Getting the Euro look

You might have seen the Euro Cycling Rules on the internet. It’s amusing and like many internet successes it has a grain of truth along with some humour. 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. Some would 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 what many anglophones call “Euro”, a concept associated with The Rules.

Paris Syndrome
Every year Japanese tourists are hospitalised in Paris. Their condition sees 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.

Euro syndrome?
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 Campagnolo Boras.

Café Racer
One other significant difference between perception and reality is the coffee stop. I’ve been riding in France and Italy and rarely ever 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.

Why not?
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. What could be better than riding with friends and sharing a drink?

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 faded and even sagging 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.

You will find some slick-looking riders, especially in Italy where many enjoy early retirement and get a stylish bike to match. You will notice how many Italian bikes are, in part, built for their looks with elegant lines and flowing graphics. Another observation is that most Italians ride on Shimano, not Campagnolo.

  • This is a reprise of an old post, long-standing readers might remember it but as many new readers come here, I thought it was worth sharing again.

47 thoughts on “Getting the Euro look”

  1. Aha! Finally a picture of Inrng!
    Its not how i imagined you would look, but still.. a nice willier frame and campy groupo 😉

    I have noticed myself, that in Switzerland, I am more likely to see a rider in full team kit and matching bike than i do when south of the border down Italy way.

    I get the feeling in Italy that they are “keeping it real”, and showing that you dont need the latest kit to enjoy the buzz of our wonderful sport.

    On the other hand, maybe it is just a reflection of the different economies…

    Thanks again for the holiday snap 😉

  2. Italian cyclists are two camps as you noted, the old guys who are retired and have limited income – they’re the ones you see with decades-old team kits and old bikes. Some old guys have newer bikes but still the old kits. Then there’s the younger guy with some disposable income…HE has all the latest stuff, it all matches perfectly and he looks like a pro..and usually can ride pretty well. Rarely do you see the $10K bike with 79 cent legs here in my experience as long as you’re talking about ITALIANS. There are lots of the 79 cent leg types riding around in Italy too, but they’re foreigners. My theory is if you can’t ride fast, you can at least (try to) look good, whether the look is modern pro or bici di epoca, as in l’Eroica, etc. But most important, have fun.

  3. Living (and cycling) in Melbourne, AUS a couple of years ago introduced me to the lovely concept of coffee stops. The local cafe was actually named Cafe Racer ( and the atmosphere was fantastic. I always envied the riders chilling there after a morning ride along the beach. After returning to Denmark I have tried to introduce stronger focus on the coffee element of cycling with some success. But I certainly haven’t experienced it as a European tradition… yet!

    Oh I miss Melbourne and Cafe Racer.

  4. Totally off topic.
    There is a disco song I really like titled Wonderful Copenhagen.
    On topic.
    I have white cycling shoes, for cross no less.
    Having a shop job I am mandated to support all marketing efforts with enthusiasm. ; )
    It’s okay to be moderately “fast” in white shoes, I think.
    That is all.

  5. This tops your cyclo cross rant a few weeks back, still can’t get over that. I’m amazed sometimes with some of the stuff you come up with. It’s like there is another Mr Inrng who types away when you are asleep. I guess you can be like this but who would have thought with all the other great blogs you write?

  6. Yes, this is a pretty accurate description of the “real” euro rider in my opinion (at least the one’s I rode with in Cluny, France). Riders in that town don’t confuse going for a ride on a bike and walking down a runway. What with the Rapha nonsense it sometimes feel that American club riders are wearing costumes.
    Of course the irony is that 30 years from now, the non-nondescript banal outfits French riders are wearing will become the “hot new thing”: how soon sagging jerseys from Decathlon sold on ebay for $100’s ? 🙂

  7. Heh, many of the riders I saw on the Ronde Van Vlaanderen sportif would fail the Rules test. Lots of native Belgians on nice bikes and in full Quickstep/Lotto kit, but with the hairiest of legs and no road sense.

  8. So basically you are hinting that:
    1. To be a “Euro” rider you must, by definition, be an Anglophone not living on the main part of the Eurasian peninsula?
    2. Europeans living in the home of cycling mainly just get on with riding their bikes (my observation too).
    3. Reading Inner Ring probably puts a person in the “Euro” (as opposed to European) category.
    Good article
    PS I need a coffee, now where are my white shoes?

  9. @ Rider Council – chill, my man. The cyclocross “rant” was tongue-in-cheek and designed to get a reaction.

    I think it’s interesting that we in these countries seek to emulate the Euro lifestyle, but the lifestyle isn’t necessarily what we think it is. We’re making it up as we go along. Classic.

  10. A coffee stop half way is normal on the Sunday Club Run here in Holland, I though the BeNeLux were supposed to be the hard guys too….? Usually we re all civilised on the way out and then start the fun and games on the way back.Most riders use club kit but there are a few around with the full ProTour Team kit and bike.

    Chuffy – The trouble with the lack of road sense is that they are so used to having well designed bike lanes, cars that watch out for cyclists, presumend liability and “Dutch bikes” that you can’t fall off if you try (unless you re drunk) is that they never develop any road sense in the first place..(Disclaimer – does nt apply to all…)

  11. Mickey, yes but some people out there are trying to grow cyclocross, it was by no means a balanced point of view. This is a great wonderful blog, don’t want to offend, at all, but it was just surprising considering, and to ‘get a reaction’, why? for fun? It served no purpose only to bash cross, ha ha. Anyway same with this one, very general points of view on riders on the continent ( I assume ‘Euro’ is only for continental Europe) and if that is the case you have to include Belgians, Dutch etc. We already have Ddraver with an more accurate point of view, not simply an impression based on what non ‘Euro’ cyclists see at a Sportive in France or a summer holiday. Any more Euros out there?

  12. Several years ago while in northern Italy my US friends and I would visit bike shops expecting to find local delicacies and would leave disillusioned. It seemed that much of what they offered were Cannondales, Treks, and Specialized.

  13. Jim, I did exactly that, visited a French bike shop anticipating exotica and found it full of Specialized and SRAM ; nothing wrong with either, but…

    Anyway, I ride a Bianchi – and a Specialized – both with Campagnolo components. I wear white shoes (£75 off, I preferred the black,) even Assos shorts! I have a Lavazza when I get in after a long ride, and a slice of toast with Speculoos Paté on it.

    Am I bad person?

  14. Well, thats the first time I have seen The Rules, and it’s taken me some 45yrs to get there, but I seem to tick all the boxes except the one about valve caps, but perhaps the fact that I colour co-ordinate them to the bike let’s me off with that. I am getting so sad, that when having decided to take out a different bike the other day I changed my already prepared bottles for one’s of a matching colour!!!! 🙂

  15. Greetings from Melbourne. If you’re interested in a cycling holiday then Melbourne is a world class location for riders.

    Why is it so good?

    This time of year (summer – escape the Northern Hemisphere winter) you can race a criterium up to four times a week. Or if that’s to full-on, the training rides are varied and you’ll always see/meet plenty of other riders out and about.

    Beach Rd (Cafe Racer is at the start of Beach Rd) will see 10,000+ riders on the weekend. The bike traffic thins out after 20km where you can ride for upto 100km along the beach on the Mornington Peninsula before having to stop for a coffee and turn back.

    Or if the hills are your thing, the Dandenong mountain ranges are an hour away. Or if you’d prefer some smaller, rolling hills, head north to Kinglake (not a lake).

    Summer is also when the local Pro Tour riders come home to train in the sun and do a few races like the Bay Crits series and have a crack at the Nationals Road Champ’s in Jan.

    Serious, I’m happy to provide an introduction into Melbourne’s cycling scene and get you into some of the good bunch training rides. If you’re coming this way, drop me a line: stephen (dot) x (dot)

    Don’t believe me? Then follow my man Tarik’s advice and spend a bit of time on Cycling Tips Blog. Mr CT has been reporting on all things cycling in Melbn for a few years.

    Note: I’m not affiliated with any tour organiser and I’m not a tour guide, but happy extend an invitation to join in with our rides.

    Oh, apart from cycling Melbourne has a thriving food, arts and wine culture. Speaking with an expat who’d returned to Melbn after 15 years living abroad, his comment was “I can’t believe it, every weekend there’s some kind of festival of something else going on!”

    Note: Nor am I the Lord Mayor of Melbn

    Sorry Inrng, I didn’t mean to ramble on like that, but I love my town.


  16. I enjoyed reading this article, as I had no idea that’s what it was like. Living in Sydney, cycling is most definitely a middle- to upper-class pastime.
    I love the Official Rules page, it’s the only reason I still have facebook (truthfully). I guess it’s more tongue in cheek than anything. The rules are highly unrealistic and almost totally un-achievable unless you are a pro, who by some stroke of luck is sponsored by all the ‘right’ people.
    This is what makes it fun.
    I ride a Felt, with black bibs mostly. Alas, I also have white shoes and shiny chiseled legs and can rock a gazebo like no-ones business. These things make up part of our cycling culture, just as going to the pub for a fight after a football match makes up part of their culture. I know which I’d prefer!

  17. I love the Video….have seen it many times and everytime I watch it, it cracks me up.

    Tbh the ride and coffee culture in Sydney is awesome, I love that part of the cycling culture out here and the social aspect after our club ride on Sat mornings is great. I never really experienced it in Bristol in the UK when I lived there.

  18. Well that would suggest that I am more European than “Euro”. 10 year-old bike: Check. 10 year-old kit: Check. Never stop for coffee.

    On a serious note, I have wondered when the concept of white shoes being “Euro” began? Obviously Time built on the initial work of Sidi to popularise white shoes in the late 80’s, but apart from Specialized and Shimano, and now Giro, most shoe manufacturers are European. Personally I blame Armstrong for wearing black Nike. That meant that as the only non-European in the peloton, everyone in the English-speaking world assumed that logic dictated that to be “Euro” meant that you didn’t wear black shoes and as few shoe manufacturers make blue shoes anymore, non-English speaking riders wore white shoes

  19. Talking about coffee stops I believe some in my club do a pre-ride coffee stop, a mid way coffee stop and another one thrown in at the end! Probably spend more time in the cafes than on the bike. Some comments here remind me of going to Japan and visiting some bike shops, full of the run of the mill stuff found in bike shops in the UK. Almost all clothing was US or European, no cool Japanese jerseys! Although since the fixed gear craze took off there are a few boutiques in Tokyo and Osaka at least catering to the hipster crowds.

  20. @ Jarvis
    It’s always a safe bet to blame Armstrong. 😉 In a similar vein to the old commissaires adage: If you know someone is cheating blame the Italian, you will usually be right (I’ve actually seen this rule-of-thumb work, the Rider was amazed that he’d been found-out – hilarious).

    Seriously though, nearly all new major ideas and fashions for Cycling originate in Europe, I vividly recall aching for a pair of Duegi silver shoes back when you could only buy black (when I eventually got a pair they were crap by the way).

    Strange how North American companies have such a large presence in the sport, especially as the heartland is across the Atlantic and the US is such a car dominated country. Even odder is that US designed products are generally seen more at the top-end of Cycling. Very different to the Auto industry (want a really good car, think of McClaren, BMW, Jaguar, Ferrari, Porsche etc.etc…. American? Naaa.— want really good bike gear, think of Scott, Specialised, Trek, SRAM etc). OK European manufacturers probably still hold the balance of power at the top-end but at least the US is a force to be reckoned with.

  21. @I want to Believe, and everyone else…

    Launceston, in central north Tasmania is the place to ride! There are roads heading out of town in every direction, from cruisy flats that snake their way along the river, a 120k loop with 2000m gain, or a cat 1 1200m climb 50k’s away it’s got every type of terrain you could want. PLUS they are all backroads with bugger all traffic!

    Get down and check it out! Btw euro scene is thriving down here… could it be that the farthest place from Europe, strives to be the most euro? 😉

  22. The rules are interesting guidelines individually and hilarious when taken as a whole,; they create a caricature of those who take things too seriously. Anyone who subscribes to the rules in their entirety has forgotten the prime objective which should be, “shut up and ride”.

    Of course the way to overcome our many foibles is to follow rule #9, which states that if you ride in bad weather, you are a badass period, which I suppose trumps all transgressions 😉

    As for coffee stops, I always thought mid-ride coffee made less sense than post ride beer. I belonged to a club that did things like Kieran’s club; they spent more time in the cafe (& restroom/loo) than on the road!

  23. @Igam, Scott are Swiss-owned/based, and have been for some considerable time, even if they didn’t drop the ‘USA’ from their branding until relatively recently. They were out of the US bike market for a while too.

  24. Jim – the pendulum is swinging back in Italy with more and more “100% Made in Italy” stuff in Italian shops these days. But I know what you mean, a few years back the stores were full of the same stuff they had in the USA but thankfully it’s changing. Riding around in the Dolomites this past summer during the build-up to the famous Maratona, I was struck by how many Italian bikes there were. It’s easy to spot them since the riders are in a proper position vs the slanted parallelogram/sloping top tube/t-shirt sized offerings from most of the big US bike brands.

  25. Totally agree with Larry T. here in italy the old generation will fit the article description, the 35 and under look super Euro, i mean while leg warmers , no helmet, large head gear instead. as for bike shops, there is the little hidden gems in Bergamo, ie Legend bikes by Marco bertelotti, or WR compositi, in Toscana you find Rossin. you just have to look for it. French riders never look euro, not even the pro ones.

  26. ” .. poor man’s sport in Italy and France, your typical rider is a factory worker or a municipal employee. …”

    hah! In USA, it’s not uncommon for a rank-and-file policeman or fireman to make US$250,000 per year. The government employees have been the new “elite” for some time here … and it is bankrupting the country. US is heading down the path of Greece.

  27. @appalachie. Your post is factually incorrect on many levels. First, the primary driver of long term fiscal deficits are the entitlement programs Medicare, Medicare and social security. In the short term, decreased tax revenues from the economic downturn and the bush tax cats, the Iraq and afghan wars and stimulus spending are the majority of reason.

    Secondly, as the son of a retired police officer and the brother of a fireman, your estimates of income are highly inaccurate not to mention offensive.

  28. Another Melbourne boy here. And I second “I want to believe”‘s invitation. The sub-culture of riding and good coffee is well cemented now. I also learned the other day that Melbourne is the only city in the world with two indoor velodromes, amazing if true. Come out in March for the best weather, stay for the Worlds in April. And mine’s a Lavazza – long Macchiato thanks.

  29. @nic Indeed there is some spectacular riding and ‘Tassie’ is a great destination, BUT, you’ve neglected to mention three things:

    1: Tasmania is an island state of Aus and difficult to ride there from the mainland
    2: The cycling culture is a tad ‘underground’
    3: The closest place to get a good coffee in Launceston (all of Tasmania) is a 500km flight to Cafe Racer 😉 That’s funny, cos it’s true.

  30. For me, the fact that the ‘Euro’ conceit exists is not so much an example of ‘cultural cringe’ as an Othering of Europe by the Anglo world. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter that the real Europe doesn’t live up to the expectations (apart from those holidays!); it’s not the point. In any case, there is such a feedback loop between these two cultures that they undoubtedly inform each other.

  31. @Johnny Law :
    What is “offensive” is the lavish pay & benefits these gov’t workers receive.

    Here are _2009_ data on actual California state, county, & city wages:
    And, since 2009, government wages have increased 5-10% , at expense of private sector.
    Pick some muncipalities & look under the “total W2 wages” column, especially police & firemen. Then, they retire at age 50 and collect nearly 100% of their previous wages, as guaranteed pensions for life.
    Furthermore, declare a “disability” as about half do in Calif, and 50% of the pension is exempted from all federal and state income taxes. The retired fireman across the street from me is on a “disability pension” in his 50s, yet I notice no diminishment of his physical activity. Maybe it’s his index typing finger that is bent out of kilter.

    I agree with you that Medicare/Medicaid/SocSec are big drivers of US deficits, at the federal level.
    But at the state. county, and city level, the govt labor unions are the largest source of unfunded liabilities, right up there, in the Trillions of US$. These unfunded liabilities _don’t_ appear in any gov’t accounting ledgers, because they declare themselves to be not subject to the same rules that apply to all private businesses. It’s the proverbial “ticking time bomb”.

  32. Igam @ 12:34,

    The brands mentioned in the comments blow most of their money on Marketing. Essentially shouting the loudest selling identical. Stick some new/different stickers on Kinesis, Merida, or a Giant and you too could become a global bike brand.

    FYI, your Felt is a Kinesis.

  33. Appalachie,

    Government wages may have increased, but those increases absolutely pale in scale to the increases at the C-level. (CTO, CIO, CEO, etc) So, who is paying for those C-level exec wages? You and I.

    And this concept that the public sector wages are somehow gone forever is equally absurd. They spend it on stuff! Whereas your C-class wage earner does not. Under most conditions C-class workers spend very little of what they make. Thus ensuring increased wealth concentration.

    Somewhere in all that broken thinking are some valid minor points. But understand you’ve been fooled into selling a party line that is only making most of us poorer every year.

  34. Furthermore Appalachie,

    Enough with this unfunded liability fear mongering. It’s not a bogeyman. State and Municipal finances are much more transparent than any private sector business.

    And your neighbor the firefighter is but one person with which you paint the entire public service sector?

    Your fear mongering and broken rhetoric only serve to make us all poorer. Please go back to the cave with your other survivalist/austerity buddies and alarm them some more. The rest of the U.S./E.U. has to fix your mess.

  35. I do make a special effort to look as unprofessional as possible since I am not a pro and never will.

    So I ride an basic old alu bike and don’t shave my legs.

    When Weekend Warriors (or Freds) pass me on the flat, they sometimes pass a little comment on my bike, I only smile back and let them go. Because I get my pleasure in the climbs when I drop them one by one without even trying. Oh the pleasure. Oh the pleasure to see their faces. It’s my reward. They are my podium girls, those suffering Freds on their carbon bikes, carbon wheels and carbon brains.

    Carbon bikes are for pros. The middle age american, canadian, european men and women weekend warriors who buy them are trapped into a fantasy. It goes with the S.U.V. and the watch.
    Commodities. commodities. Consumerism. It reassures the ego.

    I say to them, buy a heavy bike, there you will get your workout when you climb.

  36. I agree completely with this blog, even if my shoes are white (shimanos brought on a sale price) and I live in Aus. The constant “Euro” look and need is one of the reasons I never got into club cycling whilst in a state capital in Aus. There is this image that people feel they need to portray and those that dont have the finances or simply dont want to be a part of it, are made to feel uncomfortable and not welcome. It’s pathetic and clearly shown to be false (as proved in this blog).

    I feel a lot better off now that I’m working in a regional city, where 20km in any direction and you’re on you’re own in the country. Sheep and flies don’t seem to mind unshaved legs!

  37. I bought a load of white gear last year, incl shoes & helmet! 2 Reasons: 1, in Spring/Summer I found that white absorbs less light/heat which is more bearable than sweltering in black (previous gear was black as I thought this was hardcore!); 2, when training alone I would stand out more to traffic, reducing the possibility of getting glued to the road surface by ignorant drivers!

    Often when going for a relaxed ride on a Sunday morning with a bunch of old guys (incl ex-profs in their 60’s & 70’s who can still fly like a bat out of hell) we would always end up at a cafe, but only a few of us would drink coffee, while the majority would slurp Belgian beers! One time I was walking past one of these cafes in the late afternoon to see some of the bikes still parked outside! I went in and some of the guys were still there, roughly 5 hours after I had gone home! I went in and asked the guys when they were going home! I was invited to join them for the last round (16th or 26th) while they explained that at their age there were only two things that mattered in life: cycling and beer!!!

    Last year was on a ride one Sunday morning with a bunch of friends when we see a rider cruizing in the opposite direction, on a white Specialized Tarmac, all kitted up in white Assos gear, white shoes, white gloves…but no helmet, just gelled-back hair…and really stinking of after-shave, which we could still smell after a few more km’s! I thought: he is not out to get some kilometres in the legs, but to get himself between some fawning womans legs!!!

  38. I am still laughing at Le Velo. Awesome!

    When the weather is cold and wet, I mount the fenders and ride anyway. I have noticed that the pretty carbon bikes and matching kits only seem to populate the roads when the wind is slight and the sun is out. It all really boils down to enjoying the sport, and the ride. Those who find it more important to keep up appearances are simply missing the point, I would guess.

    Though carbon is an amazing material for a bicycle, it’s not without a down side, as the frame is easily damaged. For the long haul, I’ll stick with steel, it’s been just fine for the last 27 years. It’s nice not having to worry about damage if the bike is toppled when parked, while grabbing that coffee.

    Regardless of the bike or kit, it all boils down to enjoying the ride, whatever your motivation may be.

  39. I have been on the bike in France 14 times in the last two years:

    Coffee stops: only at the top of long climbs when you have to regroup and you welcome a short break.
    Clothing and Bikes: I agree – not always fancy – but they don’t let hat get in the way.
    BUT: People respect that you are on a bike and smile as it’s part of their culture. Other riders always say Bonjour.

    My favorite story is from the Col du Glandon (riding south). Some road workers heard us coming – they pause their shoveling, look up at us – and then immediately look at our frames to see what we are riding.

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