There are currently two approaches to events in the covid cycling world. The first is exemplified globally by the Tour de France, and locally by Phil’s Fondo here in LA. The approach is to charge ahead, take little to no consideration of the radically changed circumstances, and plaintively insist that people go ahead and do what they did in years past, i.e. give you money and support your event because your event is happening no matter what the consequences.
“Rah-rah-rah because I need your money NOW.” This neatly parallels the president’s approach to the pandemic.
The second approach is the What Me Worry? This is exemplified locally by #socmed club/boy band/narcissists gone wild Origin Clothing where the most horrific human crisis of our time has been met with new kit drops, photo sessions that look like they came straight out of the back of an unmarked white van, and Gram posts saying things like “Hey Earth! You’re Welcome.”
Because Earth has nothing more pressing than a wrinkled, ugly old guy in his 50’s with a bad tattoo pretending to be a runway model, and because the best way to meet untold suffering is with a new kit.
But there’s a third way that doesn’t involve being a terrible person and that addresses the complexity faced by millions in the world, and many in the bike biz. How do you move ahead with something that is your lifeblood and not behave in a way that ignores, minimizes, or trivializes the real concerns of people trying to live “normally” in a pandemic? For example, instead of the ugly, narcissistic, old-man model, what about converting your kit production line into making masks and donating a bunch of them to healthcare professionals, as has been done by San Diego manufacturer Eliel?
An email hit my inbox yesterday that was incredible, not simply because it was related to cycling, but because it was a template for every single business trying to meaningfully and thoughtfully adapt to the pandemic. Not plowing ahead like this terrible person, a typical PV resident if there ever was one, or abandoning all pretense like the drunken rioters in Wisconsin who are more than happy to spread the disease because, beer, but rather trying to figure out what people want and what people need.
This email came from the Belgian Waffle Ride, whose first year of bringing online a multi-stage, nationwide gravel race was kneecapped by the pandemic. And instead of shrieking “What pandemic?” or spamming his list with Early Corpse Discounts, ride boss Michael Marckx did what few people are doing anywhere, in any business: He reached out to his customer base with a detailed online survey trying to determine not what he wanted but, crazily, what they wanted.
This wasn’t simply a survey for bike riders riding bikes at a bike riding event. It was a thorough inquiry into how YOU have adapted to the pandemic. About what has changed. About what hasn’t. About your expectations. About your concerns. About your hopes. About your approach to PPE. About your expectations for how events, their employees, and volunteers, should approach social distancing and in what degree.
The survey queried your racing for 2019, your racing plans pre-pandemic for 2020, how the pandemic has affected your riding, how much notice you’d need to participate in a 2020 event, what factors you’d include in deciding to participate including proximity, cost, and cancellation policy, and detailed questions about specific pandemic health issues and how they affect your decision to join.
This portion of the survey included the weight, if any, you’d put on there being a vaccine, on rules for the size of gatherings, on social distancing policies, on PPE, on the availability of on-site testing, and a whole host of other things that are real and that reflect the fact that we live in a different world today.
This survey is the first thing I’ve seen anywhere, by anyone, that addresses the pandemic as something other than a blip or a brief pause until we “reopen” or “get back to normal.” Guess what, folks? This is normal. We are open. And it’s different from how things were in February. People who thoughtfully try to adapt will make it because we will trust them and respect them for doing the right thing when it matters most.
Those who mindlessly and morbidly pound away at “earlybird discounts” and “new kit drops” without understanding that 40 million people are now unemployed, the pandemic is still in full force, 100,000 Americans have died, and the real shit storm isn’t going to hit until flu season arrives, well, those folks are going to find that their old school shit doesn’t sell anymore.
Consider this bit of frankness, transparency, and decency that came along with the BWR email, and ask yourself if perhaps this shouldn’t be the norm for every business out there, from bike races to airlines to supermarkets?
We hope this missive finds you and yours well and taking advantage of whatever gifts this time of Social Distancing has on offer. We know this has been a challenging and often frustrating situation for many, with work and school disruptions and no group riding. While we don’t have any real sense of when things might change as it relates to hosting events, we do know USAC will be permitting events starting June 1 and that certain states and counties are opening up to events now.
While it is important what the cities and counties will allow, it’s more important for us to know what YOU want, regardless of a county’s openness to mass gatherings. So, we want to gauge how YOU feel about all this and when YOU will be comfortable to get back to riding in a pack.BWR email, May 15, 2020
We are asking riders to share with us how they’ve been affected by the pandemic. We’d like to know how to create the safest environment possible when we do get back to what we love doing.
And hey, even if it’s too much to take into account the lives of the people who your business depend on, could you at least zip up your fucking jersey? The hairy chest thing worked for Tom Selleck because, you know, he actually had some.
Read this far? Then maybe it’s time to Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!