How’s it going? 2020 has been a different year so far, hasn’t it?
I just want to clear a few things up. Broken Riders has been called out on social media for remaining quiet about recent events. Why haven’t we supported the Black Lives Matter movement? What many people don’t know is that the brand is just me, with some help from my amazing wife, Janine. It was borne out of a love of mountain biking and creative frustration. It’s not my full-time occupation but I would love it to be. Cash and time are always scarce resources as I have three kids and a mortgage and have to do other work to put food on the table. I’m not after sympathy, I’m just trying to explain why it’s taken some time to respond.
Broken Riders is a mountain bike clothing brand, not a commentator on current affairs. But some things are bigger than mountain biking and I feel I have to comment.
The horrific and very public death of George Floyd last week and the subsequent demonstrations have troubled me considerably and provoked much reflection, but every time I try and write something, I find it difficult to articulate a direction forward. I feel like I need time to listen and learn more about racism and understand just how deep it runs within our society.
Without doubt, mountain biking has a diversity issue. In the UK we rarely see anyone with skin colour other than white riding mountain bikes. Why is that? Is it an accessibility problem or are we, as mountain bikers, making the sport unattractive to anyone outside of a certain demographic? The sport has made great progress over the last few years to become more accessible to female riders (though it still has a lot of work to do), but it’s apparent that the attractiveness of mountain biking isn’t appealing to those outside the current demographic. Movements such as Bikestormz show that cycling can unify all cultures and colours, so why can’t mountain biking?
However, I can’t condone any of the violence – on either side. I grew up in South Yorkshire, a mile from where the Miners’ Strike started in 1984. I’ve seen first-hand what happens when a demonstration turns violent, and that violence is allowed to escalate. Violence shuts down any dialogue; those who’re committing it become more brutal and narrow-minded and those surviving it become more bitter and angry. It wrecked my community and ultimately led to the collapse of any chance of negotiating a settlement, resulting in the closure of the mines, the disintegration of a community and many peoples’ lives being ruined forever.
I’m quite cynical about the woke movement and hashtag activism, but mountain biking does have a diversity problem which should be acknowledged. According to the most recent Office for National Statistics report on ethnicity, ethnic minorities make up 14% of the UK population. I don’t see anywhere near that percentage of mountain bikers riding on our trails.
So, what is Broken Riders going to do? Well, I’m going to listen and educate myself first. I’m going to try and understand why mountain biking is so ethnically exclusive when it should appeal to all. But to be honest, I’m still unsure exactly what to say or do at the moment except to understand more and to call out inequality and injustice wherever I come across it. I’m going to explore potential ways in which Broken Riders can help to improve diversity across our sport. The brand is really small, has very little financial might, but if there is a way I can help, then I will.
When I began Broken Riders back in 2013 I wanted a company I could be proud of; one which was ethical and sustainable. It has always used FairWear approved garments where at all possible, as this organisation represented an end to inequality for those making the clothes we wear. I want to continue that philosophy as the brand continues to grow.
If anyone out there is asking “why should we care?”. My answer would be because it’s the right thing to do. How can we live in a world where the system discriminates against people just because of their skin colour? We can’t be complicit and just sit back and watch. Things have to change. We’ve seen inequality rise considerably over the last decade and it’s not good for anyone. Peace, love and unity makes for a much better world, and we need to come together to be ready to face the incredible environmental challenges which are rapidly coming towards us.
Thanks for listening.
Founder, Broken Riders