In the sad wake of my home bike shop and team closing down, last year I raced as an ‘independent’ for the entire season. Overall it was fine for the time being, as I didn’t want to rush my decision to join with this team or that team right away… I just wanted to take the season and race on my own and ponder what was most important to me about riding, and racing.
For me, racing as an independent was pretty painless, due to the relationships I had built over the years here locally. I could usually find a group ride to join in on, or a deal on parts & service somewhere. I also had no obligations to take all my business to one bike shop (I could spread the love a bit), or feel the need to get involved with organizing club events and activities. It was essentially a situation where I could just ride and race for me. This provided valuable flexibility and freedom that I enjoyed, especially given my busier home and work life last year. But the obvious downside was not ‘really’ belonging to any one group – always feeling a little bit disconnected. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to this, but as the season went on I started to take stock and realize I was missing out on one of the most important aspects of riding and racing – feeling like you’re part of the community and helping to sustain and grow it, essentially the very reason Bikeridr exists in the first place.
It was with this realization that I started pondering starting ‘Team Bikeridr’. More than a few folks had expressed interest in racing for Bikeridr if ever we started an actual club, so I gave this some serious thought last fall. I actually all but decided this was what I was going to do, before ultimately determining I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. Going from an independent racer to team manager, even if it was a very small team, was more work than I was willing to commit to. I’ve been on the organizer side and I have some idea how much work goes into running a good team. This got me looking at joining an existing local team again, where I could enjoy feeling like I was more a part of the scene, help out where I could, but still temper my engagement so I wasn’t taking on more than I could chew. It was around this time that local MTB racing legend, Sarns (Intact Racing), came to me with the idea of joining forces and starting a new sponsored team with Redbike. It immediately sounded like a great idea, because Sarns was looking to manage the team and I was looking to join a team, and together we could design a team concept from the ground up that we were both excited about. A few months later we are now the ‘Kokanee Redbike Race Team’! More info on the team will be coming soon.
In general, now that I’ve ridden both team and independent, I can safely say that I see many of the pros and cons for both. For those of you who are new to the racing scene and wondering if you should join a club/team or not, here are some of the things you might consider:
Racing as an Independent:
- Race and ride where and when you want
- Ride with who you want
- Ride as hard, or as easy as you want
- No obligations to help with team events
- No allegiance to one shop, or mix of bike brands/products
- You may not be able to find deals on the bike parts and service you need locally.
- Not being part of a scheduled team ride and training schedule that can be helpful to your development as a racer.
- Not feeling like you’re part of the community, making it harder to build stronger cycling friendships (Awww..).
- Not having a group of teammates to travel with, carpool and share accommodations with when racing out of town.
- Not having access to team race-camp supplies, such as tents, tools, stands, mechanical skills better than your own, etc… As an independent you can find yourself all on your own here.
- If you designed your own kit (like Bikeridr), you can’t wear it in ABA (UCI) races unless you’re a registered team. You have to wear non-branded jersey and shorts. Lame.
Racing with a Team or Club:
- Support. You have a bike shop and team members who can help you in many ways, including with your training, any equipment parts and service needs, and with motivation. The social aspect of riding and racing is one of the biggest motivating factors for me, as I think it is for many. If you have support and a group to ride and race with, you’ll ride and race more.
- Opportunity to get involved with running team events and giving back to the cycling community. For me, this is one of the biggest reasons I’m going back to racing with a team. I missed this part of cycling last year.
- Potential for increased fees due to team membership, above your race license fees.
- Obligations to carry your weight, helping organize events, lead team rides, etc…
- Your team is your team, so there is not much you can do about it if there are members you can’t stand riding or traveling with…
- You’re handcuffed a bit as to what bike brands you ride, and where you go for parts and services. This is something you need to consider when joining a team. If you only like to ride Rocky Mountain, and your prospective team shop only sells Trek and Specialized, you may have a problem.
What’s your pref, team or indy? Have any great or terrible stories either way, we’d love to hear them!