On this episode of the Shift Up podcast we’re tackling the question “How do we get more people riding by focusing on getting more kids on bikes?” as we discuss this important idea with Austin McInerny, President of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).
Fresh off their recent National Conference in Arkansas, Austin gives an inside look into why NICA is so passionate about working to get more kids on bikes. While this has been a trending focus within the cycling industry, there can often be questions around the real value of this goal, how to accomplish it & how to effectively engage local shops to see the vision for getting involved, all of which are questions discussed with Austin.
Austin provides valuable insight into what his organization is doing to see more kids get involved in cycling & the data points he highlights are pretty inspiring. Since 2009, 22 state-based regional leagues have been established with 3 additional leagues currently in training to begin offering the program in 2019 & 2020. These leagues spread coast to coast, with accessibility to 69% of the nation’s population under their footprint. While this reach is jaw-dropping, the overall goal of NICA is to maintain a 30% annual growth by building out these existing leagues as they also look to launch 2-3 new leagues per year across the US.
Tangibly, what they are offering is a school sport that is reaching nearly 15,000 student-athletes with the help of 6,400 licensed coaches, tens of thousands of volunteers & 800 participating schools. While this is a relatively small portion of participation considering the number of US schools, the steady growth & impact they are seeing is amazing. As Austin shares, the real heartbeat of NICA is building a community for kids & cycling is the tool they see that is a greatest opportunity to do that. The reality is that kids love being outside to explore with family or peers & bikes enable them to do that. The culture of NICA’s race events is usually weekend-long races with pre-race activities, oftentimes being hosted at sites where camping is an option, in order to engage families as a whole.
NICA’s renewed focus is to look for unique ways to diversify the experiences offered through growing their programs & working to engage riders for the long-term. And as Austin reveals, a staggering 99% of participants later identify as lifelong cyclists, which translates to tremendous opportunity for local shops looking to get involved & grow profitability.
As the conversation unfolds Austin speaks to some practical points not only about NICA’s mission but also how local shops can see the vision to get more involved & how they are working to overcome the “elitist” feel of cycling associated with high-priced gear & a stereotypical socio-economic status. The truth is that from a business perspective there is ripe opportunity to develop continued business for families involved in the program. And with a season-average of $1,500 spent on gear, this is a real business opportunity. But as many participants are frustrated by the high cost of gear, NICA has worked to address that, is committed not to turn away anyone interested due to economic limitations. Rather, they offering opportunities through loaner gear, waiving fees & sponsorships for kids who are interested but have limited resources. They are also providing a second life for unused gear as a way to get more people involved by working with local leagues who are partnering with their local bike shops & police departments to use unwanted or old bikes for their riders. And the cycling industry is realizing this value, which accounts for why big brands are buying into the vision through sponsorships, opening the door for real opportunity for local shops & other manufacturers to get involved & stand behind the common goal of getting more people on bikes.
Learn more about Austin: http://www.nationalmtb.org/about-2/management-team/
Learn more about NICA: http://www.nationalmtb.org/
Learn more about local NICA Leagues: http://www.nationalmtb.org/nica-leagues/
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