Nicollet Bike Shop’s Big Strava Experiment

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For someone that enjoys cycling yet keeps considerable distance from its “culture” and/or anything resembling “sport,” Strava is inherently gross. Riding a bike is fun. You know what kills a hobby’s fun factor? Adding numbers and a sense of obligation.

And while Nicollet Bike Shop is my nearest LBS, the super-shiny, polo-shirtedness of the place lends it all the cozy hometown feel of a Honda dealership. (My allegiance belongs to Flying Penguin, where fluorescent lights with wonky ballasts shine lovingly upon a crooked Glen Plake poster from 1993.)

Thus, diving into a stat-tracking app at the behest of the local Fred Haven isn’t really something that I found initially appealing, but under the surface, the 2015 Nicollet Bike Miles Challenge seems like a pretty rad undertaking.

At first glance, the description of this challenge might not make it enticing to someone that wouldn’t be caught dead on a group ride.

Via Facebook:

Starting January 1 2015 through December 31, 2015 Nicollet Bike Shop will track and reward area riders for their outdoor cycling efforts. At the end of 2015 riders will be rewarded based on mileage thresholds they achieve. Levels of recognition will be 1000+ miles, 2000+, 3000+, and 5000+ miles. Awards to be announced will be given out at the end of 2015 based on miles ridden in 2015.

The act of riding is rewarding enough in and of itself, and I’m not keen on twisting my daily commute into a competition. But the full press release makes a compelling case for participation, despite using two spaces after each period.

From the Mankato Times:

Our suspicion is that there are a lot more active riders and cycling miles than we think out there.  By coming together through the bike shop space and online social network technologies like: Strava, Instagram, Facebook etc., we can celebrate and showcase the wonderful active outdoor community we have.  We can’t wait to see how BIG this number will get; we think we can really put Mankato on the map by giving the community a chance with events like the 2015 Nicollet Bike Miles Challenge.

It’s been said that the most effective form of cycling advocacy is simply riding your bike; being seen by other humans while using the roads. (Though the”being seen” part can be something of a struggle, especially when encountering Buick operators.) But in a town like Mankato, creating a social media database of riders and their mileage could have practical implications.

Our town’s infrastructure is in flux (or should we say…caught in a Tailwind?), but city management is placing little importance becoming more bike-friendly. The recent Front Street renovation was a largely wonderful thing for storefronts, but unless riders start making themselves visible, every new street in Mankato is going to be modeled after the half-assed sharrows on that block.

If Mankato is to grow into the cycling-friendly city it pretends to want to be, we’re going to have to do everything we can to make potential investment seem worthwhile. When the city’s travel guide prominently features someone salmoning the freaking sidewalk, peacocking ourselves to old people in SUVs is the bare minimum. Setting up an “athlete profile” (ha!) and hitting a button on your phone could help raise awareness. Keeping future city projects in mind, it’s best to recognize that the political-corporate engine loves proposals backed by numbers.

Sometimes, you just have to play ball.

The club page can be found here. Give it a shot. But please: If you’re currently indifferent about your times, keep it that way. Competition is lame.