Racer as Advocate: Tim Johnson

“Our goal with the Ride on Washington, and this year’s Ride on Chicago, is to raise awareness of bicycle advocacy and its efforts nationwide among the racing community.”
“And I’m lucky to see time and time again that bikes aren’t just for racing or training on. They’re for moving, for transportation, for recreation, for work. They are for everyone.”
–Tim Johnson, US Cyclocross National Champion


I like cycling.  I do it for every reason, including meeting more cyclists.  My cycling world keeps expanding.  I began for economic efficiency and got into touring, racing, and advocacy.  The diversity and relevance in cycling are beautiful aspects.  People cycling represent the full spectrum in the American continuum.  I leapt into advocacy a couple years ago when I decided I could achieve more with my pedaling by combining it with another dimension.  This has been a most rewarding new journey in my cycling life and has proven to me the cycling community is strengthening by being open, welcoming and growing more diverse.

Being open minded does not come easily.  It means challenging the worldview that we thought we knew, and dissolving stereotypical thinking.  It involves being with people who are not exactly like us.  Learning involves humility, and shifting our perceptions.  But it connects us to a more colorful world.  One that coheres, in part, through our participation.  We are those connective bonds.  We are the greeters opening the doorways.  Diversity sparks inspiration, imagination and inventiveness.

Tim Johnson, a former pro racing cyclist, is a leader in this regard.  He knows bicycling needs to be attractive and accommodate a wide range of people, including families that want to cycle together.  People in every place from every walk of life.  So Tim started organizing rides and learning about advocacy efforts that were helping to remove barriers so more people could begin cycling.  Advocacy organizations are enlisting more racers as roll models, much as advertisers do with athletes from other sports.  The advocacy movement realizes high level champions like Tim can help build up cycling friendliness across the country and welcome more people in.  Racers are people to look to when we study the beauty of the human form, the pursuit of achievement, the quest to fulfill our potential and to see what is possible when we reach toward the sky.   It is a more interesting table to sit at, or ride to join, when more diversity is present.  We bring our differently developed skills and collaborate to promote the joys and benefits in cycling for everyone and advance people by moving cyclists forward together.  A multipurpose ride is exponentially more fun.

Both roles, racer and advocate, require tenacity, an indomitable spirit, effort behind the scenes that goes unnoticed, sacrifice of time and resources, long term commitment and dedication.  Racers and advocates appreciate this.  Both activities are team oriented.

The first step towards collaboration is the simple orientation of wanting to help.  When we try something new we discover there’s more to us than we even knew.  Things we never imagined doing, like writing or public speaking, become naturalized skills developed in the march to larger goals.  We find out there is more than one way to make a difference in the world.  Readying for the next opportunity adds a new dimension of fulfillment in life.

Tim Johnson and the 2015 Ride on Chicago
Tim Johnson Featured here in the Drive with Care campaign (photo credit):

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