Our club Different Spokes came into being in 1982 and was the forerunner for an efflorescence of LGBT cycling clubs. In general the 1980s was a spawning period for LGBT social groups and with that came an onslaught of athletic clubs—softball, tennis, bowling, swimming, running…and bicycling. I suppose we were the catalyst, as LGBT communities around the US quickly had their own cycling clubs. In those days sustaining a club probably wasn’t too difficult because the competition was, well, nonexistent and the newness of it all had its own enthusiasm. Our communities weren’t yet politically legit nor organized as well as they are today and social oppobrium was the widespread norm (as opposed to the not-so-widespread today). So naturally we sought out each other for sustenance. In essence, we were ghettoized but perhaps that drew us even more tightly together.
Different Spokes LA (now Southern California) still exists but who remembers Rainbow Cyclists in San Diego or Different Spokes Sacramento? For whatever reasons they faded away. Fast and Fabulous in NYC dissolved about a year ago and became a Facebook “club”. At least NYC has another LGBT club, Outcycling. Now I find out that at the end of 2017 Different Spokes Seattle came to an end. You can read its farewell message at the website.
Why have some LGBT cycling clubs gone belly up? We are in an era when cycling is more popular than ever and LGBT acceptance is more mainstream so that being out incurs fewer penalties. Shouldn’t we expect clubs to grow rather than dwindle? Some have speculated that as acceptance has grown there is less need to self-ghettoize and LGBT cyclists, if they ride with others at all, find friends and cycling companions in mainstream clubs. Our communities are so much stronger now that perhaps we find sufficient sustenance in other LGBT spheres, i.e. we compete with other LGBT social circles for attention. It’s difficult to discern if the fading of DS Seattle is part of a pattern or just an idiosyncrasy. Perhaps the explosion of LGBT cycling clubs was merely the result of social conditions that have changed so much that our clubs no longer serve a meaningful function.
What of Different Spokes San Francisco?