Open Letter to the Walton Family
Dear Rapha Organization, Walton Family & Anyone willing to use their influence to grow Cycling,
First off we want to thank the Walton Family Foundation and the Rapha Foundation for their commitment to providing the opportunity for children and families to experience cycling (Go check out all the work and initiatives to grow the sport of cycling the Walton's have and are doing). As most of you know there is really nothing to compare to feeling the wind in your face as you power through rolling hills especially by the side of a loved one. We are writing you all today because we also see the need to inspire more families like yours and ours to be engaged and bought in on all the positive impacts safe cycling space and culture can bring to the world. The Rapha Roadmap getting our attention was easy, we, my husband Chris Creed and myself, are a 10 year veteran owning and running the development road cycling team, Gateway Devo Cycling. We know first hand the struggle to fund and manage a budget in a world that relies on generosity from other evangelist to get our guys to the races. We also know like the back of our hand the impact of getting children outside enjoying nature as they push themselves mentally and physically. We have 6 boys, 1 girl and 1 in the oven, with the oldest being the girl at 18 and the youngest will be 3 in August. If I could turn back time I would have made sure my daughter had some friends to ride with, some girly swag and I would have made cycling include more than just a "racing environment". She gave it a try just like the boys but never learned to love it like they did. The boys naturally wanted to compete, pop wheelies and suffer so they could eat all the great treats and recoveries at the end of the ride. They also grew up with male cyclist for the most part living with us as we cheered them on and made them a part of our family.
Back to my main point in writing to you. Your analysis, The Rapha Roadmap published by VeloNews is a great start and valid on so many levels. We see cycling at a grassroots level and we want to share our insight in hopes we can all work together as our goals are aligned. Our top 4 priorities to making the world a better place through cycling are explained in the following:
Our Local Communities
Children are the future
We will start with children as they are my personal favorite!
The Future is in Children
*NICA-- Access to practice trails and programs for kids to compete and interact with other cyclist will be huge in growing the sport for future generations. We are in process of raising funds to built a cycling park in our community (www.livinglifeon2wheels.com) and of course the leagues and camps will come to follow.
*Get involved with the Strider Education Foundation....2 years ago after we sold our business and committed ourselves to passion and family we applied for a grant from Strider to put on a camp for kids with Down Syndrome (check out the photos). They approved us and in June 2018 we held a week long camp teaching 15 Downs kids and 2 Autistic children about loving and riding on 2 wheels. It was, by far, a highlight of our life. The love and excitement these children had was more payment than any job could ever provide. Today Strider has a foundation that is working diligently to bring cycling into grade school PE classes for Kindergarteners through 2nd graders. We took this program to the local school our children attend and as we walked through with one of the bikes in hand the kids gazed and pointed with excitement. Strider has the infrastructure to spread these programs across the Country, if we had the means we would make it a priority to get this program and others like it funded to complete their mission (#allkidsbike). We will continue to do all we can for these organizations.
*Science....there is so much science to cycling! Have you ever experienced what goes on at a business that specializes in bicycle science, like at Cyclologic? They basically take your bike
and your body and make them the most efficient unified machine as possible. Everything from how your bum hits the seat to the angle of your toes in your pedal stroke. Has someone written a chapter for children about all this great science? Schools are more open than ever to online studies and to "insert" workbooks than ever. Between the science behind how the bike works, power to weight, nutrition to fuel there is plenty to give the kids something very interesting and exciting to study.
Domestic Cycling Teams
No one likes to beg for money. As a team owner you work your ass off, utilizing your own resources to build the culture and to give talented kids what they need to pursue their dream. Like us, most of these teams are started because we love the sport, development and the idea that life truly is better on a bike. Gateway Devo Cycling is looking at more ways to become sustainable through establishing a revenue source. We personally come from a retail background so to us it is only natural to look for this as model for sustainability. We do not have a set plan or brick and mortar resource yet but we are working in multiple directions to come up with the right plan for our brand, Living Life on 2 Wheels TM . Some of ideas include: dual branding with specific products or items that cyclist enjoy (special coffee blend (Kaldi's), beer (Urban Chestnut), recovery or endurance athlete supplements (1st Phorm), rice cakes, bug spray, etc..), branded gear sales, monetize influence on the web (podcast, individual team exposure to grow fans and followers, product endorsement, video blog of behind the scenes of our race team, etc..) The specific companies I am highlighting are from our local community and we respect the impact they are making and the kind of people they are. We are not just looking for dollars but looking for Partners in a mission to make the world better. Some may have the idea that we should not share our intentions or plans to gain stability and growth, in fear someone might steal an idea. The reality is that we all are stronger if we work together and share with each other.
There needs to be a support system to encourage development teams to find a longevity plan and to focus on growing people and the sport of cycling above RESULTS. Yes, we love results, we have just graduated our 10th and 11th riders to the Professional Level, but it is not our driving force as the culture of a team determines its true influence on the world and the sport of cycling. Our long time sponsor, Trek, has fostered this mentality we have in regards to our Teams purpose. We are #soproud of the work Trek has done beyond their great products. Trek brings us free live streaming of cyclocross racing in Belgium through DVV series, they brought free live coverage of the Giro Rosa (Women's Tour of Italy), they are strong supporters of NICA and they are leading the way for equal payouts in women's cycling. It is a fact, Gateway Devo Cycling has only made it this far because of the personal sacrifice from our family, friends, volunteers and the like minded sponsors who again, like us, believe that cycling opens a door to happiness and we choose which path to take. An organized regional round table for any of us like minded and passionate individuals to meet together and have the opportunity to learn from each other would be beneficial and create more impact. Ideas?
Building a state of the art Bicycle Park in our County is coming into place for my home town of Jefferson County MO. Not only will this have a huge impact on our culture as an outdoor, recreational community with interest in both physical and mental health but it will also have an economic impact that will strengthen the community. We started with a camp for Down Syndrome kids learning to ride strider bikes to developing the idea of a permanent year round park that is inviting to all skill levels and ages. NICA was just awarded to Missouri and in our plans we will be one of the race locations and will have new generations of cyclist coming out of Jefferson County. We also plan to connect our downtowns with parks and schools through a safe path/trail system that will give families a safe way to travel on bicycles.
This was a new type of endevor for us and we believe the process can be streamlined and used in other interested communities across the country. From establishing a 501c3 all the way to the grants available in a community, through the state and federally. Things also like how to get community buy-in so that when it comes time to raise the funds you are not alone and you have others wanting to do it with you. IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) is the best resource we have found to help us through this process and we can't thank them enough for all the pre-work they have done.
Household Exposure to the Sport of Cycling
All of the above will have an impact on awareness to the sport and recreation of bicycling in homes across the country. You have already assessed a need to look at the structure of the sport to find ways to make its growth and teams more sustainable. We can only agree with your findings and can not speak to what the magic bullet may be at the Pro Level. What we do feel is that the world of cycling can do a bigger job live streaming more races and creating reasons for new fans to watch. The world is driven towards "stories" more so than just an event. How do we get more behind the scenes action, how do we learn about personalities, families and the struggles these racers face? Some do a good job on their own sharing video stories but we all need help with this. More documentary type shows or specials on Netflix about up and coming cyclist? Maybe Cycling fans can have a chance on Fortnite to pick up a Yellow Jersey Le Tour De France skin? Whatever the answer is, there needs to be a lot of outside the box thinking and input that will ultimately include a creative risk that many people are willing to take.
We as a development team can continue to visit schools, go to community events and do our job in creating fans through social media. Remember though, most of us are struggling to pay race fees so hiring a videographer is not realistic though we know it would have a great impact on fan engagement.
Getting with the Department of Transportation and adding signage for safety and awareness on the road is a necessity in all our communities, how do we streamline this? How do we make sure our new drivers are learning about the rights a bicycle has on the road and the safe ways to co-exist? We will figure these things out and work to improve them in our community but if someone already has accomplished this somewhere can they make it easy for us and share the process?
Kudos to YOU!
You all have our wheels turning, we want to grow your momentum throughout our communities. Keep the conversations coming and as we are sure you already appreciate...it's the great things that sometimes are the hardest to accomplish.
Together we can change the world 2 wheels at a time!!
We have spent the last 3 days in Bentonville, Arkansas exploring the OZ Trails and Parks. Commuting from about an hour away from my sister Debbie's house in Monett, MO. We all had so much fun and we ranged from age 2- 57 (watch NWA story highlights)! We will be back every chance we get and our thankful to have had this experience for the 1st time with our family at the peak of aligning our cycling park idea with our community in our home of Jefferson County MO. Walmart and Rapha Foundation, you have paved the way to creating the best cycling culture we can for our own community with benefits that go so beyond what any other one sport can accomplish. (Walmart heirs Steuart and Tom Walton want to make Arkansas one of the world’s greatest cycling destinations. That’s just part of their plan.)
Thank you again Walton Family Foundation, Rapha Foundation and all of our contributors to getting our families outdoors to enjoy Living Life on 2 WheelsTM