HomeNews & FeaturesJML Racing Team putting a new spin on cycling advocacy

JML Racing Team putting a new spin on cycling advocacy

Team events come in different shapes and sizes, the River and Ranges ride though the Goulburn Valley vineyards with Team Orica GreenEdge, for example, has become extremely popular with fans. Cycling teams are also rolled out to join their sponsors at corporate events, just like football or cricket players, and active and retired pro-cyclists (such as Jens Voigt, who is visiting Australia in April) are invited to address business leadership events.

In a departure from my regular riding, I recently snapped up an invitation to join the Australian JML Racing cycling team, along with their team sponsors and supporters, at the BMW Sydney Showroom, on the edge of Rushcutters Bay, for a team event. JML Racing are a development team who have their eyes on the NRS (National Road Series) and their roster includes riders of all ages from across New South Wales. Founded by Jon Leighton (who lent his initials to the team name), they are a team with a difference. Jon explains, “JML Racing is more than a cycling team, when we train and are not racing, we are on the roads and we could all be killed by a car, be held up by a car or be a nuisance to a car. As people who are out riding more than other people, we have a magnificent opportunity as a team, as family of riders in JML racing, to advocate for a better environment for cycling which will help every cyclist in New South Wales.”

JML Racing Team Event
Jon Leigton (far left, standing) discussed the team approach

Advocacy and performance cycling are rarely seen together. Accomplished cyclists may lend their name to a worthy cause or become an cycling event ambassador, but JML racing have embedded cycling advocacy firmly within the team and JML’s riders need to be active advocates.

So what does advocacy actually look like for the team and the riders? There are two parts; the first is attending and lending support to other advocacy organisations and events. For example, Bicycle NSW is a team supporter and the team participate in and promote events such as Spring Cycle. The second part is being a responsible cyclist with regard to sharing the roads and the environment. In practice it means the team and individual riders are vocal in encouraging others to ride responsibly on the roads. Responsibility also includes environmental responsibility and Jon relayed the example of energy gel wrappers which are discarded and left to pollute the environment. By simply sharing a friendly word with a cyclist he seeing littering, he wants to promote a shift in cycling culture.

Leighton is frank about the riders chances to make it big, ”Lets face it, most of them will not make it at the end of the day as pro cyclists.” As surprising as it sounds, and we know it is true, he explains that the team objectives are much bigger; the development team exists to give riders “opportunities off the bike; off the bike means education and a career.”

Sarah Stace Cycling Sydney
Sara Stace is a well known cycling advocate and discusses cycling infrastructure


Riding out in Style

The team event in Sydney saw a 30-strong group cycle from the BMW dealer to La Perouse, a popular road cycling destination in the south of Sydney which overlooks Botany Bay. It is a stop/start journey with all of the traffic lights seemingly programmed to turn red for approaching bike riders. As you can imagine, the cyclists demonstrated responsible road behaviour to reflect their investment in advocacy. A few short hills awakened the sprinters before the cycling group turned at the bay to ride back towards the city.

Bunch Cycling Australia

La Perouse Cycling Sydney
La Perouse overlooking Botany Bay in Sydney


One of the JML team riders is Charlie Leighton, the son of team founder Jon. Charlie is fresh out of high school and is training hard to secure his place in the team. He confided that there is no privilege in being the son of the team owner, if anything he has to work harder. Charlie also looks after the team media and PR, and I asked him how the racing team positions itself with regard to the focus on advocacy.

“What we are doing at the moment are becoming ‘that sustainable team’, ‘the team that are always doing the right thing and always looking out for the best interests of cycling’. That [approach] is attracting sponsors with our good recognition and renown like BMW and like UBS, big sponsors which other teams don’t have. With that comes credibility and that grows the atmosphere of the team, and that then brings in riders. If we continue riding and supporting cycling, and racing hard when we need to, the team with prop itself up on good solid foundations.”

Frank Fortuna BikeBug FRF
Frank Fortuna of FRF and Bike Bug 


Keeping the sponsors happy

Jon Leighton elaborated on the advantage of the advocacy component for the financial supporters, “With most teams, you don’t see them unless they are in the Tour de France on TV, but with JML Racing team, because we are advocating, giving a clear message at sportives, at big events and supporting organisations like Bicycle NSW, the supporters and corporate supports get a chance to touch normal people who drive cars, buy washing machines and travel, and that is the connection.”

It appears that European car brands are leading the way in actively supporting cycling teams. BMW Sydney are also aware that hosting the team event also brings in prospective buyers, many of the guests were proudly wearing their branded corporate cycling jerseys

To keep all of these big names in the room, and to keep the sponsors happy, does the team have to be successful and win races, or is winning secondary? Charlie Leighton puts racing success into perspective, “I think it is ‘a secondary’, the racing team is the pinnacle of a big advocacy push towards cycling. It would be awesome for riders who are putting into the team for advocacy to become successful and really enjoy their racing at NRS level, but the team’s major focus is towards advocacy and creating a better environment for cycling”.

Frank Fortuna, Christopher Jones, David Kelly
Frank Fortuna (FRF & BikeBug), Christopher Jones (Bicycles Network Australia) and David Kelly (PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Matt Osborn JML Racing
Matt Onsborn (seated in black) is trying to qualify to become a JML Racing team rider

One of the young riders who joined the event was Matt Osborn, after finding out about the team from his regular bunch ride. He is trying to qualify to become a team rider, but he knows that by doing this with JML, the team will allow him to also spend the time he needs focus on his HSC school exam. He commented on the responsibility given to each team rider to advocate cycling, “It’s a sustainable way for the team to function. They are trying to give back to the cycling community rather than just take what they need and go.”

Racing success is nice, but it is also refreshing to see a racing team building a strategy around improving cycling for all. It also closes the gap that is often seen dividing ‘lycra’ cyclists from everyday bike riders. To find out more about JML Racing, visit: jmlracingteam.com 


Corporate Cycling


Christopher Jones
Christopher Joneshttps://www.bicycles.net.au
Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a design agency, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.
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