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Challenge: Georgia Bikes, Y’all

This guest post comes to us from Brent Buice, executive director of Georgia Bikes! The Peach State has seen tremendous growth and success in just the first month of the 2014 Challenge. Here, Brent lays out the three factors contributing to that success — and shares an inspiring story.

The National Bike Challenge is our favorite way to motivate Georgians to ride bikes. The fact that it’s free, easy and fun means the Challenge pretty much sells itself.

Since it first began, we’ve seen fantastic growth in participating riders and in the friendly competition between teams across the state. From 2013 to this year, there’s been a 41% increase in the number of individuals logging rides in Georgia, and we’ve still got four months to go. I credit this increase to three factors: 1) Our regular updates on Challenge milestones; 2) Positive word-of-mouth referrals from previous Challenge participants; 3) Consistent, upbeat promotion of the Challenge through local advocacy organization and bike clubs.

Photo: Bicycling Club of Milledgeville

As a statewide organization with limited staff, our presence is primarily virtual. We do our best to keep our website, e-newsletter and social media up to date with news, announcements and events that will be of interest to Georgians who want a more bike friendly state. The Challenge is ready-made for those outlets. People enjoy seeing the friendly competition between communities in Georgia. Every year, we have witnessed a pitched mileage battle between the Pecan City Pedalers of Albany and the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville. Every month, we post updates on which team is in the lead, and these stories tend to be among our most viewed and shared. We also like to congratulate individual riders who reach impressive milestones, and we strive to tag them in our social media to ensure they know about the appreciation and encouragement.

As a result of this online cheerleading, we’ve seen the spirit spread to organizations, clubs, and riders throughout Georgia, many of whom have become enthusiastic recruiters for the Challenge. My favorite story is from Ms. Margie Robichaux of Savannah. Margie was significantly overweight and realized she had to make dramatic lifestyle adjustments for her health and happiness. In addition to diet and personal training, Margie took up bicycling, posting regular Facebook updates on her first, difficult rides. Her friends and family cheered her on and she stuck with it. She discovered the National Bike Challenge and instantly became an evangelist for its power to motivate her to ride more often. Through the Challenge, Margie found a statewide, virtual support network to augment her local pep squad, and her posted miles on the Challenge are a testament to the transformative power of that encouragement. One hundred pounds later, she’s an avid member of the Coastal Bicycle Touring Club and a frequent poster on her local Challenge page.

Georgia is a beautiful place to ride a bike, and the Challenge is an easy way to bring our diverse bicycle community together. Local groups use it to engage their members, and riders who thought they were alone in their small town are discovering neighbors they never knew who ride. The Challenge is bringing us together, inspiring us to ride more and is showing the nation that Georgia bikes, y’all. As Margie put it in one of her local Challenge posts, we’re “on a roll here….watch out!” 

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