Is Road Racing dead? How can we ressurect/build cycling as a niche sport?


#42

hope its not dead, I just registered with USAC over the weekend!


#43

For anyone bemoaning the exclusive, equipment fetishizing, power worshiping, malnourished stereotype of road racing and road racers more specifically, all I can say is, “Lighten up.”

You’re on the TR forum where we get to agonize over how to get 5 extra meaningless watts on an FTP test and whether 10mm of rim depth will help us win that tt we probably won’t enter. And this is the only place you can pose those exceedingly bike nerdy questions safe from ridicule. Maybe slowtwitch… It’s all good.

Having raced road, cx, and mtb on and off for the last 15 years, I can very confidently say that you’ll get out of it what you put in.

Like anything in life there’s great people in the road scene and others you should avoid. Nice part is, you get to choose who you interact with.

Find a good team of like minded folks if you’re just getting started. There’s USAC registered teams (clubs) that are all 20 yo kids trying to go pro, all early thirties investment banker bros looking for an excuse to have beers and buy more carbon shit, and some that are middle aged guys/gals that like to train hard and squeeze in 10-15 races on a good season. Whoever you get on well with, you should ride with.

My first USAC race was in the laid back cx scene and I was screamed at and accused of being a sandbagger because I lapped the field of C’s after asking to race B’s. And no offers of a beer hand up. They were probably too busy checking the pressure on their spare carbon tubulars on their “pit” bike before the A race with a $50 digital gauge…

A few years later in CO and I entered a road race on the same steel cx bike with knobby tires and got on the podium after battling a trio of teammates up a 9 mile climb. They promptly got me rolling on a beater aluminum road bike and some new kit. Good folks.

Gravel and fondos I just don’t really get. I do 100+ mile rides and ride a lot of gravel. Just can’t bring myself to pay someone for the opportunity or even consider buying a special bike to do it with. Not knocking it. Just don’t like riding in a giant pack of cyclists if I don’t have to unless I’m racing.

Im a 38 year old husband and father of four with pretty good fitness and I enjoy competing. I don’t drink, don’t shred gnar, don’t wear a costume unless it’s for my kids on Halloween, don’t buy a new bike every year (just bought a $400 used alloy frame to replace 14 yo one, same 2009 group though) and don’t pay to ride my bike if there’s not a finish line and a prize purse. I guess I’m a minority.

I’ll be racing USAC road events this year and trying to score meaningless upgrade points and win some sweet $5 primes. And I’ll have a good time doing it. Might even race cx too…


#44

I noticed that with road riders especially: during my 20+ years of mountain biking, I can’t really remember when the people I rode with spent so much time discussing wheels and such. I haven’t been mountain biking lately (due to lack of local trails), so I bought a road bike last year.

I have to say self-critically that I am much more focussed on blingy gear than I was before. I bought a used endurance road bike last year which retails for $3,000 new in Japan, and noticed some side eye I got from people who remarked that I was riding a 9 kg boat anchor. I don’t remember that during my MTB days.


#45

This right here. Where I live ( East of the SF Bay Area) there is NOT ONE type of organized youth cycling opportunity of any discipline for miles and miles around (BMX is the closest, still over 40 miles to the nearest track, well over that to the next one). No BMX , No Road, No MTB for youth whatsoever. Lack of Venue is 99% of the problem. There is just nothing in existence for the youth or anyone else to access cycling as a competitive sport.
Recently I have heard of 1 Road race in Livermore, Ca but I wasn’t able to find much information about it, and from what I could find, there is no provision to include groms or Juniors.


#46

just think about how much money everyone has tied up into their vehicles to drive to work and back. I bet the average price right now is 40k+.

That can buy a lot of cool bikes :slight_smile: and its exactly what I did. $1500 2002 Honda Civic 4 door… $600 1-up rack. a $4000 s-works tarmac and a 10,000 s-works epic. the other 20ish k goes to my wife and kids. lol. I have my priorities straight :wink:


#47

Not sure that was clear from my post but I don’t disagree with any of this. :slight_smile:


#48

Although road racing has diminished in my area of central Kentucky (we are down to a handful of events), I always look for opportunities to sing the praises of the Tennessee racing series (https://www.tbra.org.)

Events in the series share a few of the features mentioned in Hitzeman’s article: Most of the road races have expanded with the addition of a crit and short TT. For some this adds value to a weekend’s worth of travel. Some are in highly visible venues (Saturday night crit in downtown Chattanooga.) Others feature nice scenery and a level of “epic-ness” like a fondo (Roan Groan.) All are well organized and officiated.

The voices I hear here make me thankful for these great events, even if they are 5+ hours away. I hope to see some of you all there.


#49

Kinda struggling with this one at the moment. Crashed in my second open race (someone went down ahead of me, and I didn’t get around the bodies). I’ve no fear of crashing as such (I’m fine back in a group at pace for example), it’s more the career consequences of crashing. Once I can get written off, another crash early season work would probably be reluctant.

Before the first race, it was a very real fear of getting dropped early and embarrassingly.

So still on the fence, just about coming down on the side of racing again! Well, I’ve started going with the Race group on club spins anyway.


#50

Some of the replies make me wonder if people bothered to read the very well written article, or simply reacted to the title.

I had hoped that a major takeaway from this discussion would be some reflection. Sitting around and bemoaning the lack of races, the poor organization, the safety, the lack of programs, etc… doesn’t do anything to HELP cycling. In fact, those approaches are part of the reason we are seeing a decline in road racing.

Proactivity and involvement are the harbingers of change. What if, instead of focusing efforts on complaining, there was mass organization to change those points of contention? You don’t like your local race organizers? Assemble a team and start something yourself! No juniors program for your kiddos? Gather a bunch of cycling buddies with kids and teach them. You don’t like the types of race being offered? Start a new type!

Sure, it’s much easier to sit back, spend oodles of money on new bikes and whine about a lack of opportunities to race them (for those who want to race, or course).

If we are only consumers of this art, it will never flourish. Those who truly have a passion for cycling must give back to the sport that brings such joy. Be the change that you wish to see… or something :man_shrugging:


American Crit - New youtube documentary on Crit Racing
#51

@Jhardisk it’s a great topic. This being a forum is what it is. Strangers exchanging feelings and opinions. It’s possible in some small way this forum is helping though. The exchange of “information” however, insignificant can sometimes affect change.

I’ve read the article; I’ve promoted races; I’ve been mentoring juniors and up and coming riders for years. I’m not a coach however. Like most sports this a bottom up sport fed by the youth. It requires new life at the bottom for sustainability. With out it we will just watch the latest trend suck the middle and older aged people away.

What really needs to happen (around my area) are:

  • Shops need to sponsor and be more aggressive with sponsoring teams and helping develop jrs.
  • We need help from the city/state to have a public track bilt maybe in conjunction with a BMX track and possibly a more robust community center (skate pool etc…). It could be an easy way to centralize and focus the kids and give them a start that is fun, safe and contained.

#52

So true. Hobbies can be build on participation by middle aged men, but not competitive sports. Providing a path for kids to get involved in the sport is the only way to grow cycling as a competitive sport in the US. It is happening in mountain biking. It tends to happen in places that have velodromes but there are only a handful of those in the US. With limited exceptions, youth opportunities and development in road cycling are woefully lacking unfortunately.


#53

I have a 1994 Toyota Landcruiser for just that reason. It never, ever breaks, and with the exception of the fuel mileage, is possibly the perfect vehicle. I have 4 kids, a wife, and other hobbies, I’d love a nice new LP Rigged Subbie Outback, but that 45k is way better spent on bikes, kids, and experiences, including road tripping together to distant riding points and events.

The day may come when I am that old guy that rolls up in a current year pimp ride, with 20k in pimp bikes, and 4k in pimp wheels, pimp kit, and pimp BS, but it is not this day!


#54

To get things steered in a different direction, what about this hypothesis:

Increased investments in cycling infrastructure in major population areas across the country (protected cycling lanes, robust trail systems, etc.) :arrow_right: increased interest in cycling (commuting, general recreation, etc.) :arrow_right: more people on bikes :arrow_right: more people decide they want to race their bike


#55

I support this - there’s a lot of merit to it. Combine it with efforts to make racing more accessible, foster growth in the youth ranks, and give back to the cycling community, and we’ll see change.

Sit back, sign up for the occasional race, and whine about all the things that were broken - sure… road racing will die.


#56

While I wholeheartedly support the “do something about it” line of thought, I think in reality it’s tougher. There’s a lot of financial risk involved with race organizing that as an outsider I’m sure I can’t even begin to fathom. I’ve heard that in the past, it was a requirement for USAC clubs to organize races, but that’s no longer a thing, so I’ve seen some argue that maybe we should go back to those days so that a) if you want to race you join a club and b) if you’re a club you organize events. Adds more skin to the game overall, it seems


#57

@Landis You deserve recognition! If everyone gave back even 1/2 of your effort to the sport that has given them so much joy, we’d see a vastly different landscape. I believe much of this problem has to do with a consumerism approach - expecting cycling as an establishment to give and continue giving from the top level, while not giving anything in return. It’s like planting a seed in the dirt - sure, it’ll grow… but if you fertilize it, nurture it, and make some effort, it will flourish and yield more fruit.

We are all here, banded together by the fact that we enjoy suffering to get marginally faster riding bicycles. We go to great lengths to get into top shape, spend oodles of money on all the latest gear and gadgets, and dedicate endless hours honing our “skill.” Imagine if just a tiny portion of that time, effort, and money were filtered to giving back to cycling as a community.


#58

And that’s human nature — across the board. Our brains seek the path of least effort for our bodies. Some might call this laziness, evolution would call it efficiency.

I’d love to have a flourishing race scene in my region but I also know it is a crazy amount of work to organize a proper worth while event, so I’m probably not going to do it on top of already working and training. My job is to show up and race.

Like the elder statesmen tutoring the young riders coming up, we also need the same for race organizers — professional mentoring. Too many races are put together by racer turned organizer and the quality suffers because of it. I wouldn’t go to a high school science fair to buy a new smart phone just because every teenager uses one. Perhaps the governing bodies need to create and instate a minimum level of quality which organized races must meet. Put the organizers through the same point upgrade meat grinder system racers have to endure. The more points you have the higher up the organization chain you get to move, until you are a licensed Master Organizer. That way riders don’t get turned off road because the start list is changed 4 times or the start times are changed 7 times or everyone is left out in the cold drizzle for an hour because the course isn’t set up or the course is laid out and marshalled in a horrific accident-waiting-to-happen manner…just to “win” a water bottle…so they quit RR to go ride big awesome fun gravel events with amazing support structure and a big awesome fun BBQ at the end.

Just sayin’.


#59

This is exactly how it is in my city…except for the last part.

Perhaps this is just a weirdity of my particular city, but there are tons of bike riders yet incredibly few bike racers. What’s more, is that quite a few pro riders come here to train, live, whatever…but again, almost no road racers or road races. I wouldn’t hesitate to guess that both safety and effort are big parts of that “more people decide they want to race their bike” equation.


#60

Actually the financial commitment/risk to put on a local crit can actually be quite low assuming you can find a venue that does not cost an arm and a leg. In my area a local club rents out a local sports car track every other Wednesday evening for the summer(when it otherwise would not be used so the rent is cheap). The race series has been going on for years. They run and A and a B race at $20 a race. The entry fees cover the track rental. It is a great training ground for officials too. Prize money is minimal and is tied to entries. Its a race track so there is zero course set up. Juniors and women race for free. Several A riders warm up at the back of the B race and mentor the B folks if they want help or appear stuck at the back. About 80+ folks show up. The racing is great and at the front of the A group, it is the real deal. While not solely because of this race series, a couple folks who have raced this series have gone on to be pros, one made the World Tour. Its a race and it happens every other Wednesday all summer every year. That is all you need.

Road racing does not have to be a grand spectacle to get folks involved. In fact, small local events are way more inviting to new folks and new juniors.


#61

I like the article and I think the points about giving back are key. Building sports from the foundation will keep the racing tradition alive in some form or another.

We have local club (Ride with Rendall) that is essentially a master’s club with the purpose of giving back to younger riders. Via coaching, advice, support and some funding.

http://www.ridewithrendall.com

Skills development is key to building and growing any particlaur sport. Cycling is no different. Until my partner and I started and mtb instruction company this past season, there were few options for youth or adults to actually learn fundamental skills where we live. So now I spend 1/2 my summer riding out with different groups who want professional instruction so they can enjoy riding more.

The growth of NICA is cool in that it gets kids racing with parental volunteers coaching some skills. I have not been to the high school events but my friends in PA say they are fun and growing.

And Zwift. I have NEVER done a road race. But I’ve done several in Zwift since the start of December and I’m doing the Tour de Zwift. That’s on top of my low volume short track program. What has been intereating for me is learning how to race in Zwift. The intensity is a nice compliment to TR training. And I’m learning strategy; not 100% applicable to the outdoors, but I have learned how to put out consistent power and how to advance through the Zwift pack. As a training and engagment tool it has great potential.

Something to think about.

M