First, let me offer the definition for a club;  “a group of persons organized for the mutual support and benefit of it’s members and their common interest”.  In the case of a local bicycling club, riding with friends or promoting cycling issues in a local community are generally the focus, and the main reasons why many people join.  This can be expanded to include supporting local cycling events which are often helpful as fundraisers for the club.

I like bike clubs, as a matter of fact I am a member of about 6 different clubs right now. Over the years I have enjoyed riding with clubs from all over the west. I particularly enjoy riding with clubs whose focus is on the group, whose members choose to work together and leave their personal agendas at home.  Riders who regardless of their personal abilities will honor the traditions and ethics of riding with a group. Other days of the week they may train hard, race or go big in some other way, but on a “club ride” they leave all that at home. I also enjoy a club whose function is to support a specific interest in cycling such as a century event or other long distance cycling goal. These clubs are usually less group oriented but share the camaraderie of participation in the challenge.

Virtually every cycling club that I know of was formed to support local interests or a specific category of cycling such as racing etc. Over a period of years however a club can begin to change from its founding principles. Active members will come and go and the focus of the club may shift as a result. When a bike club strays in its activities beyond the reasons that it was originally formed this is where trouble can start. I’ll offer an example here from a recent experience of mine.

I am one of the founding members of a local cycling club and have served over the years as President, Vice President, Treasurer, Newsletter Editor, Webmaster, Ride leader, Event Director, Support Crew, and Volunteer in almost every category. In this club, as of late, general participation among the membership has been down and a few active members have been running things. Recently, the individual interests of these members have begun to creep into the picture and undermine the original purpose of the club. This was not noticed right away because these individuals have been active members and have done much work for the club. Eventually though these members began to overlook the general welfare of the club and instead try to move towards supporting their own specific interests, and utilizing club assets to do so. Perhaps they were dissatisfied in general with participation or some other aspect of the club and so decided to try and get something done for themselves. They had already convinced themselves that their intentions were good and now all they had to do is convince others that they are right. At some point (in their own minds) they concluded that anyone who disagreed with them was being unreasonable and must be dealt with. Those who couldn’t be convinced must be ostracized, all for the good of the club of course. I resigned my office in the club but that wasn’t enough for these people, they made a conspicuous effort to exclude me in every possible way from club affairs. Perhaps I will be barred from attending club meetings next!

It only takes a couple of willing accomplices and a generally apathetic club membership for this to kind of thing to happen. Petty interests and selfish egos can take control of a club and ruin it in just the same way that a pace-line on a ride can be destroyed. An aggressive rider or two can take control of the group and set the pace. Changing it slowly at first from nice ride into something altogether different. The pace changes and a few riders will drop off, then the direction changes and a few more are lost, then these leaders hammer towards their own personal goals and most of the rest are lost. The club ride that started out as a fine group is now destroyed, each rider having been dropped, riding alone and wondering why they bothered. When this happens to a bike club the result is similar, members will quit or be cast out and the group will be shattered. What was formerly a cohesive group is now destroyed, each former member on their own and wondering why they bothered!

This is the thing about bicycle clubs, they are only as good as their members make them. When founding principles and mission statements are ignored then the membership is not being served. An apathetic membership that allows this to happen deserves no better! At this point the club is diminished and  has been changed. Ceasing to be a bike club as we know it and changing it’s definition into the following:

Club, “A tool or weapon used to beat down others for an individuals singular benefit or to prove one’s own superiority.”