Here are our Top 10 things to watch for in the world of cycling for the coming year. Yes we thought about a Top 2,010 list for numerical compliance, but hey, that’d be way too much work.
1. In the Washington State legislature, a “Vulnerable User” bill. Similar legislation failed last year but the Cascade Bicycle Club and its relentless advocacy director, David Hiller, will be trying again. A Traffic Justice Summit in October set the agenda for why legislation is needed: Too many cyclists are being injured or killed with at max a traffic ticket being issued. Growing cycling awareness among elected leaders, particularly in Seattle and King County, should help Cascade’s efforts.
Nationally, watch for additional 3-feet-please laws stipulating wider berth for bikes v. cars.
2. Seattle native Jill Kintner gets her world championship. Kintner narrowly missed the 2009 rainbow jersey in Australia, and the 2009 season that was supposed to be a gradual comeback after winter knee surgery turned into a breakout year. Barring injury, 2010 should belong to Jill. She’s featured btw in a new DVD, “Women of Dirt,” that will premiere in Seattle Feb. 5th.
3. On the road side, how high can Tyler Farrar go? The Wenatchee lad put his stamp on pro sprint competition with a number of impressive showings in 2009, and only a bullet named Mark Cavendish stood in his way for a Tour stage win or two. It’ll be a tall order to beat the Manx Missile, but if anyone has the tools and moxy, it’s a one-year-wiser Farrar.
4. Stevens Pass mountain bike park. This has been on the books for what seems like forever, but with release of a sweeping Environmental Impact Statement in December looks ready to finally roll. During the mountain bike season thousands of Seattle-area riders go to Whistler B.C.’s MTB park; it’s time that money and those resources stayed in Washington. Stevens won’t be another Whistler out of the gate of course, but its closer proximity and potential for expansion hold huge promise for the locals.
5. Mayor Mike McGinn’s cycling agenda. We have big hopes for Seattle’s new cycling mayor and the city’s cycling blueprint. Not that everything will change overnight, but McGinn truly appreciates the bicycle’s role in urban transportation networks, and from his insights and leadership we believe Seattle could emerge as the leading bike municipality in America (currently held by Portland). If nothing else, the mayoral gas bill is sure to shrink from his predecessor’s SUV-hoggin’ totals.
6. Helmet cams rock on. We’re seeing these things everywhere, on freeriders, XC epics, roadie rides. The technology has finally improved to the point where wireless and HD are de facto in new models, plus battery advances mean lighter, less bulky units. The downside is a lot of trail video showing the backside of a guy in front. But for a personal record of your big adventures with virtually no fiddle factor, you can’t beat a helmet cam.
7. More comeback from Lance Armstrong. The “Lance factor” played a big role in cycling’s expansion through the 2000s and it looks like at least through the coming year Lance will continue to draw headlines. We don’t expect Lance to win, say, the Tour de France, but somehow just being in the race makes him the winner, at least in the American public’s mind. A host of other pro cyclists have more power and ability than Lance at this point in his career, but until someone with enough charm and charisma emerges to take his place, Lance will remain King.
8. Cross-country mountain biking, too, makes a comeback. This may sound weird, but the signals we’re getting from shops, riders and tour agencies is that the mountain-bike-park thing is starting to flip. (This despite all the excitement over Stevens’ opening.) A new generation of riders whose longest climbs involved a chairlift are going for lighter, longer-distance frames and equipment as a whole new matrix of high-country riding awaits their discovery. Old-timers like us just nod in amusement. Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s work on South Snoqualmie Fork trails will pay off in 2010.
9. The economy continues to hammer the bike biz. 2009 totals aren’t available yet, but data through the third quarter suggest a 10 to 20 percent pullback on sales and profit. While much of that is in high-end equipment, and isn’t catastrophic on an annual basis, it nonetheless threatens the sustainability of numerous smaller shops and businesses. Our gut sense is that things will continue — using a bike suspension term — to wallow through 2010, neither much worse nor much better. Only a turnaround in the jobs picture, which will put more people on bikes for transportation and give them discretionary spending for bling and trips, will signal any upside for cycling.
10. Northwest freeride expansion continues. In addition to whatever Stevens Pass comes up with, Galbraith Mountain will undoubtedly continue its march to world-classdom with its ever-expanding, more challenging trails network. Kudos to all the gang up in Bellingham who do such a great job on Galby. Closer to Seattle, Evergreen’s work on Duthie Hill outside of Issaquah is getting all kinds of props. And Evergreen’s Colonnade mini-park under I-5 will remain the best place to sharpen skillz — watch for it in forthcoming DVD format as well.