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Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?(42 posts)

Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?mdehner
Oct 23, 2003 11:01 AM
Especially at large group events, I am always struck by how uniformly white-bread cycling in the US seems to be.

I realize that cycling is hardly the only racially homogenous sport, but it still strikes me as odd. Any ideas/theories why?
well, there isnt really an easy way to discuss thiscollinsc
Oct 23, 2003 11:23 AM
without stepping on a lot of toes. We'll give it a shot anyway...

A lot of it, I tend to think, could be simply the cash outlay involved. Cycling is a lot more expensive than, say, basketball.

Cycling is also, of course, heavily european. If you're a young black male looking for a sports idol, you're not going to pick that pale, scrawy, baltic states bike racer.

Cycling is not a huge piece of American culture. To be interested and involved in cycling generally gets you labeled as a bit of a weirdo (playing with "toys" and whatnot) and this, I think, could only compound on the pieces noted above.
well, there isnt really an easy way to discuss thisWCC
Oct 23, 2003 12:18 PM
This is very true. I had thought of hockey as an example.
Not where I live.MXL02
Oct 23, 2003 11:24 AM
Our usually riding group is very diverse with all types of ethnicities represented. I am impressed at how diverse cycling is, at least in my area.
Same here . . .ms
Oct 23, 2003 11:40 AM
Although the groups I see in Maryland may not be ethnically representative vis-a-vis their proportion in the population, I do see African-American and Asian riders at events around here. I think that the perceived lack of minority riders may be more a factor of economics than of race/ethnicity. There are a substantial number of African-Americans and Asians in Maryland (especially in the D.C. suburbs) who fall into the types of economic and social categories from which many non-minority US cyclists come. My guess is that if you are not seeing a lot of minority cyclists where you are it is because the minority population where you are falls into different socio-ecomonic categories than the population where I live.
and NASCAR is the UN?rollo tommassi
Oct 23, 2003 12:16 PM
I think it depends on what your experience has been, in terms of large group events. I'm guessing you're speaking of centuries and group rides in general, but in my limited experience in two large metropolitan areas (DC and Chicago) the representation has been highly mixed.

The numerical representation of any ethnic group is not an indicator of the level of commitment of the individuals. Indeed, we are all a fanatical minority when it comes to cycling irregardless of our skin color.

In China, we're the minority!
re: Who cares? Not many honkys in the NBA either.WCC
Oct 23, 2003 12:16 PM
At least not to many good ones. What about the racial diversity in R&B music?

Why does everything come down to race these days.

In reality, where I live there are several black dudes that ride and ride well. More power to them. But im not really concerend that there arent enough.
I think mdehner asked a perfectly legitimate question...NatC
Oct 23, 2003 1:08 PM
and without any accusational tone. Sociology of sport is an interesting topic. In this instance it's my feeling that economic factors decide cycling's makeup of participants. Bikes don't necessarily cost a lot, but we all know the nice ones do. A family of four that makes $20K a year would really have to stretch to buy even one $2K bike. A lot of people of ethnic background have the money to afford cycling, but I'm guessing that caucasians have a higher average income.

mdehner made his (or her) observation about group cycling events. "Cycling" and "owning a bike" are different, wouldn't you say? To participate in a cycling event, you need not only the money for the equipment and fees, but also the time to do so. Often, with wealth comes spare time.

What about geography? In suburbs, cycling is physically more easily accessible as compared to densely populated urban areas, isn't it? Who lives in suburbs?

Maybe that cycling is an endurance sport determines the demographic? Endurance sports seem to be favored by those with money, aren't they? I'm thinking of running, xc skiing, adventure racing, etc. Running, however, is pretty accessible to anyone physically able. Does anyone know what the demographic makeup of running is?
Not sure, but quite a few Kenyans on marathon podiums (nm)hrv
Oct 23, 2003 1:34 PM
Americans from Kenya, or Kenyans visiting America? nmNatC
Oct 23, 2003 1:49 PM
disagree with this line of thinking.Frith
Oct 23, 2003 1:46 PM
"Why does everything come down to race these days?" Because sometimes we need to ask important somewhat uncomfortable questions to uncover various injustices.
I'm sure if you asked most minorities if they mind that cycling is dominated by white people they wouldn't really care. And sure it's pretty inconsequential on the surface. But perhaps it points to more serious socio-economis issues as some posters, including yourself, above have pointed out.
At the end of the day suiting up more minorities in lycra isn't going to make a lick of difference. But lets look at it another way.
Where I live, Toronto, minorities make up a huge portion of the population. If you were to look at the polititions that represent them on a municipal or provincial level you would see that there are some pretty big questions that need asking.
So when I see people claiming to be colour blind I often wonder if their just trying to make it easier on themselves. It would be great to be able to ignore race completely but unfortunately we aren't there yet.
Oct 23, 2003 12:38 PM
re: Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?triton
Oct 23, 2003 12:50 PM
Have lived in two Southern cities with large African-American population. I have ridden with very few African-American riders even when we leave for groups rides in the heart of the city (not suburbs). Not only is our sport mostly white but also lacks a substantial proportion of women. What gives??
Remember Major Taylor and Nelson Vails...MrCelloBoy
Oct 23, 2003 1:01 PM
to name a couple.
Well, that's two.NatC
Oct 23, 2003 1:11 PM
There was Raul Alcala. There's Tinker Juarez, Jimena Florit, Antonio Cruz. Who else?
Oh yeah, there's kai-ming! nmNatC
Oct 23, 2003 1:12 PM
An explaination for one small segmentKristin
Oct 23, 2003 1:12 PM
There was a question on the Bikerchic forums 2 years ago, asking why more African-American women don't get into cycling. One girl gave a very excellent reason for this. Hair. Most African-American women spend a ton of money on their hair and wouldn't ruin it by stuffing it into a helmet and then sweating it all out. The girl who posted the response said that she keeps her hair natural and very short because she rides, but most women don't want to go that route.
Who caresZman
Oct 23, 2003 1:20 PM
Why are there more black basketball players and football players?

Drop it..
that's exactly the issue at hand.Frith
Oct 23, 2003 1:51 PM
Why are there more black basketball players and football players?..different question but I think you'll find that if you explore it enough you'll find a similar set of answers for the cycling question and the answers ain't pretty.
No one wants the real truthZman
Oct 23, 2003 1:53 PM
The fact of the matter is that very few really want to know the truth, and it might be better that way.
knowledge is not badlaffeaux
Oct 23, 2003 2:18 PM
Knowing and understanding the reasons why things are the way they are is not bad.

If we choose to live life with our heads burried in the sand, what have we accomplished?
What is wrong with sand!Zman
Oct 23, 2003 6:30 PM
Maybe if we didn't think so much about things some things would be better. This entire country is FUBAR'ed with its "make things right" attitude. When we finally reach total equality the internal fabic of this country will be torn to pieces, and we are getting closer every day.

Many of the problems of todays society are created by forcing things on people that were not meant to be.
I would care if we were running them off the road.dzrider
Oct 24, 2003 7:27 AM
Since we're not, I think it's ok. I'm troubled that so often the people who raise the diversity question make it sound like "Why don't more of them do what we do?" If people want to diversify sports they should at least consider finding a group in which they would be in the minority and joining it. Expecting non-whites to join your mostly white groups because it advances integration sounds to me like the racism of the well-intended.
Not sure why, but my observations support your observationlaffeaux
Oct 23, 2003 1:40 PM
According to the last census my county is:

54% white
26% asian
24% hispanic or latino
3% black

I'd estimate the percentage of riders that are caucasion to be greater than 75% (or higher). There are a significant number of riders that are of asian-descent as well. The number of hispanic and african amierican riders is less than the make-up of the county (from what I observe).

I can't say that I understand the sociological reasons for this, but I have noticed it. I do think it's odd.
It has little to do w/ money for some people...853
Oct 23, 2003 2:36 PM
I ride w/ several groups that are mostly latino, most have colnagos and other exotics and are pulling them off of cars that are worth so much less than their bikes. It has got to do with culture and what you where exposed to growing up. Lots of these guys raced in their country or where exposed to road racing in their towns. I also ride w/ some african american riders that are originally from Belieze - all these guys where also exposed to it in their home country.
I don't see any of our youth being exposed to cycling here in the States? maybe thats why we don't see many of the inner city kids jumping to spend a crap load of money on gear to races that are far off to become a racer that doesn't get paid! It's all about the Hoop dreams! Being poor and making it big in any of our national sports!
Yah, I grew up poor...and dreamed of being a big time football player, till my knees got ruined.
Oct 23, 2003 3:10 PM
Pretty similarly... Denver is about 12% black, 30% hispanic and balance most white, but cycling is about 95% white. Yes, I see African-American cyclists, and one of the reasons that I remember them is because they stand out.

I asked this question about 2 years ago on this forum and got my ears boxed. I think the reaction to the discussion is even stranger than the phenomenon.
I think the topic phrasing needs to be updated to...innergel
Oct 23, 2003 2:22 PM
"Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American ROAD cycling; why?"

In Dallas, there is a fairly sizeable Hispanic population and I see a lot of those guys riding some pretty tricked out, customized low-rider/BMX-type bikes. Not my type of riding, but at least they are riding a bike of some sort.

So I think there is probably a fairly large portion of non-whites who ride bikes, but they are probably not riding the same way that people on this board ride. Just look at the segmentation in the mountain bike industry and you'll see that there are a lot more types of bikes and riding than our road preference. The assumption that road and rally and race riding is the predominant way that people ride is most likely a bit skewed, based on our own preferences for road biking.

I just wanted to throw a different spin on this topic.
very truelaffeaux
Oct 23, 2003 3:16 PM
If you look at the number of riders that use bikes as their primary transportation, the ethnic mix is significantly different than if you look at the ethnic mix of riders that ride for recreation. This is true (at least where I live).

On an active local classifieds web site where bikes are sold, it's very common to see, "I just bought a car, so I'm now selling my bike." As a primarily recreational rider I don't link owning a car to not needing a bike. However, to some subset of the population, a bike is an alternative (or stepping stone) to a car.
Reporting from LA...mapei boy
Oct 23, 2003 3:57 PM
Yes, Los Angeles road cyclists are mostly skinny white dudes, but there are still plenty of riders of other ethnic and gender persuasions. We're all just one sweaty, squinty, happy family.
Quote from Deng Xiaopingmdooley0
Oct 23, 2003 4:06 PM
"I don't care if it's a black cat or a white cat, as long as it catches rats, it's a good cat".
Anyone who wants to ride, get a bike and get with it.....
re: Not so in some parts of Canadahudsonite
Oct 23, 2003 4:15 PM
Montreal is a very diverse place. Many cultures, languages and races. At least here, I would say cyclists are as diverse as the city is. Rich or poor, black or white, english or french, it does not matter. You will find them all on bikes of one type or another.

This is a big bike town. There are many bike companies in or around town. Marinoni, Argon, DeVinci, Guru, Opus and a bunch of smaller guys. People love to ride, not all on the fancy bikes, but they still get out and ride.

There is one ride that happens in June of every year. It attracts 35 to 50 thousand people. Talk about a group ride. You will see everything on this one ride.
Ummm, yeah...MShaw
Oct 23, 2003 4:33 PM
I do know that in Europe, cycling is a way off the farm, out of the garage, etc. for youngsters. Here in the US, bicycle racing seems to be more for "funsies" than as a way out of a bad place.

The ways out of the bad place here in the US tend to be football, baseball, and basketball. If that's the way out, has role models that you can follow, and doesn't cost a boatload for equipment wouldn't you go that way too?

In the US, cycling is a "fringe" sport. Kinda like rock climbing, kayaking, rollerblading, etc. You have to know about it in order to get into doing it. Face it, who else goes out for multiple hour training rides wearing brightly colored lycra? Not to mention you have to shave your legs!

I had a friend in HS that worked at a bookstore. His co-worker tried to explain bike racing to me back then. At the time, he was saying something about 200+ bpm heart rate and very high speeds. I thought he was absolutely friggen nuts to do that to himself! To paraphrase: "Give me my nice car." Now that I do it too, it isn't quite as bad as it sounded.

Hasn't always been that way:Alexx
Oct 23, 2003 4:34 PM
Exactly 100 years ago, the richest athelete in the USA was an African-American cyclist, who was called "Major" Taylor. He was the fastest cyclist in the world for many years (his motorpacing record stood for more than 20 years), and many white citizens came to see him race.
Major Taylor was highly accomplished, but an anomoly.NatC
Oct 23, 2003 5:26 PM
As a comparison, Tiger Woods is also historic. However, I bet most would agree that golf is still a wealthy, white-guy sport, yes?
re: Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?CritLover
Oct 23, 2003 5:17 PM
Come to Brooklyn, where Spanish fluency can make all the difference in the local races. SOme of the best riders are Latino and African American, and I would say they make up about 40-50% of the riding scene. However, if you go to Manhattan, it drops down quite a bit. It seems to have more of a direct correlation with economics there, although this is just an observation based upon the people I know. Interestingly enough, most white I know in Brooklyn that race/ride regularly are working class, and are in a lower to borderline middle economic group.

While economics may be the main factor, cycling communities tend to be a microcosm of society, so perhaps if the community you live in is 10% minority, then that may be about what you would see at a cycling event (or lower due to economic variables).

Being half Hispanic, I find this topic interesting, but I find it even more interesting that we rarely question why women aren't involved more (except for two on this thread). And I don't think the hair example is fair to extend to female populations. One, all sports require hair management, and two, there are just as many whites who spend mega bucks on hair styling. Female particpation in sports should probably be saved for another thread since it is definitely not the same reasons as ethnic participation.

Just my .02 cents.
re: Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?MShaw
Oct 24, 2003 9:07 AM
There's a huge poplulation of hispanic cyclists here in SoCal/San Diego.

I've heard that there's a great racing scene in TJ, but I haven't been down to any of the races.

I guess it just depends on where you are...

Socio economics + exposureronniedee
Oct 23, 2003 6:32 PM
I agree that socioeconomic conditions affect who cycles and who does not. Of course, there are exceptions. But to look at the big picture, money plays a huge part in the racial makeup of the cycling population.

Secondly, lack of exposure plays a key role. Cycling is a fringe sport that does not get a vast amount of media coverage. Sure everybody knows Lance. Some may even know Tyler, after his efforts with the broken collar-bone in this year's TDF. But how many other cyclists could any non-cyclist name??? Ask any non-football fan to list a few football players. Same for basketball. I'll guess that a non-fan could name quite a few, just from watching TV or reading about their court cases in the papers... Now I'm getting off base.

The point is that exposure is what sparks the curiosity and interest in cycling or any other activity. Would anyone disagree that the majority of roadriders were drawn into the sport, ie, exposed to it, by a friend, who happened to be a white cyclist?

Also, consider what it feels like to be a white man, new to the sport of basketball, to walk onto a court, full of black men. Would it cross anyone's mind that they might not fit in? Sure, many will say they have no problem with that. But it's natural to feel a little awkward.

Add the awkwardness of being different from other cyclists with the costs of cycling and then decide which sport(s) you'd choose.

Ironically, I was a asian mountain biker, who was introduced to roadbiking by a friend, who happened to be black.

Now go out and introduce your minority friends to cycling. It would be beneficial to us all to add more voices to cycling advocacy.
Sport has western-European roots, white-bread stuff. nmSpunout
Oct 24, 2003 3:43 AM
re: Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?Jusme
Oct 24, 2003 5:58 AM
I have to agree with the postor who says "who cares?".
As long as people of every race have equal access to something in society, if they choose not to participate then who cares? It's all of our right to choose what we want to participate in?

Several posts mention socioeconomic reasons, but I have a feeling the people who believe this probably don't live in very diverse areas. Go to Atlanta, Charlotte, and you will see African-Americans driving very expensive vehicles and living in seriously upscale communities. Go to the local park and you'll see many playing basketball or tennis with expensive equipment-same at golf courses.

Every things answer isn't in some perceived sociological oppressive terms. It's more cultural. Same reason a lot of black people weren't the Tom Petty cocert I last went to. It just aint their cup of tea, not because they can't. Simple as that.

I saw an artcile in USA Today (I think) a few years ago about how few black people lived in Vermont and what could be done about it. How stupid is that? I also remember people fretting that too few blacks were playing golf. As if the courses aren't crowded enough.

I say don't worry about it. If black people want to play golf, ride bikes and move to Vermont, more power to them. But if they don't who gives a darn?

If they start a campaign to get more 40 year old white guys to make hip-hop are y'all going to get involved because more whites *need* to be involved in rap or you just aren't interested?
In General here in the US road cycling is a hobby not a sportbimini
Oct 24, 2003 6:11 AM
Low exposure in the media. Most folks in the US only know about the TdF and nothing else. What, other than a loose screw, would attact you to the hobby of road cycling. (Yes, I have a loose screw that keeps getting looser)

The club and group rides tend to be social gatherings not sporting events. Social gatherings tend to attact the same types of people, those that are comfortable with each other. Why go to the event if the people make you uncomfortable.

AS far as Pro Racing in the US, well if I had REAL athletic ability it is the last sport I would pick. The general population perception of us is a geeky lot of spandex clad, loner oddballs. Obscurity, ridicule & low payout vs. women, fame and fortune. Now, which would I choose? How many schools have cycling teams? Why even consider the sport here in the USA. Even Lance did not choose the sport, I believe he choose Triathalon racing. Due to his cycling ability the sport of cycling choose him.

If it were not late night reruns of European races cycling would not even be a sport in the US.

Maybe you are viewing the "sport" from the white-bread side of town.

I work in the center of town. I see a lot more non-whites riding bikes of all sorts than I see whites. I would be willing to bet that if you matched the racial mix of all bikes sold, of all types, that it would be almost identical to the nations racial mix. Now if you narrow the market to $2000 plus racing machines then there maybe a skew in the demographics, but this is only a very narrow segment of cycling.
re: Lack of racial/ethnic diversity in American cycling; why?unai
Oct 24, 2003 6:54 AM
I like to invite everyone in this board to come to Puerto Rico, cycling is very serious around here. Good bikes and strong riders. Everyone is welcomed, no matter what!
some good responses but not an easy questionbikechick
Oct 26, 2003 6:51 PM
Here in NYC there are lots of Hispanic and African American racers. Buying a bike is not that big a deal. I don't think it's the money from that perspective.

What I've always wondered is what keeps them from getting to the highest level - ie racing in Europe? Maybe because that requires a different kind of money - other people's.