Senior Grayson Wickel helped bike culture flourish at Lees-McRae

When the Mars Hill University cycling team was cut, Grayson Wickel realized he needed to take a different path if he wanted to continue with his passion for cycling. That passion is what brought him to Lees-McRae as a junior, where he has spent two years studying Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and riding with the cycling team.

“I knew just from competing with Lees-McRae and being at the same races, that the team here was on top. I knew that was where I wanted to be,” Wickel said.

However, his love for cycling started long before his undergraduate career, tracing back to his preteen years where he rode with a local team of junior athletes in his hometown. Wickel said he had just gotten a new mountain bike around that time and was amazed by the speed that older riders achieved. Coming to Lees-McRae meant his involvement in cycling only grew.

“Moving into the collegiate ranks I have seen a much larger team component,” Wickel said. “In road cycling we’re really able to use each other and use our strengths to achieve our overall goal. I like to think of it as a chess match in that it’s much more strategic with a team. It’s been exciting to be a part of that.”

Wickel says he hopes he will be able to use his business degree to work in some sector of the cycling industry, and he has already begun using this knowledge to spur growth and education in the bike community here at Lees-McRae.

In Fall 2021 Wickel took over the president position in C.R.A.N.K. Crew, the student-led cycling club on campus. The acronym stands for Community Riding Advocacy Nature and Knowledge.

“We’ve really been working on getting the student body educated on cycling not just as a sport, but as a means of transportation, recreation, and health,” Wickel said. “We do have the team here, but we are also showing students that you don’t have to be competitive to really enjoy what a bike has to offer. We’ve just been building that awareness and advocacy through the campus and the greater community.”

As the club’s president Wickel has worked with his peers to organize a number of clinics and activities around campus, ranging from crash courses on basic bicycle maintenance to an “alley cat race”: an on-bike scavenger hunt race throughout campus.

“Being a small school has taught me a lot about communication, and just being able to use the resources and experiences that you have to grow,” Wickel said. “I think it will really set me up for the future and whatever I end up doing.”

Wickel points to the guidance and direction of Program Coordinator and Instructor of Cycling Ted Silver and the experiences he has had in the Cycling minor as particularly formative and helpful as he begins to think about what life looks like for him outside of Lees-McRae.

From touring Kitsbow Cycling and Mountain Bike Apparel headquarters in Old Fort, North Carolina, to attending a virtual cycling summit with a group of Lees-McRae students lobbying for cyclist and pedestrian safety infrastructure, Wickel’s time at Lees-McRae has been packed with hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that he will take with him in the future. .

“I want to stay in the area after graduation. I’m very excited to see the overall growth of the school, especially with this new master plan and buying Grandfather Home,” Wickel said. “I hope that if help is ever needed, I can be a part of that through volunteering or any other way.”

By Maya JarrellApril 06, 2022
Campus Life