Steve Stannard 5th April, 2016
Last year my report started with the observation that it didn’t seem like a year since the previous year’s AGM and that the year had gone very quickly. Well, I’ll start this year’s report by noting that this year has gone even more quickly!
Presenting this report is my final formal task as Chairperson of Bike Manawatu, as according to our club constitution, I must step down from the Board, and thus the Chair role, after six years serving as a Board member. I am the last of the original Board members who guided Bike Manawatu through its formative years, and I have been either the Chair or Deputy Chair during these six years. Through my time as a Board member I have learnt a lot about what it takes to run a club like ours, and even more during the last 18 months as the Chair. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank present and past Board members for their contributions; we have worked well together and that has enabled the organization to remain steady and financially sound.
My major achievement as Chair has simply been to keep things ticking along during the transition to a very new Board and a new administrator/secretary last year. With Paul and Glenys leaving in quick succession, we lost a lot of very valuable institutional knowledge and two very hardworking people. These were big shoes to fill and I’d like to think I managed the club through that period in a satisfactory fashion. That’s not to say that a few ball weren’t dropped and perhaps a few opportunities missed along the way.
Christine, of course, has been in the secretary/administrator role for a year now. I thank her for her hard work, long hours, and absolute commitment to Bike Manawatu. I know from my own experience that it’s not easy to pick up the myriad of tasks the role entails, but I think now Christine has settled in nicely.
The usual thing now would be for me to describe the highlights and lowlights of the last year for the club, and talk about the opportunities and threats to Bike Manawatu. Instead, I’d like to make a series of observations and give my opinion about a few things, partly because we don’t want to hear about the low-lights tonight and the highlights of our riders have been well publicized (though I will briefly mention these later).
The sport and recreation of cycling in NZ is growing, especially in the middle-aged. Lycra-clad recreational riding is booming, and no longer are you a weirdo if you’re over 15 years of age, wear colourful kit, and are seen riding with shaved legs in the daylight hours. Indeed the people that ride bicycles these days are more likely to be power-brokers and stock brokers than simply people who are broke and can’t afford a car. Only recently though, and some years behind our west island neighbours, are we as the cycling community taking advantage of that. Unlike motorists in NZ, we are poorly represented and have little influence. In the Manawatu however, both the city council and the regional council are cycling friendly, and have the foresight to see that encouraging cycling is good for the environment and good for the individual and community health. Bike Manawatu needs to make more of the PNCC cycling friendly attitude now, just in case our own version of Donald Trump appears somewhere down the line at the City Council.
In regard to representing the interests of cyclists in NZ, our biggest “threat” remains the National Body, Cycling NZ. They are an organization largely irrelevant to most NZ cyclists, and most of our club members except those who ride competitively on the track, and to a much smaller extent, those who race on the road. Cycling NZ struggles to have any relevance to the average recreational rider or club racer, offering little or no value, providing no advocacy, and scant communication. The activities of this national body are almost exclusively centred around obtaining medals on the track, so they can then get another four years of funding to do the same again in four years time. If they were able to poke their heads out from underneath the Cambridge velodrome they might see the hard work that the clubs are doing to generate membership numbers and grow the sport in their regions. During the last 18 months in my capacity as the Chair of BM, one of the bigger and most successful clubs in NZ and one which directly affiliates to Cycling NZ, I’ve not received a single direct correspondence or visit from from those in charge, nor have they ever made the effort to visit us here in the Manawatu to talk about how to grow cycling or support us in our activities. For cycling to succeed in the provinces and nationally, this yawning gap between the goals and activities of the government funded National Sports Organisation (NSO) and the grass roots needs to be closed.
At the Board level we used to maintain that as a club “we are not event organisers…”. By this we meant that our purpose as a club was not centred on creating and running cycling events, but the broader support and growth of cycling and it’s many activities (including events). However, as time has gone by I am inclined to believe that a big part of what we must do as an organization is to organize and run events. Without those, there is no bringing together of cyclists, no social context, little fun, and little challenge. Whilst event organization and management should not be all we do, it needs to be a big part of it, from small track events (including training sessions) all the way to big National events such as Manfeild or the Gravel & Tar. With that in mind though, we are always needing people to organize and manage our events. As club members you should all be thinking about how you can contribute to the running of the club – it could be anywhere from putting your hand up to be a Board member, through to offering to marshal in a club race. I thank the many people who have assisted in these ways during the last 12 months. We do continually need more help though as people come and go, and safety is an increasingly important priority for events. In particular, the club currently needs people to organize club road racing, and separately, organize social events to bring club members together off the bike. I am leaving the new Board with a list of things that I feel need addressing, and re-establishing the Social Committee, and energizing the Events Committee are at the top of the list.
Coaching is another area where we need to improve our capacity. There are many younger and older riders who could do with some specialist advice. Sometimes that might be simple stuff like getting your seat height right or choosing the right gear, to specific skills, and training tips. Sometimes it’s just a mentor to bounce ideas off. Either way, coaching is the third area that I’ll be encouraging the new Board to put some thinking into, because we certainly have the rider numbers, interest, and enthusiasm for more coaches in our area.
In other places in NZ, cyclists find it increasingly hard to find a quiet road to ride on, or a safe circuit on which to hold a club race (or indeed a fun ride). Here in the Manawatu we are are not yet hindered by such things, enjoying some of the best roads and terrain in NZ on which to pedal. Whilst the wind may challenge us sometimes and the rain dampen enjoyment a little, do appreciate what you have here. Even better, get someone else into cycling so they can enjoy it as well. More riders means safer roads, bigger events, and if they join BM, a more influential and active club. These things also mean that getting sponsors/partners for our club activities such as iconic events (e.g. Novice Tour) or rider development is going to be easier. We cannot run events or support our up-and-coming riders without some external financial support. Thus, another job of the new Board will be to work hard to find new external funding opportunities. Last year we had six BM members attend World Championship events (five in cycling, one in triathlon). This year there are likely to be more, with four members already named for World Champs, and more on the cards. And that doesn’t count the others who will represent NZ on other stages. If we can support some of these riders to get to these then we should, as they are role models for others in many ways, not just in their cycling performance. From the outside, it is another way in which we are judged on our success.
Once again there will be a number of new faces on the Board after tonight. I am looking forward to stepping aside and letting this group do their work in promoting and supporting cycling and cyclists in the Manawatu. I would ask the membership though, that you all support these people who freely give their time to the organization, and offer to assist if necessary. I will certainly be happy to help if asked. Like any volunteer-based club, you only get out of it what you put in, so let’s all pitch in to make the club bigger and better this year and next.