When Dylan DiBona moved to San Francisco, he didn’t have a master plan to create Mission Cycling, one of the country’s most radically inclusive bike clubs. Rather, it grew out of DiBona’s love for the sport and his realization that his fellow lycra-clad Mission District denizens deserved something better.
The story of Mission Cycling’s growth — from one guy on a bike to the many clubs springing up in other cities — is a great roadmap for how to build a community-minded organization the right way. Here’s how DiBona and cofounder Kevin LaKritz added the whole thing up, cyclist by cyclist.
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“You can’t create something people are going to be psyched about unless you’re legitimately interested in it yourself. Originally, biking was just something I had done as a kid. I didn’t realize it, but I always had a real affinity for the sport, and I guess I idealized it. So for me it was just an obvious and organic thing to start doing.”
“How Kevin and I met is a lot about what we were trying to do with Mission Cycling. He lived a block away from me for a while, but I never knew him at all. Then one day we met, at a coffee shop in the neighborhood. He and I were both wearing bike clothes, and I just said, ‘We should ride sometime.’ We did, and through that we realized that there’s probably a bunch of other people who would be into doing the same [thing].”
“We never selected anybody. The first people who joined were just folks out on rides. We created our own cycling kit [clothing] so that we were very visible. We had a look that people liked, and they would ride up and say, ‘What’s the story?’ So it was a totally random group of people, with no selection process, and there never has been.”
“We didn’t have to think about [logistics], but we wanted to, because we wanted to keep it a pretty great experience. If you have a club that literally anybody can join, then it isn’t really a club, because it doesn’t foster the kind of environment where you get to know people. So we decided to cap it at 125 people, and have people re-up every year. Also, we all have busy lives, so we didn’t want to set up another thing for you to [feel obligated to] do. So the rides aren’t organized with a daily schedule. We just set up these meet-up points, where some folks will be every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning. You can just show up and do the ride. And that’s open to everybody. We always tell people to just show up and go out for a ride with us.”
“People from Portland and Vancouver got in touch and said, ‘We like what you’re doing, and would like to get something like that going here.’ We tried to give them as much of a template for how to do it as we could. Part of me would love to be able to say I’ve got this thing that I need to be proprietary about, but there’s nothing really here to own. And if I show up in another city with my bike, I love knowing there’s a club there that I can just go ride with.”