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bike 101: how to find a bike community in a new town

May 18, 2011

Urban Cycling

I recently received this reader question…

I was wondering if you could offer some suggestions about getting integrated into a recreational cycling/advocacy community in a new town or city? I’d love to find a group of girls to ride with (a la the brunching women at LGRAB or Miss Sarah’s Critical Lass), but my early attempts at finding such a community on-line haven’t really provided me with much info yet. Perhaps you can offer some suggestions or resources about biking through a move?

Reader A. is moving to Oklahoma City, so if any of you are familiar with that area and know of ways to find a cycling community in Oklahoma City specifically, please chime in with your advice! Reader A. included some lovely photos of her bike (and cute pup in the background!) showing that she’s more than ready for some bike events in her new town…

The Batavus Fryslan

Batavus Panda Batavus Bike Basket

The Batavus Fryslan

{And if you’re wondering, that gorgeous bike is a Batavus Fryslan}

Ok, so here are my tips on finding a cycling community in a new town…

  • Do an online search. Most cycling clubs have websites, a facebook page, a blog, or something stating their meeting times and locations.
  • If you can’t locate anything online, check in with the local bike shops. These places are the ones who’d most likely know the ins and outs of the surrounding cycling community. Some bike shops are more geared towards the sport of cycling and will know more about local races and training rides. But more and more shops in the US are picking up on the need to supply people with information on city and transportation cycling. If you have more than one shop in town, check them all out and find the one that is most likely to support and know of the commuter cyclist community in your area.
  • Keep your eyes open for social rides. Then approach the cyclists and ask them who they are and when they ride together. Last fall, I noticed that every Thursday evening a group of social riders would bike through ‘campus town’ ringing their bells and cheering along the way. It looked like a fun and leisurely ride for the pure enjoyment of biking (no racing, no training). I couldn’t approach them in time but I asked around campus and was finally able to track down some information as to when and where they meet. The final information once more came from one of the local bike shop guys, who knew what I was talking about when describing the scene to him. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and sometimes much more effective than looking for written information.
  • Be the community you’re looking for. A long time ago, I found words similar to these on one of my favorite blogs. Chrissy decided to take matters into her own hands and organize the community she was longing to find in her hometown. While for Chrissy that meant organzing literary readings to be hosted as her local yoga studio, for this scenerio, this means organizing that ‘bike to brunch’ event you’re looking to find in your city. This may take a little while if you’re new somewhere and have yet to find like-minded bike lovers. But as soon as you meet one or two other bike enthusiasts, organize a Sunday ‘Bike to Brunch’ event…
  • Make it a reoccuring event to establish a regularity to it (Every first Sunday of the month, for example)
  • Set a time and meeting spot and ride together to your destination (for extra fun and visibility in town)
  •  Spread the word (let friends, co-workers, the bike shop employees, etc, know about your ride)
  • Put up some flyers or create a website if you’re looking to make it a larger event

Writing this post, I realize that I need to be taking my own advice here. I also need to be the community I was looking for. Like reader A., I also looked  longingly at the photos of the “Women who bike” Brunch in Chicago and wished I had something like that in my town. But I wasn’t doing anything about it. I’m a little too far in my pregnancy to start organizing that kind of event now and I’m also missing several of my bike companions, who are gone for the summer, so the timing is not ideal. But I’m adding this to my life list now: organize a social ‘bike to brunch’ ride in the near future. I plan on following the steps outlined above and reaching out to all my friends who own bikes. I’m looking forward to it already!

How about you? Have you organized a casual social ride before? Any tips or thoughts? And how have you approached finding a cycling community in your town? Please share any advice you may have in the comments below! Thank you!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2011 15:49

    Great tips! Especially being and starting your own community. I may try to do that here. :)

  2. May 18, 2011 22:24

    Yeah, the starting one up is probably the best advice for bike dead towns, I don’t know but isn’t Oklahoma City rather large? It may be just a matter of finding the scene.

  3. May 18, 2011 22:54

    Great post. Creating bike fun/community/culture is a great thing to do. But it’s daunting, especially in an area that might not have established culture. And creating “culture” is not something we are taught to do. And there is also the let-down of starting an event and no one shows up. But perseverance is the key. Keep on doing it and people will show up. It’s not easy. (Man, I didn’t mean for this to sound all defeatist, I swear!)

  4. May 19, 2011 07:57

    This is all great advice. I think involving a local bike shop is key, even if it’s a sports-oriented shop, the people who work there will know a lot of any type of bicycling scene.

    Of course, the internet opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, as you discussed. Blogs, facebook and Twitter can help connect people, even if they’re the only two in town who ride bikes for transportation.

    I encourage people to get started, even if it’s you and two friends. Then when anyone expresses interest about bicycling or meeting new people, you can say – “Hey, I have this group of people that goes on a ride for cupcakes once a month; wanna join us?” Or whatever the case may be. :) Start gathering email addresses of anyone who expresses the least bit interest and send group emails to plan rides every month or so.

    I’ve found that a lot of people, especially women, are very interested in get-togethers that do not necessarily focus on the act of riding, but rather on hanging out with other people with similar interests (e.g. biking). Something like a brunch attracts the super beginners, people who are too intimidated to join a group ride. It also appeals people on the other extreme (like me!) who bike and bike and bike sooooo much on a day-to-day basis, that they’re not really up for even more biking as a social event and are much more interested in sitting, chatting, drinking a beer. :)

  5. May 19, 2011 16:09

    It all sounds like terrific advice. It is not something I’ve done yet, but perhaps I will in the future.

  6. May 20, 2011 18:58

    you would be surprised to know that i am using this info to organize a woman’s ride here in the bay area for next month, thank you so much for posting this.

    • May 20, 2011 19:15

      That’s wonderful! I love it! I can’t wait to read all about it :)


  7. Julie permalink
    May 20, 2011 22:42

    I live in Oklahoma City, and it’s not very bike friendly. There are some designated bike lanes, but it is a very large city (6th largest in square mileage in US) and very spread out. It is very much a car culture here. There used to be a critical mass ride, but I don’t know if it is still going on. There are several great bicycle shops that one could ask around about group fun rides. I myself would like to bike more, but I am afraid of getting out on busy roads with my daughter, even though I know people who do.

  8. Julie permalink
    May 20, 2011 22:43

    Oh and Welcome to OKC!


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