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.

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