Why Northwest Cycling Club won the Div. II Club of the Year award


By Aaron Torres

Club members get together for their New Year's Day lunch at the shop.
Club members get together for their New Year's Day lunch at the shop.
While there are many bike programs across the country which offer varying accommodations to their local riding community, not all of them combine the unique programs, with the civic pride and commitment to their local citizens that the Northwest Cycling Club in Houston does. And it’s because of that dedication to all area cyclists — from beginners to advanced riders, weekend warriors to national champions and everyone in between — that the Northwest Cycling Club was recently named USA Cycling’s 2012 Division II “Club of the Year.”

In every way, shape and form the Northwest Cycling Club truly is a full service organization, offering programs on the road and track, to children, adults and riders of all ability levels. And to the club’s credit, its reputation as one of the country’s best clubs didn’t come overnight, but instead with the hard work of numerous people, over several years. 

Many have seen that evolution first-hand, including current President Sherwin Harvey who took his post from former President Val Tiemann in January of 2013. Harvey was a member of the Northwest Cycling Club in the late 1980s and early 1990s before stepping away to raise his children. When he returned four years ago, Harvey was shocked at how much things had changed.

“When the club was in its infancy, it was like any other club — and I mean that in the best way possible,” Harvey recently told USA Cycling. “We rode, but the impact was different. There wasn’t the sense of community there is now.”

That sense of community and the extensive outreach the Northwest Cycling Club does in and around the greater Houston area is thanks in large part to an ever-expanding group of volunteers who comprise the backbone of the club. From helping out with events, to handing out snacks after rides, the organization quite literally couldn’t function without its army of volunteers. It’s because of them that Harvey has tabbed 2013 “The Year of the Volunteer” and why a “Volunteer of the Month” will be named each and every month in this coming calendar year.

Group ride!
Group ride!
However what truly separates the Northwest Cycling Club and its volunteers from the competition is that unlike a lot of other clubs, it doesn’t take years for a new volunteer to get recognized for his or her hard work. At Northwest Cycling many of the top ranking officers have been with the group for just a few short years, and Harvey himself ascended to his current ranking after returning to the club just four years ago.

“When I first got back to the club, after a couple months, one our rider leaders said to me, ‘You ought to run for President,’” Harvey said. “I was like, ‘What!?’”

Laughing now, Harvey continued reflect back a few years.

“Quite frankly, that’s what makes our club special,” Harvey said. “We’re always looking to give (our members) something to do. We develop our riders into leaders.”

Beyond Harvey, there may be no better example of that exact sentiment than current Safety Director Mona Lincoln, who was assigned to her current role this past January after joining the club less than a year prior in March 2012. With her children out of the house, Lincoln was looking for a place to volunteer after focusing on her family and career for the previous two decades. She found it at the Northwest Cycling Club.

“We have a lot of opportunity for people to participate,” Lincoln said. “Everybody works well together. It makes it easy to volunteer.”
And to her credit, upon being appointed to her new role, Lincoln hit the ground running and is currently in the process of helping Harvey launch a new safety program in the local community. While safety had always been preached within the club’s doors, bringing the same practices to the outside community is something Harvey made an emphasis when he took over as President just a few short weeks ago.
 “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a kid or I’ve seen an adult without a helmet on,” Harvey said. “I can’t tell you how much it unnerves me. I’ve cracked three helmets in my career and can say, they save your life.”

Well with Lincoln’s help, Harvey is getting that message out into the community and to some of the youngest riders in Houston. On February 23, the Northwest Cycling Club will host an event with the Waller (TX) Interdisciplinary School District (many of Northwest’s rides start at Waller High School’s football field), where 100 third and fourth grade students will go through an interactive, yet intensive two hour course on bicycle safety. It will involve 10 certified instructors from the League of American Bicyclists and 17 volunteers from Northwest Cycling Club, and during those two hours, the children will go through 10 different stations, with each emphasizing a different aspect of safety.

The program was one of Harvey’s big initiatives since taking over as President, and is also important to Lincoln, a school teacher. With her career dedicated to the livelihood of children, Lincoln picked the third and fourth grade age group for a very specific reason.

“At that age, they’re very impressionable,” Lincoln said. “If you can hit them with that, they take it as gospel.”

She then added, “They’re our best ambassadors.”

And there may be no better ambassador to explain what the Northwest Cycling Club is about, and what Harvey and his predecessor Val Tiemann want it to be, than Lincoln herself. The new Safety Director was hardly an expert cyclist when she showed up to a ride last year; as a matter of fact, she was a total novice. Still, from the beginning she was welcomed at the Northwest Cycling Club and quickly embraced by other members.

“The people are so friendly and inviting,” Lincoln said. “You’re a newbie, but they don’t treat you like a newbie. You don’t know anybody, but they respect you and pull you in. We’re a family, and we all take care of each other.”

Lincoln’s words were music to the ears of Harvey, who seconded her sentiment: Northwest Cycling is much more a “family” than “club.” To further the point, Harvey shared a story about a recent sponsorship opportunity which came to the club in large part because of the reputation they have around the community.

“They said, ‘We came to you, because you have a reputation of being the friendliest,’” Harvey said. “’You bring anybody in, and treat them like they’re family.’”

And the family aspect of Northwest Cycling Club isn’t just at the bottom, but goes all the way to the top with Harvey himself. In specific, Harvey was quick to praise past Presidents for laying the groundwork which led to Northwest Cycling being named “Club of the Year.”
“It’s an honor to be part of this club and it’s an honor to be President,” Harvey said. “We have so many people willing to give their time to make cycling in this community better.”

And it’s because of those people, and the board of directors which serves it, that the Northwest Cycling Club was named the 2012 Division II Club of the Year.

If you live in the Houston area and are interested in learning more about the Northwest Cycling Club, visit the group’s website at www.northwestcyclingclub.com. Or to find a cycling club elsewhere in the nation, visit USA Cycling’s Find a Club webpage.

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This Article Updated March 4, 2013 @ 11:03 PM For more information contact: