Rapha Foundation Grow Cycling

Grow Cycling Foundation

One of the latest recipients to join The Rapha Foundation’s roster of grantees, the Grow Cycling Foundation is dedicated to building a better future for cycling. Former World Cup Downhill MTB racer Eliot Jackson tells us how the foundation’s first initiative will improve access, forge career pathways and create community in Downtown LA.

12 August 2021

The Grow Cycling Foundation promotes education, access and opportunities that increase diversity and inclusion in cycling. Established in light of the 2020 George Floyd protests, the foundation aims to create new avenues for community building and career development in the cycling industry.

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One of mountain biking’s most recognisable personalities, Eliot Jackson is a veteran of the UCI World Cup Downhill scene and has covered several events as a broadcaster with Red Bull. Having first taken to motorcross racing at four, Eliot secured four MX National Championships by the time he turned 15 before embarking on a decorated career as a Downhill racer. In his seven years on the DH World Cup circuit, Eliot would rarely compete against other cyclists who looked like him.

“During my career, I was probably one of the only Black people to start at the World Cups. Though I noticed that fact, there wasn’t any time to think about anything other than how to go faster and win. I was able to divorce the idea of ‘Are there people like me here?’ from “Do I want to pursue this?’, which I was only able to do after being instilled with confidence equipped with how to navigate these spaces.”

In 2020, having already transitioned from the World Cup to the less formal races of Crankworx and TransCascadia, Eliot’s life as an athlete came to a natural end. For the first time in almost ten years, with the pandemic raging across the globe, Eliot had the freedom to embark on a new chapter in his life. It wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd in late-spring, and the subsequent protests, that he settled on his next pursuit.

“If someone doesn’t have access to mountain biking, why not build a track for them to try it out to see if they want to pursue it?”

“Not racing gave me space to think and I had the time to try and reconcile what this reckoning meant for me as a Black person and the things that I had experienced over the years. People have always looked to support me and have also looked to me for support, so I thought that we could do something to build the sport in a way that it hadn’t been built before.”

Alongside downhill racer Katie Holden and entrepreneur Joi Jackson, Eliot established the Grow Cycling Foundation to increase diversity and inclusion in cycling. The foundation’s first initiative, of building a brand new pumptrack in Los Angeles, California, was announced soon after. Working closely with Velosolutions, the 30,000-square-foot track will be the first of its kind in the city, with a capacity large enough to support the surrounding community. The foundation is committed to creating a world-class course fit to host the Pumptrack World Championships in 2022.

“The idea of a pumptrack came from a lot of thinking over last summer. How do you bring the city to the outdoors? Well, first, you have to bring the outdoors to the city, and a pumptrack is one of the best ways to do that. If someone doesn’t have access to mountain biking, why not build a track for them to try it out and see if they want to pursue it? It’s all about giving people an opportunity to get involved, and if they’re going to seriously commit to it, that’s then down to them.

“We chose Los Angeles because there is a distinct lack of access there for so many millions of people. If you live in Downtown LA, you have to drive for at least an hour to reach anywhere you could ride a mountain bike. It’s almost the same for road bikes. We wanted to make the most impact possible and to create access where there hasn’t been.

“At the pumptrack, you’ll be encouraged to discover what cycling means to you. We didn’t want to import cycling culture into this community. We wanted to export this community’s culture into cycling.”

While building the track is currently the foundation’s primary focus, it’s only the first step of many when it comes to addressing the inadequate diverse representation in cycling. From community outreach in local pre-schools through to aiding those pursuing a career in cycling, the foundation will be forging and sustaining pathways into the industry.

“We didn’t want to import cycling culture into this community. We wanted to export this community’s culture into cycling.”

“We’re putting kindergarten and first grade All Kids Bike programs in all of the schools in the district surrounding the pumptrack. Kids can introduce cycling into their households and from there can pursue it through us, with the track as a valuable resource.”

”First, you get introduced to cycling at the track, and it’s your safe place to learn. Then it becomes a community hub that allows you to explore all of what cycling is, and it becomes your safe place to ride before maybe deciding on a career in the industry. One of the reasons Grow Cycling is able to be successful is because of the access that I have, with these companies eager to post on our jobs board. I’m proud and excited to have this path develop so quickly.”

As a grantee of the Rapha Foundation, we’ll be staying updated with the progress made by the Grow Cycling Foundation. They are one of five US-based organisations announced in this latest round of funding, alongside Black Girls Do Bike, Bear National Team, USA Cycling and Experience Fayetteville. Discover more on The Rapha Foundation and the invaluable work it’s helping to fund below.