On a rainy Tuesday night, the Portland State cycling club works out the logistics of their next race in a small meeting room in the Urban Plaza. The event is in Bellingham, Wash., and is sponsored by Western Washington University. There are several problems to be dealt with still.
Club Vice President of Recreation Ebon Saling runs down a list of pre-race questions. How many people are coming? Who can drive? Does anyone know somewhere the team can stay near Seattle?
As Saling and the rest of the group discuss preparations for the third collegiate race in the five-week cycling season, it becomes apparent that this group is firmly rooted in the DIY tradition and unusually close-knit.
“What we’ve got right now is a lot of dedicated people,” Saling said at meeting’s end. So dedicated that group members pay out of pocket the roughly $400 it costs to compete in each race, plus $3800 for uniform kits for the 16 person club. Currently unfunded, Saling and club president Cage Byrd estimate that it would cost roughly $15,000 to fully fund the club for one year.
Instead of staying at hotels when on the road, the team often tries to find friends and family in the area where they are racing to stay with. “We plan on submitting a budget to SOC soon, hopefully for next year,” Bryd said.
For now, the team is left to scrounge every penny to continue their season.
Complicating matters in a good way, this season marks the first year that PSU has had a women’s team. Four women riders regularly compete and as a whole are competing especially well in time trials. “It’s just really fun, really a blast,” rider Rachel Cate said.
Word of mouth has doubled the overall size of the team to 16 from last year’s count of eight. “We’re still recruiting at all skill levels,” Byrd said. “Especially women riders, because we only have four right now.”
Despite starting their season a mere three weeks ago, the PSU club has proved it can compete and is fourth out of 15 teams in their regional league. “PSU is the best pound for pound team,” Saling said. “We’re miles ahead of where we were a month ago.”
Teams compete in three skill categories: A, B and C. Most PSU members race in the B category, with beginners sticking with the C level. Byrd has been winning many of the B events.
The club trains almost every day to prepare for the events, which will take the team to Bozeman, Mont., in the coming weeks after the Bellingham race. “We ride every day of the week,” Byrd said. “We’re starting mountain biking riding soon as well as some recreational stuff.”
Besides racing, the cycling club is also involved in Bicycles and Ideas for Kid’s Empowerment, or b.i.k.e. Founded by former club member Jon Benenate, who rode for PSU in the Eighties before the program temporarily died, b.i.k.e is an inner city cycling program on the East side.
The program sponsors summer camps and provides tutoring, year-round mentoring and leadership training for those involved.
Kids also meet at PSU and get to see college life and the opportunities higher education presents. And of course they ride. A lot. The PSU cycling club is a role model for b.i.k.e members to look up to, according to club member Brian Kronenfeld.
“B.i.k.e connects the inner city streets of America to the cobbled lanes of the Tour de France,” Kronenfeld said with a touch of humor. While the truth is perhaps slightly less poetic, Kronenfeld nevertheless sums up the spirit and passion of the PSU cycling club perfectly.