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Portland Wheelmen Touring Club to consider name change

Posted by on December 4th, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Club members Ann Morrow (left) and Kathleen Hellem at a recent Sunday Parkways event.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

What do you think of when you hear the name Portland Wheelmen Touring Club?

Established in 1971, this is the oldest riding club in the area with a proud legacy of leading (daily!) group rides, raising funds for non-profits, and putting on great events like the Pioneer Century.

As they approach their 50th anniversary, PWTC is doing some soul-searching and club leaders say a name-change is a very real possibility.

In a note to members in their November newsletter, the club’s Board President Chip Kyle wrote, “The board believes that — with great trepidation – we need to reexamine our club name and how it represents who we are, what we do and how we want to grow.” The reason? The current crop of members is getting older and the club isn’t attracting new, younger riders. “We have seen that participation in our club rides comprises predominantly retired males,” he wrote.

Kyle also says, despite having many active women members, they’re frequently asked if women are allowed to participate.

After a recent club survey showed a majority of people think a new name is needed, the group plans to discuss the possibility at their monthly meeting Thursday night.

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“Women flat out tell us they won’t join with ‘Wheelmen’ in the club name.”
— Ann Morrow

Former club President (and member since 1992) Ann Morrow said the “Wheelmen” name made sense back when the club was founded (the national advocacy group League of American Bicyclists was the League of American Wheelmen until 1994). But these days Morrow acknowledges that word is a problem. “Women flat out tell us they won’t join with ‘Wheelmen’ in the club name,” she shared with me via email yesterday. “We are an inclusive club and women are very involved as ride leaders, board members and in various positions of power and responsibility. I personally do not know any Wheelperson who cares about gender identification as related to being a member of our club,” Morrow continued. “They are supportive and welcoming. But the name might suggest otherwise.”

Then there’s the “touring” part. That can be intimidating to some riders, she says, and it doesn’t even reflect the type of rides the club leads.

Morrow shared that the name change topic has come up for the club in the past, including in 2001 when it failed by a couple votes and the debate left many with hurt feelings. “We may have a more sympathetic membership now to get to a change,” Morrow says. “We do care about the misconceptions.”

But what should it be? At this point, all suggestions are welcome.

Learn more about the club at PWTC.com.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Esther
Guest
Esther

Brava! As a biker in the city in the early 00s I was looking for people to do longer rides with but everytime I looked at their schedule, saw the name and pictured the spandexed, male lawyers I saw riding downtown, who usually looked askance at my used schwinn and downtube shifters and rear rack, so I ended up just touring around by myself.

Gender inclusive language harms no one and welcomes many.

Zef Wagner
Guest
Zef Wagner

Keep it simple. Portland Cycling Club, something like that.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

They should have changed it in 1994 when the League of American Wheelmen changed theirs. That should have been the moment they realized it wasn’t a good name. That they’ve kept it for so long just goes to show how outdated the club is, right along with the Elks. Keep things like the good ol’ days and you end up with a thinning herd of old men slowly dying off until you’re forgotten.

Yes, change the name now while you are still relevant.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

“Then there’s the “touring” part. That can be intimidating to some riders, she says, and it doesn’t even reflect the type of rides the club leads.”

I just looked at a week of rides on their calendar and there are ZERO that I would feel comfortable on. I’m a regular bike rider and I generally ride slowly and short distances. The only Slow ride listed is a Christmas Lights ride. It’s also the only ride under 20 miles. The next week is the same except that the short ride to BikeCraft is a Leisurely pace instead of Slow.

So yes, they most certainly do mainly “touring” rides as far as I’m concerned. Especially considering the distance to ride to the start and then ride back home from the end.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

I dont know. I think it is kind of cute in a retro sort of way.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Another thing that would keep me from joining this group and going on rides is the helmet and waiver requirement. What kinds of crazy things are you people doing that requires a helmet and a waiver? I do most of my riding without either. Waivers are useless and won’t keep you from getting sued, but they will scare off people who thought they were going on a casual ride rather than joining a race.

Ben
Guest
Ben

A long overdue change. I’d keep it simple and go with “Portland Bicycle Club”

Chainstays
Subscriber
Chainstays

I believe the group has a number of rides in the SW Washington area as well. Johnny, this could be one reason for the helmet requirement. So, for a name, I would suggest Bridge Bicycling Club or Columbia Cycling Club.

yarp
Guest
yarp

I’ve long thought that Feminism needs rebranded as well. As Esther said above-

“Gender inclusive language harms no one and welcomes many.”

KJ
Guest
KJ

Tacoma’s club already dropped it, didn’t seem like it bothered anyone!

yarp
Guest
yarp

George Carlin:

“When it comes to changing the language, I think they make some good points. Because we do think in language. And so the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language. So maybe some of this patriarchal sh!t ought to go away. I think “spokesman” ought to be “spokesperson.” I think “chairman” ought to be “chairperson.” I think “mankind” ought to be “humankind.” But they take it too far, they take themselves too seriously, they exaggerate. They want me to call that thing in the street a “personhole cover.” I think that’s taking it a little bit too far!

What would you call a ladies’ man, a “person’s person”? That would make a he-man an “it-person.” Little kids would be afraid of the “boogie-person.” They’d look up in the sky and see the “person in the moon.” Guys would say “come back here and fight like a person,” and we’d all sing “For It’s a Jolly Good Person,” that’s the kind of thing you would hear on “Late Night with David Letterperson”! You know what I mean?”

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has a nice ring to it 🙂

Maria
Guest

First, I’d like to say I ride with the PWTC all the time and I’m a cis-lady.
Second, for those ruffled by the waiver/helmet requirement, this is because their insurance (which is likely through an American League Bicyclists) requires those things.
Third, if you want shorter/slower rides to exist within a club, join and lead!
Fourth, I bet if the acronym stays the same it would be helpful for the jersey, website and other branding.
Fifth, please everyone, stop shaming some bike riders for wearing spandex. I, for one, love me some stretchy pants!
And, finally, I propose Portland Two Wheeling Cyclists. Thanks for reading my long list!

Q
Guest
Q

And the march of the pc zealot continues unabated. Lets rename huMANs while we’re at it.

tom martin
Guest
tom martin

Nobody likes change, least of all white cis men. [Full disclosure: I am that demographic]. Changing it to something more gender inclusive–in name only–is 25 years overdue, if PWTC is to read the writing on the walls. Changing the name is easy though; the hard part is instituting actual gender and POC inclusive actions, both internally and externally. It’s a long time coming. The collective manhood will not be diminished if more non man people join a no-drop ride.

And spare us the “PC” bellyaching. How many of y’all menfolk will ride a ‘ladies bike’ (a mixte for example, or the low entry bikes that are useful for e-bikes, cargo bikes, commuters, etc) if you think gender classifications and roles don’t matter and you believe you are ‘gender blind?

Stephen J Sanow
Guest
Stephen J Sanow

Borrow from the Brits:
“Portland Bummel Riders” or “Rose City Bicycle Bimblers”.

q
Guest
q

If they change their name, they’ll finally be able to eat quiche!

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

It doesn’t matter what name they choose. We won’t join as long as 14 mph is their leisurely pace. Keri and just can’t keep up with them.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

I have a buddy that does one of their weekly rides. Based on his ride description, which included repeated sprints for Strava KOMs and other macho/aggressive acts of one-upmanship, perhaps the name is apt!! And maybe once I get in better shape I’ll get out there to join!

grannygear
Guest
grannygear

Hmmm….. will the sprockets consider a name change. It is 2018

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Bravo…definitely should be less geographic centric. How about The Wheelman!?

Jessie
Guest
Jessie

Since 1989, about once a decade, when I have one of my, “I’ve gotten really fit!” moments, I have tried one of their “easy” rides. Each time, I haven’t even made it out of the starting gate on my Elekra Townie before they leave me standing in the middle of the road, crying. I hate that group. Maybe a name change will help.

tom martin
Guest
tom martin

Jessie
Since 1989, about once a decade, when I have one of my, “I’ve gotten really fit!” moments, I have tried one of their “easy” rides. Each time, I haven’t even made it out of the starting gate on my Elekra Townie before they leave me standing in the middle of the road, crying. I hate that group. Maybe a name change will help.Recommended 0

A townie may not be the best bike to bring on those rides. I def wouldn’t bring the carbon road bike on a gravel ride, or either of those on a fixed gear alleycat. Still, when there’s communication that it’s a no drop ride and the ride goes off only to drop all but the strongest riders, it’s not helping maintain membership. My call for inclusiveness in group rides is less about equipment requirements or fitness levels, but of social and gender roles.

grannygear
Guest
grannygear

tom martin

Jessie Since 1989, about once a decade, when I have one of my, “I’ve gotten really fit!” moments, I have tried one of their “easy” rides. Each time, I haven’t even made it out of the starting gate on my Elekra Townie before they leave me standing in the middle of the road, crying. I hate that group. Maybe a name change will help.Recommended 0

A townie may not be the best bike to bring on those rides. I def wouldn’t bring the carbon road bike on a gravel ride, or either of those on a fixed gear alleycat. Still, when there’s communication that it’s a no drop ride and the ride goes off only to drop all but the strongest riders, it’s not helping maintain membership. My call for inclusiveness in group rides is less about equipment requirements or fitness levels, but of social and gender roles.Recommended 0

This is so far off topic, but I’ll give it a shot:
Train hard. Maintain your gear. Come prepared for the activity.
Just like I would get schooled at the local pick up basket ball game and vibed off the waves as a kook at north shore, respect who you are surounding yourselves with so you can “participate.” All groups and wheelfolx are allowing those who come prepared, are able to repair their flats, able to ride next to, wont be killed because they forgot thier helmet, and are self aware enough to silence their phones to join.
Put in some time and “pay” the entry fee. Not every activity is a kids birthday party at the bowling ally with gutter bumpers so you can tell your friends at work on monday that you participated.

WyEast rider
Guest
WyEast rider

As a teenage girl in the early 70’s, I rode with the Seven Hills Wheelmen in Central Massachusetts. I recall going to one of their meeting and asking them to change the name from “Wheelmen”. The room was had about 20 men and 2-3 women.

RICHARD CARLESON
Guest
RICHARD CARLESON

Portland Bike Rides (PBR) change the name to that and watch the membership grow.

hotrodder
Guest
hotrodder

Change it to the Portland Wheelers Touring Club.
Maybe Ted will chip in a few bucks from the general fund.
Jerseys and websites stay relevant.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Portland Bicycle Touring Club
Portland Wheel Touring Club
Portland Touring Club
Portland Bicycle Touring Group
Portland Cycle Touring Club
Portland …

Have a both a male and female in the logo drawn in current style.

Not that hard.

I have done a few events with this club, they’re great.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

Club waivers have to do with club insurance & protecting club members from being involved in lawsuits. Randonneurs USA law suite by a rider’s family member killed while riding a permanent. Until it’s resolved the Permanents program which you participate on your own is suspended.

As far a PWTC gave up on them in the 1980’s. They made it clear when you showed up for a ride it as to go as fast as possible or be dropped. There really was no reason to ride with them since you’d be alone very soon. More than once would I come upon a bicyclist stopping me in the gorge saying they went on a PWTC ride, got dropped & had know idea where they were.

Richard Herbin
Guest
Richard Herbin

I like “Touring”, it evokes images of people on open top Model T’s wearing jaunty caps and flowing silk scarves.

BikeRound
Guest
BikeRound

While the phrase “women members” is grammatically correct (“women” in this case serves as an attributive noun, similarly to an expression like “steel door”), it is unnecessarily clunky. Just say “female members.”

soren
Guest
soren

Eben “Bike Snob” Weiss take on the helmet policing of bike clubs and roadies:

when it comes to living the All Helmets, All the Time lifestyle, no group of cyclists has bought in more completely than the roadies. You can still show up at your local advocacy meeting with nothing on your head save for your vintage cycling cap and for the most part your fellow do-gooders will hardly look up from their couscous. But roll up at the Sunday group ride with your locks flowing in the wind like a Flandrian cresting the Mur de Huy in the ‘70s and you’ll find yourself greeted like your B sample just came back positive.”

https://www.outsideonline.com/2359061/jackson-hole-fat-biking-heaven

grannygear
Guest
grannygear

soren
Eben “Bike Snob” Weiss take on the helmet policing of bike clubs and roadies:“when it comes to living the All Helmets, All the Time lifestyle, no group of cyclists has bought in more completely than the roadies. You can still show up at your local advocacy meeting with nothing on your head save for your vintage cycling cap and for the most part your fellow do-gooders will hardly look up from their couscous. But roll up at the Sunday group ride with your locks flowing in the wind like a Flandrian cresting the Mur de Huy in the ‘70s and you’ll find yourself greeted like your B sample just came back positive.”https://www.outsideonline.com/2359061/jackson-hole-fat-biking-heavenRecommended 0

There will always be outliers. And although cute, Weiss is incorrect on this one.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Have to admit, when I first saw the name all I could think of was older retired guys going on leisurely all-day/multi-day bike trips. I decided to check out their website one day anyways just to see, and discovered differently. Still haven’t had a chance to go on a ride with them (family/work/life/etc… makes it so that I usually have to start no later than 6am if I want to get a decent ride in), but I’d like to catch one sometime. All the PC stuff aside, I think changing names would be a good idea if the goal is more, younger members. A lot of people could think the same as I did after hearing the name, but never take the time to look them up.

Anna
Guest
Anna

PWTC: Portland 2-wheeled touring club; Portland wants to cycle

Bennett
Guest
Bennett

The problem with the name “Portland Wheelmen” isn’t that it sounds exclusive of women, it’s that it sounds super boring and vague.