Thursday, 3 May 2012
Cyclist are a unique bunch
I have come to realise over the last 2 years that whilst the wider sport of cycling attracts a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, abilities, genders, races and economic status. For those who have been a part of the sport from any serious nature either as a long term commuter, an employee in the cycling industry, a keen enthusiast attending sportive etc. or a pro cyclists there are a few distinct similarities that make them stand apart from the norm.
Granted there are a few generalisations amongst my thoughts but think for a moment and you will notice quite a few traits I mention. The question is, does the sport attract these likeminded people, gradually moulding them over time and its spits them out at the end fully fledged as a "cyclist".
From what I see a true cyclist is:
1) Overly competitive - commuters chase rabbits, professionals chase each other and they all chase personal bests. We compete against hills, downhills, wind, rain, ourselves, and others, cars. If it moves, can talk or presents a challenge they will fight against to beat, overcome or set at time against. If you don't believe me just check out the app store and see the volume of aps that allow friends, enemies and complete strangers to compete against each other.
2) They love their kit - a whole multi million if not billion pound industry has been established on the basis that cyclists love new bikes, kit, clothing and gadgets. Having played football, cricket and even golf (which by the way attract a very similar strain of gadget wielding individuals!) I have never seen such a gadget and technology driven sport. 2 years in I am still learning many of the finer tech points and find the volume of similar but different bikes part amazing? That’s just the bikes! Add clothing, shoes, repairs kits and tools. It’s an amazing sport to get into for the sheer learning experience let alone the riding. There is always something new!
3) They are a hardy bunch - I believe I am mad doing some of the commuting I have done in the last 2 years. Ice like glass, snow 6 inches deep, slush, hail, 60 mile and hour winds, you can keep going with the horrid conditions that some people will cycle in. (yes I too have been dragged head first into this point!). Amazingly though I am not alone, I thought I was just stupid or even naive but no, every morning I will see my compatriots slugging away throughout the winter months. In my mind you have to experience the harsh side of commuting to really enjoy the summer sunshine months. It does still make me smile though seeing the faces of the car drivers as they pass you as the rain hammers don and the temperature drops below zero. It’s a look of combined amazement and sheer disbelief that you could even dare get on your bike let alone enjoy the experience.
4) They have some fight! - Have seen this a few times since writing this blog and most recently with the Jon Griffin comments. Cyclists are a community that appears together and strong. If someone appears to wound the sport or the activity they join together on mass and defend themselves. This is a vital and admirable quality from a sport. Harnessed correctly this can only help the sport to become more and more successful. I do believe though there are many people will a voice but not once voice to drive the sport forward.
In addition to the above there are a few aspects of the sport that from the outset you would never know. It’s a male dominated sport, both at the elite level but also the amateur and daily commuting. The pro sport is driven by the European events and whilst the American and Australian scene is growing it still appears be dominate by the big European tours and classics. This can surely only be down to historical factors and there must be huge opportunities in Asia, India & China. Simply based on the volume of cyclists.
For some reason it is a white dominated sport. There is no logical reason for this other than socio economic reasons which I am not looking to explore now as it’s a massive and potentially explosive topic. There are many sports dominate by particular races based purely on location, history and the socio economic climate within which the sport is played. In the same way there are few Asian footballers in Britain and white wide receivers in American football. It did surprise me though as I would have thought due to the very nature of accessibility of cycling its spread would be far wider
Cycling is a wonderful sport and mode of transport. It’s growing and with it so is its popularity and it will be interesting to see how its influence grows alongside this.