When I first set out to write this list it was because of a genuine interest in who the people are in the US making a positive impact for cycling today. There are about 20 obvious names that I can list off the top of my head, but are they actually influential, or just well-known?
This turned out to be a much larger and more interesting exercise than I ever imagined.
The word “Influential’ needs a definition to help inform this list. The Oxford dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.”
To narrow down the definition of ‘Influential’ even further, I think it should also encompass the spirit of being positive and in the service of others.
Legends such as Keith Bontrager, Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher and others most certainly deserve recognition alongside their fellow US Bicycle Hall of Fame inductees, but as of 2023 their historic contribution and legacy is probably more notable than their current and active influence is.
There were hundreds of nominees put forward and I can’t thank everyone enough for that. The criteria I used to assemble these 50 names was the following:
- People who invest in the sport (money, time, or other resources). Sponsors, team owners, etc. included.
- People who run impactful events (races, participation rides, expos, etc)
- People who inspire others to take up the sport.
- Media personalities who use their voice for good.
- People who are in the often thankless job of cycling administration or non-profits.
- People in the cycling industry doing innovative work.
- The people considered need to be currently living and making a positive impact within the last decade.
- Does this list of people need to be American citizens? No! As I’ve discovered there are lots of people doing important and impactful work in the US who aren’t Americans.
What is this not:
- Most popular
- Most powerful
- Most race wins
- Historic figures no longer actively involved (they deserve their own list of distinction which can be found at the US Bicycle Hall of Fame)
As with any list there will be many who will be missing. This list is not in any particular order, and it isn’t the ‘top 50.’ It’s simply ‘50.’
Now, what gives a Canadian/Australian the authority to assemble this list you ask? Well, nothing, except that I have the password to publishing on this site. And also, I come into this with few pre-conceptions, alliances, or obligations. This isn’t a definitive list that was painstakingly surveyed, voted, etc. I asked our fellow editors, polled our Escapee members, asked our social media followers, and created the list based on names who came up again and again. I looked more into them and many took me on delightful tangents.
Also, I’m aware of the bias of our members and audience’s location and that they come to us for a specific type of cycling. Advocacy, gravity MTB, para, track, sustainability, regions of the US, and other areas will surely be underrepresented, so please point out any I’ve missed in the comments.
Here we go, in no particular order:
- Jenn Dice: Jenn has been the CEO of People for Bikes for over a decade. Their mission is to “inspire and empower cities to take actions that get more people on bikes to promote healthier populations and a more livable planet.” which is a noble cause for anyone who rides a bike. Previously, Jenn was served as IMBA’s director of Government Relations for 13 years and advocated for the sport of mountain biking and shaped important laws (and trained countless other advocates how to lobby) that affect access to mountain bike trails on public lands around the country. There’s a good chance that the trails you’re riding on have been influenced in some way by Jenn.
- Kate Courtney: Not only is she a former XCO World Champion, but she’s used her profile to support the Sparkle On scholarship that assists with the financial burden of college and encourages recipients to continue cycling into their college life. She also has partnered with the NorCal Cycling League and the She Sends Foundation, whose mission is to get more girls on bikes. Of course, the latter could not have been done without Vanessa Hauswald who has been the executive director for the NorCal League for the past 14 years.
- Rahsaan Bahati: The former racer is the namesake of the Bahati Foundation whose mission it is to ensure that all children have equal access to sport and structured play.
- Tom and Steuart Walton: Some say their Walmart affiliation may be controversial, but there’s no denying that they have transformed an entire city of Bentonville, AR and its surrounding areas into one of the best cycling destinations in America. They also own Rapha and bike brand Allied through their private equity fund, RZC Investments.
- Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey: Co-founders of Strava. You cannot deny the influence that Strava has had on the cycling world and the way we ride. Not only that, it has enabled some incredibly valuable data for urban planners, city governments, and advocates to identify opportunities for investment and evaluate the impact of infrastructure changes.
- Kate Veronneau: As Director of Women’s Strategy at Zwift, Kate is the driving force behind enabling the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift with her time, advocacy, and Zwift’s title sponsorship. Not only that, Kate had been championing women’s representation in Zwift’s marketing since the beginning and was instrumental in starting the Zwift Academy with Canyon-SRAM.
- Kathryn Bertine: Of course the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (and much more to progress equality in sport) would not have been possible without Kathryn’s years of hard work, commitment, and persistence. The author and documentary producer of “Half the Road” helped lay the foundation for the rise in women’s professional road racing that we’re now starting to see. She also runs the Homestretch Foundation, whose mission it is to level the playing field of salary discrepancy in sport, so that female professional athletes have the same wages and equal opportunities as male professional athletes.
- Ayesha McGowan: The first African American woman to race on a professional road cycling team. She is also an activist and advocate aiming to improve diversity and inclusivity in cycling, especially for women and ethnic minorities and backs it up by having launched Thee Abundance Project, designed to create a pathway for women of color in cycling.
- Earl Blumenauer: Since 1996, his first year representing Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District in Congress, Blumenauer has arguably been the single most powerful advocate for bikes at any level of government in the US. He founded the Congressional Bike Caucus and, in his role as a member of the Transportation Committee, Blumenaeur helped steer billions of dollars of federal investment in bicycle infrastructure. Amongst other legislation, Blumenauer reintroduced the E-BIKE Act (a bill to give Americans a $1,500 discount on the purchase of a new e-bike) alongside the Bicycle Commuter Act, which would offer tax benefits to Americans commuting to work by bike; both are in committee consideration. In October, the 75-year-old announced he would not run for re-election in 2024.
- John J. Bauters: The “Bike Mayor” of Emeryville, California is arguably one of the most bike-friendly mayors in the U.S. The work he’s done as mayor of a city that most people couldn’t find on a map has been extraordinary for civil leadership and advocacy in the cycling transportation space. As an elected official he has done a huge amount to both popularize cycling for the masses and creating the infrastructure needed for safe cycling in California.
- Marley Blonsky and Kailey Kornhauser: co-founders of non-profit All Bodies on Bikes, a fantastic movement working towards body-size inclusion in the cycling industry which is sorely needed.
- Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney: The husband and wife duo has not only contributed to America’s rich cycling history and achievements, and they’ve used their profile and Davis’ illness to make an impact on other Parkinson’s sufferers along with their care-givers with the Davis Phinney Foundation. They also organize several massive bike rides to benefit research for treatment and have participated in studies looking at how cycling can improve the lives of those with the disease.
- Rebecca Rusch: “Total badass w/o the attitude. Great adventurer, racer, motivational speaker, storyteller, and business person. Like all of the great women in cycling, she’s been pushing a rock uphill with just the right amount of grit and grace,” says EC member Jeff vdD. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
- Axel Merckx: How influential can a Belgian living in Canada be in the US? As it turns out, very much so by virtue of his U23 development team, Hagens Berman Axeon. Founded in 2009, the team exists to develop young riders through to the very top of the sport. Over the last 15 years, Axel and his team have seen 45 of their riders graduate to World Tour teams, including Americans Taylor Phinney, Joe Dombrowski, Ian Boswell, Nathan Brown, and Lawson Craddock, to name five. Someone who deserves a mention as very influential to some of the rider’s careers is former Axeon Assistant Manager, Reed McCalvin.
- Linda Jackson: The woman responsible for building EF Education-Tibco-SVB (and its various incarnations). The team will fold at the end of the year, but has done so much as a pathway for female athletes into the WorldTour, playing a vital role starting or developing the careers of racers like Megan Guarnier, Alison Tetrick, Alison Jackson, Brodie Chapman, and Veronica Ewers. While a portion of the team will live on by way of the newly formed EF Education-Cannondale women’s squad, this marks the end of Jackson’s team. And she deserves a lot of recognition for building such a long legacy of women’s professional cycling.
- Sam Balto: The physical education teacher has started a movement that’s getting kids on their bikes. Realizing he tapped an incredible desire for kids and families to have a more fun, healthy, and peaceful way to get to school, his “Bike Bus” has become a regular Wednesday event and inspired other neighborhoods in Portland and around the world.
- Matt Fritzinger: The founder of NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) in 2009, arguably the most successful grassroots development program in the US, with more than 25,000 current athletes in high schools across America. NICA provides governance, leadership, and program support to regional organizations. Matt is no longer involved with NICA, but his program lives on, growing far bigger than one man, and all the good people behind NICA who keep it alive and growing deserve a big shout-out for the impact they’ve made on cycling in the US.
- Jim Cummins and Joel Dyke: While Unbound Gravel was not the first gravel race, its founders captured the imagination of the nation and helped inspire gravel riding to be the fastest growing discipline in America. They sought to create an event that would “keep it simple, but make it difficult” and ended up growing it into the world’s premier gravel event.
- Lachlan Morton: Controversial, I know. Lachie isn’t even American, he’s Australian. But he resides full-time in Colorado and creates more media attention for just being himself and doing his thing than almost any other pro cyclist on the planet. ‘Being himself’ includes his ‘Alt Tour’ and epic rides for charity to raise money and attention for Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund or to deliver hundred of bicycles with WBR to kids in Colombia. It can also be argued that Lachlan and his brother Gus were responsible for making ‘non-racing’ cool to the masses through their Thereabouts series and work thereafter.
- F.K. and Leah Missbach Day: The founders of World Bicycle Relief (WBR), which mobilizes communities in rural regions around the world with life-changing bicycles. WBR has surpassed more than 700,000 bicycles distributed since their inception and helped accelerate the journey out of poverty for more than 3.5 million people in 21 countries. Their Buffalo Bicycle is a game-changer for people living in rural areas who lack reliable transportation, putting critical services and opportunities out of reach.
- Molly Cameron: The first openly transgender athlete to compete in a UCI CX World Cup, she’s been an openly transgender athlete since the 90s. And when the spotlight on trans athletes intensified across the country (many states like Arkansas passed anti-transgender legislation), Molly was unafraid to publicly speak out and lead on issues such as how the cycling community can move toward true inclusivity.
- John Watson: The creator of The Radavist and tremendous reach in terms of curating style, being the ‘tastemaker’ for alternative cycling, and opening people’s eyes to different types of riding.
- Josh Poertner: Owner and the man responsible for reviving Silca, but more importantly has innovated and influenced many facets of the cycling industry throughout his career. Through his podcast ‘Marginal Gains’ Josh has educated thousands of cyclists through his own and his guests’ knowledge and debunked conventional wisdom.
- Logan Watts: The founder of Bikepacking.com and is responsible for its overall vision. Not only is his website the go-to place for all things bikepacking (routes, gear, coverage, etc), but he has helped imagine and inspire a different type of cycling and made it ‘cool’ like bike touring never had been.
- Kimo Seymour: The man (and President of Lifetime’s Events and Media division) responsible for the Lifetime Grand Prix has brought a new level of enthusiasm and interest to XC and gravel racing across the US. The series, which is in its third season, is billed as the top off-road endurance series in the world, with pre-selected competitors vying for the overall prize purse of $300,000 split equally between equal-size fields of male and female competitors.
- Nicola Cranmer and Julia Violich: Cofounders of women’s development and pro cycling team Twenty24. They are one of the few elite development teams for aspiring women in the US and they’ve sent numerous riders to the Olympics. Almost every major US rider comes through Twenty24 at one point, including multiple-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, who now works with the team, Mari Holden, Mara Abbott, Coryn Labecki, Chloe Dygert, and many more). They’ve had an enormous impact on the women’s side of road cycling.
- Dirk Friel: Co-founder of TrainingPeaks and who is still heavily involved in the business. TrainingPeaks remains the dominant training/coaching platforms for US (and globally) coaches and riders. Special shout-out to Dirk’s father, Joe Friel whose book ‘The Cyclist’s Training Bible’ remains a go-to resource for training methods written for cyclists.
- Ray Maker: The Seattle-raised man behind DC Rainmaker currently lives in Amsterdam, and there’s little doubt that when he gives his epic-length opinions on a gadget within his beat (wearables, indoor training, computers, etc), the industry takes it seriously, and runners/triathletes/cyclists listen and base their purchase decisions on his words.
- Edward Hult: The CEO of EF Education First, who is a passionate cyclist and also responsible for keeping the USA on the map in the WorldTour. EF is not only title sponsor, but now owns both the men’s and women’s teams. He sees the value in how supporting pro cycling can be used as a vehicle for EF’s brand awareness and value alignment for the business, and his financial backing gives the US a pro cycling team to cheer for.
- Jonathan Vaughters: JV was responsible for creating America’s longest-standing pro cycling team, Slipstream Sports in 2005 (the holding company behind the team, now owned by EF). It was founded on the premise of clean cycling, which was radical thinking back then. The team nearly died a thousand deaths but JV would always find a sponsor and way to keep it running over the years. JV is currently the CEO of EF Pro Cycling and continues to have an influential voice in the pro cycling world and is a proponent of how the business model of pro cycling is still caught in the stone ages (my words, not his).
- Marcus Robinson: Co-Founder and Chairman of Ride for Racial Justice whose mission is to ensure access to resources, education, and community for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) cyclists and to dismantle systemic racism.
- Neal Henderson: Best known for his influence in the world of sports science, Neal brought advanced sports science to the masses through his role as head of sports science at The Sufferfest and later Wahoo Fitness. As the owner of Apex Coaching, he helped Evelyn Stevens set the women’s Hour Record in 2016 and has coached hundreds of athletes to high-level performances on the world stage, earning coach of the year awards from USA Cycling, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Triathlon along the way. But it’s his role as co-founder of Ride for Racial Justice that shows his influence isn’t limited to making people faster, but to combating racism as well.
- Tom Ritchey: One of the founding fathers of mountain biking and the last of the OG’s who still owns his own business. His lasting influence and impact on mountain biking and gravel cycling have been profound, and he continues to stay true to his brand and innovate. In addition, together with Jock Boyer, he helped establish Project Rwanda, and was involved in building/designing utilitarian bikes suited for African farmers to transport goods.
- Kimberly Coats: CEO of Team Africa Rising, the racing arm of the Rwandan Cycling Program mentioned above, which was founded by her partner Jock Boyer. The Team Africa Rising program gives African riders opportunities that lack at the national level and provides access to sponsors, coaches, mechanics, support staff training, invitations to international races and business planning to ensure success for the team and the riders. The team has included Adrien Niyonshuti, who would go on to become Rwanda’s most famous pro cyclist, racing for Dimension Data in 2016/2017, and who also competed in the XCO race at the London 2012 Olympics.
- Phil Gaimon and Ted King: Two different people who deserve to be on this list for similar reasons, and I couldn’t only pick one. Together, they redefined what being a pro rider is. Fans had almost zero direct access to pro riders prior to those two. They built their own brands, fan bases, and communication networks in a way that no rider had done before. They’ve done a remarkable job at experimenting with content generation and marketing as part of what might be considered to be the first wave of real “professional” social media influencers in cycling (and also by having legitimate skills on the bike).
- Shannon Galpin: Growing up in North Dakota and now residing in Scotland, her tireless efforts to use the bike as a vehicle to help Afghan women cannot be overlooked. She was instrumental in the creation of the Afghan Women’s National Cycling Team, and also was one of the driving forces behind raising money, helping with logistics, and awareness for the evacuation efforts of over 120 female cyclists who were in grave danger after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. This is only the tip of the iceberg for Galpin’s charitable work. For other efforts in Afghanistan, Farid Noori also deserves a mention. Growing up in Afghanistan and now a US citizen in Boston, Farid founded MTB Afghanistan and deserves praise for his efforts in the evacuation effort.
- Mike Sinyard: Not only is he the founder of Specialized which continues to be one of the largest and most innovative bike companies in the world who also supports countless team sponsorships, kids programs, etc. Mike also cofounded the Outride program, a non-profit organization dedicated to scientific research into the positive effects of cycling on physical and mental health, school-based cycling programs, and the creation and support of cycling communities. Through these programs they aim to advance the understanding of how riding bikes can help improve the social, emotional, and physical well-being of children.
- Stan Day: One of the co-founders of SRAM, he stepped down as CEO in 2019 after 31 years at the helm, but has left a legacy of innovation and company culture that makes SRAM one of the best places to work in the industry. Kenneth Lousberg is now CEO, and from all accounts within SRAM he is doing great things for a company and driving DE&I initiatives which the cycling industry is in need of.
- Chad Brown: The CFO of Trek Bikes’ passion is something that goes above and beyond his day job. He’s been a driving force behind the CX scene in the US for the past decade and continues to play an enormous part in the Waterloo CX World Cup. He has a unique position within the company where he can turn his advocacy into reality, and it goes far beyond a marketing effort for Trek (he even personally helps non-Trek teams with their logistics). In addition to CX, Chad has the company closely invested in the development of NICA both at the Wisconsin level and nationwide. Chad will probably tell you that he’s not alone in his efforts, but having a CFO of the largest bike company in the US helps make these things much easier to do.
- Sepp Kuss: This choice might be perceived as a bike racer just being a bike racer, but there’s little doubt that the success he’s achieved with his 2023 Vuelta a Espana win and his super-domestique role he played for his team’s historic Grand Tour sweep gives America reason to be proud of their place in professional road racing. Not to mention his grounded nature and not forgetting where he came from (hat tip to the good people who run the Durango Devo), he’s a wonderful role model for the kids of Durango and nationwide.
- Justin Williams: He and his brother Cory cofounded the Legion of Los Angeles team which has become an inspiration for African American. As this Bicycling article so eloquently summed it up, “He has taken it upon himself to represent every Black cyclist, every marginalized rider, every person who has been told, “You don’t belong here.”
- James Huang: One of the longest serving Tech Editors in the cycling media industry. His decades of experience and knowledge are evident in his reviews inform and influence the purchasing decisions across road, gravel, mountain bike and cargo bike genres. James might be a thorn in the side of the cycling industry, but his continued service and influence in his words cannot go unrecognised.
- Lea and Sabra Davison: The sisters started Little Bellas, a national nonprofit committed to helping girls realize their full potential through mountain biking.
- Gary Erickson and Lisa Thomas: Founders of Clif Bar, their efforts epitomise corporate philanthropy and the way business can be used for good in the community. Over 20 years ago Clif addressed the disparity in women’s sports paid parity with what the men are making as pro cyclists on the teams they created, starting with Luna. They also created the Clif Bar Family Foundation in 2006 who are a major supporter of organic farming initiatives. It made a $10 million investment in organic farming research endowments.
- Seth Alvo: The man behind the YouTube channel Berm Peak (formerly Seth’s Bike Hacks). Perhaps the biggest cycling-related privateer YouTuber, to the extent that he was able to crowdfund a free public bike park in North Carolina.
- Christina Whitehouse: The founder of Bike Lane Uprising has galvanized a movement and created policy change to protect cyclists. Bike Lane Uprising focuses on making cycling safer by making it easy to report bike lane obstructions via their app. They find trends in the data to hold violators accountable and prevent future obstructions.
- Clarence Eckerson Jr: A Queens-based videographer and the creator of BikeTV and Streetfilms.org, a vlog that tackles the issues of the livable streets movement. Clarence has been documenting advocacy transportation for over ten years and has produced more than 1,000 videos for Streetfilms. He is referred to as “the hardest working man in transportation show biz” for his dedication to making difficult concepts more accessible and entertaining to the general public. He also works for Open Plans whose mission it is to transform New York City’s streets.
- Frank Yohannan: Cofounder (along with Lou Rudolph) of the Sea Otter Classic. With Interbike no longer in existence, the Sea Otter has now become the de facto industry and consumer trade show in the US. With its unique makeup of events, exhibition booths, and crucial time of year near the beginning of the high season for cycling in the US, it feels like the ‘first day back at school’ where everyone is positive and having a good time at the gathering of multiple disciplines at one venue.
- The entire comments section in PinkBike: The world’s largest and most influential mountain bike website was founded by Canadian Radek Burkat (who is no longer involved), but now an American-owned entity. A large majority of its readership comes from the US so it cannot go without mention. It’s often said, ‘don’t read the comments’ which might also apply to PinkBike, but there’s no denying that the PinkBike community is the heartbeat of the site and significantly shapes opinion in the MTB world.
- I want your nominations in the comments. Each time I thought I had a complete and comprehensive list I would either come across someone new who deserves to be on this list, or remember someone who should be here. This tells me there have been so many who were missed and this spot should be reserved for them and their influential work in cycling.
In closing, I want to acknowledge that capping this list at 50 was incredibly difficult. Firstly, because there is no way to properly rank these names. Also, no matter how I define it everyone has their own interpretation of what “influential” means. And the effects of the social media bubbles in the places I solicited these nominations will certainly hold strong biases.
What I learned from this is that there are so many people doing good things to make a positive impact on their communities who should be acknowledged, and this list could be extended into the thousands. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
What did you think of this story?