Expert Feature: The Tour de France Effect
Rich Smith is a Level 3 British Cycling qualified coach, the current British, European and World Transplant Cycling champion and the author of ReCycled, a funny book about cycling and less important things like life and death.
Have you ever tried booking a tennis court at the local park when Wimbledon is on? Impossible isn’t it? You’ve dusted off the racquets, dug out the Dunlop Green Flash pumps and found a couple of tennis balls that have still got some yellow hair on them but you can’t get a court for love or money.
Following the success of Messrs Wiggins and Cavendish at the Tour de France, a similar thing is happening all over the Country right now only this time people are rummaging in their sheds for bicycles. The first British winner of the Tour ever – how cool is that? Even better, their success and the extra exposure during the Olympics will encourage more people to ride bikes. Best of all, with cycling, the Parky can’t come and take the net down in the middle of the crucial last set – the roads and the lanes are all yours.
Cycling has been rising in popularity in the UK for the last few years, membership of British Cycling, the national governing body for the sport has grown exponentially (realistically you need to be a member if you are going to engage in road racing) and the UK bicycle industry has grown to be worth billions. 8 billions at the last estimate.
So, if you are inspired by the Froomes, Hoys and Pendletons and you fancy giving this cycling thing a go (and you really should) what are the absolutely critical things you need to know?
As a cycling coach I could happily eulogise for hours about types of bikes, the equipment you will need depending on which branch of sport you choose to engage with, the pitfalls of carbon wheels and why you should or shouldn’t shave your legs. We could even have a verbal punch up about which component manufacturer makes the best stuff – it can all get deliciously complex. But I will resist the temptation because it’s really all about getting out there and giving it a go.
If you’ve got a bike in the shed, get it out, pump the tyres up and give it razz around the street. Mountain bike, BMX, you Dad’s old tourer, anything. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you‘re still allowed to play bikes with your mates even if you’re 48. And don’t let anybody tell you can’t ride in trainers and football shorts either because you bloody well can. I recently saw a lad on his mountain bike doing his best ‘arms in the air’ Mark Cavendish victory salute – if he can do it, so can you. However, if you absolutely must must must buy the latest carbon framed super light top of the range race bike RIGHT NOW, do so by going to your independent LBS (local bike shop). If you’ve got the 6 or so grand you’ll need, they’ll be interested in retaining you as a customer so there is a good chance they will sell you something that work and fits.
When you’re hooked and you want to take things more seriously, get in contact with your local cycling club. You can find them via the Club Finder function on the British Cycling website. Look for one with ‘Go Ride’ status if you want to get your kids involved because they will have qualified coaches, appointed welfare officers and the like. If they’re any good, they will teach you and the off-spring the basics of cycling in a traffic free environment. You’ll be amazed what you can learn on a tennis court riding around some cones with some like-minded people. Watch out for the Parky though eh?
So, in a few months time, when its all sunk in a bit, we can have a sit down and discuss who’ll win next year’s Tour and debate the finer points of the performance differences between tubular and clincher tyres as we try to knock a few seconds off our 10 mile time trial times.
Until then, stay safe and sensible, but do get out there and give it a go.
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