help women transition into other rides.

So, I say to new members or potential members – regardless of the type of rider you are, there is a ride for you and you are welcome. Like any organization, it takes regular riding before your face and name come easily to us, so speak up, let us know you’re there. Regular riding pays off in two ways – 1) you’ll become a stronger rider, and 2) you’ll make connections with others who love to ride.

And most of all “Let’s roll, hey. . . let’s be careful out there”Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues