Friday, March 17, 2017

Is The Traditional Riding Club Obsolete?

The Traditional Riding Club.  Usually a place of friendship, support, and good times. However, recently, it seems the Traditional Riding Club (TRC) has morphed into something far less appealing.  Wrought with petty-politics, harsh commitments, ever-rising dues, constant hammering on rides, dropped souls, and dwindling memberships, things appear to not be as rosy as they once were.  Has the TRC possibly met its end?  Maybe so, however, there is always hope for Humanity when it chooses to mingle in packs.

Overall, I have met more people in my travels who share a general negative reaction to TRC’s, and I admit some of their bitter thoughts have merit while some do not. The overall telling tale is that most negative concerns are actually founded in truth.  From Leadership that cares nothing about the Membership’s well-being, to high dues, ridiculous “Rules,” boring rides, and internal politics, a lot of riders just don’t seem too keen on the structured regimen of a club, anymore.  

While riding with friends, and loose associations of like-minded riders, morphed into Clubs, it appears to be heading back in the other direction, as riding with friends, and loose associations of like-minded riders, are shunning TRC’s.  And, this is not just my opinion, as I have asked, and heard from, a great number of riders on the subject – Especially new riders.

Case in point;

I previously wrote about my experiences in TRC’s (Cycling Dynamics, 10-09-2012). I mentioned how they rise, how they can thrive, and unfortunately, how some will eventually fail – Unless they put the membership first.  Well, I was unfortunately correct in one particular club’s case, because it is basically dead now.  Killed by its own internal arrogance, it is a name which now elicits a negative reaction from cyclists in that part of the world.  And, the fall was as predictable as it was inevitable. 

First, that club’s internal clique chased away all of the kind, helpful, empathetic, people-minded folks.  They were also rude to new riders, dropping them, without a care for their well-being, or whereabouts, on rides. Gee, how inclusive! Then, after all of those aforementioned people were gone, they finally turned on each other.  And, as always happens in arrogant, authoritarian organizations, after the wreck of this once reputable club was a pile of smoldering ruins, the guilty offenders drifted off into oblivion, leaving the once great organization on life support. It was all too sad to watch what had once been one of the gold-standards of the cycling community completely destroyed. Sadder still, the biggest of the assholes went on to wreak havoc on other unsuspecting clubs.

Another negative aspect of the TRC is the dreaded “Liability” thing (don’t get me started on Tort Reform!).  The whole “Dues” thing gains traction from club talking heads as they claim lawyers cost money (go figure), so in order for the club to not be sued for anyone being injured on a ride (Club’s fault, or not), money must be forked over.  Lots of it.  Throw in the still additional cost of a website (most suck), plus riding kit (again, most suck) and the dues can soon become a drain on peoples resources and patience.  The Red Tape was not why we got into cycling to begin with, and that is why Meetup, and informal non-club-clubs, are now thriving. Hey, people really do still enjoy unencumbered free-association with like-minded happy cyclists.

One, nice alternative to the TRC: The “Non-Club Club.”

I personally have ridden with some of those (I call them) non-club-clubs, and the experience was quite liberating.  They had basic safety rules, such as mandatory helmet use, hydration, and spare tubes, published routes for all skill levels, a set meet point, multiple, reasonable start times (not everyone wants to ride at 0700!), and if you showed up great, and, if not, that was great, too.  It was a ride at your own risk affair, and you were responsible for you own safety.  It was the most mature approach to organized riding I had encountered to date, with exercise, and fun, being the name of the game.  No pressure, no dropping, do dues, no politics, and no bullshit.  The way organized riding ought to be – The way God intended it! 

So, while informal riding groups are gaining in popularity, from casual friends, to word of mouth, to Meetup, the TRC is far from dead, and rightfully so.  I am not anti-club in anyway, as I have ridden with some fine organizations, though, unfortunately, fine riding clubs are in the minority. 

The difference being those, fine TRC’s actually put their membership first, and the club officers were in the role of Servants, not Masters over the Serfs. Those TRC’s will always thrive, and live on, while the previously mentioned authoritarian-type club will always die - And, rightfully so. 

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