Interview & article by Trinh V. Hoang
Lack of representation is something so prominent across all fields, industries, and sports. When it comes to cycling, the predominant narrative centers a white male in bib shorts and a jersey on his road bike. This singular image — among other systemic issues — has created a barrier for those who do not see themselves represented on posters, in commercials, or in much of the media that advertises either competitive or recreational cycling.
This image of a white male road biker does not connect to the same degree with people of color, people with different gender identities, socio-economic statuses, and abilities. These communities have been historically underrepresented by the cycling world at large, when in actuality of course cycling is popular amongst a wide variety of communities.
Team Cycling Royalty is a cycling club that promotes and represents diversity and inclusivity of all backgrounds. It is a cycling club that founder Malaku Mekonnen would describe as
a place in which the company I’m in looks like me and is supportive and encouraging of me…a place in which I am my brothers and sisters keeper and they are mine… a place in which everyone moves in an upright, dignified manner and holds their heads up high.
Malaku Mekonnen created Team Cycling Royalty in early 2019 because he believed in expanding the physical and mental benefits of cycling to everyone. When I him asked what some issues are within the bicycling community that are not being addressed, he said
The cycling community is just recognizing that the sport has been historically white. With that in mind and having traveled around and participated in many cycling events, I can definitely feel like a sore thumb sticking out. So it’s a matter of underrepresentation, and why is cycling so “white washed,” and why is it that many Black people aren’t being “pitched” the idea of cycling and all of its wonderful benefits?
Just a few years ago we had Daniel Teklehaimanot (A Black man from Eritrea) win Stage 6 and take the red polka dot jersey in the Tour de France. However, not very many young Black men and women know about that. Representation is everything, if more young black men and women knew about that, then perhaps more would aspire to one day ride on the world tour level.