I still wear my Asheville Bicycle Racing Club (ABRC) kit whenever I go out on a training ride. Besides being a Hincapie kit that fits as if George himself were cradling you in his hands and pulling you along the wind-stricken roads north and east of town, it’s a great conversation starter.
“Hey, you from Asheville? Asheville, NC? You know, they’re getting a New Belgium Brewery there soon…” is how most winded conversations start. Soon we talk about Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada and the 27 other microbreweries in the greater Asheville area.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. According to the Asheville Chamber’s website, there are currently 12 breweries or 1 per 8,000 people. I know there were a few new ones, one or two that were closing and a few more in the works, so I’d say closer to 1 brewery per 6,000 people, but I digress.
After we’ve talked about all things beer, we eventually get around to the other thing that makes the two cities so alike: cycling.
Asheville is home to some of the country’s greatest mountain biking (so I am told), training routes of the elite (and some defamed “maillot jaune” cyclists) and enough “cyclists versus drivers” animosity to shake a stick at. There’s also a good deal of infighting between the various factions of the cycling community (commuters v. hipsters v. weekend warrors v. mountain bikers, etc.). That, I noticed, is thankfully one thing that seems to be (mostly) missing here in the Front Range.
Despite the differences in elevation (and oxygen levels), the routes and climbs of the Front Range feel like home to me. A jaunt around Carter Lake, with it’s nearly 2000-feet of elevation gain is similar to a flogging ride up to Craggie Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The one similarity that sticks out, however: the angry drivers who hate you for cycling on their roads and the cyclists who hate drivers for driving on their roads.
A few weeks back, I attended the NoCo Bike “talkshow” at The Rio in Old Town Fort Collins. Being someone who has had bottles, cans and other debris thrown at me while on rides (in NC), not to mention the number of slurs and “niceties” tossed at me, as well as being someone who’s been hit by a driver (and then was told it was my fault for being in the road), this evening’s topic was of interest to me: Fostering a better relationship between rural NoCo residents and the cyclists who share the county roads for recreation.
They invited Rist Canyon Fire Chief Bob Gann down to share both his and the residents’ perspective as it pertains to cyclists in Rist Canyon (and the surrounding rural areas). To hear Bob, a 27-year native of the canyon, talk so candidly was refreshing. He talked of his commitment to fostering a peaceful coexistence between the residents and cyclists, but he cautioned the cycling community — most of whom live miles from any of the recent fires — to understand that the scars (both emotional and physical) left from last year’s fires are real and need time to heal.
He talked about how most of the residents understand why the cyclists flock there. It’s most likely the same reason the residents moved there in the first place. He went on about how they perceive most cyclists as decent folks who share the roads well. But then he touched on the main crux of the whole situation: There are parties on both sides of the road that, in short, are jerks. I am paraphrasing here.
No matter how much space you give them, be they a driver of a Ford F-350 with a horse trailer on back or an S-Works with a polished Fi’zik saddle, they’re going to hate on you because you are not their kind. I half expected that. It wasn’t a big surprise, really. But the simple idea that he put forth after all this, that was a bit surprising, mostly because it hadn’t occurred to most of us: Call your fellow riders/drivers out. If the call for compassion and coexistence comes from within their own faction, they’re more likely to heed that call for compassion. If you see riders in your peloton riding four abreast while a driver waits behind, call them out. And don’t be a jerk about it.
Again, I’m paraphrasing here.
Back in Asheville, former Fort Collins resident, Mike Soule, started Asheville on Bikes (a.k.a., Bike Love). He’s trying to take some of the good ideas from the great cycling community of Fort Collins and apply them to the up and coming cycling community of the up and coming “metropolis” that is Asheville.
It’s been enlightening to see where some of Mike’s good ideas and infrastructure concepts began. Here’s hoping that he – and all the other factions in the cycling community back in western NC – can get some of this Front Range Bike Love more deeply embedded in the Asheville community.
For more information on the Northern Colorado Bike talkshow/events, “YGR (Your Group Ride) Live”, you can read the piece written by “talkshow host” and NoCo Cycling Events Director, Chris Johnson, in the Coloradoan: