On Thanksgiving Monday, which is thankfully in October here in Canada rather than November as in the US, Tekné Cycle Club hosted our annual Double Cross ride. The event began back in 2009 in the Tall Tree Cycles days, when we were surprised to have 23 riders show up. Over the years we’ve used the event as an occasion to get together with like-minded folks for a fun endurance ride amidst cyclocross season, an appetite seminar of sorts. We realized early on that we could raise some funds for charities at the event, so we don’t charge an entry fee, but simply accept donations.
This year we saw about 45 riders come out, donate generously to this year’s charity – The Rwanda Velo Project – and enjoy a beautiful ride. We raised and in turn donated a hefty $550! Thank you, everyone!
Our route (see Strava file below) has changed over the years, but is now quite stable; we’ve figured out what works best in terms of trail conditions, duration, and difficulty level. By running the event as a ‘club ride’ we limit entry to those with some form of licensing, from a club membership to a UCI license. This is a great option for sanctioning an event, because it doesn’t cost us anything as a club, and as such, we don’t have to worry about/care how many riders show up. Ultimately, in addition to being a lot of fun for those in attendance, this is good for the cycling scene; let me elaborate.
It has become clear since launching our club that club membership means different things to different people. For those who grew up as mountain bikers, clubs in the Ottawa-Gatineau region didn’t tend to hold much appeal. Frankly, as a teen I only knew of the Ottawa Bicycle Club, and they didn’t have any sort of mountain bike program from what I could tell. I grew up riding alone or with one or two others; group rides happened later on, and our ‘crew’ functioned somewhat like a club, but without membership fees….or any of ‘crowd-funding’ and volunteering power of a club.
Road cycling is a much more conducive discipline for club structures, not least because riders work together on rides as a matter of course, groups interact with drivers and other cyclists on the roads, and the potential for accidents where liability is an issue is higher. Within a ‘club ride’ members have insurance coverage that can be vital in the event of an accident causing harm to another rider, for example, especially when a club rider doesn’t have home insurance (and personal liability insurance).
But there are other benefits to the insurance coverage that the club structure offers, and I will argue that this ought to be an incentive for those who would like to support their local cycling scene’s growth and sustainability.
In simple terms, if we were not an affiliated club, we’d not be able to run cool events for more than a couple years. Inevitably, there would be an accident that would impact us, the organizers, as liable parties. That’d be it, game over. Or, we’d have to quit before that happened. Instead, we pay fees to the Ontario Cycling Association to be an affiliated club, and most of that money goes toward insurance. We are covered if we organize ‘club rides’ that are limited to riders with a minimum of an Affiliate Club Membership in an Ontario or Quebec club. This means that if an incident occurs, we are not personally liable. Consequently, the personal risk of putting on an event is low. In order to uphold our end of the ‘bargain,’ we are responsible for undertaking all of the reasonable measures to ensure riders are safe.
Ok, so what? The reason this envelope of liability protection is important is that it affords us a pretty massive range of opportunities when it comes to creating and running events that are different, exciting, fun. This season we tested such an event, the El Camino, and it worked brilliantly. Double Cross has been running for 8 years now in this manner, and continues to be a favourite event for many riders each year. The key distinction between the small events like Double Cross and El Camino versus The Ride of the Damned is that we barely have to spend anything to run the former two versus the latter. When up-front capital isn’t a significant part of the equation there are a few key implications:
- We don’t have to care whether 5 or 50 riders come, as long as our design and venue can handle the upper end of the spectrum. No stress!
- Because we don’t have to care about numbers, we can create niche event formats that are exciting, albeit to a smallish number of riders.
- Niche events compliment bigger, more mainstream events, and provide options for developing riders to work toward.
- Diversity of events, including those that are more ‘challenge events’ than typical races affords riders the opportunity to partake in momentous days on the bike that are more about adventure and fun than competition. This is important to the sustainability of the sport, because diversity equals resilience.
- Small events that stretch riders’ comfort zones expose them to a greater range of riding opportunities within their region, opening possibilities for quality rides off the beaten tracks, and perhaps functioning as stepping stones to other adventures outside our region.
These are the benefits derived from running with the club organization format and leveraging the ‘club ride’ format.
When one zooms out and asks oneself, ‘What would a thriving cycling scene in my region look like,’ I think many would imagine some sort of fun event or race going on locally most weekends of the summer and fall, covering a broad range of styles and challenge levels. If you see this sort of reality manifest in other regions (think of Melbourne, Australia, as captured by the Cycling Maven’s VLOG), ask yourself what you might do to help grow such a mix in your region. Our niche is drop bar bikes on dirt roads and trails end of the spectrum, and that’s what we’re happy to contribute.
By making Double Cross an event that is ‘exclusive’ in only permitting affiliated riders to participate, we are in fact trying to support a more inclusive scene at a larger scale. This isn’t an attempt to garner more members for our club, which actually has a fairly tight entrance policy, but a case for membership in some club, be it established or one you create with your riding group. The more the merrier. We’d love nothing more than to see other clubs host similar fun, low key, exciting events throughout the season!
Looking ahead, Double Cross will continue to be run on Thanksgiving Monday each year. For certain, we’ve discussed other formats we could use, different routing, but when we hear from experienced riders that they are well worn out after the ride each year, we have to think that it’s just right as it is. It’s just challenging enough, especially if the weather is gnarly.
In 2017 we will definitely run El Camino again, almost certainly a carbon copy of 2016’s inaugural edition. The event was a total success and relatively easy for us to run once we’d figured out routing that worked well. Sure, more teams would be cool, but we don’t need more! My team – Iain Radford, Todd Fairhead, Richard Grieve and me – set the course record, so it’ll be open for the beating!
What else might we do? Well, we have ideas, and truth be told, none of them are ‘easier’ than El Camino or Double Cross. In fact, The Ride of the Damned is about as ‘easy’ as it’s going to get any time soon. Rather, we’ve got some pretty fantastic bits of trail and dirt road we’d like to string together and share with others, and we’ll work on doing just that in 2017. The Grinduro format is really interesting, and could be adopted for another new ‘club ride’ format event.
I encourage you to think about what sort of event might contribute to our scene, and how you might be involved. If you’re a member of another club without experience in organizing events, we’d be more than happy to talk about how we do things with you. We’ve seen the Croix de Fer club from Montreal put on some stellar low-key events over the last few years, which have been highlights of each season. The main thing is to start with terrain that’s really fun to ride, and go from there.