Echos Of Futures Past, Part VI: Bobby Wintle

Wintle is the co-owner of District Bicycles and founder of the Mid South gravel race.

I’ve never ever wanted to be part of the mainstream. I’ve never wanted to be part of going with the current, ever. Because going with the current is easy. And profitable. You know? It’s financially sustainable. Going against it is almost always not those things, right? Let’s just talk about how much we charge per person for what we offer as an experience. We’re by far the cheapest of any of those monuments of gravel that Velonews announced a few weeks ago. That’s by design. Low barrier to entry and the name change is part of the gauntlet that we are throwing down against this idea of continuing the exclusivity of cycling in the United States of America. It’s about inclusion. Inclusion through every walk of life, not just bikes. Bikes just happen to be our medium. Right? This is where we can do the most work. 

As long as I have breath in my body I will rail against this idea of the continuation of the full on support of just the white male dominated perspective. I’m against it all the way. All the way. 

We had 5000 people on the website going for 1500 spots on the 100 mile race, and then of course the double (200 mile race) and other stuff. We didn’t have to change the name (of the race). We didn’t have to listen to the smallest voice. We didn’t have to listen to those that were affected by our name negatively. Most of those we didn’t even know about because they didn’t have a platform of any sort where they would have felt safe. It’s more important now than ever to give space to those that don’t have the opportunity because no one knows who they are. No one cares. If it doesn’t have a dollar sign at the end of it, if it isn’t easy to deal with, then people are immediately going to discount it and say, “Well, that’s ridiculous. Why would they do that? Snowflake, left wing propaganda.”

*exhales loudly in frustration*

I have no time in my day to give my energy to small mindedness. Here is the deal, I am not the expert on any question you ask me, because I am the 34 year old CIS white male that owns two businesses and has 2.5 kids and almost a dog and a two car garage that’s full of shit. I’m the problem, too. Not to just easily go with “blame the white man”, but guys like me have to start being able to learn. And we have to stop thinking it’s OK to say things about women. To look at them in a way that always sexualizes them, and to always think that Indians are lazy, and always think that people of color are going to be more likely to cause problems. Just knowing I can walk into a business and immediately, because of my skin color and because I’m a man, get better service, be helped sooner? How on Earth do we get beyond that? I am here to start opening my eyes, to be aware of just how welcoming I need to be to each human that walks in through my door, through District Bicycles each day. That’s where the smallest changes can start to take place. There and at the race from the start line to the finish line. The next step, the next conversation, is event registration. How do we make sure marginalized people have access? I don’t know. I would love to know. If anyone has an idea I am all ears.

But no, Hell no, do I think that now that we’ve changed the race name that the book is closed. But also just because there are more important things to do doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the things that are small. The small things still matter. Flossing our teeth still matters. Just like going to the dentist to get checked up once a year, every 6 months also matters. It’s not one without the other. We needed the name change. We needed the awareness. 

Everything that we have created since 2011 is about the sake of the individual being a part of something bigger than themselves, which is a community. The name of our bike shop, District, is a synonym for community. If I had ignored any longer the micro problems of the Land Run name then I am a hypocrite. I am just doing what makes me money and keeps me on the forefront of whatever conversation everyone wants me to be at. No, thank you. Also I don’t deserve this credit for changing the name. Arial Ross, Seth Wood, Yatika Fields, the list goes on. Some very angry people on Instagram a couple years ago. *chuckles* Hey man! Thanks. You were mean about it, but whatever.

So where do we go from here? We can only shape our perspective differently if we have a different view, right? If we have a different place to go, if we experience new things and that directly affects our perception. The month after we changed the name I went down to Tucson to meet James Stout to do the Monday Reservation Ride with the Pascua Yaqui tribe. I think I teared up at least 3 times riding with those kids. It was one of the best rides I’ve ever ever been on. I cannot wait to go back and see them again.

I’d never been on a reservation outside of going through one on the Tour Divide. Even then I’d never even talked to anybody on that reservation because it’s the Tour Divide. It’s crazy. But…why does that matter? It’s all about human connection. We’re all humans. Why do we feel like we’re better than others? Why do we feel like we’re more deserving than the people on the reservations? The Yaqui Riders Club have built themselves up to 400 some odd people to fight against gestational type II diabetes within the reservation because it’s rampant. They are in a food desert, it’s awful. That’s something else we can try to figure out there. Food and bikes. We gotta get this figured out. 

They are beautiful humans and they are just as deserving as any one else is. And no one knows they exist. We gotta change that. We don’t need to make it a marketing ploy. And we don’t need to make it a cute thing to buy in an online store. People need to have this information. We gotta do it. That’s the next step. 

We have to be engaged. We don’t have time to not be. We might not be here tomorrow. Period. Nothing is guaranteed. People ask me all the time where do you get the energy? People joke with me allll the time. You’re on coke. You’re on speed. What are you on? Dude. I am on borrowed time. That’s what I am on. We only have right now. We have absolutely no way to change the past and we have literally no way to actually control the future. The only thing we have is the present. We have the ability to make decisions in the moment and that is all. It determines whether or not we repeat the past and what our future could potentially look like. Living in Oklahoma with all the fracking? Feeling out of control? Feeling my couch move from underneath me because we had 700 earthquakes in a year? Talk about feeling not in control and raping the land to death. We are living right in the middle of it. We have to be engaged. And so this is the beginning of being engaged.

None of us can do this alone. Together we are heavy. Together we will make a difference.