Fabulous Fall Social!

Despite the threat of rain the turnout for this year’s Fall Social was robust. Nine folks did the Three Bears ride and six of us went to the Rosie the Riveter monument out by the Bay; another five folks showed up to dine and chat. After a few diffident years, this year’s Rosie ride had a surge in attendance including Howard Neckel, one of the original members of our club. It was great catching up with Howard and meeting his boyfriend George (that’s boyfriend, not Boy). Laura did an impeccable job leading the ride, doing her best ALC imitation (“Slowing! Stopping!”) and making sure we didn’t get lost in the confusion of paths along the Richmond shoreline. Unfortunately she had to skedaddle to another commitment and couldn’t make it back to Phil’s for the meal.

Phil did another consummate job barbecuing the turkey in what has become a Different Spokes tradition. A minor miracle led to people bringing an equal distribution of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. And they were all delicious! Although the day started out cloudy and somewhat dreary, it cleared up by midday so that our al fresco dining was actually warm and delightful on Phil’s patio. Thanks to all who helped make it another success!

How Much Do We Ride?

Part of my job as DSSF Ride Coordinator is to collect the waivers from all DSSF rides. Since the start of the year, I’ve been feeding the information on the waivers into a spreadsheet that aggregates the mileage and climbing various different ways.

Yeah, I’m a data geek.

I’ve been presenting the numbers at the club board meetings since I built the spreadsheet, and I thought the club members might be interested in seeing how many miles we’ve ridden and how many feet we’ve climbed.

As of 9/23/2012:

Number of club rides in 2012: 95
Number of different riders have ridden with DSSF: 211 (includes both club members and non-members)
Number of DSSF members have led rides: 25
Total number of miles DSSF riders have ridden on club rides: 38,848
Total number of feet DSSF riders have ascended on club rides: 2,369,759

(Disclaimer: I am at the mercy of the ride waivers for this information! Statistics are accurate as far as the waivers are accurate and legible.)

Our ride leaders have done extraordinary service on behalf of the club. The next time you go on a club ride, be sure to thank the ride leader who set the ride up. Four ride leaders have led 10 or more rides: our club President, David G. (25), Joseph (21), myself (17), and Chris T. (11).

Six club riders have ridden more than 1,000 miles on club rides this year. One DSSF rider has climbed over 100,000 feet! Go riders!

Shout-outs to the following ride leaders:

Will B., for organizing the Amador County weekend and leading three rides on it
Chris T., for organizing Double Bay Double 2 and leading a wonderful training ride series to prepare riders for that event
Neel E., for leading an East Bay ride series to prepare Double Bay Double 2 riders
Tony and Roger, for hosting our club’s pool party on Labor Day weekend
Tony, for continuing to lead the rides in his 30th anniversary series
Joseph C., for continuing to lead the jersey rides and almost-weekly rides in Marin

Keep riding! I’ll provide updates in the blog from time to time, until we are able to get this information on dssf.org.

Double Bay Double incentive!

This just in from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation: All DBD2 riders who raise a total of at least $400 will receive a free commemorative 30th anniversary SFAF jersey! This is the same awesome jersey that you saw on ALC11 this year. So if you’ve been looking for a reason to make that last fundraising push, here it is.

And if you register for the event now and reach the $400 level, yes, you can have one of these, too.

The Future of Different Spokes

At this past Wednesday’s Different Spokes board meeting David Gaus announced that this is his last year as president of the club. It wasn’t a big surprise, as he’s been running the ship for five years now and that’s a long time by any standard. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have his good nature, hard work, and leadership for this long and it’s certainly made being a fellow board member an easier and pleasant task. Having the same president for an extended time has led to a very comfortable continuity in the direction of the club, how the club does business, and getting long term projects accomplished. In David’s tenure we’ve seen an increase in the membership of the club, a stronger connection built with ALC, a marked increase in the number of rides offered every month, and greater participation in our social events. Behind the scenes David has worked on a plethora of projects which keep the club humming but which don’t have a lot of flash or publicity such as handling the mountain of communication which comes to the club, uploading material to the website, and running meetings. While doing all that, he has continued to lead numerous rides, participated on other members’ rides, helped publish our newsletter, and staffed tables at events innumerable. The board gave him heartfelt kudos and appreciation for his vast contribution to the club.

The heart of the club is volunteerism and the willingness to give back to the whole organization. Without volunteers we would not have rides, as no one would lead them. Without volunteers we would not have a newsletter, a website, a blog, or any other means of communication or publicity. And, without volunteers we would have no one to maintain the club by managing its resources, arranging our social events, or have club jerseys, hats, or any other accessories! Without volunteers we would not have made it for 30 years, nor had the Bike-A-Thon or even our contribution to the AIDS LifeCycle events.

If you’ve enjoyed being a member of the club and would like to give something back, please consider becoming a club officer. In addition to the presidency we will need someone to be the club secretary, as that position was just currently vacated. In addition, in 2013 we will need volunteers to take over producing the club newsletter, the ChainLetter. Besides the karmic goodwill generated by giving something back to the club, in return you will have fabulous dining experiences all on the club’s dollar and have your email inbox flooded with messages from a host of secret admirers from throughout the world! Well, I am exaggerating a little bit: you’ll be able to eat pizza and Cokes at the board meetings and sidle up to that new face at the Jersey Ride and say, “Hey, I’m on the board. Wanna enjoy some perks of leadership?” Seriously, David is leaving some big shoes to fill (you know what they say about men with big feet…) but they are eminently fillable. All you have to do is step forward and say “Moi! Moi!”, roll up your sleeves, and then bask in the endless glory and love from your ever-appreciative fellow members.

In all seriousness, if you want to learn more about the responsibilities of the club officers, feel free to speak to any of them in person or by email. You can also download the list of official board member responsibilities at the Different Spokes Yahoo! group site in the Files section, entitled “Board Duties 2012-01-31.pdf”. When you are ready to join the leadership team, please contact the nominations committee. We will need nominations no later than December in order to have our usual election in January 2013.

Women and Different Spokes

Nicole Grace, formerly one of our Women’s Outreach Chairs, recently offered a weekend women’s tour to Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Santa Cruz. Unfortunately the ride did not take place because of lack of interest. Perhaps it was scheduling conflicts with the particular weekend for which it was slated or perhaps touring, which is out of cultural favor, is too tough a sell these days. But it got me thinking about the current low female membership in the club and the diminishing presence of women in the club. Different Spokes currently has 22 female members out of total of 132: that’s only 17%. Perhaps that’s too paltry a number from which to generate interest in a two-day weekend bike tour. Yet it certainly isn’t the lowest membership we’ve had; my recollection is that in the 1980s it dropped to about ten percent at one point before rebounding. On the other hand the club has had near parity at times, close to 40 or 45%. The number has been low and declining for that last several years and seems to be dwindling with no end in sight. Are we headed towards male exclusivity?

So, what has happened? It’s easy to dismiss the whole issue of gender and say it’s just a natural cycle of waxing and waning, or that “it is what it is” and that women are free to join and associate–what’s holding them back? But it’s disturbing that the club, for whatever reason, just doesn’t seem to be attractive to many women cyclists right now. This hasn’t always been the case; when the club has had strong female leadership the number of women members inevitably went up.

Nicole and Nancy Levin looked into recent ride participation and discovered that the vast majority of new women who showed up on a ride never came back or joined. They discovered that the lack of other women on rides or at least the low numbers on rides was discouraging to potential members. Also, the pace, length, or degree of difficulty of the rides was more than they expected. Alas, we seem to be in a self-perpetuating downward spiral: fewer women members leads to fewer women-led rides or female ride participation, which in turn means fewer new female members and thus fewer women to lead the club or lead rides.

In a way the situation of women in the club is not unlike that of a gay man going to a ride offered by almost any of the straight clubs in the Bay Area. You show up and the guys are all straight. You’d feel a bit out of place, right? And flirting or dating? Forget it. Maybe it would be fine if all you wanted to do was ride your bike with others and nothing else. But we come to rides to socialize, find friends, and let’s face it, even to find dates!

Is there a way to break the cycle? More outreach to women cyclists is a possibility. But what would we have to offer any prospective member except again being overwhelmed by the number of men on rides and low female participation? After all, women join the club for the same reason that men do: not just to ride but to socialize and perhaps find a date! We could offer more women-only rides or rides co-led by women. That would put a lot of pressure on the existing female members to step up and be more involved in the club. Do we even have enough interest by existing female members to pull that off?

At the moment we’re doing nothing, and the outcome of that non-strategy may be that Different Spokes becomes an even more exclusive male domain. Is that what we want? Perhaps if we do nothing the situation will self-rectify. But I wouldn’t bet on it. I think it behooves members of Different Spokes to think about the kind of club we want to have, how inclusive we want to be, and evolve the club towards something we can all be happy about and proud of.

80 Years and Still Going Strong

Derek Liecty recently celebrated his 80th year on planet Earth with a big bash at the Rossmoor community center. Roger and I were lucky to have been invited to the elect crowd of over a hundred family members, friends, and fellow travelers of nearly all ages. Derek has been a member of Different Spokes from almost the beginning of the club. He may not have been one of the founders–those for whom Different Spokes was a distinct dream to be realized–but he eagerly joined right after the doors opened. Over the years Derek has played interesting roles in the club, that of either elder statesman, “Den Daddy,” at times leering “Uncle Ernie”, outspoken Gay Olympics/Games/jock advocate, hot tub/nudism evangelist, and advocate of all two-wheeled touring. As you may know, the origin of Different Spokes is intimately tied with that of the first Gay Olympics. LGBT cyclists in the Bay Area split into two groups, those training for the Gay Olympics and those whose interest leaned more towards touring and less towards competition. The latter went on to form our club. Of course, both were founded in 1982, and it was Derek’s involvement with the Gay Olympics that led him to Different Spokes.

Derek Liecty
Derek with mountain bike at the Gay Games

At the time Derek joined the club he was already older than most members, being over 50, gasp! That didn’t deter him from jumping into the club with both feet by leading rides, particularly in the East Bay, which at the times was viewed by those in San Francisco as a sort of ‘no fly’ zone for “friends of Amelia.” Undeterred Derek led ride after ride in such staid communities as Orinda, Danville, and Martinez! Over the years Derek has been the Outreach Chair, Men’s Outreach, and Bike-A-Thon Coordinator. This is while being heavily involved in international football (soccer) particularly as a referee and also eventually with the Gay Games organization, and the East Bay Bicycle Coaltion among other things. Not many of you may know that in the mid-80s the club went through the first of a series of ponderings as to why women’s participation was low to nonexistent, and it was Derek and I–ironically two men–who took the lead to do outreach to women. He and I put together an open meeting at Amelia’s, a lesbian bar in the Mission that disappeared long ago, that brought out a large number of women with whom to talk about how the club could serve women cyclists better. That eventually led to an influx of strong women cyclists into Different Spokes.

Derek was actually one of the first Spokers I met at my very first club ride, the Tiburon loop in either 1983 or ’84. That day I was riding a Teledyne Titan, one of the first titanium road bikes (stolen long ago, alas) and Derek immediately eyed it and asked, “Is that titanium?” as if he were looking at the Hope Diamond. In the group of probably about 15 Spokers only he knew that I was riding a very special bike. Since then both Derek and I each have gone on to amass our armadas of bicycles. Of course Derek led the way, as I was just a graduate student at the time and didn’t have the means a the time to do more than lust after more bikes. (But I’ve since caught up with him!) Derek was also the first cyclist I ever met who had a tiny 11-tooth cog on one of his bikes. Mind you, this was back in the 80s when a 12-tooth cog would have been unusual and immediately  labeled as a honch. We were at the Tierra Bella Century and Derek was pounding his 11-tooth gear downhill at an outrageous speed. At a time when most men his age would have been backing off out of self-preservation, Derek was killing it all-balls-out. I certainly didn’t have the cojones (or the gears) to keep up with him!

I also fondly recall a week-long cycling and camping trip that Derek organized for the club that circumnavigated a big portion of the Trinity Alps along isolated rural roads. There were about eight of us who participated and we had a ball. Every morning we’d climb out of our tents itching to ride these new roads, which Derek had picked out. Evenings were spent around a campfire preparing that night’s latest culinary adventure. At the end of our trip, Derek motored off at high speed down the freeway in his Supra, fast cars being another of his fascinations.

Derek’s cycling involvement doesn’t end with Different Spokes. He’s travelled around the world on his bike, probably about 80 or so countries, including two stints at the Cape Epic in South Africa, the world’s largest mass participation ride. He’s also contributed to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, particularly pushing the creation of their East Bay cycling routes map.

At Derek’s birthday party, Doug Litwin of the Federation of Gay Games, spoke about Derek’s involvement with Gay Games which practically goes back to the beginning. Derek was involved with soccer officiating, and the local refs’ organization was contacted by the Gay Olympics for assistance. Derek volunteered to help out, and of course he jumped right in and eventually became one of the Games’ regular volunteers and organizers. One of the Derek’s missions at Gay Games was to increase participation. Derek was always talking up the Games in the club, and it was probably partly due to his schmoozing that so many club members ended up traveling to the Games and bringing back a hoard of medals over the years. Derek also walks the talk: he’s got a bag full of medals too! Litwin announced that the Federation was honoring Derek’s many years of volunteerism with setting up an international scholarship in his name to provide funds for athletes around the world to be able to afford to travel to the Gay Games. If you’d like to honor our very own Den Daddy with a contribution, please contact Doug Litwin at the Federation of Gay Games.

Double Bay Double is half-full!

Registration for Double Bay Double 2.0 is at the halfway point for registered riders, the ride is limited to 50 riders.

339839 10150455976022738 826212737 10992092 392634851 o

What is DBD? It’s a 2-Day, 208-mile ride from Mountain View (on the shores of San Francisco Bay) to Marina (on the shores of Monterey Bay) and back.
Registration fee is just $35.00. There is a $300 fundraising minimum for each rider and all money raised goes to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

For more information and to register, go to: