Sponsorship in Really Amateur Bike Racing

It’s the time of year when cyclists start thinking about the 2018 race season. It seems like the perfect time to cash in on your incredible Iceman result to see if you can join a bike racing team, or move to the bigger team with fancier kits (hot pink, baby!). With an impressive 48th overall in the Men 52-53 year-old division at Iceman, you figure bike shops around the state are lining up to pay your entry fees and send you $5,000 worth of free kit.

If that’s what you’re hoping for, you’re going to be really disappointed. After talking with several bike shop owners and team Presidents, plus my personal experience, here’s a look and why you should join a bike team and what you should expect.

What to Expect from Your Sponsors

Despite what you might think, most bike shops aren’t raking in millions of dollars a year. Margins can be incredibly slim, winters exceptionally long, and “bike stuff” is usually the first to get cut from the family budget if the economy goes south. So for bike shops to offer team riders any on-going discounts to team riders, who often their biggest source of customers, it’s a direct hit to their bottom line. Sure, you’re out there flashing the colors at bike rides and races, but it’s not like you’re on ESPN Sportscenter or anything. The exposure is great, but exposure doesn’t directly pay the bills, y’all.

Even the top local riders pay for their kits. Most pay their entry fees, while only the most fortunate get reimbursed for their entry fees with podium results. If the fastest guys and gals in the state are ponying up to race, it’s ambitious for us mere mortals to expect much more than high-fives for 30th.

This is What Annoys Sponsors

Nothing, and I mean nothing, annoys sponsors more than when one of their team riders show up to a bike shop on a brand the shop doesn’t carry. Even if you’re completely broke (but somehow in the market for a new bike) it’s crucial that you talk to your bike shop sponsor before you buy a bike from eBay or another shop. You’d be surprised what incredible deal the shops are willing to offer people on the team – some sweet rides can roll out of a bike shop owner’s garage for the right team member.

And by “right team member” I don’t mean the fastest. Team members who support the shop by going to team rides, wearing their kit all the time, and referring customers back to the shop for helmets, bikes, shoes, and kit are a bike shop sponsor’s dream. Bike shop owners would rather have a guy or gal who routinely finishes dead last every race but refers customers to the shop, highlights the shop in social media, and is a positive shop ambassador way more than a guy who wins races but doesn’t go to the shop once all year.

Oh, and if you brag about getting a “sweet new helmet for 30% on Competitive Cyclist” then don’t do it within earshot of the bike shop guys. The bike shop folks fix your bike and bend over backward to accommodate their customers – Competitive Cyclist ain’t going to do that for you. Support your local shops.

Why You Should Join A Team

If your motivation to join is only to “get stuff” from joining a team, then no matter who you ride for, you’re going to be thoroughly discontented. Before you join a team or switch teams, think about how you can help that new team and its sponsors. Can you support the shop by shopping there? Will you show up to team and group rides? Do you think you’ll play an active role in marketing the shop within the cycling community? If you think you can add value to the team and its sponsors, join up! But if you go into the relationship (and it’s exactly that – a relationship) only worrying about what you’ll get out of it, you’re going to really bummed out. On the flipside, if you’re a loyal, active member of the bike team sponsors will do some incredibly generous things to show their appreciation. Keep this in mind during amateur cycling’s silly season. Also remember that’s just amateur bike racing. They’re just jerseys. Don’t get too worked up about wearing a specific one.
Wes Sovis is the chubbier Sovis twin, but his student loans are paid off, so he’s got that going for him. Follow him on Instagram or Strava, but don’t follow him to his car. Super creepy.