The Angry Singlespeeder: A Year without USA Cycling

Opinion
Don’t renew your USA Cycling license. Do these independently sanctioned races instead.

Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at singlespeeder@consumerreview.com. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.

I’ve been a cardholding member of USA Cycling since 1996, the year USAC took over NORBA. Is it a coincidence that 1996 also happened to be the year when the popularity of mountain biking went careening off a rocky cliff? I think not.

In the last five years, mountain bike racing has dusted itself off from a long downhill tumble and is once again climbing in popularity. People are coming back, legendary races like the Downieville Classic, Breckenridge Epic and Whiskey Off-Road are selling out and *gasp!* promoters are having huge success putting on races without USA Cycling getting their grubby little hands in the mix. Imagine that. There’s a reason why so many great mountain bike races these days aren’t USAC sanctioned; because USAC no longer adds value to an event.

Breck Epic:

Whiskey Off-Road:

Of course the folks in Colorado Springs can’t just sit idle on the sidelines and watch the sport they supposedly oversee with exorbitant fees and paralyzing bureaucracy leave them with a roost of dirt on their faces. Therefore, in order to prevent themselves from falling into the chasm of complete and utter irrelevance, USAC is playing the absolute last card they have.

In case you haven’t heard, USAC is suddenly enforcing an arcane UCI rule that has existed for years but has never been enforced. UCI 1.2.019 rule states “No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI. Breaches of articles 1.2.019 or 1.2.020 shall render the license holder liable to one month’s suspension and a fine of 50 to 100 Swiss francs.”

Basically, if you are professional mountain biker on a UCI registered team, you are not allowed to race any independently sanctioned races in the US or you will be fined and/or suspended…in Swiss francs no less. Since 99.99999 percent of us mountain bikers are not Pro UCI license holders on a registered team, why should we even care what USAC is doing?

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • Tervo says:

    The Bell’s Beer Copper Harbor Trails Fest 2013 is an awesome weekend of fun. It’s held at the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula in Copper Harbor, Michigan over Labor Day weekend. Check it out! Details will be coming soon at http://www.copperharbortrails.org/

  • old school says:

    Right on!

  • Jim C says:

    I would like to add one more event to that list…
    Dirty Kanza 200, Saturday, June 1,2013.
    I, too, will not be renewing my USAC membership in 2013.
    Jim Cummins
    Director, Dirty Kanza 200

  • Kevin says:

    does New England not count as East Coast or something? We could probably double the size of that list if included. The entire EFTA NECS summer series, Hampshire 100, Millstone12, Bradbury12, 24hrs of Great Glen…

  • David Bruning says:

    +1 for the Bell’s Beer Cu Harbor Trails Fest, went there last year and had some of the most fun on and off a bike as one can have!

  • gddyap says:

    The local cross series, Surf City Cyclocross, went USAC last season. It had a different feel to it compared to the previous season. We got to listen to the fat-ass USAC “official” tell us the rules at the start of each race.

  • Chris Miceli says:

    6 Hours of Brady’s Run in Western PA is a NON-USAC event and will remain that way indefinitely. Check out our website http://www.6hoursofbradysrun.com or the facebook fan page at “6 Hours of Brady’s Run Mountain Bike Race”

  • Heidi says:

    Stuff around southeastern Wyoming”

    Gowdy Grinder – May 19, 2013
    Laramie Enduro – July 27, 2013 (lottery is already done with, though, so unless you already were accepted or on the waitlist, tough luck!)
    Stone Temple 8 – September 2013

    There’s also the 6 event Laramie Mountain Bike Series outside of Laramie that runs the course of the summer.

  • Kurt Gensheimer says:

    Aw, yeah! Brady’s Run. Damn. I used to race there way back in the early 1990s when I was junior. Actually, the Month of Mud race there was the very first race I ever did! Loved that place. Brutal when it was muddy. Total carnage.

    Keep the races coming. As an independent promoter myself, I love seeing all these grassroots races popping up all over the country.

    I’ll put in a little plug for our Quick n Dirty summer series here in North County San Diego –

    http://www.facebook.com/quickndirtymtb

    • Gary Bywaters says:

      Yep, I thought you were the Kurt G. I know.
      Western PA’s “Month of Mud” enters its 25 year !
      No license needed. Fun times guaranteed !
      Gary Bywaters, Month of Mud founder.

  • JS says:

    Gee, I was thinking about buying a license this year for the first time in while so I can race CX. In Colorado, there is almost nothing CX or Road that isn’t USAC/BRAC. So I looked up the app, $60 for the primary (road) license, another $25 for BRAC membership = $85…..and oh by the way, that license does not let you race MTB or BMX (just road and CX) you have to pay another $30 for MTB ($115!). You do not need a USAC license to race MTB in Colorado – there are few if any sanctioned races and so many unsanctioned races that there are plenty of choices. CX looks like fun and I’d like to try it but I have gotten hung up on the licenses for the past few years. This year I am balking after realizing it did not even include MTB in the cost of a road license. It’s a bit annoying that they feel like road bikes and mtb are so differnet that one license could not cover both. Where is the value in USAC? It would be nice if the CX promoters had a unsanctioned class. No points, no trophies, no medals, no licenses, no memberships – just a come out and race and have fun but I suspect USAC/BRAC would not let them do that.

    • Dru says:

      Every USAC mountain bike event I have raced in Arizona was less than $50 for registration. Compare this to Whiskey, etc.. ($120+) and there’s where your license fee gets paid off. Just do two USAC races. Also, each of these races had the option of purchasing a one-day license for $5 and open categories. If you’re balking at the price of a license, just think of how much you spent on your bike!

      • later_tater says:

        In theory, those USAC sanctioned events should be stacked with riders and we all know they are not. Cheaper racing is not better when the courses are Olympic style boredom.

        Part of that entry goes to fund a legitimate payout for elites. The promoter cannot get the same payout structure from USAC.

        The promoter is doing something right and USAC is not and hasn’t been for decades. There’s certainly space for both kinds of events, but USAC does not like competition.

  • Zeroplanetz says:

    I will NEVER pay to ride a bike no matter what level.

  • John G. says:

    Man, I’ve been posting to this site how much USAC SUCKS forever and finally somebody else gets it. They took over NORBA thinking it would fund their road geeks and damn if Jeep didn’t pull the plug on sponsorship about that time. Anyhoo, talk to any race promoter in the country and they will tell you they are able to put on a race in spite of USAC instead of with their help. USAC bailed out the World cyclocross Championships in Louisville, but were silent when Windham was pulled from the World Cup schedule for 2013. I could go on, but these guys are not interested in us. If you don’t believe me, look where the money goes for your license. I raced Nationals in ’06, ’07 &’08 when Tom and Frosty were running the show and it was fun and you could tolerate USAC’s presence. Whatever it is they call their “Pro series” now is a joke. Last year there were 5 races? OK, enough- USAC SUCKS !!!!!

  • An Australian says:

    I thought the USA was meant to be the home of the free market. Or at I missing something??????

  • Kyle says:

    Middle Mountain Momma, May 5, Douthat State Park, Clfton Forge, VA. Includes XC, XXC 40 miler. 17 years, no USAC. A must.

  • Steve says:

    OZzy,
    Yes, you are missing out on a lot of things – having not been born free and all.
    In this particular case you lack the perspective to understand how free markets function. This discussion is about individuals ( not Uncle Sam ) choosing which bike race to ride and whether or not to be affiliated with a cycling body. Here’s the Cliff note summary: I make a choice about anything, such as, but not limited to, what, where, and with whom I ride = free Me / free market.
    The government makes those choices for me, or otherwise intervenes and imposes its will = me not free / no free market.
    Cheers,

    Fat bikes rule

  • G says:

    I totally agree with the theme of this post. Unfortunately, my local race promoter happens to be the regional director (or something like that) with USAC, and the local series requires the license (or $5 a day, so for XC and CX the 60 is cheaper). So, I capitulate. It’s the least favorite 60 bucks I spend anywhere in the year.

    The last line of the article says that by boycotting USAC, it sends a message to Colorado Springs. That’s true but perhaps more importantly it sends a message to race promoters or would-be race promoters that there is a market out there for independent events.

    Keep the events coming, folks. I am going to bookmark this page and consult the events listed in all the comments when planning travel for the year.

  • Andrew says:

    How does this not violate US antitrust laws? This seems (to a non-legal expert) like a clear example of anti-competitive behavior. I wish I paid more attention in business law courses…

    • later_tater says:

      They and all other Olympic sports were granted a monopoly under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

  • Wiloid says:

    I do a couple of Non-USAC event every year and they are always a blast! I haven’t renewed my license this year and I am going to try and keep it that way.

  • Yoshi says:

    Can I get a Hell Yeah 2nd for the Copper Harbor Bell’s Beer Fat Tire Festival held every Labor Day weekend. It includes Live Music, Enduro Racing, and a Epically Awesome 16 or 29 mile XC race that will leave you beat up with a smile… Nothing is better, and no USAC here… Roll the video: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Andrew-Shandro-Trek-Bikes-visit-Copper-Harbor-Michigan-2012.html

  • Yoshi says:

    Yo,

    You forgot about the whole middle of this great nation called the Midwest… Do a correction to your list of races and include more than the coasts…

  • Ken says:

    Another great series, the Fat Tire Revolution in WA http://rideviciouscycle.com/events/ftr-series-info/

  • Kris Rayner says:

    Let’s not overlook the California Enduro Series. Finally got some races that are close to me and a format I’m interested in. It’s getting me into racing for the first time. http://www.californiaenduroseries.com

  • Bigfoot says:

    6 Hours of Power in Ellicottville-NY Sunday-July 14th. A thrill to host riders from many surrounding states. Licence free and singletrack rich! http://www.heartrateup.com

  • criscobike says:

    Pretty much every race in Utah is a non-USAC race. The Utah guys actually fight against it tooth and nail. We used to have one “National Qualifier” to placate the serious guys, but beyond that, nobody earned any kind of points by racing here. If you look through the ranking, Utah is mostly absent for such a mtn biking popular state. And they like it that way.

  • roadie says:

    If Arizona, for example, stops using USAC, then how can I upgrade categories to race in California or Colorado in crits? I know that some states have their own categories, but do they cross state lines or are they honored elsewhere?

  • Grant B says:

    Am I the only one who kind of feels the same way about IMBA? I am a long time member of my local club here in GA. We build trail, maintain more. Have a few races and festivals every year. A few years ago we got sucked up regionally into IMBA, so now when I renew my local club membership I now cut the check to CO. So far I can’t see a single way we have benefitted from the relationship. I’d much prefer my $35 go straight to the local club. Am I alone here?

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