Half Acre COY21

Meet 2021 Division II Club of the Year: Half Acre Cycling Club

By: Julie Goldsticker  April 13, 2022

The Half Acre Cycling Club Brings Much More to the Cycling World Than Beer

The Half Acre Cycling Club was founded in 2008 with the intention of providing a space focused on accountability and equality in cycling. The team prioritized having fun and enjoying cycling rather than securing spots on the podium. And that’s why they won the USA Cycling Club of the Year Division II (30-75 licensed members) category.

Many years later, the club is still proudly built on the same philosophies. While they are also known for the beer and goodies they bring to races, the team continues to prioritize providing a safe, positive environment for new and seasoned riders alike.

Club President Adam Overberg joined the club in 2016 after taking up cycling two years earlier to find a new mode of transportation to get to work. He joined a Monday night ride in the Chicago area, which happened to be led by a Half Acre cycling team member. “The ride’s purpose was to give people an introduction to road cycling, and they were just super great about getting people into it. I started hanging out with them and they took me under their wing and asked if I’d be interested in joining the team,” Overberg said.

He is now approaching the end of his second term as Half Acre Cycling Team President and he’s helping the team work to continue the mission through philanthropic effort and creating a welcoming environment for everyone the club interacts with.

“We strive nonstop to bring attention to some of the inadequacies in the sport. It’s a wealthy, white male dominated sport. Cycling is a sport where you have to provide your own equipment which makes it selectionist. It’s always been one of our goals as a team to foster opportunities for individuals to participate regardless of their economic status,” Overberg said.

Treasurer David Stanford shared that growing interest in cycling throughout every area of Chicago is an important goal of the Half Acre Cycling Club. “Half Acre does two races a year and both of those races are focused on getting new folks into racing. We do our criterium race in the spring and a cyclocross race in late summer, early fall. Those are all new folks focused period,” Stanford said.

Their outreach doesn’t end there. Half Acre has worked to increase access for those who are not able to afford bikes and race fees. They generously donate to organizations such as Working Bikes, who provides bicycles to people who are unable to purchase them and Blackstone Bicycle Works, a retail bike shop that supports youth from some of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods. "In the last couple years, we’ve also tried to improve upon doing that. Instead of just giving money to folks who are already doing it, we are trying to figure out how to do more of that work ourselves,” Stanford said.

Laura Shields, the club’s secretary, joined the team in 2020 shortly after the pandemic began. Since joining the team she’s been impressed by how engaged the club members are both in supporting each other and their local community.

“I feel like a lot of us are drawn to the team because being a big part of our community is important to us. Whether that means volunteering and putting in hours at local events or sometimes that’s coming up with routes that help educate about history here or hosting clinics that help get people involved,” said Shields.

It was Shields who nominated the Half Acre Cycling Club for the Club of the Year award because she wanted to share the amazing things her cycling family was doing. “I saw this team doing a lot of things during the pandemic. Everybody was rallying and finding ways to be safe and be supportive and still keep doing what we are doing and still keep those human connections going even if we weren’t able to ride all the time or trying to ride virtually. Again and again, people were coming together to support each other, and other people and I thought that’s so cool. Some of the stuff I’ve seen on this team I don’t think I’ve experienced in other areas of life before. This team is doing really great things, so it does feel good in that sense to try to share some of those things,” she said.

As the Half Acre Cycling Club and its 45 members move into the future, they have several goals in mind. One is bringing back one of their signature events – the Skyway Classic. After being cancelled for the last two years due to COVID, the event will return in May.

“This year Skyway will be in May. It has its complications to put on even when there isn’t a global pandemic, so it’s been particularly frustrating to not be able to do it the last couple of years, so we’re excited to bring that back. We have some new relationships with local bike shops that we are really excited about. We are bringing them to the forefront. There’s a lot of discussion about activities we can do involving those shops and the community,” said Overberg.

Community involvement, helping to grow diversity and inclusivity and making cycling both fun and accessible to everyone in their home base of Chicago are core principles to the Half Acre Cycling Club. While they admit that bringing free beer to events never hurts, it’s the values that their club was built on that remains their cornerstone.