Pro racing might have been on hiatus for the last three months plus, but “cycling” has certainly not stopped. Far from it. In the early days of lockdown, cycling for exercise was one of the few permissible reasons to leave the house. Empty(ish) roads seemed safe enough to coax entire families out, as they sought to find out if it really is as easy as they say. With public transport capacity in most major cities severely curtailed, governments have cottoned on to what many of us have known forever – that there is no more efficient (healthier, affordable, environmentally friendly) way of keeping people moving than the bicycle.
Demand has gone through the roof. Bike workshops, categorised as an essential service in the UK, have been working flat-out to keep up with demand for repairs. Retailers have a fraction of their stock left and many manufacturers have sold out of all theirs. Brands such as Pashley, who make high end “ordinary” bikes, are advertising a twelve week wait if you order today. If you are known as the cyclist in your circle, chances are you’ve fielded more than a few requests for advice on the kind of bike you should get. The correct response is, of course, the prettiest one they can afford. They won’t look back.
On top of all of this, parts of the cycling industry that didn’t previously seem particularly interested in “ordinary” cycling have become active campaigners for it.
In the UK, Bike Is Best is the highest profile, most meaningful example of the above. The campaign brings together brands (including Specialized and Wahoo) retailers (such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction) and advocacy groups (like London Cycling Campaign and Cycling UK), from across the breadth of the cycling spectrum to try and bring about a cultural change, or to maintain the momentum in the one which has come about about as a response to the crisis.
The overarching message of all of them is, effectively: “We don’t care what you ride, where you ride, why you ride or how fast you ride. We just want you to ride.”
Which is just as it should be.
For far too long, there has existed the perception that cycling as a competitive sport, cycling as an athletic activity, and cycling as a form of transport are three entirely separate things. The reality is that they’re simply subsets of the same two-wheeled thing. The divides either don’t exist at all, with massive overlaps across them, or they’re perfectly porous with plenty – if not an outright majority – of participants who jump between them, or even fit into more than one at once.
Someone commuting to work on a Brompton might be a Cat 3 racer on weekends. The Strava-obsessed, Sunday club rider will benefit as much as the pannier-packed, pootling errand-runner from any societal shift that not only makes riding a bike safer but feel safer as well.
And when it comes to cycling there really is safety in numbers. The more of us there are speaking as one voice, the harder we are to ignore, and the more votes there will be in changing the laws and building the infrastructure we want.
And the more brands’ bottom lines will benefit. Up to now they have treated us as members of one tribe or another, and marketed accordingly. As a consequence, in accepting the size of the market as fixed and only ever competing for the same scarce customers, the industry has often been its own worst enemy.
The pandemic has put the lie to this, showing that there really are as many potential bike riders out there as people, and that there really is more that unites the ones there are than divides them. In joining forces to devote time and resources into expanding the number of pedal pushers, everybody wins.
Rouleur, even while we’re mostly focussed on the pro side of things, is a company run by cyclists, and we will vigorously add our voice to the others. Because we’re all better off by bike.