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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Radio 5 Cyclists in Mid life Crisis

In an earlier blog post last month I wrote of the rise of the MAMILS (Middle aged men in Lycra)

and the thread seems to rumble on.

This morning on Radio 5 there was yet another report on recent research that found that cycling, and road cycling in particular, is the new sign of a mid-life crisis in men.

This all stems from a report by market research powerhouse Mintel that found that the cycling market is being driven by affluent 35-44 year old men. It went as far as to say that cycling is “the ‘noughties’ version of the midlife crisis”.

Another study carried out by academics at the University of the West of England

Fi Spotswood and Sarah Leonard commissioned YouGov to undertake a UK wide survey that asked: what do British people really think about cycling? Their research investigated the opinions about cycling amongst a representative UK sample of adults. 3,885 people aged 16-64 were interviewed in early summer 2010.

Professor Tapp comments, “We wanted to find out if cycling is still the 'poor man's transport' populated by badly dressed social misfits muttering about gear ratios, or a fashionable activity of good looking people who rock up to the office with the latest carbon frame. We asked questions about how congestion, global warming and ever rising fuel prices might persuade us out of our cars and back onto two wheels.

“Our findings suggest that most people see Jeremy Clarkson-esque critics of cycling as missing the point. An impressive 42% of the British public think that 'cycling has become cool nowadays', and, good news for those forty-something men with mid-life crises, 38% agree that bike technology is much sexier nowadays. Perhaps surprisingly there was also encouragement for government initiatives, with 43% agreeing that 'there's a new push by the government towards getting people to cycle'.

“These pro cycling feelings might be a symptom of traffic jam stress as much as anything. A whopping 43% of us agreed that 'When I'm stuck in a traffic jam I sometimes wish I were cycling'. The success of the likes of Chris Hoy and Mark Cavendish might be rubbing off on us as well: a surprising 18% of us admit that 'The success of British cyclists has encouraged me to think about cycling more myself'.

“But cycling lobbies can't quite break out the champagne just yet. It was quite clear from the study that Britain is still a divided nation over cycling, with a die-hard 28% of people agreeing that 'roads are for cars not bikes'. In fact, only 12% of us cycle quite or very often (once a week or more). What's for sure is that getting over our love of cars isn't going to be easy: 54% say 'I would not support any measure that penalises car use'. Perhaps the divided nation theory is best highlighted by the finding that 39% agree that 'global warming has been exaggerated 'with a similar number, 38%, disagreeing.

“Can things get better for cyclists? Well, we could certainly use our Olympic and Tour de France heroes to help us market cycling as a way of getting about. After all, at the moment, more people recognised David Cameron (picked out by 59%) as a cyclist than Chris Hoy (53%), and Boris Johnson (48%) was a more famous cyclist than Victoria Pendleton (27%).”

“Commuter cyclists not serious career people”

Accepting that the UK is still dominated by a 'car culture', the researchers investigated whether UK cyclists see themselves as a breed apart. How do cyclists see themselves, and what do the motoring majority think of them?

Findings suggest that the way cyclists see themselves isn't always matched by how outsiders see them.

Cyclists see themselves as independent minded and free spirited, environmentally aware, adventurous, and even a bit rebellious. They are also less likely to see themselves as conventional or boring. But a different picture emerges when non-cycling people were asked what they thought of cyclists.

Some descriptions such as fitness conscious and independent minded were not surprising but interestingly the general public thought that cyclists were less happy than they were- perhaps because they see cyclists getting wet and cold.

Professor Tapp concludes, “We were also surprised to find that cyclists were seen as lazy and non-cyclists perceive cyclists as less hard working than they are. Maybe the perception is that if you are a serious career professional in the UK, you don't cycle – you drive a 5 series instead.”

Well observed Mr Tapp.

As a cyclist and a career professional I am the first to arrive at my desk invigorated by my morning ride. I am also the last to leave !!!! I do pass lots of similar professionals in their '5 series' on route stuck in jams. Maybe I'm being lazy by not subjecting myself to life in the slow lane.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Autumnal Equinox

Last week was momentous.
It saw me break 5,000 miles for the year and have my 10,000 visitor to my blogsite.
It also saw the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox, where hours of darkness now become greater than hours of light. Its sad to think that the days of wearing shorts and a cycle jersey will soon be deferred to at the least next April, unless of course its in a gym.
This is usually the time that my bike gets put away apart from the occasional guest appearance at the 'odd' good weekend.
This double entendre is very apt in that winter weekends of good weather are both rare and peculiar.
Late September, early October is also the time I start eating really bad things..................You know the ones that taste fantastic, but weigh twice as much inside you, as they did in the packet.
This year has been a great year for my cycling.
After a slow start, I had a rude awakening with the MS150 immediately followed by the Natchez Trace.
By July I was really getting some form and when I took part in Hotter than Hell and Manchester 100, I was as fit as I have been for years.
On reflection its frustrating that I could not have been as fit in Spring as I am now, if that had been the case I could have taken part in far more events, but more importantly enjoyed them.

The old saying 'Make hay when the sun shines' certainly rings true here.

There are a number of reasons for not embracing the more trying seasons on a bike.

Some are real - Ice, snow and winter gales.

Some are excuses- Its too cold, dark and miserable, my feet get frostbite, by bike will get ruined, its not enjoyable !!!!!!

When I discussed these matters with 'La Patron' (My benevolent brother Paddy)
He accepted the real reasons, but had answers for the others.
Too cold- Wear more clothes
Too dark - use lights
Too miserable - State of mind bros 'suck it up'
My feet get frostbite - get better shoes/socks
Bike gets ruined - get a winter bike.

As his 'super domestique' on American rides he does have a vested interest in my fitness.
The fitter I get, the greater incentive he has to do likewise, and if he is not quite up to scratch he has the wheel of a willing mule to suck on all day long.

So when I pleaded poverty as a further excuse he very kindly offered to fund some two wheeled 'retail therapy'.
As the days have now suddenly got shorter It seems that I have also shortened my brothers savings account.

Over this weekend my summer speed machine was put away for the winter and I went shopping

I am now the proud owner of the following :-

Ridgeback Horizon Tourer
The Ridgeback Horizon is a multi-purpose mile-muncher. The only frame in the range not using steel, this frame is made with double-butted aluminium tubes and is coupled with a carbon fibre fork to give a light and responsive road machine. The transmission is provided by Shimano Sora, a recent arrival at the 9 speed party, using a triple chainset to give a massive range of gears. High spec 25mm Continental Ultra Race tyres sit neatly beneath the full length chromoplastic mudguards. Seat stay and drop-out lugs mean that any rack can be easily fitted.

With its mudguards and rack mounts the Horizon is an ideal sportive or Audax ride. (The Audax organisation used to rigidly enforce a rule that all entrants were obliged to have mudguards fitted - although now at the event organiser's discretion) These features also make it naturally a fast, light tourer or commuter, easily carrying a pair of panniers and a bar bag. The Horizon's third and no less important role is as a winter or training bike for roadies. Ridgeback is one of the few brands that offers a road bike that you can realistically use through the British winter. If you're a keen or competitive road rider this bike is an essential addition to your stock, allowing you to continue year round preparation without sullying your best thoroughbred.

Seal Skinz socks
To keep my plates (Plates of Meat - Feet) as warm as Toast

Some new Sidi Shoes - Mega
Which provide extra width so you can avoid frostbite by moving your toes !!!!!
With that out of the way I only have the Ice, snow and winter gales to contend with.
Bring it on !!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

She stoops to conquer - The Femule

Way back in 2005 I first saw a young 23 year old female called Victoria Pendalton. She would not have looked out of place on the front page of any glamour magazine or stood next to David Craig on a film set.
However this was no glamour girl, this was a serious ‘butt kicking’ track cyclist clad in Lycra.

I found myself admiring her shapely legs, not for the obvious aesthetic quality, but for the serious horse power that lay beneath the surface.
Underneath an over sized helmet there was another similarly impressive quality, a steely resolve to succeed.
Since that time she has featured in more glamour magazines than those dedicated to cycling and I’m sure Mr Craig is still drumming his fingers in anticipation.
She has also obtained a large number of gongs, bronze, silver and lots of the gold ones.

The thing that has impressed me most about Ms Pendalton is how she has changed women’s cycling. It is something that I applaud wholeheartedly and something that I am very grateful for

For years the fairer sex appeared to be content with propelling their comfortable, aesthetic conveyances over the cobbled streets, or to the other end of the village.
Baskets and panniers would act as a storage facility for both household shopping and retail therapy. Speeds were governed not by ability, but by conversation and the ability to pass the time of day with welcoming gestures.
Accompanying clothes were not chosen by the bikes colour, saddle or frame dimensions but by what felt right.

Don’t get me wrong there were a small number of female cyclists on Sunday club run.

Although they were always welcome they were seen as ‘One of the guys’ and never taken seriously in their own right. They were also anonymous, constrained by male machismo and of a desire to conform.

Now when I take part in sportives I see a marked increase in the percentage of women taking part. There is no way that they could be described as being ‘one of the guys’.
I usually end up admiring their legs in the same way as I did with Ms Pendleton……when they fly past me !!!!!
These are often sassy girls with attitude, who will pull at the front, box you in, and shell you out of a chain gang like an errant pea on a dinner plate.
They don’t need to ask the question ‘Does my bum look too big’.

By regularly taking part in such events, this is one sport that helps subdue such a question.
You are more likely to strike up a conversation about cadence, power weight ratios and the new Sidi race shoe range.

Our ‘Travels with my mule’ cycling team has its fair share of women who all keep us in check.
Joanne my partner used to go shopping on a weekend on her dutch town bike.
The thought of covering herself with Lycra and being locked into pedals for five hours appeared as attractive as cleaning the cooker. Four years later she now has 1000’s of miles in her legs including a number of Century rides. She commutes to work by bike, and can change an inner tube in less than five minutes without breaking a nail.
She spends more time on the Internet looking for cycling gear than she does looking at anything else and can always give me give a run for my money on any flat course that we cycle.
She is also as feminine as it comes.
I am reliably informed that the wives and girlfriends of some of our Mules have thought about
getting on their bikes.
Well the message is clear

Our stable door is always open !!!!!!

Become a FeMULE

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Night Vision

After returning back from America I have started commuting again and intend to cycle as many days as I can during the winter.
However with dark mornings and nights, to accompany worsening weather conditions the risk through cycling increases dramatically.
During the summer drivers would expect to see cyclists on warm sunny days,but not around a bend in pitch black at six o clock in the morning in November !!!!!
It is a known fact that most accidents involving vehicles happen when the owner is within a mile of home. This is mainly because they know the area so well that they relax, subconsciously lowering their level of concentration.

For commuter drivers this is even worse.
Completing the same journey each day, drivers are often in auto pilot, knowing each bend, landmark and the exact times they arrive at certain points on their respective journeys.

If commuter drivers are delayed by natures forces ie: iced up windows and roads, condensation through damp weather it does not mean that their concentration level will increase.
It is often the opposite. They may become frustrated at the delay and often take risks to claw back time lost. They are even prepared to drive for a short time with limited visibility.
If a driver is trying to peer through a frosted porthole in the middle of his windscreen, whilst drinking coffee, sending messages on a blackberry and adjusting attire, the increased risk to cyclists tenfold.
As drivers become less aware of the presence of cyclists during the winter months, moaning about it does not keep you safe.
As I arrived at work the other morning I was greeted by chuckles at my illuminated arrival.
I currently have a fluorescent jacket, fluorescent rucksack, lights to front and read of helmet, lights to front of bike, rear lights on ruck sack and rear lights on back of bike.
The comments I received filled me with great satisfaction. 'You look like a Christmas Tree', 'They would certainly see you coming' ..........Its exactly what I wanted to hear.
A lot of truckers get very bad press from cyclists, not from me.
Generally they are professional drivers and without the ability to hold a Licence they can not earn a living. Although they may see cyclist as a hindrance to their urban progress, I genuinely believe that most are respectful and considerate.
The same can not always be said about cyclists in how they interact with such vehicles.
I think this is mainly due to ignorance and lack of perspective.
I have attached a film clip which may help.

Be safe out there

Friday, September 3, 2010

Spirit of the Gulf

I have just got back from Texas and feel a bit melancholy from missing my dear and generous brother Paddy.
To my utter shock and amazement I have found this song from the lovely Yorkshire skylark Kate Rusby on u tube. Kate Rusby is my favorite Folk singer with an amazing voice and I have only ever heard her sing traditional British Folk songs or ones she has written which come into that category.
This sudden departure singing about the gulf of Mexico is as far removed from Barnsley as Texas is from Beverley, but very nice all the same - It certainly took me by surprise.
I chuckle to myself as I type Kate Rusby and Texas in the Tab bracket.

It may have nothing to do with cycling but has lifted my mood for the Manchester 100 on Sunday. Thank You Kate