A glimpse into the future of bicycling | SierraSun.com

A glimpse into the future of bicycling

Peter Berridge

What better way to prepare for the close of bike season here in Tahoe than to get a sneak preview of what the bike industry has in store for us in 2006?

Last week, along with 20,000 other bike shop employees, manufacturer representatives, guests and members of the media, I made the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Interbike International Bike Expo. At a time when the local community here is getting ready to hang our bikes up for winter, it is inspiring to know that the world of bicycling won’t miss a beat between seasons.

Despite all the cool new gadgets that might bolster anyone’s preferred bicycling medium, one of the most redeeming qualities of putting the bicycle world under one roof is … you’re reminded of cycling interests you pedaled away from long ago and you catch a shocking glimpse of what others in the world of cycling have come to.

Take the world of BMX, aka bicycle motocross. Same baggy pants and disheveled demeanor as in years passed but … holy smokes! The tricks these guys and gals are busting these days have progressed infinitely from just a few years ago. Back flips and front flips are more or less standard fare. Adding dizzying degrees of difficulty to the flips themselves is what’s turning heads these days. And if you’re not feeling the “technical difficulty,” just settle for a double back flip. Many do.

The freestyle scene isn’t the only part of BMX that is making far-out gains, either. Imagine eight world-class bike handlers lining up for a drag race over a downsized motocross track. The International Olympic Committee did just that and BMX racing is now officially on the docket for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. No small development considering that U.S. riders Bubba Harris and Mike Day just took first and second at the 2005 BMX World Championships.

As for the mountain bike and road racing segments, things were pretty much as expected. Lighter, stronger, faster ” and maybe a little less hubbub with the retirement of Lance Armstrong, although plenty of anticipation surrounds other American contenders. But even if you’re a celebrated competitor, it’s hard to get excited about racing as it affects the bike industry as a whole. Recent figures show that 94.5 percent of bike riders do so for recreation and fitness and a mere 0.3 percent do so for racing.

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But that’s nothing new. The remaining 5.2 percent use bicycles for transportation, a growing market that is important for the industry because it establishes cycling as a justifiable component in the nation’s transportation mix. No matter what you thought of your first bike, bicycles are clearly more than toys and their combination of utilitarian and recreational use continues to justify support for cycling-friendly roads, trails and related facilities.

The construction of bike facilities is at an all-time high nationally and this is largely due to political developments that bike advocacy groups have put in motion. Several advocacy groups, including Bikes Belong, IMBA, Rails to Trails Conservancy and the League of American Bicyclists, were present at Interbike to help publicize recent progress and to garner industry support. Industry leaders in advocacy like Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) and the nationally recognized advocacy group Bikes Belong were both touting a landmark change to the Federal Transportation Bill that both organizations helped usher through Congress.

On July 29, 2005, $3 billion was incorporated into the $286.5 billion bill for bicycling throughout the nation over the next six years, including $612 million for a new National Safe Routes to School program and $100 million for a new Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, both of which Deb Hubsmith (Marin County Bicycle Coalition) and Patrick Seidler (WTB) helped bring to fruition.

So, despite the impending close to bike season in Tahoe, the future of bicycling is bright, indeed. Even though it will lay dormant for a while, let’s all do our best to keep biking on our minds and in our community. No matter what kind of bike you ride or how you ride it, a bike is a good thing for the people and the planet.

New products from Interbike 2005 to keep an eye out for: Clif Shot Bloks are a chewable version of Clif Shot energy gel with all the energy and electrolytes, minus the sticky inconveniences associated with gels. The Topeak Bikamper is a smart new tent that quickly integrates with your bike to create a lightweight, compact backcountry bike camping shelter. Bern Unlimited is putting new-school style and groundbreaking technology into helmets for biking, paddling and snow sports.

Peter Berridge is an accomplished professional mountain bike racer, tour guide and journalist who lives in the Truckee area. He can be reached at peterberridge@yahoo.com.