Cycling Studies minor goes far beyond bikes

There has long been an interest in cycling as an alternative to, and potential solution for, some of the problems caused by cars throughout the world. While bike infrastructure and use in the United States still pales in comparison to many other countries, some American colleges and universities have begun trying to close that gap by offering classes that prepare students to make cycling more accessible as a sport and mode of transportation. When it comes to establishing a place for bikes in the classroom, Lees-McRae is racing to the front of the pack as the only higher education institution with an entire academic program dedicated to the topic.

“Entire courses devoted to biking are still relatively uncommon, and in lots of cases, bike-ped material is part of other transportation-oriented or general policy planning classes,” Allie Grasgreen writes in Shifting Gears,her article on the study of bicycles for InsideHigherEd.

These courses often strive to go beyond the traditional understandings of cycling, examining the beloved sport and pastime through academic, sociological, and anthropological lenses. While there is a growing interest in the topic, the Cycling Studies minor at Lees-McRae remains one of a kind, providing students with a fresh perspective and giving both collegiate racers and casual riders a way to focus their passion for riding into an academic interest and a potential career path.

“I teach their brain, the coach teaches their brawn,” Program Coordinator and Instructor of Cycling Studies Ted Silver said, but Cycling Studies is not just for cyclists who want an excuse to talk about bikes in the classroom. The minor pairs well with different majors to give students a more focused educational experience that can help them get their foot in the door of the legal, environmental, business, sustainability, and even design sides of the cycling industry. 

Current Cycling Studies students Jackson McLean and Max Chilsen are both Business Administration majors who compete on the cycling team. Both students were drawn to the program by their life-long passions for cycling, and their desires to work in the cycling industry following graduation. The program explores many topics, including cycling history, improvements in bikes and cycling technology, sustainability efforts, and law and business practices.

McLean, who has long been interested in owning and operating his own bike shop, says the law and business aspects of the Cycling Studies minor pair well with his academic pursuits in the Business Administration program and are preparing him for the unique challenges that come not only with running a business, but with running a cycling-based business specifically.

“The surface level of our business classes is teaching us about business plans, and different business strategies, whereas the cycling business class we’re taking this semester goes way more in depth into the cycling industry in particular,” McLean said. “We go into so much depth and make so many connections through the program. There are a bunch of graduates who are coming this semester to talk to us and just give us some information on the dos and do-nots.”

Although he said he is still exploring the industry in search of the best path for him, Chilsen agreed that the minor pairs well with the knowledge he is gaining from the Business Administration program. He said this pairing would help a graduate bridge the gap between general business knowledge and an application to cycling by providing more specialized information and knowledge of the industry. Owning a bike shop is only one potential career path the Cycling Studies program prepares students for, however. The program also features courses that, among other things, focus on laws and sustainable innovation, topics that can apply to a variety of fields even beyond the world of cycling. And according to Chilsen, you might not even need to know much about bikes to gain valuable experience from the program.

“If I was not a cyclist, I might be a little bit intimidated to take one of the courses, because I might think it’s about all these super specific things about cycling that I might not necessarily be interested in, but what you learn about cycling is pretty practical,” Chilsen said. “You can apply it to a lot of things, so I think it would still be useful for somebody who isn’t a cyclist.”

According to Silver, in addition to fields directly related to business and cycling, the knowledge students gain through the Cycling Studies program can be applied to careers with environmental and sustainability organizations, federal, state, and local transportation departments, urban planning teams, and bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups.

The world changes and develops around us every day, and it will continue to require innovative solutions to address the ever-evolving challenges of town and city planning, sustainable development, and more, and a strong foundation and understanding of the benefits of cycling is a great place for the leaders of tomorrow to start.

Consider these pairings

Environment and sustainability

The Outdoor Recreation Management (ORM) program offers a wide range of potential academic concentrations and career paths, and paring the major with Cycling Studies is an excellent option. In addition to courses covering outdoor recreation skills, ORM focuses on lessons about sustainability and environmentalism in the great outdoors, such as the Leave no Trace certification that students earn through the program.

Pairing Cycling Studies with these lessons of sustainability will prepare students to understand the impact bikes, cycling, and cycling infrastructure can have on the environment and on our lives.

Cycling Studies students experience bike advocacy first-hand at National Bike Summit in Washington D.C.


Combine the Cycling Studies minor with a major in Business Administration to prepare yourself for a career owning and operating a bike shop. The Business Administration major gives students skills in economics, finance, and business law, among other things, while the Cycling Studies minor will provide a more focused lens for these skills within the cycling industry.

The Business Administration-Cycling Studies pairing prepares students for careers far beyond running a bike shop, however. Cody Phillips ’15 works in Original Equipment Manufacturer Sales, and TJ Trotter ’15 works in product management.

Learn more about this pairing


Exercise Science and Nutrition Science are great programs to pair with the Cycling Studies minor for students who are interested in an academic and professional career that focuses on the many health benefits of cycling. These pairings prepare students for careers in wellness health coaching, health education, athletic and personal training, and more.

By Maya JarrellOctober 26, 2023