Gunnar Bergey

Cycling Studies paves the way for exhilarating careers and lifelong cycling advocacy

Gunnar Bergey ’15 knew he was going to attend a college with a strong competitive cycling team. Many schools around the country fit the bill. But for the bicycle aficionado who had raced in the Europe as a high schooler, one college offered something extra.  

“There were quite a few schools that had cycling programs the way that Lees-McRae did from a racing standpoint, but none of them had the cycling minor,” Bergey, a Pennsylvania native, said. “That made the college stand out to me.”  

As recognized by the League of American Bicyclists, Lees-McRae is the only educational institution in the US that has an official Cycling Studies minor. The required courses cover the history of bicycling, cycling infrastructure and policy, and the bicycle industry. The program emphasizes experiential learning and introducing students to the ins and outs of the cycling business.  

The Cycling Studies minor was added in 2012. According to Ted Silver, the Cycling Studies program coordinator, “The academic setting of the Cycling Studies minor offers the student the opportunity to expand their cycling experiences beyond simply riding and racing. The classroom offers the opportunity for the student to learn, debate, make mistakes, critically think, experiment, and gain a wide range of knowledge on many areas and topics that they could not get by spending time in a single workplace.” 

Bergey paired his minor in Cycling Studies with a major in Business Administration. From a young age, he was interested in turning his passion for bikes and racing into a career.  

“Growing up, I had family friends who were in the bike and ski industries,” Bergey said. “I saw how they were able to work in a field they loved, and that was attractive to me.”  

Throughout his time at Lees-McRae, Bergey fed his love of competition by participating in mountain bike, cyclocross, and road racing with the college team. With the Cycling Studies program, however, he gained a deeper understanding of the work that goes into making it possible for bike-lovers to participate in their favorite sport.  

“We were able to go to the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C.,” Bergey said. “There are a lot of people in the bike world that like racing and participating, but the advocacy side of it is something that gets overlooked. It was really eye-opening for me, having spent countless weekends racing in different countries, to learn what is done in terms of infrastructure, like providing bike lanes and bike racks. That was something new to me, and something I found interesting.”  

The Cycling Studies classes also provided opportunities for Bergey to hear from industry professionals and visit local bicycle companies.  

“Getting the first-hand experience of seeing what professionals do every day for work and how these businesses operate was invaluable,” Bergey said.  

After graduating, Bergey was hired as the marketing coordinator for Stan’s NoTubes, a company that designs and sells innovative, air-free bike tires. As one member of a two-person marketing team, Bergey has tackled many different projects, building on the foundation he gained at Lees-McRae and developing a varied skillset.  

And Bergey’s involvement with the cycling industry and community goes beyond his day job. In his free time, he promotes bike races, including the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic, a five-stage race that takes competitors from all over the world through the forests of central Pennsylvania and a gravel race in Williamsport called Iron Cross. The partnership with the Trans-Sylvania Epic grew out of a social media internship Bergey completed during college to meet the internship requirement of the Cycling Studies minor.  

The advocacy education also proved essential when a bike trail development project needed funding in Bergey’s area. He applied his marketing skills to a fundraising campaign that earned $30,000 for the project, which is now in its second phase. Thanks to Bergey’s assistance, access to cycling has been expanded in his community.  

When he’s not working, volunteering, fundraising, or promoting, Bergey still finds time to have his own adventures. He’s had the opportunity to bike in some of the most popular cycling spots in the country, like Moab, Utah, but the technical rocky riding in Pennsylvania remains his favorite. And racing is still as important as ever, although he has moved to competing on dirt bikes.  

“I think the reason I’ve been drawn to bike racing is just the competitiveness,” he said. “There’s more to it than just being the strongest that day. There’s preparation, and the bike component decisions. Anybody can be fast on one day. But being fast across the whole season, with the level of competition out there, takes skill. There’s one person that wins every day, and you’re always trying to be that person.” 

Earning a minor in Cycling Studies can provide a competitive edge for those interested in pursuing a career in the outdoor recreation industry. The curriculum also prepares students to be cycling advocates in their own communities. 

For more information about the Cycling Studies minor or our other academic programs, contact our admissions team

By Emily WebbAugust 26, 2021