United Cyclists at Irvine

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Sophia Chang/New University

Bike Club at UCI is much more than friends cruising on bikes through the trails and roads of Orange County. The club offers students a chance to better their lives and improve their health through cycling.

The club is run by Bryan Larsen, a fourth-year at UC Irvine, who has had plenty of experience with Bike Club and biking in general. Hes been the bike club president since his freshmen year.

Larsen has been an avid cyclist for years and has been competing in collegiate-level cycling since he was 14. He won the WCCC Criterium Championships in 2010 and 2011. Through his experience with biking, Larsen knows just how beneficial biking can be for people, and he does his best to teach others what he has attained from the sport.

The club is coached by Dave Jordan, who has been involved with the club since 1996, but he is no ordinary coach. He is certified by USA Cycling at Level 1 *D, the highest level of coaching. He is currently coaching Amber Neben, a bike club alumna and Olympic athlete who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but even with his training schedule, he still attends all club meetings and offers training advice to attendees.

“Over the last 15 years I am pleased to have had the opportunity to mentor young adults through the bike club,” Jordan said. “It is tremendously encouraging to see how the club has positively impacted so many lives.  I don’t think that a single week goes by when I don’t hear from alumni who have continued to stay in touch in turn giving back to club members what they gained from their experience in the club.”

Together, Larsen and Jordan, with the help of other Bike Club at UCI officers, train old members and introduce old members to road biking, criterium biking and mountain biking, though the club’s main focus is on road biking.

Bike Club races are not affiliated with the NCAA, but they a separate program known as the West Coast Collegiate Cycling (WCCC), a league that includes California, Nevada and parts of Arizona.  Bike Club at UCI has competed against other schools such as Berkeley, UCSD, Sacramento, San Diego, San Diego State, Santa Barbara and UCLA.

The club places a heavy emphasis on racing, and while this might seem like a bit too much for new members, everyone has the option of not racing. Members have the option of working on their fitness and finding a community of people who like to ride. The members range from all levels of experience, and of the 24 members who are currently in the club, 10 of them have been racing consistently.

Training varies greatly throughout the year. It begins in the fall quarter, and racing begins as early as February, lasting through early summer. Training features different sessions: long and short distant rides, intervals, “climbing” sessions on mountain roads to help riders practice ascending and descending, and 100-mile spin rides to give rookies plenty of distance training and close-quarter riding.

“You don’t necessarily have to be an experienced racer,” said Conrad Wang, clothing officer for the club and fourth-year electrical engineering major. “I came into the club with no racing experience whatsoever and the other club members that had racing experience helped us out tremendously.”

Both Larsen and Jordan put  heavy emphasis into physical fitness as well. Jordan provides the team with a good fitness regimen, encouraging racers to work on good mentality and well-being.

“When we talk about nutrition or how to eat the morning of a race, we really try to instill these things in our members because these are things in our members because these are things that members can carry on after the club,”  Larsen said. “We try to make a difference down the line.”

The sport, unfortunately, can be extremely expensive, especially if the members decide to race. With membership fees at $60 per person, this can be somewhat of a turnoff for those looking to join. Fortunately, Bike Club does its best to offset costs for its members by covering gas money for people who drive to races and all race fee entries.

Sponsors like Orange County Wheelman are consistent supporters of the club, providing them with cash donations of $1,000-$2,000 every year. Bike shops such as Bike Religion and Rock N’ Road have helped fund the club, and some sponsors even offer bike parts or even whole brand new bicycles.

Coach Jordan occasionally donates equipment as well. Most recently the club received an equipment donation of $50,000 from a single donor.

By joining, members will not just become a faster cyclist or a fitter person; they will learn how to take care of themselves properly and find out that they can become something more than they already are.

“Bike club, in general, because it’s so broad and dynamically diverse, with every race and ride we do, we try to help our members out the best we can,” Jordan said. “And I say we do a pretty good job at developing those riders as individuals and as a rider throughout the years.”

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