Cascade Industry Roundtable Discusses Efforts to Diversify Bicycling
Bicycling and the bike industry are overwhelmingly white, but change is coming, say participants in the Lighting a Path Forward virtual event.
Founded earlier this year to give young Black, Brown and Indigenous youths a chance to ride fast and experience the freedom of distance bicycling, the Northstar Cycling Club has grown from a handful of participants into an 85-person-strong peloton.
Edwin Lindo, the club’s co-organizer, says it has been incredible watching the young riders from the Seattle area progress. The team (one of their rides is pictured atop this post) was created to fill a gap that had not previously existed for youths of color, he said.
Lindo, left, during a Northstar ride.
“Cycling is incredibly white,” Lindo said. “We really want to create a new culture.”
Lindo’s comments came during an online discussion with bike industry professionals about inclusivity in bicycling. The discussion took place Tuesday night as part of Cascade’s fall fundraising event, Lighting a Path Forward, which continues through Friday.
In addition to Lindo, a critical race theory scholar and lecturer at the University of Washington School of Medicine, another featured speaker included Brandon Camarda, head of North American marketing for Rapha. The Rapha Foundation donated a total of $150,000 divided over the next 3 years to Cascade’s Major Taylor Project this year, funding that was instrumental in the recent resumption of MTP.
Camarda said his company is consciously changing its brand identity to reflect the need for more racial inclusivity. In years past Rapha did more promotion of elite pro racing. Now it is focusing more on the grassroots level. Rapha is known for its storytelling and high-quality video content. Camarda said the brand is now creating more content that “elevates the stories of more diverse riders.”
The Rapha corporation has been a longtime supporter of Cascade’s work, holding membership appreciation nights at their Seattle store, offering member discounts on their merchandise, and hosting Cascade ride event kickoff parties, among other things. “We want to make the sport more appealing to everyone,” Camarda said.
Jill Nazeer, marketing director for Alta Cycling, which owns Diamondback Bikes, Raleigh USA, Redline BMX, Haibike USA, and IZIP, spoke about the company’s historical partnership and efforts to promote diversity by supporting Cascade’s Major Taylor Project. Like Rapha, her company is also doing more grassroots support, particularly in the Seattle region where it is headquartered.
In 2020 alone, Alta continued its partnership with Cascade to launch bike maps, videos and other resources to help people navigate West Seattle by bike. Diamondback also contributes to Cascade’s Major Taylor Project, providing a new fleet of bicycles and a new support trailer. “They have really come through for the Major Taylor program,” said Connie Stark, partnership manager for Cascade.
In a typical year, 500 students in underserved neighborhoods of Seattle and Tacoma learn to ride and wrench on bikes through the Major Taylor Project. And Cascade’s Let’s Go program teaches biking and walking safety and skills to about 20,000 Seattle-area schoolkids in a normal year. “Supporting organizations like Cascade is really important to Alta Cycling,” Nazeer said. “Cascade is doing so much important work.”
Matt Telmosse, owner of The Polka Dot Jersey, a bike shop in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood, said the bike community needs to do more to help people of color feel welcomed. Polka Dot is working with Northstar Cycling Club, maintaining and repairing bikes for the club’s core team of 20 young riders. He urged larger bike industry brands to increase their support for people of color and to be more inclusive.
But it was Lindo, who is Black, who shared the night’s most dramatic moment. He recounted an incident during a ride when he and several other riders of color were spat upon by a group of white male bicyclists as they biked past. The incident spotlights the racism that still exists even in progressive communities such as Seattle, and it shows the importance of having clubs like Northstar, which allow young Black, Brown and Indigenous people to ride with their peers.
Northstar has been successful in many other ways, Lindo said, including opening doors for members of the team to get jobs in bike shops and win scholarships to bike mechanic training schools.
Major Taylor Project and Peace Peloton in the Spotlight
Cascade’s fall fundraising event continues tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 10) at 6 p.m. with a discussion with Major Taylor Project students, all-star alumni, volunteers and ride leaders. The Virtual Ride for Major Taylor Project is also taking place through Saturday.
Tomorrow (Thursday) at 6 p.m., Cascade will host a conversation with Seattle bicycling activists Reginald Doc Wilson, founder of the Peace Peloton; Marley Blonsky the self-proclaimed “fat bicyclist who is advocating for body positivity within the bike community; and Cascade contractor Maxwell Burton, co-founder of the Seattle Pedaling Relief Project.
Participants in the Lighting a Path Forward event can also enter the online auction to bid on prizes including an electric bike from Rad Power Bikes, rain gear from Showers Pass, a vacation homestay, and more. All proceeds benefit Cascade’s education programs.
Register to participate in the auction and to join the virtual discussions tonight and tomorrow.