CYCLING DIGITAL DISRUPTION GOES TO A CLUB RACE NEAR YOU
(by Mike O’Reilly)
Digital Disruption is everywhere to see. Be it the demise of the Nokia mobile phone (we all had one at some point), dropping the Kodak film off to a local chemist (really, we did that ?), to wearing a wrist watch (no way !) and try buying a new car with a CD player (good luck !!), or even buy a CD for that matter. How we all communicate & socialize has changed like no other time in recent human history.
Cycling is no different when it comes to digital disruption - be it the demise of the local bike shop with the growth of internet shopping (all that took was easy to understand overseas cycling websites, confidence to give your credit card details to a computer screen & overseas courier delivery in just 5 days). Ditto for glossy cycling magazines as excellent publications have simply closed, never to be seen again (some have successfully diversified but genuine success stories are very very rare).
In the face of retail & social change cycling (in general) has boomed. Place yourself on McCarrs Creek Road at Terrey Hills on any given Saturday morning and you’ll be astounded at the numerous social cycling bunches enjoying the local ride. Likewise, enter a well organised cyclosportive or gran fondo (events at Bowral or Jindabyne come to mind) and in all likelihood you’ll see excellent patronage at a very well organised event. However when it comes to cycle racing things couldn’t be in more contrast. If the start numbers at your local club race or State event are on the rise then take a bow, as your event is a rare treat. Entry numbers at most races (be it velodrome or road, local or State) are in serious decline, and the shift in club membership trends either show negative growth or for members that do rejoin they are switching from ‘race’ to ‘ride it’ memberships. The many reasons for local cycle racing being on the slide may be a combination of demographic, social or financial issues but the decline is there for all to see. For sure, if Saturday morning along McCarrs Creek Road is a guide more people than ever are cycling but fewer people are now buying a cycle racing licence, and racing participation levels are generally on a negative trend.
The biggest challenge to the local club racing scene may soon come from within. The current national cycling membership model has been in existence for nearly 100 years, whereby members join a local club in the first instance, under the auspices of Cycling Australia. Its a miracle that the current membership model has lasted this long, but be in no doubt, if that model changes and local clubs are excluded from the membership process, then watch this space.