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Trek President named Advocate of the Year

Posted by on March 4th, 2008 at 10:12 pm

This story is part of my ongoing coverage of the 2008 National Bike Summit. See the rest of my coverage here.

League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke (L)
and President of Trek Bicycles, John Burke.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Trek Bicycles President John Burke — the man I called the Al Gore of the bicycle industry after a presentation he gave at the Summit last year — got a standing ovation when he approached the podium to receive his “Advocate of the Year” award tonight.

Opening night dinner-6.jpg

The award was presented by League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke. In his introduction, Clarke recounted Burke’s early commitment to spurring the bike industry to focus more on advocacy.

Since his stirring presentation last year, Burke has established the One World, Two Wheels program. That program, based on the premise that “the bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems,” has committed a combined $1.6 million over the next three years to support various advocacy programs.

In his short acceptance speech, Burke said the industry “needs to do more” to support the work of advocates. He said, “The single way to grow this business is through advocacy.”

  • Andy B from Jersey March 4, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Trek is still clueless as to what type of bicycles it needs to build to get the rest of America on a bike. It\’s answer, the Lime Bikes are a $500 joke!

    Its \”One World, Two Wheels\” website continues to reinforce the notion that cycling is something that requires lots of gear and special clothing.

    That said, It\’s still a start and I\’m glad that one of the bike companies finally gets it when it come to advocacy and lobbying.

    We didn\’t get into our automobile crazed mess in this country by accident. It was and is still lobbied for by the automobile industry at the tune of tens of millions a year!

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  • b March 5, 2008 at 12:02 am

    dude needs to find a less ugly sweater.

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  • KT March 5, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Wow, the only things the first two posters could come up with is, \” that\’s great but they don\’t do enough\” and \”ugly sweater\”.


    Are you kidding me??

    Thanks for illustrating my point! Someone does something for the cycling community, and the cycling community comes back with \”it\’s not enough\” and \”ugly sweater\”.

    Well, stop it. Mr Burke, thanks for the good work, and keep it up.

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  • solid gold March 5, 2008 at 11:21 am

    yes, it is truly a noble man that promotes his industry as the industry that will save the world! was the next award to a tire company for making a world of bicycles possible?

    i tend to think the bike advocates who aren\’t making a buck or million off of their advocacy are a LITTLE more deserving.

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  • Aaron March 5, 2008 at 11:41 am

    To the first three posters, I say POOO to you.

    When you are able to get a dozen or two people to change from driving to not driving, than you can give a holier-than-thou speech.
    I may not agree with Mr. Burke on everything, but I have ridden a bike in the rain with no fenders or rack and it\’s very unpleasant. Now that I have a Trek 520, my commute can be pleasant even in the winter (not that many other companies don\’t make great commuter bikes). I appreciate someone in the industry taking a stand and putting their money where their mouth is to encourage bike commuting.

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  • rixtir March 5, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Solid Gold, you might want to read up on Col. Albert Pope sometime. Yes, he built bicycles. He also footed the bill for the state supreme court cases that give you the right to the road, and was the driving force behind the Good Roads movement.

    Self-interested capitalist? Sure.

    Bike builder who got people on bikes and defended their right to ride across the country while also working to build the infrastructure they needed? Absolutely.

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  • Metal Cowboy March 5, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I just don\’t think the debate should be whether industry members can or should be advocates – if i had my way everyone on the planet would be – I think we should be debating how those of us interested and aware of these issues can make more business people, in the bike industry and in other businesses, advocates for bicycling, and when i say advocates I don\’t mean finding ways to market their products as green and/or cheerleading about getting on a bike, but finding ways to put more people in the saddle, spending a portion of profits on actions not just marketing. That\’s what i\’d like to see us discussing – though I will say that I avoid wearing anything but fleece as a cover because someone is always going to find my sweaters ugly, always.

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  • Andy B from Jersey March 5, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Let me put it this way. Breezer is going exactly in the right direction with its product line in producing bicycles geared for those who are not bicycle enthusiast. Unfortunately they are not the Mega Bike Company that Trek is so they can\’t have the sway that Trek can produce.

    I think its great that Trek is putting money towards advocacy. However its own attempts at getting the \”curious but intimidated\” sector of the American population on bikes is totally clueless and totally mired down by their own biases of being bicycle gear heads.

    I\’ve said it before and I\’ll say it again: Look at any nation or city that has bike mode shares that blow away Portland (20 to 30%). The bikes they ride and the cloths they wear are nothing like what Trek offers or what they advocate on their \”One World, Two Wheels\” website.

    Good intentions and money are totally wasted if they miss their mark.

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  • Metal Cowboy March 5, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    OK Andy – So it\’s something worth debating if done with thought. I\’m just apposed to smacking folks down when they are trying, even the big dog in the industry, when they are advocating for more and new riders. I disagree that it\’s all wasted money. Especially if Trek\’s actions get others in the industry to consider and take on advocacy – but you do make some valid points.

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  • Cøyøte March 5, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    After looking at the \”One World, Two Wheels, and a Bunch of Crap You Don\’t Need\” website I can see Andy B\’s point. Their message is all about getting geared up and geeked out. It is really so much easier than that, and riding should appeal to a much wider audience.

    However, the site is fairly free of Trek advertising, which is refreshing. I applaud Trek\’s and Burke\’s effort. I guess I am little wary of any corporate advocacy movements.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    \”Their message is all about getting geared up and geeked out.\”

    I\’m not super knowledgeable about the program, but I think the revenue is generated through equipment sales.

    For example, advocacy groups get $1 for each helmet sold by a particular bike shop..

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  • Billy Boy March 6, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Amazing, someone does something good for cyclists and cycling and they get crapped on.

    You don\’t like the Lime. Did you write to Trek and say they missed the boat, providing constructive criticism or just sit around and b*tch about it?

    Trek is a pretty good company when it comes to advocacy, and many other good causes, but the fact that they attempt to run a business and actually make money overrides any good they do in many peoples eyes.

    Bikes Belong
    One World Two Wheels
    World Bicycle Relief
    MACC Fund Trek 100 (raised over $1M 2007)
    Bike for Boys and Girls Club

    What if the big guys like Trek, SRAM, Specialized, Shimano etc, backed out of advocacy? How would these initiatives get funded?

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  • Andy B from Jersey March 7, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Yeah maybe I was a little too harsh. I\’ve NEVER been a Trek fan and maybe my inherent bias against Trek was showing. I do greatly appreciate Trek for putting some of its money towards advocacy but you should know that its ultimately all about increasing Treks profits.

    Just look for John Burke\’s speech that he gave at last years Taiwanese Bike Show on YouTube. He clearly makes this point in that speech. Trek realizes that the Mt Bike and Roadbike crazes have run their respective courses. Know I\’m not an anti-capitalist and I really hope some good comes out of this but they aren\’t doing this solely from the goodness of their hearts. It\’s ultimately all about the money! (Is my anti-Trek bias showing again?)

    That said I\’ll also agree with Cøyøte that at least the \”One World, Two Wheels\” website wasn\’t filled with excessive Trek product placement.

    Okay! I\’ll tell you why I\’ve been angry at Trek. It just came to me now. As a bike advocate I\’ve been very disappointed with the US bike industry for failing to produce bikes that make cycling fun and practical for the masses. They\’ve totally abandoned the manufacture of practical bicycles for about 25 years now. (This is why my 30yo Ross that I got out of the trash is my most used and practical bike in my stable.) In the meantime the industry produced enthusiast and race machines that totally alienated the average Joe and Jane who would just want a comfortable bike to ride around the block with their kids or go get a bagel and a coffee on a Saturday morning. Even supposed hybrids and comfort bikes geared toward they casual cyclist forced riders into unnatural hunched-over positions. You don\’t know how many times over the past 15 years I\’ve heard people ask in my LBS, \”Don\’t they just make normal regular bikes anymore, like I had as a kid?\”

    So cycling became a freak show, reserved for only an elite few in spandex or radical hippie leftists. \”Normal\” Americans became more convinced than ever that they should stay in their cars and off the saddle. I hold the industry just as culpable anyone else for this turn of events. And Trek being the biggest bicycle company in the US with its big budgets and supposed marketing experts have only come around to this realization now?!?! Were the hell have they been for the past 25 years?!?!

    WOW!! What a rant! Sorry to bitch. I\’m really a nice guy but this has been a really raw nerve for me for quite some time now and Burke\’s speech that I reference really got under my skin since I saw it last year. All of a sudden he realizes that Trek needs regular Americans on bikes if the company is to grow and thrive but for about 25 years they haven\’t produced the bike that was intended to do just that!


    It might just be that Trek family of companies might finally be coming around. I just today saw that Gary Fischer is introducing a line of very practical, traditional, European influenced town bikes complete with factory fenders and chainguards!

    It only took 25 years.

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  • Andy B from Jersey March 7, 2008 at 2:08 am

    One other point then I\’ll shut up.

    I love Planet Bike!

    Here is a company that has been giving back to the cause right from the start. They are obviously doing this because it is and always has been the right thing to do. Giving profits to bike advocacy groups has never been about increasing market share to them. It obvious to me Planet Bike does it for the love of everything that is bicycling and nothing more.

    On top of it, their company has been helping to make bikes practical for years; filling in where the bike manufacturers have failed.

    John Burke is a little late to the party is doing it for all the wrong reasons.

    This is the difference between John Burke and Trek and those guys and gals at Planet Bike.

    Still its better late then never for a company like Trek to get into the advocacy game but it just leaves a real bitter taste in my mouth.

    However, I\’d still like to know where Planet Bike\’s reward was at the Bike Summit.

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  • Billy Boy March 7, 2008 at 7:20 am


    Trek is not a new comer to advocacy. One World Two Wheels is a new program, but there connection with other causes goes much further back.

    Yes Planet Bike does and admirable job, donating 25% of PROFITS to the cause.

    But so does Trek by getting involved and by getting their dealer base involved. This program alone is going to add $1.6M towards bicycle programs over 3 years.

    Start a new thread if you don\’t like the bike designs, but don\’t let your bias turn what is ultimately a very good thing for cycling as a whole into something negative.

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