Meet the Wattie Ink. Cyclocross Team: Fast Fun Nice P/B Wattie Ink.
Ed. Note—It is certainly cyclocross season! Following up on Nathan Killam's excellent piece about trading your aerobars for cowbells on Tuesday, we're highlighting another one of the teams supported by Wattie Ink.: the Portland-based Fast Fun Nice Cycling Team, presented by Wattie Ink.
Everyone knows that Wattie Ink. has a clutch of successful triathlon teams (the flagship Wattie Ink. Team headlining that group of squads), but do you know that the company boasts a cyclocross team, too? It has its roots as a small team that began in 2011 in Portland, Oregon, and now comprises almost 60 athletes who head out into the mud each fall, bikes and cowbells in hand. When I started the team, I had no idea it would turn into what it's become—all I wanted was a tent I could call home and a group of people to hang out with every Sunday in the fall.
As it happens, the team seems to have struck a nerve. One of my founding principles was to focus on being nice to people. Cycling, triathlon, running, swimming—heck, bocce, probably—can be intimidating and closed to newcomers. That isn't the fault of those in the sport already, but sometimes athletes who have been in their sports for some time can forget how alien and strange a new activity can appear to beginners. During the first few years of the team we focused almost exclusively on being welcoming. Want to join the team? No problem. We'd try to find a kit for you to borrow, although it may have been last year's stock.
The team expanded quickly, peaking in 2014 at around 75 members! It became time to bring some structure to what was becoming a wonderful but somewhat unruly organism. We elected a board of directors, incorporated the team as a non-profit focusing on developing new cyclocross and road racers, and erected an application process modeled on the Wattie Ink. Team application, looking for members that furthered our mission (Go Fast, Have Fun, Be Nice), but also widened our demographic to include as many different populations as possible.
That said, we still focus primarily on the "Fun" part of our team. Sure. we have plenty of people who are fast, too, and being nice is just the right thing to do in all situations, but fun is the heart of cyclocross. When you get right down to it, it's kinda a silly sport, right? A cyclocross bike, as someone once pointed out to me, is not a very good road bike, and it's a terrible mountain bike. It exists for this one application only: rolling somewhat quickly over terrain that changes in an instant: dry and dusty cow pastures, muddy lakes and bogs, short stretches of pavement, long beds of sand.
Interested? We hope you are. As Nathan pointed out the other day, cyclocross will certainly make you a better triathlete. The high-intensity nature of the sport (you'll be riding at or above threshold intensity for 45 to 60 minutes each race) will improve your engine, and the skills required will make you a better bike handler, for sure. Next spring you'll return to triathlon with a stronger core, built from having to balance the bike in all sorts of odd situations. You'll be mentally tougher, too, forged in an environment that bars no holds. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a bike and a Wattie Ink. skinsuit, and join us at one of our races. We'll be the nice people dressed in green.