As Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the world following the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the U.S.’s deep history of systemic racial injustice bubbled to the surface once again, the cycling industry was soon face-to-face with its whiteness. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color riders posted on social media about not being seen by the industry, about negative experiences in the outdoors like being accused of stealing an expensive bike they were riding or being looked at suspiciously at trailheads, and about brands that cater only to a very narrow audience, typically white and male. Brands responded with promises of better equality in hiring, financial donations toward anti-racism causes and introspection at the racial make-up of their leadership teams.
Last week, Eliot Jackson and Katie Holden took tangible steps toward improving the industry’s lack of diversity, with the launch of Grow Cycling Foundation, a nonprofit that serves to promote education, access and opportunities that advance diversity and inclusion in cycling. In recognition that the cycling world is not immune to a culture of exclusivity and racism, Holden and Jackson felt a need to help focus the call to action within their own community in light of the George Floyd protests and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We have a huge opportunity to change the course of our whole industry and it’s not a passive thing, it needs to be an active, collective movement,” says Holden, a former World Cup DH racer who now works as an ambassador and creative in the industry, and was one of the minds behind last year’s groundbreaking Red Bull Formation women’s freeride camp.
Jackson, throughout his World Cup racing career, was often the only Black person riding at such a high level, and wants other People of Color to have the same opportunity to rise the racing ranks as he did.
Grow Cycling Foundation was established to create new avenues for inclusive community building and career development in the cycling industry as well as to empower existing programs working to tear down the barriers to entry in cycling for marginalized communities. With ears on the ground in these communities, Grow Cycling Foundation serves to provide the education, access, and opportunities that directly address the barriers they face. To sustainably and inclusively grow the industry, authentic foundations of diversity must be built from within.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions as to why there aren’t People of Color or diversity of all forms within the mountain biking industry,” Holden says. “I think a lot of people attribute that to not being able to afford a bike. The reality is even if everyone had a bike, if the biking community isn’t an inviting, welcoming place and there not actual opportunity, then maybe people go in, but they just kind of get spit right out,” Holden says.
Investing in areas that create sustainable paths for cycling as a lifelong passion, Grow Cycling Foundation leverages four overlapping pillars: Education, Opportunity, Community & Access, to create solutions that provide entry points at various steps of a cyclist’s journey. With a dynamic, five-year plan in place, the first initiative of Grow Cycling Foundation is to build a pumptrack near Los Angeles, California. Grow aims to inspire career paths and involve the local community by using this space for world-class events, community building and programs that teach various cycling industry skills.
Grow Cycling Foundation founding partners are Yeti Cycles, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Fox, Be Good Foundation, Pinkbike and Red Bull. For more information, go to growcyclingfoundation.org.
This article originally appeared on Bikemag.com and was republished with permission.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!