Monday, April 15, 2013

Interview with Marcel Means

In the past 5-6 years I have met some very amazing people in the cycling community. Many of whom I would proudly claim to have kept me cycling when I wanted to give up. They have encouraged me when I faced a hill I didn't want climb. They have ridden with me and pushed me to ride farther than I wanted and I ended up enjoying the ride.

One of my first group rides I went on was a Flock of Cycles Ride. I was so afraid I would be singled out for being some old fat dude that was holding everyone back. As I watched people half my age and a third my size show up I was even more convinced that my fears were realized.

I was wrong.

People whom I had rode with once came up and called me by name. While we rode I always had people around me as we talked and got to know each other, we started going up a hill (a rare occurrence on a flock ride) as I got slower and slower the people I rode with also rode slower and slower, keeping with me and encouraging me.

This is something I will not forget anytime soon.

The Flock of Cycles has held a special place in my heart since that first ride. Now I got the chance to interview Marcel Means, the current President of Flock of Cycles and easily the nicest man I have ever met. Normally I would write something at the end of the interview to wrap things up. I think that Marcel's final comment says it all

Enjoy the Interview.

First a little background. How long have you been into cycling and how/why did you start riding?

I have been riding full time since 2008, after my wife bought me a bike as a present. My wife has always been active and wanted to get me into fitness. She bought me a bike because she felt I would enjoy cycling and help me to get more active. I was hooked fell in love with cycling, sold one of our cars and started commuting to work by bike.

What kind of riding do you enjoy?

I enjoy the Tuesday Team Decaf rides. It is a moderate to fast pace 25 mile ride that starts on Tuesdays during the summer. It starts in front of Tazzo D’Oro coffee shop in Highland Park.

Do you commute on your bike? 
Describe an average day of riding?

I commute daily to work. My commute to work and back is a total of about 8 miles. I also commute to school. My total commute to school and back is about 20 miles. My commute is peaceful and helps me clear my head. I commute all year round. I have commuted in below 0 temperatures, snow, ice, rain, and heat. I ride no matter the weather and I enjoy every minute of it.

You mentioned riding in the cold and wet weather. How do you prepare and ride in these challenging conditions?

I started by reading the Bike Pittsburgh Message Board, learning what other all-season bike riders do to prepare. I also read lots of different cycling blogs for advice. Mostly I have learned through trial and error. Over the last few years I have learned what works and what doesn't work. I suppose the winter commute takes the most planning. I usually wake up a little earlier in the morning to gear up in my winter cycling clothing and head out. It is a lot easier than people think, and winter cycling doesn't make me a super hero, it just means I read up on what apparel to wear before I head out.

What kind of things do you enjoy aside from riding?

I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a very loving wife and a joyful daughter. I also enjoy anything that involves fitness. I am currently pursuing a career in fitness and health.

What is “Flock of cycles” and when did you get involved with it?

Here is the official Flock of Cycles Mission.
Flock of Cycles strives to promote safe road use by increasing public understanding of the presence of bicycle riders on the roadways and encouraging responsible cycling practices through exemplification and education.  We are working to bring people together and make Pittsburgh a fun and safe place to ride bikes.   We are an organization with no paid staff, fully supported by community volunteers. Flock of Cycles is about the community. It’s about family and friends. We love cycling, we love Pittsburgh and we love the cycling community.

How/why was the “Flock of cycles” Formed?

I was not part of Flock in the beginning. Nick Drombosky created Flock, he had the vision of educating both drivers and cyclist of the joys of cycling and safer roads. He built Flock into the great organization it is today. My involvement came last year. Nick was moving on to new projects and needed someone to take over the Organization. Myself and a few others answered the call knowing how important Flock of Cycles is to the Community.

How would you describe the monthly party ride / what can someone expect on their first ride?

The monthly rides are best described as fun. The Pittsburgh Bike Part Rides are filled with great people, Music, Food, Dancing, Costumes, and bikes. It is a family friendly ride (bring your kids). We ride together we ride slowly, the pace is slow so that we can have conversations while we ride.

Marcel at Bikefest Party

What are the rules for the monthly party ride?

We obey all traffic laws. We also are respectful to the community, other cyclist, pedestrians, and vehicles. We ride safe and respectful. 

What are the goal of Flock of Cycles?

Our goal is to help make the streets safer for cyclist and educate both drivers and cyclist about safe commuting.

What are you trying to promote?

Simply the love of cycling.

What have been some of the challenges you have faced since taking charge of Flock of Cycles?

The transition from the old Flock of Cycles Board of directors to the new has been a very smooth transition. Thankfully Nick is still around as our advisor when we need him. We are a group of volunteers that provide a free service, but at times the free service cost money. At times that can be challenging.

What can people do to help Flock of Cycles?

They can donate time or money. We always need volunteers. We also have projects we are working on, exciting projects, that once we get funding we will launch.

Can you tell us about some of these projects?

The exciting new projects. Every time I think about them I smile. Flock of Cycles has always been destined to be more than the once a month Pittsburgh Party Rides. We are about giving to the community. We are working on projects that are about safe cycling for everyone of all ages. At these early stages it would be premature for me to reveal these projects and events we have planned. I hope in the near future Flock will make an official statement or unveiling. All I can say is we plan to get more involved with the community in our efforts to make Pittsburgh a fun place to ride bikes.

What has affected you the most in your time as president of Flock of Cycles?

The love I have received from the community. I feel the cycling community has welcomed and accepted me with great love. I am so thankful for that.

What, in your opinion is the most important part of the Flock Party ride?
i.e. what makes a Flock ride a Flock ride?

The people. The people are great, diverse. I love the cycling community. Flock wouldn’t be Flock without the great people who come out to ride with us.

What do you think about rides such as Critical Mass and Alleycat races that are known for their rather loose interpretation of traffic laws?

With anything you only hear about when bad things happen. Alleycat races and Critical Mass are important parts of the cycling community. With anything if a few (or one) do something crazy that means everyone does. Not all cyclist run lights, and not all Alleycat or Critical Mass rides are crazy.

Have you noticed any anti-cyclist actions from people, while on a flock ride or while riding during your normal day?

More on my everyday commute than on a Flock ride. I have noticed a slight decline in angry drivers over the last year. With more bike lanes and awareness things have gotten a little easier. There is still a long way to go.

How do you deal with it?

I ride safe and predictable. I also kill them with kindness. I am not a combative person, I defuse the situation by not engaging.

How if at all has the hit and run deaths of last summer and the attack on the cyclist affected the way you ride?

The hit and run assaults on cyclist makes me realize how important our work at Flock of Cycles is. The hit and runs have strengthened my resolve. I  ride more, and I am more determined to help make the streets of Pittsburgh safer for everyone.

Many cyclists believe that with the growing number of cyclist there is also a growing anti-cycling sentiment among the general public?
What can we as cyclists do to promote a greater acceptance of cycling among non-cyclist?

Stay the course. Don’t back down, cycling is here to stay, Historically our country has fought against change, or people who are seen as different. A cycling civil rights is on the horizon and I plan to be apart of it.

If there was just one message that you would like to communicate about cycling what would it be?

Cycling is for everyone, despite your age, race or fitness level. Everyone is welcome. Cycling =Love, peace, and happiness.


  1. I've been checking the Flock calendar occasionally on their web page, but haven't seen any rides posted. Do you know when they ride, or how to find out about rides.

  2. If you are checking the flock of cycles website then I can share in your frustration, but I happen to know that they are working on getting the website updated. but if you check out their facebook page at
    you will find all the information that you need. In general there is a ride on the third friday of every month.

    Hope this helps!