As Tour fever has been rising recently the topic of le Tour and cycling in general has come up at work frequently, and although plenty of the guys ride to work on a bike they don't consider themselves "cyclists", why? well it seems that to them the term "cyclist" is a bit....well, gay, to be honest.
Most of the people I have talked to are happy to see Brits doing well in sport, Rugby, football, motorsport, darts, snooker, golf etc.. even cycling, but half of them would not be seen dead on a bike, and the half that would do would not call themselves "cyclists".
It seems the main problem is the image of cyclists/cycling in the modern world where body image is becoming more of a big thing, whilst women strive to lose weight it seems men strive to gain weight to look like the well built & toned images they see in magazines or TV.
In this respect the typically svelte cyclist physique is considered weak & undesirable.
Then there is the clothes, the cycling helmet makes most people look pretty silly, those who are not "cyclists" will not wear a helmet for this reason. The typical roadie lycra shorts and top also don't help, and the leg-shaving of roadies is the icing on the cake in the argument against cycling put forward by my work colleagues. Cycling is not masculine enough for them, case closed.
What about mountainbiking though? I have found that mountainbiking fares better, the clothes, the bikes, they are all more acceptable to regular folk, some have even said that you have to be "nuts" to go downhill mtb'ing (apparently this is a good thing), yet at the end of the day mountainbikers still ride bikes, they are still cyclists, and so are considered the same as any other cyclist.
I don't think people realise how physically demanding cycling can be, say a road ride, race or mountainbike race.
Whilst the peole I asked said that you have to be supremely fit to be a top cyclist, they do not believe that you need to be strong.
"I ride my bike to work 5 days a week, how hard can a race be?"
yes, you ride perhaps 3 miles a day, at slightly faster than walking pace, there's a BIG difference.
Finally there is the word itself "cycling", I think people object to being called a "cyclist", to them being a "cyclist" means putting on the helmet and lycra (read: not masculine) , where as they would say they "just ride a bike".
Ok, so they are "bikers" right? well, no. It seems "bikers" are those who ride motorcycles (motorcyclists), and whilst big motorbikes are a source of much testosterone fuelled fun, there is something about men in leathers that is almost as bad as men in lycra.
What's going on? Is cycling really thought of as being a bit....less masculine than other sports???
Interestingly, a lot of the people I know who are "down" on cycling class "going to the gym" as their favourite sport, I wasn't aware it was a sport??!