|The rise of Biking upwardsly mobile men are now ditching the sports car for state of the art high end bicycles.|
|Typically aged 25 to 34, single and affluent, these “Biking Upwardly Mobile Men” have been identified as
the latest group joining the booming cycle market.Once they would have favoured the Porsche, now they are opting for high end bicycles as the latest status
symbol.Research carried out by analysts Mintel, found that wealthier men who are yet to marry and settle down
are helping boost sales along with the retired who are interested in the new generation of electric models.Leading cycle and leisure retailer Halfords, supported these findings, and reported top-end cycles such as
the latest Boardman and Carerra ranges were surging ahead, boosted by interest in more expensive bikes, often purchased through the Cycle to Work scheme. Halfords cycle expert Justin Stevenson said: “We have definitely seen an increase in affluent younger men
investing in more expensive bikes. People who originally seem to have dipped a toe in the water of cycling are now coming back as fully fledged enthusiasts and wanting to upgrade their current models.
“There is interest in the more ‘sporty’ models either from those who are joining cycling clubs or those who
“At the same time we have seen more people who used to cycle as children, coming to us for their first adult
This view is born out by figures from Mintel predicting a rise in UK bike sales volumes of £150 million,
Membership of social and competitive bicycle organisations has risen dramatically, nearly doubling for
With interest in hybrid and road bikes surging ahead over the last 12 months,
Mintel highlighted even more potential for an increase in cycling if workplaces
Michael Oliver, senior leisure analyst for the research group said: “The cycle market is
The report titled “Bicycles UK 2012” revealed that 61% of people think that, “cycling is a great activity to do
One third of Britons own a bike and one in five people use the bike either for leisure or commuting at least once a fortnight. 6% of us cycle every day, which is still relatively small compared with the 43% of the population who use a car regularly.
Other drivers for demand include the forthcoming London Olympics, which has led to the
As a father, I’ve never quite got around to leading by sporting example. It probably doesn’t help that my own father is the least sport-oriented man I know: I literally cannot remember him even once engaging me or my siblings in a competitive pastime that didn’t involve mime, anagrams or Mr Bun the Baker. My son Kristjan was six when I set off to cycle the route of the 2000 Tour de France, but the splendid impression I fancied I must be making upon him in doing so was melted down as I pedalled up to meet the family at Avignon station, half-way through the endeavour. ‘But Daddy,’ he asked in a crestfallen whisper, ‘where are all the other racers?’
Kristjan is 17 now, and a chip off the old sporting block – keenly competitive, but tantalisingly shy of brilliance. For him, as for me, the allure of cycling is that riding a bike is a universal skill, in a way that keepy-uppy or the backhand down the line is not. To be fair, as a two-wheeled technician Kristjan is inestimably more accomplished than his father – he has mastered the skid-turn stop, and can ride hands-off all the way down our road in a manner that would have me repeatedly introducing my face to the street furniture. Anyway, the boy’s got enough school-commuting miles in his legs to have served out a cycling apprenticeship, and like me, or like the old me, he’s capable of pulling out the occasional feat of iron-willed stamina from a standing start. I sense my first-born is now ready to be inducted into the slim-tyred, long-distance fellowship of bonks and bidons, cleats and carbon fibre, of bikes that cost more than £49. There’s an agenda, obviously: this isn’t just about stoking the fire in his belly, but rekindling my own.
Pencil and paper ready? We’re going to plot the graph of my cycling career. Age along the X-axis, daily mileage up the Y. A little ramp up from three-wheeled infancy to my daily pre-teen patrols, pedalling the Ealing badlands in a moody, flappy-trousered phalanx with my brother and a few of our friends: my Reservoir Cogs period. Now a steeper rise to a pretty impressive plateau as I begin riding to school and back, a round trip of 9 miles that Google Maps has just informed me could have been 7.8 (probably for the best, as I’d only have devoted the several hundred miles-worth of additional spare time to blowing even more stuff up in the back garden). Steadily downwards as I acquire a moped, then a Vespa, then a car, cycling only when alcoholic impairment made it the responsible transport option (feel free to draw an asterisk here). A modest bell curve covering the year I spent commuting to work on a pink girl’s mountain bike, rounded off with a tasty spike when I somehow wind up cycling right across Iceland: land of fire, ice and my in-laws. A bit of flat-lining in the early years of parenthood, then – hold on to your Staedtler HBs – the monumental London Shard that describes my Big French Ride. Admire it. In fact, take a moment to sketch a few clouds round the pinnacle, and maybe a dog-fighting Spitfire and Messerschmitt. Anything to detract from the long moribund line that bumps along the bottom thereafter, and in particular the sorry little pimple in the middle of 2007. In fact I’d rather you just drew a cat on your face. Whose stupid idea was this anyway?
By then my Tour bike was sleeping rough under a tarpaulin by the guinea-pig hutch. But one dawn at the start of that summer, in over-excited homage to London hosting the Tour’s grand départ, I hosed it down, lubed it up and set off with my friend Matthew to pedal the route of stage 1.
In my enthusiasm, I somehow forgot that Matthew did more cycling in a month than I’d managed in the previous seven years. Despite prolonged and bitter first-hand experience, I also failed to remember that when the Tour de France goes from A to B, it goes there via F, P and Z. London to Canterbury is 60 miles as the crow flies, but 138 as the man dies, a dilatory expedition up and down every notable eminence across a generous swathe of the south-east.
As an act of charity – or, as I later understood it, one of show-boating, nose-rubbing, vindictive evil – Matthew had handicapped himself by turning up on his fixie. It made no odds. I was failing to hold his wheel before we even got to our nominal start line on The Mall, and on a hill out of Gravesend the elastic snapped (curse you, Liggett, with your bottomless vocabulary of pain and failure). A route that the official website had dismissed as ‘a fast, flat ride through the English countryside’ morphed horribly into a compendium of all the drawn-out agonies I’d endured creaking up alp after alp after alp. The whole ordeal was a wake-up call, or rather it wasn’t – on the twilit final approach to Canterbury I actually fell fast asleep face-down in a lay by.
On the train home I fumbled chips between my bloodless lips in dead-eyed silence; after Matthew cycled off from Victoria I clumsily wedged ZR into the back of a black cab and expelled that last millwatt of energy grunting out my address. Seven years of laptop-propping, sofa-centric sloth had come home to roost. Something had to be done. It’s taken me half a decade to do it.
‘His legs have gone’: there’s a brutal, off-to-the-glue-plant finality of the words that herald the end of a sporting career. At least the cyclist soldiers on longer than most of his peers. The inspiration for my Tour de France trip was Firmin Lambot, the ‘Lucky Belgian’ who won the 1922 event race at the age of 36. Jens Voigt has just turned 40 and is still hauling the peloton and his huge, gurning head up Tour climbs. Jason Queally is making a velodrome comeback at 42. And what about Fred Rompelberg? In 1995, a fortnight shy of his fiftieth birthday, Fred set two records that still stand: one as the oldest pro cyclist in history, and the other as the fastest, riding at 167mph behind a dragster across Bonneville Salt Flats. And let’s not forget cycling’s unrivalled heritage of go-faster, feel-younger chemical solutions. At 47 I can still do it, even if that means doing it off my man-tits on crystal meth and goat plasma. I can beat my son up Box Hill. Failing that, I can beat my son up.
Driven on by the spectre of mortality and the dumbfounding achievements of our native professionals – in a world where Chris Froome can finish second in the Vuelta, anything seems possible – over the last six months I’ve begun to rediscover my love of proper cycling. It’s been a family affair. In May, we all pedalled right across Sardinia, which is a lot bigger than it looks on a globe. In August, we did the same on the Ile de Re, which isn’t. These trips taught me that although cycling with two teenage girls and a wife is winsome family fun, in a yoghurt-advert kind of way, it lacks a certain something. Kristjan and I instinctively knew what it was, and binged on it with sundown thrashes around the piazzas and promenades: sustained speed, lactic burn, pushing the manly envelope, that slightly worrisome overlap between pain and pleasure. To enjoy to endure, in the words of my Viking father-in-law as he waved me off on that trans-Icelandic ride. So out of retirement come the Lance-style Oakleys and an old jersey whose generous cut neatly disguises my thickening midriff, or so I thought before I saw the photos.
As Kristjan and I point our spanking new Carreras up the dappled lower reaches of Surrey’s most fabled incline, I’m soon extremely glad of those painlessly accrued holiday miles. My legs feel good: no Canterbury collapse today. The machinery is a different matter. My Tour bike will always have a place in my heart, and – in his corroded dotage – at the back of my garden shed. But I haven’t wedged his tiny saddle between my buttocks since that terrible ride through Kent. I haven’t been unfaithful either, so it’s now an awfully long time since I cocked my leg over a lightweight crossbar, or bullied my stupid feet into a toeclip or pedal cleat. But rusty as it is, at least the experience is there. As the son of a career skinflint reared in a bike-theft hotspot, Kristjan has always ridden around on brutish lumps of Chinese pig iron. Brake levers that double as gear shifters, the eerie silence of progress and the abrupt efficiency of halting it: it’s all new to him. Though he soon gets the hang of the toeclips, and I don’t.
The contemporary road bike is a bona fide wonder of our age, the heavenly union of spartan simplicity and rocket science. Riding a good one ranks high amongst life’s great pleasures, though they’re flighty wee things that need careful handling. Kristjan stands up in the saddle and darts past me on a flat stretch, then briefly loses his rear wheel on a greasy patch at the next hairpin. At a blackberry stop I give him a few pointers: don’t snatch at the brakes, keep that inside knee up when you lean into a bend, watch the white lines and drain covers. Shift down before corners, keep a straight chain line, push your legs round and round really hard…
For a while we’re wheel to wheel, mano a mano, dado a sono. Then he goes shooting off again, and with an indulgent shake of my wise old head I let him go. I’m the hard-bitten road captain, watching an eager young buck charge off on a plainly unsustainable breakaway. I settle into a sensible tempo that I can hear Sean Kelly incoherently approving of. Raw green speed is no match for wily road craft, I think, before finding out that it I’m badly wrong. Ten minutes later I find Kristjan leaning against a five-bar gate, finishing off a flapjack and looking bored.
The trouble with teaching a loved one to ride a road bike fast is that doing so usually involves taking more risks. Particularly once you throw oncoming traffic into the mix: as Zig Zag Road coils upwards through the oaks and beeches, all my over-the-shoulder shouts about clipping apexes and using the full width of the tarmac begin to sound dangerously irresponsible. But then the gradient rises, and suddenly I’m not quite up to shouting. My planned in-saddle seminar on climbing techniques is reduced to a huffing rasp: ‘Jan… Ullrich… big… gear…’ I’m hanging on to Kristjan’s back wheel by the skin of my gritted teeth, and still doing so when the road flattens and the trees make way for the summit vista. In one of the less glorious moments of my parental career, I ponder not telling my son about the benefits of drafting. But this is a boy whose heroes are dead physicists. ‘You’re probably using about 15 per cent less energy back there,’ he calls out breezily.
Dorking from the top of Box Hill isn’t quite Briancon from the col d’Izoard, but it still packs that special satisfaction of a nice view earned the hard way. We admire it in male-pattern silence, or what passes for it above my noisy attempts to keep breathing through my nose. ‘So the Olympic road race is coming up here?’ asks Kristjan at length, flinty gaze on the horizon. ‘Nine times,’ I reply, when I’m able to. It’s good to be back in the saddle, and even better to have an in-house training partner. But Fred Rompelberg can probably rest easy.
So now we know it. The cycling boom is driven not by youngsters looking for first time bikes but instead Middle Aged Men in Lycra or Mamils as they are affectionately known in the trade. It would seem than men with some disposable income are not interested in fast cars anymore but instead climbing onto hi- performance bikes that can cost up to £6000 and more.
Cycling it would appear is now starting to overtake marathon running as the new extreme exercise regime for men looking to put in destination trips such as sections of the Tour De France and John O’Groats to Lands End. This can only be good for all parts of the cycling industry as the Mamils won’t stop at just the bike. They are going to need the full kit as well, including helmets, cycling fashion and state of the art cycling accessories that are becoming as critical it would appear as a hacker’s golf bag. (Golfers are notoriously lavish when it comes to buying equipment). Enthusiasts need kit and that is the reason that retailers such as Halfords and online retailers such as Wiggle have seen their profits soar over the last few years.
With a flair for fashion and a passion for cycling, Amy Fleuriot decided that it was about time that women should have more stylish options than luminous lycra when cycling and so started her business – Cyclodelic. Her mission is simple – to create high quality and imaginative clothing for women who love cycling. Here the “Cycling Diaries” asks her how it all began:
Q: With your talent and flair for fashion design what inspired you to create fashionable clothing and accessories for women cyclists?
I was studying for my degree at London College of Fashion and began cycling to and from my lectures. The further and faster I rode the more I realised how important it was to have technical apparel and accessories. After a lot of fruitless searching for some nice things I could cycle to university in I saw an obvious gap in the market for women’s cycling accessories that looked and worked as well off the bike as on it. Later the same year I took part in the Dunwich Dynamo a 120 mile cycle ride from London to the coast, this inspired the clothing collection which is all styled with road cycling and touring in mind but works equally well in an urban environment.
Q: Is your clothing and product range just for women cyclists?
Yes, but we have been talking to another well known cycling brand about collaborating on a few mens pieces so watch this space!
Q: Do you think its important for women to look stylish on a bike – after all it is just a functional journey
Credit: Photos by Ben Broomfield
Q: Any plans to design clothes for men or do you think they should just stick to Lycra?
Lycra certainly has its place and that’s why we use it in our collections. Our Sports Dresses and Tunics are all lycra based products engineered to withstand some serious miles but styled in a more thoughtful way that compliments the female form. If we have the opportunity to do the same in the future for men we certainly will!
Q: Do you think your range of clothes and accessories will inspire more women to cycle?
We put a lot of effort into cycling advocacy. Everyone that works or interns with us has to ride a bicycle, its part of their job description! There has been so much positive media around cycling over the past 5 years and I believe that anything that promotes positive images of women and cycling will inspire others to give it a try. I like to think that we have and will continue to be a large part of that.
Q: Why do you think that more women should cycle in their daily lives?
Cycling is such a fun and social activity, it can save you time, money and is one of the easiest ways to get fit. I have made some of my best friends and greatest memories through riding a bicycle. I would say that deciding to ride a bicycle regularly is probably one of the most simple yet beneficial lifestyle choices you can make.
Q: And are you an outdoor girl?
Born and bred. My dad is a climber and mountaineer. I was brought up hiking, climbing, cycling and running in the hilly peaks of Derbyshire and take any opportunity to get out of London and into the countryside with my dog, Hiro, who I couldn’t live in London without!
Q: And lastly Cyclodelic is a great name – with overtones of the swinging 60′s years back – does your inspiration come from that era?
I love bright colours and patterns, although we’re serious about design and function we never want to take ourselves too seriously and Cyclodelic is all about getting out and having fun.
It's all about the bike
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