Special gravel coverage

Bike racing is the new football: High school teams ride wave of momentum

Posted by on March 10th, 2010 at 6:40 pm

National Bike Summit 2010 Day 2-10

Gary Boulanger is Board President of the
National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
(Photos © J. Maus)

One of today’s many excellent breakout sessions focused on youth cycling programs. When I popped my head in I saw a familiar face at the lectern. It was Gary Boulanger, former bike industry journalist, PR guy, and entrepreneur behind the now defunct bike brand Cycles Gaansari (and the eponymously named bike shop in Dayton, Ohio).

Boulanger is now the recently elected Board President of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). NICA is a new organization (they held their first board meeting just last month) working toward the ambitious goal of developing competitive high school mountain biking leagues from coast-to-coast by 2020. So far there are just three states with leagues — California (NorCal and SoCal), Colorado, and Washington. But, with an impressive list of big-time corporate sponsors (Specialized, SRAM, Trek among others) and partners, the future looks very bright.

Freshman girls compete in a recent race in the NorCal League.

During today’s session, Boulanger highlighted a program in Marin County, California. At Sir Francis Drake High School, the 60-student bike team is larger than the football team. Last Sunday, he added, nearly 500 students competed at a national competition. Last year, the SoCal League (from Southern California) boasted 16 teams. Boulanger said that league will have 20 teams this year and most teams have grown 30-50 percent over last year.

National Bike Summit 2010 Day 2-11

Gary Fisher is a big fan of
youth cycling.

The Colorado league will start this fall and a league in Washington State has plans to kick off in 2011.

One big fan of NICA is bike industry icon Gary Fisher. Fisher was in the audience at the session today and I chatted with him about it afterwards. He’s excited not only about the positive aspects biking can bring to young people, but also about the economic potential this could have for the bike industry. “There are about 50,000 high schools in this country,” he said, “If we can get bike leagues going in a lot more them, it would really lift the industry.”

I wonder if there’s a way to tie this in with Earl Blumenauer’s Safe Routes to High Schools bill (H.R. 4021)? And Oregon, come on! We should be all over this!

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  • David March 10, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I tried to start this back in the 90’s when I was in HS but nothing. It is awesome to see it finally catching on! Hopefully if it catches on in Oregon we in the cycling industry can jump on board somehow. I know my company will be 100% behind it

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  • […] Bike Racing Poised to Be the New High School Football? (Bike Portland) More Headlines at Streetsblog Capitol […]

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  • joe metal cowboy kurmaskie March 11, 2010 at 8:00 am

    This program has been needed for a long time in schools!!! can’t wait to help it grow.

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  • Kenji March 11, 2010 at 8:12 am

    We are already all over this. BTA, OBRA and people all over the state are working to make this happen. Looks for something hopefully this fall.

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  • Steve Brown March 11, 2010 at 9:48 am

    High School track racing has always been a goal of pdxvelo.org. With a warm and dry spot, we can have a program up and running in four weeks.

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  • yikes ID, Inc. March 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

    YIKES ID supports many of the SoCal League high school riders. WE are very happy to see this sport taking off as so many of today’s young jump on their bikes and ride/race.
    Ride smart, Ride hard, Ride safe

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  • Brad March 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    High school cyclocross! Make it happen.

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  • She March 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Who would we contact to get the HS Cyclocross going? That would be awesome!

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  • aaron March 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    This is great and much needed. I fully support starting High School CX, Road, and Mt Bike teams. Let’s make it happen and starting growing it.

    However, with the way Oregon budgets our dollars for schools….

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  • RMH March 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Rant begins now –
    How about we try a novel approach; no more high school sports, period. Let there be thousands, even millions of club teams from football, to cross country, to basketball and cycling. It works great in other countries. Why do we insist on diluting kids’ educational experience with sports? Enough already! Do you know why high schoolers start at the insane (for the teenage brain, anyway) hour of 7:45? It’s to provide time for high school sports teams to practice after school. Wow, do we ever have our educational priorities screwed up. Let’s have lots of sports – I’m all for them. Let’s have them outside of school.
    End of Rant.

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  • RMH March 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Oh and before someone accuses me of being elitist because impoverished kids would’t be able to pay for club sports remember that ALL hockey in Canada (my home and native land and the greatest hockey nation on earth) high school hockey does not exist and many of the poorest kids play club hockey. It simply isn’t an issue.

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  • Kenji March 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    A small working group met today and we have come up with an action plan. If you are interested in getting information or want to help as we solidify everything, please send an e-mail to kenji(at)obra(dot)org.

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  • are March 11, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    will these kids get out on the streets on ordinary bikes or throw the racer on the roof rack? a jock on a bike is still a jock.

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  • Greg March 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    @are: I know a bunch of NorCal league racers, and many of ’em get around town by bike.

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    […] Maps. Arrested twice for the crime of riding a bike in Ennis Tx. Mountain bike racing could be the next high school football. Beware the Ides of March; a study shows crashes increase 17% the first Monday after Daylight […]

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  • Pete March 18, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Gorgeous weather here in California today so I snuck out of work for an afternoon ride with my girlfriend. We were riding past a school (maybe a middle school around Los Altos or Mountain View) with a bunch of young teen girls in uniform out for a run on the sidewalk. One of the girls waved enthusiastically at us and shouted “you’re so lucky to be on a bike!” It reminded me of this article.

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