By Shay Castle Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Would you be willing to conduct your next business meeting on two wheels? If you're in Boulder you better dust off that bike rack and at least consider the possibilty. There is a growing group of executives who are networking through group bike rides. (And this means men and women in business). Rachel Beisel who organizes a Wed. morning biking group says she's had more meetings on a bike than in a boardroom!
Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
It's 6:15 on a chilly Wednesday morning in north Boulder, and the business elite have started to gather.
They're all suited up and ready to go: tech founders, chief executives, venture capitalists. Slowly, they trickle in until the crowd in front of Amante Coffee swells to about 100.
It's 6:30 a.m. Time to roll.
Four groups of 20 to 30 cyclists hop on their bikes and head out for a 24-mile slog up and back Olde Stage Road, the perfect start to another busy day.
The crew is taking part in a 15-year-long tradition called Wednesday Morning Velo, a networking ride that has grown in popularity as more local execs ditch the boardroom for the blacktop to conduct their business on two wheels.
"Cycling is the new golf," said Rachel Beisel, vice president of marketing at Gorilla Logic, organizer of Wednesday Morning Velo and co-founder of the Colorado Women's Cycling Project. "I've had more meetings on a bike than in a boardroom."
And she's not alone. Attendance at Wednesday Morning Velo has exploded in recent years, from a single group of 20 to 30 riders to the four groups of similar size that bike separate courses, according to skill level.
"It started out as a social ride for serious cyclists that were also entrepreneurs, in place of golf," said Russ Chandler, owner of Full Cycle and an organizer of the velo events. Now, "it's hugely popular for networking."
There's even a cycling event during Boulder Startup Week: Biking with the Big Shots, which Beisel organized. Nearly 100 people have signed up so far.
Cycling "breaks down the awkwardness" of traditional networking events, Beisel said. And, unlike in golf, where "somebody has to win," it's an egalitarian venture.
Golf, that most traditional of networking sports, isn't exactly falling out of fashion.
"It's a little more on the upswing now," said Tim Stevens, head pro at Flatirons Golf Course in Boulder.
Of course, it's hard to know who's golfing for pleasure and who's golfing for business. But Sam Linnenburger, head pro at Longmont's Ute Creek course, said he thinks a fair amount of rounds are still played for networking purposes.
"People still enjoy taking clients out on the golf course," Linnenburger said. "You can really learn a lot about a person spending four hours with them."
How a person plays often translates into how they work, said Kyle Snyder, who chairs the Longmont Chamber of Commerce board.
"It's almost like an interview because you get to see how a person handles both success and adversity," Snyder said. "You get a chance to find out if they are a cheater, a risk taker -- many things (that) are good indicators if you want to do business with them."
And, he added, "golf and beer go together nicely."
If beer is a motivator for Boulder County folks -- Biking with the Big Shots will end with happy hour at West Flanders Brewing Company in Boulder -- getting outside is an even bigger one.
"So many people tell me that outdoor exercise is their therapy, the way they collect their mind, open their head to bigger and deeper thoughts," said Boulder Chamber president and CEO John Tayer, who himself has been on golf outings, bike rides and even running meetings.
"It's just an opportunity to get outside the standard business protocol, that gets people in the outdoors and lets them think more expansively," he said. "That's important in an innovation economy."
It's not about being able to bike up Flagstaff Mountain with the pros or run a five-minute mile, Tayer said. It's about finding something you love that helps you deepen your personal relationships and, ultimately, your professional ones. Beisel agrees.
"Cycling has led me to every life and business decision," she said. "It led to all my jobs, it led me to Colorado; I met my husband because of it.
"It's the things that are not all about business that lead to more business."