Member Profile: Joy Hancock
Joining the League is a way to share the love of bicycling. Joy Hancock is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Freewheel and a member of the Bicycle Tour Network Board of Directors. In short, she knows the ins and outs of organizing great bike tours. We connected with her last year for an interview about what’s ahead for the Freewheel and BTN. The BTN’s national conference is coming up this November in San Diego, Calif.
Tell us a bit about Oklahoma Freewheel and your role as Executive Director.
Freewheel’s mission is to promote and strengthen cycling tourism in Oklahoma. The Freewheel was originally run by the Tulsa World [a local newspaper], riding through its readership area. When the Tulsa World gave it up, it went independent — and then statewide. The goal is for people to experience the state from the perspective of the bicycle. Because you’re outside and taking it in, you get to see a lot of things you don’t typically see. We try to bring tourism to our local towns with a different route every year. And we always traverse the state – from the south to the north, so we can take advantage of tail winds. We just went through our 35th year, with 700 to 800 riders for the seven-day ride. As for me: I’d been involved as a participant and had gotten to know the crew. With my background in triathlons, I’d also volunteered and spoken at some of their seminars about how to train. Now, as the ED, I do a bit of everything. I meet with board members and recruit volunteers. I travel out to communities multiple times per year and we talk about what they’ll do to host us. I also work with our route designer and we drive — and ride! — the route to make sure it’s OK. During the week of the ride, I do a lot of trouble shooting. This last year I got to ride the entire ride, which was a great experience!
Why are you so passionate about bicycling and bike tours?
Cycling is just a lot of fun. I really enjoy the fantastic exercise and the sense of adventure you get when you get out on a bike ride. On a personal level, I feel that anytime I’m stressed or have some issue dancing around my head, if I can get out on a bike ride, I can usually sort it out. I’m more of a solitary rider and I like to be out in the countryside away from cities and towns — that’s what I really enjoy. Bike tourism, I think, is the perfect way to experience a landscape and experience people. For some reason, when you wind your way through a town and you stop, people want to chat because, well, you’re an anomaly. I think bike tourism is a wonderful way to boost the economies of struggling rural communities in America. You can tell by the way towns get excited about rides coming through that they understand what an opportunity it is for them to get that boost — and to show others their communities.
What’s been your favorite ride or tour?
The Freewheel! But, I have to say, if I think over this past year, my favorite ride was during a vacation with my family. We were in St. George, Utah, and I had the pleasure of riding to Zion National Park. It was just really special. It was a beautiful day and to be able to experience a national park from the perspective of a bicycle was just spectacular. It’s something I hope to be able to do again in the future.
How did you get involved in BTN ?
When I became director of Freewheel, we had a longstanding membership with the BTN, so it was natural for me to go to the conference and become involved in that role.
Where do you hope to see BTN go in the nextyear?
I hope to see the membership grow. I hope that we start bringing in vendors and experts and expanding our knowledge base and network to make more people aware of our website, where you can find and search for rides and explore. This year, I was lucky enough to be able to go on Ride Idaho and Pedal the Plains, both unique and unforgettable experiences. Earl Grief (Ride Idaho) and Chandler Smith (Pedal the Plains/Ride the Rockies) are both dear friends and colleagues, both of whom I greatly admire and look up to, and it was invaluable to be able to learn from them firsthand.
Learn more about the Oklahoma Freewheel and many other rides at bicycletournetwork.com.