The 10th Annual National Bike Summit convened from March 9 – 12 in Washington, DC, and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) was represented in full, as board members Ben Capron, Eric Russell, Gary Fisher and myself mingled, networked, and spread the good word about high school mountain bike racing coast to coast by 2020 among the 700 bike industry influencers in attendance.
Starting with hors d’oeuvres in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue, League of American Bicyclists executive director Andy Clarke welcomed the crowd. The event, which brings together bike industry manufacturers, advocates, distributors, retailers, racers, consultants and politicians from most 50 states — with a healthy dose of international guests as far away as Australia — has grown into a very important date on the calendar. NICA supporters included International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) executive director Mike Van Abel, SRAM president Stan Day, and Trek president John Burke.
After gathering in the Reagan amphitheater following a light breakfast on March 10, break-out sessions began. I was part of a three-person panel organized by IMBA called “Best Practices in Youth Cycling Programs”. The idea was to educate the Summit attendees on the importance of getting kids started early, and the importance of offering programming from preschool through high school. Beginning with Dave Secunda of Boulder, Colorado-based Avid 4 Adventure, a for-profit organization, we learned about how kids are learning about mountain biking during school hours. Trips For Kids Washington DC director Julie Childers described the story of one inner city child who learned how to ride and race a mountain bike, and how his self esteem was raised as a result.
I was the final presenter of the session, and was given the opportunity to share NICA’s mission, vision and history of high school mountain bike racing. As a Wisconsin native, it was fun engaging with several industry peers from the Dairy State during my presentation, and having Gary Fisher enthusiastically support the cause. I began by relating the story of becoming a mountain biker as a 23-year-old at the Kettle Moraine trail system in south central Wisconsin near Whitewater, and the challenges we faced 21 short years ago with trail access in Wisconsin.
Standout highlights include Specialized’s chief brand officer Ben Capron reinforcing the importance of bipartisanship in supporting NICA, and Trek president John Burke telling Wheel & Sprocket owner Chris Kegel that a Wisconsin League needs to happen by 2011:
Folks from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Arizon and Illinois voiced their enthusiasm in forming exploratory committees to start Leagues in their states.
Other influencers in the audience included Dirt Rag Magazine publisher Maurice Tierney and USA Today’s adventure editor Sal Ruibal, both members of the U.S. Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
Clif Bar’s Eric Russell presented statistics on growing mountain bike participation during the Entrepreneurial IMBA session immediately following. Gary and Eric joined hundreds to lobby congress on Capitol Hill the following day, bringing a unified voice in support of several initiatives, including the Active Community Transportation Act of 2010, Complete Streets Act of 2009, Safe Routes to School Program (with a new high school component), Urban Revitalize and Livable Communities Act, Land and Water Reauthorization and Funding Act, and a request for more politicians to join the Congressional Bike Caucus, which currently includes approximately 217 House members and 16 Senate members. For more information, visit www.bikeleague.org.
During my nearly 20 years in the bicycle industry, I’ve witnessed several exciting moments/movements/innovations: Greg LeMond’s 1989 Tour de France nail-biting victory; the Internet; integrated road shifting; Lance Armstrong’s breathtaking seven straight Tour de France victories and subsequent comeback in 2009. None has compared to the opportunity to unite the entire industry around bringing high school mountain bike racing coast to coast by 2020. Several mentioned it won’t take that long! I also shared the NICA vision with Giant Bicycle USA general manager Elysa Walk, whose son is a 15-year-old mountain bike enthusiast. Time will tell how many major bike companies come on board in 2010.
BikePortland.org editor Jonathan Maus published a thorough report on our NICA presentation here http://bikeportland.org/2010/03/10/bike-racing-is-the-new-football-high-school-teams-ride-wave-of-momentum/, plus a nice interview with Gary Fisher here http://bikeportland.org/2010/03/11/industry-icon-gary-fisher-at-the-summit-i-regret-never-coming-before/.
Special thanks goes to Mike Eubank for moderating the “Best Practices in Youth Cycling Programs” presentation, and for IMBA’s government affairs director Jenn Dice for enabling me to speak. I’d also like to thank Austin McInerny, Rachel Lopes and Matt Gunnell for helping me prepare the NICA presentation, and my Australian book publisher Phil Latz for sponsoring my trip to D.C.
source: Gary Boulanger, board president
National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA)