Back to the Basics
Bob Latsha creates a community of cycling grounded in hard work and good values.
“You can’t fake cycling. You can buy the most expensive gear and wear the nicest kits, but you have to do the work to actually be good. There’s no pretending,” says Bob Latsha, founder and president of Millersburg Velo Club in Upper Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
This appreciation for the authentic and propensity for hard work is what initially drew Latsha to the sport of cycling more than 35 years ago. Currently a Masters racer, Latsha rides 12 to 15 hours a week, equating to about 250 miles each week, or 9600 miles a year—all while maintaining a full-time job.
“That’s the kind of work it takes to maintain my level,” says Latsha matter-of-factly.
And much of those training rides occurred on the rural roads of Upper Dauphin County. No congestion. No traffic. Nothing but quiet green roads and mountains. Beautiful? Yes. Lonely? Quite.
“When you also consider the different types of cycling available to us—road, mountain, and rail trail riding—it’s even harder to find each other. When I would have a chance encounter with another cyclist, we would ride together for a while, or stop if going opposite directions, have a brief chat, and perhaps exchange info and plan to ride together. But those times were few and far between.”
By day, Latsha creates supply systems for customers. He’s the guy who knows where everything is, the guy who dots every “i” and crosses every “t.” So when the problem of solitary riding presented itself to Latsha, it was second nature for him to design a solution. While stuck inside during Hurricane Irene in 2011, Latsha created a Facebook group where he promoted area rides and races. He then slowly began to knit together a group of people who became regular riders. Six years later, Millersburg Velo Club now offers social and racing memberships, with their own USA Cycling team.
And though Latsha is a very experienced cyclist, he is quick to explain that Millersburg Velo Club welcomes amateur and new cyclists as well.
“Bike racing can be dangerous. I only learned through a friend who showed me what to do, and I’m thankful for that. I want to pay that forward for others,” Latsha says. “That’s one of the reasons we started a monthly time trial training series; it helps introduce others to the basic concepts of racing in an unintimidating atmosphere.”
The Club is also now the sponsoring team for the Tour de Millersburg stage race (held this year August 5-6), also assisting with course layout, technical consulting, and road course trash cleanup following the event.
Looking back, Latsha never dreamed his idea for a club in rural Pennsylvania would turn into a dedicated cycling group. But he’s careful to keep the group grounded in what he’s always valued about cycling: the real.
“We get together. We ride. We try to develop new riders. That’s us,” he says simply. “We strive to be friendly, courteous, and responsible out on the roads. We believe that if we’re nice to others, they’ll be nice back. And so far, that’s been the truth.”