The Next Hip Thing: Bicycle Clubs

Old-timey fun.

The NYT Spokes section has published a nice history of New York bicycle clubs.  Wheelmen (and women) formed groups to promote cycling, make friends, and encourage social interaction (an especially important element for new immigrants).  Clubs were organized around regions, or ethnicity, or anything else.  They helped train racers, or simply organized leisurely sojourns.  Today, clubs retain many of these elements.

I’ve ridden with a club once.  I was living in Aix-en-Provence, and decided to head out with the local club for one of their weekly Sunday morning rides.  This was my first club run, and I had no idea what to expect.  When I showed up and saw everyone in spandex kits, I got worried.  I learned a lot that day: don’t bring a bag, don’t bring your U-lock, don’t wear cotton shirts, bring power bars.  The ride wasn’t painfully long (95km), but I was not used to riding as part of a team.  I sucked.  I hit the wall.  I dragged my ass back into town a good 45 minutes after everyone else.  I learned my lesson.

Or did I? Perhaps that club just wasn’t for me.  It was a traditional roadie club.  But now, new options are presenting themselves.  Here’s why I think Bike Clubs are the next big thing in urban cycling:

  • everyone loves hanging out with friends.  Add bikes and throw an element of exclusivity into the mix, and you can’t go wrong.
  • urban riders (fixed-gear or not) are slowly chipping away at the roadie domain.  Riding track bikes long distances is, apparently, film-worthy.  Full kit is acceptable, so long as it’s stylish.  However, I suspect that urban bike clubs will wear normal clothes and focus more on pub-crawls than centuries.
  • Clubs, if done right, are pretty much a party on wheels.  Nobody demonstrates this better than The Fucking Bike Club, and I propose all new clubs use the FBC as a template.
  • You can establish a club based on whatever criteria you’d like: gay, academic, indie rock, grrrl power, etc.  You can even start beefs with other clubs, which would be hilarious.
  • finally, Clubs require a witty name, a website, and some kind of uniform.  This demands the skills of an English major, web editor, graphic designer, and silkscreen specialist.  There, you just employed at least half of your club.

This is my prediction for 2010.  Clubs will be the new “thing” among urban riders.  They might be called “gangs,” because urban riders simply cannot use words un-ironically anymore.  See? I just wrote un-ironic instead of sincere. So, go find some friends and do something awesome.

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1 Response to “The Next Hip Thing: Bicycle Clubs”



  1. 1 Of Touring and Track Bikes « YOU ARE THE ENGINE Trackback on 27/01/2010 at 12:14 pm

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