Thursday, January 20, 2011

Social Network for Bicycle Clubs: CIBA 2020

I originally submitted this to CIBANews in 2006.  I was probably a couple of years early on CINDYC, and the iPhone has replaced the iPod.  However, I think everything else predicted is still a very reasonable extension of what is happening today.

CIBA 2020

It’s roughly 12:30 UST (7:30 AM for the Standard time holdouts) when you roll over, and ask your HC (Home Computer) for your start page. Since it’s a weekend, your personal profile results in the weather conditions making-up the headlines rather than news and traffic.  Mid 50’s now, highs near 75 with no rain, light SE winds, so it is going to be a great day for riding.  You roll your eyes to morning chore list (the display follows your eyes, no need for a keyboard or mouse); a couple easy tasks, and you’ll be ready to ride in three hours.    Before getting out of bed you call out your ride request to HC “Ride-CIBA, 15:30 home start, 80 klicks- social-workout” and then head for the shower.

How will CIBA and the role of bike clubs change over the next 30 years?  The last 30 years saw the recreational bike clubs driven by the baby boomers wanting to exercise. Hand-typed monthly newsletters and ride schedules served a mentoring function for out-of-shape novice riders on poor equipment with steep learning curves. At a club ride the “new” riders were the one’s in tennis shoes and cut-offs.  While getting in shape and learning to shift, they learned how to ride with a group. Today, index shifting and more novice friendly bikes, plus diverse fitness backgrounds (running, spinning and triathlons) and readily available equipment result in rides where the novice may be fit and strong, but have no idea on the intricacies of safe, fast, group riding.

By the time you sit down for breakfast and check in, CIBA’s RideServer has matched your ride request with two rides it is building for the north side. 15 riders (so far) are heading up to Lebanon for lunch, while another group of 17 is going to Tipton.  You blink the Lebanon ride; and check the rider list; not “him” again you think- and this time you remember to put him on your least preferred list.  You try the Tipton ride, and see a handful of your regulars.  You blink in for that ride; by the time you refresh you see 2 more riders; the Tipton ride is now up to 20, and the RideServer will now post the ride to CIndyC.

Today another boomlet in cycling is in progress as baby boomers become empty nesters looking for social activities and fitness.   Newsletters are done on PCs now, but where does a 4-week production cycle newsletter fit into a world of email, Facebook, web pages, Twitter and text messaging?  Bicycling riding remains popular, but busy schedules and a wide variety of other recreational fitness choices are now available.  Information on any topic is readily available for free.  Why join a club, if the ride schedule is on the web, and the mentoring function is available for free from other sources.  And what about younger riders- how do you approach and appeal to even younger h-tech savvy riders?

Since 2015, Central Indiana, (Greater Indianapolis and the 16 super donut counties) have relied on CINDYC (InDOT’s Central Indiana Traffic Control, part of the nation wide Traffic Control network) to monitor vehicle traffic and control traffic flow.  Every TC aware vehicle entering the region is linked with CINDYC and the information is used to prevent traffic jams and put vehicles on the most efficient routes. For the last 2 years, CIBA and InDOT have experimented with posting CIBA rides of 20 or more riders into CINDYC.  This let’s drivers know when the larger riders will be on the road and adjusts traffic controls (even many rural stops signs are now TC aware LED panels) .  And some riders (like yourself) are even riding with TC-aware bike computers and phones.

So how does a club thrive or survive in these conditions?  They must find a way to add value and remain relevant to their audience.  While events like the Hilly Hundred and NITE ride will always have their place, does a volunteer intensive weekend ride schedule fit the needs of the current audience?  How do you provide safety and mentoring for a group of 100 or more riders who leave a ride start looking like a closed course criterium?  Just one possibility is adapting “social” software available today to build rides (on-demand) based on matching riders by interest, skill level, fitness and schedules.  Think about a half dozen or more rides occurring every day with riders looking for the same kind of ride.

While you finish cleaning up the kitchen, the ride is updated again, with the start time adjusted 15 minutes later by CINDYC.  This lets the ride get by a soccer field between game changes; you accept the new time, and your iPhone is updated and you go about your morning. Working away until your iPhone chimes and it is time to get ready to ride. Your last update shows 25 people have now joined.

Just as the bicycles and riders have changed over the last 30 years, so must the organizations that want to encourage and foster group participation in this great sport. There are so many diverse talents with such great potential in 2,000+ member organization like CIBA.  All it takes is the willingness to think outside the box, and say “What if?”

You roll out of the garage on schedule, and you iPhone and bike computer and now synched, and talking with CINDYC.  You haven’t gone for the new heads up display glasses yet, but your bike computer beeps each turn, while keeping you at your planned pace.   A few miles from home, you say “Hi” to the first rider joining (has her name appears on your bike computer).  By 5 miles out, another 30 riders are now rolling along together.  It’s going to be a great ride.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Social Networks for Bicycle Clubs 101: Using NING for Bicycle Club Websites

Since 2007, I have been responsible for managing the HOOTS, (Hoosiers Out On Tandems), a central Indiana based tandem bicycle club.  The HOOTS operate under the umbrella of the Central Indiana Bicycle Association, and is funded from proceeds of hosting the Midwest Tandem Rally (MTR 2004 in Columbus, Indiana and for MTR 2010 in Shipshewana, Indiana).   Along with a mailing list, I am responsible for the HOOTS web site, which provide information to member and non-members.  Since 2008, the HOOTS web site ( has been on the NING social networking platform (

More than a website, the NING social networking platform provides many of the essential elements of a bicycle club in an easy to administer and maintain platform.  It is entirely web based, and can be run from any modern web browser.  Costs are very reasonable and comparable with traditional web hosting solutions.

NING services are available in 3 plans, Mini, Plus and Pro.

The Mini plan is $19.95 per year, you are limited to 150 members, and this plan does not support events.  (This plan is ideal for a small club, or for someone just wishing to experiment with NING.)
The Plus plan, at $200 per year, includes Events and Calendars, and allows you to use a custom domain name. (This would require a custom domain hosting service and fees.)  We use this plan for the HOOTS web site.  ( )
The Pro plan, at $500 per year, offers many additional customization features, allows up to 3 additional custom domain names, and allows you to store video and music files on your site, among other features.

The NING environment requires little technical skill to maintain.  Only the Pro plan, which allows for a custom home page, would require any web page creation skills.

Page Administrator
The person who sets up the account with NING and creates the site becomes the Page Administrator (or Page Admin). The Page Admin has access to a Dashboard tab, that allows for the site and features to be configured for appearance and privacy. Other members can be designated has a Page Admin to spread the work around and allow for vacations, etc.

Once the site is up and running, the other role of the Page Admin is to manager membership and content moderation.  Potential members can be invited by email, and membership approval (by the Page Admin) can be required.  I strongly advise using membership approval.  The Page Admin can also broadcast messages to all members.  For content moderation, (controlling what appears on the site), each feature can be set to allow content to require approval prior to being made public on the site.

Basic Features
The NING platform offers many features that make it ideal for bike clubs: Membership, Events (Calendar), Photo Albums, Blogs and Discussion Forums.  Each of these features is easily managed by the Page Admin from their Dashboard tab (only visible to the Page Admin).   Each feature can be configured to allow members to add content, and for the content to be moderated before being made public.  Each feature is visible on its own tab, and features can also be included on the Main Page.  The Main Page opens when you use your default page address, for example, .

The Main Page
The Main Page becomes the home page for your NING hosted web site.  Page customization is available through the Dashboard, and this includes themes and colors.  The Main Page can summarize all your club activities, with the most recent items from each of the feature you choose to use their.  Your site privacy settings determine if non-member can see content beyond the Main Page.  Your Main Page content is also searchable by Google.  With the Pro plan, custom home pages can be created for a look that is different from the Main Page options available from NING.

Members join the site and have full access to all information on the site. Each member has their own profile page, which has information about themselves.  Profile page information is set-up by the Page Admin.  Members can also choose to have a profile picture, which they can upload.  Profile pictures are very handy helping members get to know and recognize each other. A member can allow other members to include them in site friend lists; one member can only send messages to other member’s they have approved.  Any member can post a message on another member’s profile, a good way to allow members to start connecting with one another.

Depending on site settings, member can post to any of the features (Events, Blogs, Photos, Discussions) that are on the site.

If allowed and set up by the Page Admin, potential members can apply can apply and members can login into the site using their Facebook, Google, or Yahoo accounts.  This eliminates the need for another site-specific password.

Events and the Calendar
Events have all the standard items: Event Name, and Event Image (a photo or logo), description, event type, start and end time and dates, location and address, a link to another web site or Google Map to the location, and organizer contact information.  About the only missing feature is the capability for adding recurring events.  The description box allows you to include active hyper links, and the final event also generates a link to the event that can be emailed to others.  Events can also be shared or linked to a members Facebook profile.  Members can also RSVP to an event, creating a guest list.  Member can also leave comments on events, or contact the event organizer.

Blogs are short articles for your members. They can be ride and event announcements, general news items, ride reports, and other information useful to your members.  You can configure your site to allow any member to post a blog, and determine if Page Admin can moderate (approve or refuse) a members post. Blog comments and sharing are also standard features.

Pictures and Albums
Members can post pictures through a photo upload tool, or email directly their profile from an Internet capable phone.  Pictures uploaded to the site can be organized into Albums, by either the submitting member or the Page Admin.

Discussion Forums
A full discussion forum tool is available.  Discussion and content are fully configured and moderated by, you guessed it, the Page Admin.

More Bells and Whistles
Other features include member-to-member chat, video and music sharing, advertising options and Google Analytics.  I have only covered the most important features to clubs here.  On the other hand, you mind find these useful for your club.

How Does It All Work?
The HOOTS site now has over 2 full years of use.  In my next article, I will fill tell you more about our experiences with the site and what we have learned, and the advantage of NING over some of the other alternatives.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Social Networks for Bicycle Clubs 101 - Facebook Profiles, Groups, Pages

Here is a quick summary of the Facebook “pages” that were discussed in yesterday’s CIBA Board Meeting.

Some of these links will only work for Facebook users, and what you see may vary with your privacy settings.

Facebook Profile: Your personal page. This is what you create when you join Facebook and where you post information about yourself. Your profile has two main components, your Profile, where you place your interests, and the Wall, where see the latest posts from your Facebook friends. Your privacy settings impact your profile looks like to other Facebook users and external search sites. my profile.

Facebook Group: a collection of Facebook members who joined a page
  • Groups have admins, (administrators )who create the group, set privacy and can invite, remove or ban members.
  • Group “page” content are not visible to external search Sites.
  • Group Privacy can vary from invitation only and completely private to globally visible in Facebook with open membership. 
The CIBA Group we were discussing:

Facebook Page: Pages are “profiles” for a business or organization.
  • You “Like” a page by clicking on thumbs up icon (this used to be called become a Fan, )
  • Pages have admins, (administrators) who can post and remove content. Pages can have multiple admins.
  • Pages are visible outside Facebook to Search site like Google, Bing and Yahoo. This includes events.
  • Pages can send updates to Fans. Updates go to all members, but appear in a separate inbox on a user profile.
  • Events can be added to pages, and fans can be invited, updated or post comments on events.
  • Discussion Forums are all supported.
Page for a business: (shameless commercial plug - I manage this page BGI)

Page established for the Midwest Tandem Rally:

I am working on more detailed white paper on Social Network for Bicycle Clubs, and appreciate you comments on this content.