Perception vs. reality
You might have seen the Euro Cycling Rules on the internet. It’s amusing but like many internet successes, it has a grain of truth. We might mock the obsession with riding with tubs and obligatory white shoes but ultimately, who wouldn’t want to have shiny kit and the finest wheels money can buy?
I’ve ridden in several English-speaking countries and found the image of Euro-cycling was especially strong in Australia where, anecdotally, many riders fantasised about riding in Europe. Only to return from trips a little downbeat, although usually very satisfied with the whole thing.
The reason for the disappointment? They discovered that whilst the Alps, Tuscany or the Italian lakes can offer fine riding, the local riders themselves are not as elegant. Put simply, the Europeans just aren’t Euro.
- Paris Syndrome: Every year a few Japanese tourists are hospitalised in Paris. Their condition seems to share common symptoms based around severe anxiety. It’s apparently brought on by a combination of jet lag and above all, disorientation. Fed on images of Paris from fashion shows, Louis Vuitton shops and films like Amélie, they arrive in the French capital… and discover it’s grey and cold, some people still don’t use deodorant and not every woman is a top model or Audrey Tatou in designer gear. It’s all too much for a few tourists, they have a breakdown.
Cycling is still a poor man’s sport in Italy and France, your typical rider is a factory worker or a municipal employee. But this isn’t the case for many in London, New York or Sydney, where a significant proportion of riders are likely to be bankers, dentists or real estate agents. Of course many a factory or municipal worker will ride their bike in these cities too. But it’s quite common to see the finest bikes and acres of white lycra in the English-speaking world but less so in the actual homelands of cycling.
By contrast, riders in France and Italy just don’t seem to look the part. They ride and ride but just because they are rolling through San Remo or climbing the Ghisallo doesn’t mean they need a pair of Boras.
One other significant difference between perception and reality is the coffee stop. I’ve been riding in France and Italy and have never stopped for a coffee when with locals, although from time to time we’ve headed into a café to beg for some water or maybe to buy a coke. By contrast, it’s almost the purpose of a ride in Australia or America that you stop for an espresso. As if drinking Italian coffee is a substitute for riding in Italy.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re an office professional and live in a metropolitan area, then by all means spend your money on a great bike and enjoy riding with your buddies, and cap the ride off with a coffee. I’ve had some fine rides in Sydney like this.
All I’m saying is that the reality of cycling in Europe is usually some 50 year old on a alu frame with an old Veloce groupset and clothing that’s often deeply unfashionable and even faded from being used so many times. Most European cyclists would fail the Euro Cycling Rules instantly, the image of Pozzato copycats is a metropolitan construct that exists in London, Sydney and New York and not in Bergamo, Cannes or Girona.