BikePortland.org

Friday Profile: Mateen Richey, an 18-year-old bike racer born and raised in northeast Portland


Mateen Richey photographed by Alonso Tal during a recent visit to Los Angeles.

Mateen Richey is the latest subject of our Friday Profile series.

Who is Mateen Richey?

I am an 18 year old bicycle racer who was born and raised in NE Portland. I’ve always loved riding my bike. From my earliest days, I was a bicycle racer. Racing the other children, I enjoyed racing hard to be first.

Today I attend Jefferson Middle College for Advanced Studies. Living nearby in the Humboldt neighborhood, my family has been scarred by gang violence. From my bedroom window at night, I can hear both the gun shots of gangs, and the voices of BLM marchers screaming for change.

(Left: Courtesy Mateen Richey. Right: Alonso Tal)

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“When I see someone like me doing something that isn’t normal for people of my skin color, it gives me so much more belief that I can do it too.”

What’s your bike story?

Back in 2011, I first heard about Major Taylor when I rode in the cycling classes at the Boys and Girls Club. There I was selected, and started riding with a team. They trained me to ride in a pack and be fast.

By my freshman year [in high school] I started training on the track at Alpenrose [velodrome]. After practicing mass start races, and entering some beginner-level timed pursuits, I became strong enough to hold my own in bigger OBRA [Oregon Bicycle Racing Association] races. I worked hard and won the OBRA 15-16 Jr. Championship in the 2K Time Trial at Alpenrose. During that period from 2016-2018 I improved my top speed by nearly double. Tuesday Night promoter Tom Orth was so impressed with me, he gave me a job working the infield set-up at the track on Tuesday Nights.

How’d you get turned onto cyclocross and why do you love it so much?

(Courtesy Mateen Richey)

My team had always trained us in the park to hop on and off our bikes for cyclocross. My first true focus on Cyclocross in 2018 arrived almost by accident. By the end of the 2018 track season, I still had a lot of energy. A coincidental circumstance of the team owning well-fitting ‘cross bikes built by Chris Igleheart revealed a new direction and motivation for me. Eventually I raced at CX Nationals in Tacoma, Washington.

I love cross because it’s a race where everybody can come out and have fun. Entire families can come out and race as Cat 5s, Masters, or Juniors. It isn’t like a crit or road race where they fall off onto the concrete at 25 mph. You fall off your bike at a cross race and you land in sand! You get back up with a smile on your face and continue to race.

Ira Ryan has brought me onto Breadwinner to race the coming ‘cross season. I ride with him quite a bit.

I see you race cross with Cyclisme, but what’s up with the LA Bike Academy kit? Tell us about your recent trip to Los Angeles.

(Left to right: David Pulliam, Denzel Lall, Rahsaan Bahati, Mateen Richey, Justin Williams)

Damon Turner and David Pulliam were the coaches of Major Motion when they raised Rahsaan Bahati, the former U.S. Criterium National Champion. Damon more recently founded and coaches the LA Bicycle Academy (LABA), a youth education program, community bike shop and youth cycling team. Damon Turner approached me, and my teammate, Denzel Lall. LABA then presented us with the opportunity to go on a trip to LA where we met famous people. Suddenly my life accelerated!

It is really great to see somebody else having success in the same thing you want success in. When I see someone like me doing something that isn’t normal for people of my skin color, it gives me so much more belief that I can do it too. I see it as another way out of a life living paycheck to paycheck.

I am still living in Portland, going to school in my senior year, and training through the break in Covid for when bicycle racing resumes. I’m set to race in the USA Cycling Road season with LABA and the OBRA CX season with Ira Ryan’s Breadwinner Cross Team.

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You’ve been putting in work on Instagram and YouTube. (Seriously, you should follow him.) What are looking to do with those platforms?

What I am trying to do on the two is make a platform for myself. A way to reach out to those who care for what I have to say. I want to be able to have my input on cycling and the world that we live in. Also how cool would it be to show my kids these pictures and videos. It’s a way for me to document my life.

In L.A. I also met [professional racer] Justin Williams. Justin’s brother Corey Williams gave me my GoPro. Now my videos that were being recorded from a $15 camera from Amazon have evolved a lot with one of the best cameras out!

What has your experience been riding and racing in Portland as a young Black man?

Riding black in Portland is a very different experience that not many in the area can say they’ve felt. I’ve had good and bad experiences. In a time of BLM, more people seem to be alert and anxious to get involved. There’s people who support me especially because I’m one of the only African American and POC in the area.

If you could change anything about bicycling and/or racing in Portland, what would it be?

“If all the teams had a component geared just for bringing up beginners — and POC especially — then we would see a big change. I think it is coming.”

There are some people who overreact negatively to a POC riding bikes. It’s not always subtle when it happens. I like it when strong, skilled people care to support weaker beginners. If folks just fall back and criticize, it’s not enough.

If I could change anything in Portland’s cycling scene it would be a lot of people making more long-term moves to support the individual faces missing. If all the teams had a component geared just for bringing up beginners — and POC especially — then we would see a big change. I think it is coming.

Portland is a great cycling mecca, I get that. I love when cyclists are a message of the future. A message of peace and the environment. I want to see Portland cycling lead in BLM too. I would love to see cycling take over socially here. I hope we continue to move toward adapting more streets for cycling.

We have talented leaders in our cycling community. Many support the shiny, fastest, wealthiest influencers of the day — at least in the racing peloton. Some call it, “the politics of legs,” where riders are strong or you get dropped. That is not going to get us there. We must continue to support the weakest links in the cycling scene, not the strongest. Serving the new rider, the eldest, the youngest, and the slowest, encourages everyone.

Anything else you want to share?

Justin Williams, one of Mateen’s big inspirations, was profiled in the NY Times December 1, 2020.

As far as my position, as a POC seeing the Williams Brothers in the NY Times, or seeing all the POC racing at The Lexus Velodrome, in Detroit, as well as many other great programs around the Nation, I am thrilled to be coming straight out of Portland! In these weird times I feel like I have a chance to work hard, and make it!

Here in Portland, I was woven into a social healing strategy, an inner city cycling team, and I moved up. I am pleased to offer up heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped me make it, and to all that saw the champion in me from the beginning.

Good luck Mateen! And keep us posted on your progress.

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