This weekend, I picked up my copy of the Greenville Journal and read the headline, “Greenville lands national cycling championship.” By now, that is pretty old news to most cycling fans. Still, I thought that the article and the accompanying photos were great exposure for the local cycling community. I was even more interested in the article when I read the subtitle, “Upstate envisioned as bicycle Mecca.” Cool, sounds good to me. Greenville truly is a great place to live and ride, but a cycling Mecca? Maybe. The article quotes Doug McGrath, president of the Southern Hospitality Group and one of the key players in bringing the US Pro race to this area from Philly: “Within three years, I want Greenville recognized as a cycling capital of the country.” Once again, no argument from me, I’m all for it. Greenville’s most famous cycling resident, George Hincapie, seems to think that the US Pro race is a step in the right direction as well. In the Journal article he says “The Philly race was always a big deal. If things keep improving the way they have been over the last few years, that goal could be realistic. Greenville has the terrain. Greenville has the climate. And, Greenville has a great cycling community already.” Much of the rest of the article focuses on the influence of George on cycling in Greenville and also the influence of Hincapie Sportswear, a great locally based business founded by his brother Rich. Overall, I enjoyed reading the cover story and felt pretty good about the state of cycling in Greenville as I flipped through the rest of the paper.
Toward the middle of the paper, a short article mentioned the proposed wind tunnel at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, a high profile research campus that many consider to be a key catalyst for the rapid growth of Greenville’s innovation economy. Sam Konduros, Clemson University’s interim motorsports director said that the 40 million dollar wind tunnel is “definitely back on the front burner.” Great! So here is my question; will this facility be a part of the whole “bicycle Mecca” plan? After all, it would be a shame to use this new wind tunnel just for cars. I remember reading an article not too long ago (probably right after last year’s Tour de France) about Trek’s development of the Madone road bike. If I remember correctly, the designer stated that only a few low-speed wind tunnels exist in the United States. If it is true that California and Texas have the only two facilities that are currently capable of accurately testing airflow at bicycle speeds, maybe one should be added on the east coast. Will Greenville’s wind tunnel fit the bill? I don’t know. If so, could it be a small part of an organized plan to attract new bicycle companies to this area? Why not? After all, the concept of industry clustering seems to be a growing trend in South Carolina. Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but attracting companies in the bicycle industry seems like a worthwhile goal to me, and not just for the development of faster racing bikes. If wind tunnel technology can make Lance Armstrong slightly faster in a time trial, can’t it also make transportation-oriented enclosed HPV designs more efficient for the commuters of the future? In recent years, the upstate of South Carolina has invested heavily in hydrogen fuel research as part of an effort to become a leading region in the coming “hydrogen economy.” Fine, but why put all your eggs in one basket? Human power is proven, reliable, and, if you believe this article in Bike Biz, is truly the future of urban transportation. So let’s get with it. Moving toward a pedal powered economy sounds like a perfect plan for a bicycle Mecca like Greenville, right?
Photo: Greenville Classic criterium by Olivier Blanchard