Now in its fourth year, RTC’s Opening Day for Trails serves as the official kickoff to America’s trail season, and we’re gearing up for the best year yet.
On April 16, all 104 Performance Bicycle stores in the U.S. will host Opening Day trail rides as part of the brand’s ongoing Great Ride Series, a national initiative that aims to reach non-riders and educate them on riding skills, bicycle maintenance and local trails.
We talked with Chris London, community relations manager for Performance, about their commitment to engaging new riders, his company’s Opening Day for Trails plans and one particularly life-changing find he discovered while riding.
Tell us about Performance's local programs to educate individuals on cycling and to promote riding?
London: For past two years, we’ve had the Great Ride Series, which we do 52 weeks out of the year at all of our stores. It started when we created a training program for ride leaders that focused on how to lead a safe ride and create safe routes and cue sheets for riders, and it also focused on how to engage with somebody who’s not already a cyclist. The goal wasn’t to just add one more group for people who were already riding; we wanted to reach out to people who were apprehensive, people who had some anxiety about actually getting started.
We took these concerns and worked with our leaders to do things like bring repair stands out to the front of our stores to show people how to lubricate the chain and pump their tires. When we started, we were averaging 700 people per week across the country. This past year, we’ve really worked on our messaging and having fun after the rides, and our participation has grown to 1,500 people per week.
After that initial introduction, participants will get together on their own to ride together. We even had couple from Northbrook, Illinois, who met on a ride and got married.
Tell us about Performance's Opening Day plans?
London: We’ve partnered with the RTC for a number of years and have done a lot of collaboration to raise awareness for both sides as the Great Ride Series grew. It seemed like a natural fit. The participants are beginner cyclists, so they’re really thirsty for resources and want to learn about trail systems. Fortunately, 95 of our stores are within 5 miles of a rail-trail, and RTC has provided links through their TrailLink.com trail-finder website to show local rail-trail systems for each location.
We’re starting from our store in most locations and have talking points for ride leaders before the ride. He or she will help everybody understand what Opening Day means and introduce them to the rail-trail concept. We’ll ride as much of the trail as we can, and then get back to store to have a party where we’ll provide bagels and fruit, and do cycling bingo!
In May, we’re continuing our partnership and will have a point-of-purchase campaign where we’ll take donations for RTC at all of our stores and online.
What advice do you have for first-time riders or people who haven’t ridden for years?
London: You’ve got to start by planning your ride. RTC is great for that; their trail-finder website has the best on-road mapping system for trails in the country. Even if you’re just planning a ride around your neighborhood, it helps you to plan your distance, route and safety considerations.
When did you first get into cycling, and what’s the most amazing experience you’ve ever had?
London: I’ve worked for Performance for 22 years, since I was in high school. My older brother worked for Performance first, and I got into cycling around then when I would take his cycling aficionado Italian road bikes out for a ride. That was my introduction into riding. I recall one particular time I was on his bicycle and the rear derailleur broke, but fortunately I was near a Performance shop and got it fixed and convinced the shop guys not to tell him!
I actually met my wife while riding in San Diego about eight years ago. We were both members of the Triathlon Club of San Diego, and we met on a group ride.
What's your favorite trail?
London: Without a doubt, there is no better place to ride in the U-S-of-A than the Pacific Coast Highway.