New Riders and Tomorrow’s Audience

Intro: this is a guest piece by Vincent Luyendijk. The blog has often looked at changes in pro cycling and related commercial issues like TV coverage and but what of the audience and the newcomers to the sport? Vincent Luyendijk takes a look at those who are riding but not racing, the newcomers to the sport who will be tomorrow’s competitors, cycle store consumers or Tour de France audience.

At the start of the new season it is always exciting to see what’s new. Is it easy to recognize the new outfits? Which rider is the new talent to watch? How do new training methods and technology work out for the different teams? At Paris-Nice the oldest rider winning a stage was 25 in Arthur Vichot, it shows that a new generation of cyclists is taking over.

Over the last decade teams have turned to science more and more and they understand the need for a more professional approach. At the start of the season every team and rider wants to tell how they innovated and what they have done to become better. In Holland this more professional approach is known as “new style cycling“.

What I am going to write about is something entirely different for the start of this new season. It is not about the new generation of pro’s winning at Paris-Nice nor about new training methods like Tinkoff-Saxo is telling about Contador. I would like to talk to you about the real new style cycling, Cycling 2.0, not to be confused with new style cycling.

In my opinion there are generally five different young groups of new cyclists on their way to becoming the in-crowd:

Group 1 : ‘I love to ride my bike but I don’t give shit about cycling on TV’
First of all, this group consists of a very special type of riders for someone like me who longs for the season to start and drops everything when there is a race on TV. I will sit on the couch and relish every minute. Even if it is a race on local TV and I don’t know any of the riders competing in it. Taking this into account I was very surprised when I invited my friends at Soigneur magazine to watch Liège-Bastogne-Liège together at the end of April 2012. To make the fun complete I made sure I had stocked some Belgian beer, brewed at the bottom of La Redoute. All the necessary ingredients for a perfect afternoon of bicycle fun were united. But… my friends at Soigneur had a different opinion. They preferred to have fun riding their bikes instead of enjoying it on TV. They decided to go for a ride and not just an easy ride, but 120km in bad weather. There has been some research on this new breed of cyclists. In the Netherlands alone this group of ‘sporty riders’ is conservatively estimated to count over one million riders.

Group 2: ‘Women on bikes
Within this first group of riders there is a sub-group that can be differentiated. We’ll call them ‘Women or Chicks on bikes.’ I see nothing but advantages coming from this group of women on bikes. You may find that I’m a sexist, but to me a road bike has the same effect on women as high heels or a beautiful car next to her. I am not alone, the internet also loves it. It has become a true hype to share pictures of beautiful women on bikes. I would like to say, before you get the wrong idea, that I have great respect for female bikers. Most of the ones I ride with easily drop me, especially uphill. Of course women on bikes are not a new phenomenon. For example there was an Italian woman who rode the Giro d’Italia. This woman, Alfonsina Strada, was there to attract attention and publicity, but she was strong as well and didn’t finish last. The novelty is not women on bikes, but the massive number of women who are discovering the bike.

Last week, for the first time in my life, I saw a group of eight people riding bikes. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a popular local bike route, but all eight were women, not one guy to be seen. To me this group of only women is the true new style cycling. And what makes it even more interesting for men; they can talk about complicated things like components, gears and power output. The fact that women have really discovered cycling is obvious not only on popular bike routes but also at granfondos and in bike shops. At the Amstel Gold Race granfondo the percentage of women participating has risen from a mere 1.7% in 2002 to a staggering 15% in 2012. The major bike brands have also noticed the trend and are developing ever more specific models for women.

Group 3: ‘Petrol heads who used to be cagers
From women on bikes we go to a very special group of new kids on the block. Currently every modern Mayor of every metropolis in the Western world has worked out a Bicycle Master plan. They saw the light and now the bicycle is the ultimate solution for everything. Of course the bicycle makes for:

  • Less traffic on the roads
  • Healthy living
  • Cleaner air
  • Recreation and fun

These master plans were developed mainly to get people out of their car and on a bike. Let’s take New York for example, a city that is developing bicycle lanes at high speed, something unthinkable a couple of years ago. Currently 1,500km of bicycle lanes have been constructed, there is a major bike-share program and all inhabitants of what used to be called New Amsterdam need to get on a bike. As quickly as possible.

Meanwhile they have set up classes to get this ‘new invention’ to a public beyond the early adopters. Grown-ups get lessons on riding a bike. And although every month there are American delegations who come to the Netherlands to suck-up knowledge from the world’s leading bicycling experts, in the bicycling reality of Amsterdam there is one important first rule during these bike lessons… “Rule #1: Don’t ride like the Dutch”. The Dutch are not only known for the number of people who ride bikes but also for their poor observance of the rules of the road.

Besides bicycle master-plans, mayors also provide space for recreational bicycling. In a city like Bogota the inner city is closed down to cars on Sundays so everyone can ride a bike. This movement is called La Cilclovia (pictured). With 25% of daily trips by bicycle, the Dutch example is still Utopia for countries like the USA and the UK (both less than 3%). But looking  at all at all of the plans and space for the bicycle and the growing  number of e-bikes, all of the lights seem to be green to allow a big  group of people to start commuting by bike. This will give them freedom  and increase their health and happiness. Everything is set for a large  number of cyclists to join the early adopters in the coming years!

Group 4: ‘Famous brands and famous people’
The popularity of the bike today can also be seen in trending culture. You don’t need to look very hard to see this. In the eighties and nighties there was bike in the apartment of Jerry Seinfeld but he never rode it nowadays bikes as decoration are everywhere. Whether it is a commercial, shop or magazine, road bikes are often used as a trendy means of decoration. A great example of this trend is when big brands, who have absolutely no connection to bicycles, take the bike’s popularity of very serious:

  • H&M designed a special collection to be worn on the bike
  • G-Star has their own bike
  • And Levi’s has special clothes and their own bike
  • How about those Louis Vuitton bottles?

Besides brands in the clothing industry, car manufacturers have also entered the world of the bicycle. They understand the bicycle is a growing popular choice in the transportation chain. BMW, Audi and Porsche all developed a bicycle. Other brands go one extra step to integrate the bicycle, with Smart offering an electric bike and car to get around town for example. Or Pon, the Dutch importer of Volkswagen, who recently purchased several bike brands among which Royal Gazelle and high-end road bike brand Cervélo.

Besides these brands, celebrities also like to be seen on bicycles nowadays. In the last week or so I spotted pictures of Jamie Oliver, James Bond, McDreamy, John Kerry and Obi Wan Kenobi on a bicycle. And during the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi even the Dutch royal family was pictured on a bike, but the bicycle is no longer limited to the Dutch elite.

Group 5: ‘The African people we were taught could only run fast
The last group of new kids on the block comes from far away. As cycling fans we all know that the pro cycling peloton is experiencing its second Anglo-Saxon era. With Team Sky winning the Tour two years in a row it seems to be peaking. The first Anglo-Saxon era started in the eighties with riders like Phil Anderson. This was at a time when other Australians didn’t understand you could make money as a cyclist.

Besides an Anglo-Saxon era we are also at the start of a second Latin-American era in cycling, the push essentially coming from Columbians. The first era was at the end of the eighties with riders like Herrera and Parra. Nowadays a great number of very talented riders are dying to color all of the big races in the coming years.  But while these two geographic groups are entering their second era, there will be one continent living its first era, and that is Africa. This is without taking Chris Froome into consideration. For me he doesn’t count as a Kenyan, although he was born and raised in Nairobi.

Currently a lot of hard work is put into getting native Africans on bikes. It is very important to mobilize people, not just in metropolises, but also in the rural and urban areas of Africa. The World bicycle relief for example, is doing a great job of mobilizing the local people there. Cycling solves a different problem there than in global western cities. Cycling is very important to local people, it helps children save time which they can use to go to school, and adults have easier access to work and better hygienic facilities.

While the bike is on the rise among commuters in Africa, the sport has also known growth in this last decade. There are tours being held in countries like Burkina Faso and Gabon where millions of local fans line the road. Some of the local cyclists have already made it to the pro peloton. La Vuelta of 2012 saw Daniel Teklehaimanot from Eritrea as the first African to ride a grand tour.

To understand the potential of African cyclists I looked at runners. When looking at athletes you’ll notice that 10 years ago athletes from Africa did not yet dominate marathon running. The first time a Kenyan won the Olympic marathon was in 2008.  Improvement in infrastructure and training over the last ten years helped them on the path towards domination. The fact that 278 Kenyan athletes passed the time limit (2h15) for the London Olympics is a clear indicator. In the end international regulations only allowed two Kenyans to start.  But it also shows that there is a lot to be expected from them in another endurance sport; cycling.

Several new groups of cyclists are out there, and they are becoming more and more in-crowd. It is heart-warming to see more people enjoy cycling as a means of commuting, recreation and sport and I am convinced we will very much enjoy all of them in the coming years. Finally I would like to share a prediction with you:

  • In 2020 a Kenyan will win the Tour de France
  • That Tour will finish on Times Square, New York
  • The winner rides a Porsche bike and rides for team H&M
  • But nobody will notice since they will all be out riding for themselves…
  • …with women leading the pack.

This blog is derived from a presentation Vincent Luyendijk held in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was translated and adjusted for
Vincent Luyendijk is the owner of IN10 communications and Soigneur magazine. His mission is to connect people and brands in a relevant way. He sees great opportunities for brands and people in the world of cycling. This believe in opportunities for example lead to a Bicycle Masterplan which he works on together with Frank Kwanten of First Echelon. Both of them will blog for the INRNG every now and then.

46 thoughts on “New Riders and Tomorrow’s Audience”

  1. Nice article but..

    “And what makes it even more interesting for men; they can talk about complicated things like components, gears and power output.”

    Really, women can understand gear ratios? Who would have thought? 😉

    I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and hope that was lost in translation somewhere and didn’t come across as intended.

    • “for me a road bike has the same effect on women as high heels or a beautiful car next to her”

      TMI, patronising, and not exactly a helpful contribution to increasing female participation in the sport. Generally speaking, women do not ride bikes for the visual gratification of random heterosexual men whom they happen to pass on the road. See Laura Trott’s very sensible refusal to participate in FHM’s “World’s Sexiest Woman” shenanigans, for instance. See also Cycling Weekly, which just treats women cyclists as (superlative) athletes, not as eye candy.

      Less of this, please, and more of INRNG’s thought-provoking analysis and fabulous turn of phrase.

    • Agree, I cringed a couple of times reading the second section.

      As no-one has picked it up yet, regarding the stat of female participation at the Amstel GF
      Surely its more comment worthy to wonder why ONLY 15% of participant were women, and examine ways to get this figure more representative of the population. Perhaps statements like:
      We’ll call them ‘Women or Chicks on bikes.’
      and “to me a road bike has the same effect on women as high heels or a beautiful car next to her. I am not alone, the internet also loves it. It has become a true hype to share pictures of beautiful women on bikes”
      are actually part of the problem.

      Anyway, as RocksRootsRoad says, perhaps (hopefully?) something got lost in translation (but then most Dutchies I know speak English betta van wot I do)

      • “You may find that I’m a sexist”

        Yes, I do. And sorry, but I’m not so prepared to give the benefit of the doubt as other commenters.

        I love this blog but cack-handed articles that contain attitudes like this have no more place in cycling today than Peter Sagan’s podium antics.

        I completely agree with Toe Strap. These attitudes are part of the problem when it comes to women’s participation, not part of the solution.

        Good grief.

        • As someone who rides a bike also for the visual gratification of random heterosexual women, I must say that piece of the article was either not sexist or that there is actually at least that much not wrong about sexism.

          • I have to agree with Bundle here.

            Really, what does the author say? He finds female cycling athletes hot. Well, so do I. But I am also a strong supporter of developing women’s pro cycling to put it on equal terms to men’s cycling. And not just because I want to see more young, fit and lean women in skin-tight suits, bending over their steering wheel… breathing heavily… okay I am getting carried away, but hey thankfully I’m only joking 😉 but because I actually enjoy watching women’s cycling just like I enjoy watching men’s cyling: for sportive entertainment.

            So please don’t be too judging on the author simply for thinking female cyclists are sexy. It can go very well hand in hand with supporting women’s cycling and respecting them as athletes for all the right reasons.

          • Bundle, if you choose to imagine that women like looking at you, that’s your business 😉 But your own personal preferences have got nothing to do with the discussion here. There’s good recent research that supports what we might feel to be intuitively obvious: namely that adolescent women are disincentivised from participating in sports because they are worried about other people commenting on their bodies (e.g., Slater and Tiggermann in Journal of Adolescence 34 (2011) — behind a paywall, I’m afraid). Many young women are very self-conscious of their changing bodies. They can find both negative comments and over-sexualised “praise” very dispiriting.

            Surely we should be encouraging all young people, male and female, to exercise because its fun and health-giving. And cycling is is best of all 🙂 If some people like the way that exercise/cycling makes them look, and they enjoy being looked at, then that’s great. But we should also acknowledge that not everybody feels like that — and that the gaze and judgements of strangers can be distinctly offputting.

          • “Sexy girls on bikes are sexy”

            “Sexy guys on bikes are sexy”

            Are either of those sexist comments? Or just human instincts of cycling fans? I know a certain lady in the cycling reporting work who has a fascination with a certain Swiss superman of the peloton and isn’t afraid to share those thoughts.

            Sexist and patronising? Not at all. Athletes can be hot.

    • Point taken and I get the similar comments too. Vincent wrote it and I’m not into editing or altering people’s work so kept this here… but took more heart from the big increase in participation in the Amstel ride rather than Vincent’s tastes 😉

      • That’s a fair response Inrng but I do think the casual sexism of this article is inappropriate and unfortunate — especially given the usual high quality of your posts on this website. If the author is incapable of treating women simply as athletes without making comments about their physical attractiveness then I don’t think it’s the kind of post you should publishing here.

        • Honestly, are you expecting people not to have thoughts on the attractiveness of the members of their preferred sex, or just that they self-censor the expression of those thoughts? Or do you simply think it’s in bad taste? If the latter, I might agree with you, but ethically there is nothing wrong with finding female cyclists attractive, just like there is nothing wrong for women and gay men to find firemen attractive.

        • Have to agree with this comment, readers come here for insights on cycling and not for patronising comments which elevate people attractiveness above their cycling ability. Of course the writer can say whatever they like, especially as this content is free, but this blog is where young women come to read and motivate themselves to get into cycling and articles like this won’t help that.

          • inrng, you’re right, don’t let this single post think that I am in any way criticising this website. I thoroughly enjoy all the content and I’m sincerely sorry that the neggy comment didn’t reflect that, keep up the good work!

  2. “The first time an African won the Olympic marathon was in 2008”

    … apart from 1912, 1960, 1964, 1996 and 2000. Perhaps you meant Kenyan?

    • Fixed.
      (note Teklehaimaot wasn’t the first African in a grand tour, we had Abdelkader Zaaf in the 1920s and more recently Robbie Hunter for example. But I think Vincent is making the point about wider African participation and we should see Natnael Berhane start the Tour this summer).

  3. Horses for courses but not my favourite INRNG article (i appreciate it wasn’t written by him). It’s left me kind of confused if i’m honest and i’m not sure why?

  4. I can now comment on pieces here, makes a change. I’m not sure if the prediction happens by 2020 but it does set the scene for changes and makes a talking point to explore.

    Many people around the world are getting into the sport, whether in established countries we are seeing fast growth in women’s participation or places without a cycling culture where the sport is growing on the back of development and transport.

    The only way we’ll get a Porsche bike and Team H&M is by changing the TV audience but for now it’s not growing much. If anything it’s shrinking back and more and more teams are relying on sugardaddies or industry sponsors rather than a growth in consumer brands and corporate sponsors.

  5. The Vuitton water bottles were a Gage&Desoto bootleg:

    But Vuitton has done bikes before, from polo bikes ( to a rebadged Gazelle commuter.

    D&G did similar ( as have Chanel, and there’s ongoing Gucci/Bianchi collaboration

    Not forgetting such historic tie-ups as Z (children’s fashion), Coast, Jack & Jones (not Tinkoff Saxo), Paul Smith mountain bike team to mention a few (Actually Paul has done several Rapha collaborations, plus Mercian tie-up but he’s a bike nut anyway). So it’s hard to describe it as a new trend.

    Additional details for example H&M was a collaboration with Brick Lane Bikes and quite a small “capsule” line – ie it wasn’t mainline and wasn’t available across all outlets.

    I think Inner Ring is right about the die-back of non-endemic sponsors. Even the peripheral sponsors, like vehicles, don’t seem to see the sport as offering much shop window compared to targeted leisure.

    • ” there will be one continent living its first era, and that is Africa. This is without taking Chris Froome into consideration” Why? Becuse he is white and so considered in “the pro cycling peloton is experiencing its second Anglo-Saxon era”

      To me it’s clear he means a black person from Africa, this is clearly a gross generalisation as there are many other races nad culture than just “white” and “black” in africa.

      Whilst the writer is correct about these groups his way of describing them does leave a bad taste.

    • Although I live, ride and race in Belgium I am a white guy from South Africa…and frankly feel a part of me wants to take offence at the author’s intimation that in order to be considered African you must be black/brown with thick lips and big butt!
      If you had ever connected, I mean really connected, with an African you will know that ‘African’ is a state of being! Being African is not a classification. Being African is being human!
      Now if you will all excuse me I need to go and, as we say in South Africa, ‘spit spiders’!!!

  6. Not a bad article, all in all. One bit of it leaves me saddened. I just can’t see how people can ride bicycles as a sport, trying to go fast and far, caring for their material, watching their weight… and then not enjoy pro cycling. It leaves me puzzled. But it happens. I guess they think it’s too dated and corrupt… Or else too self-centered to care about something they’re not the protagonist of…

    • I don’t think the love of watching pro cycling on TV comes from being a “sport cyclist”. I think it comes from being an everyday cyclist, or even a non-cyclist, in a country where bikes are ubiquitous and a respected means of transportation.

    • Also puzzles me. It’s impossible not to be amazed by the strenght of the pros and want to follow some of it. In addition, you have the history, the colors, the stories. Just riding and not caring for the rest of the sport as a whole strikes me somewhat as the attitude you see in triathlon – because IM races are impossible to watch, but also because it doesn’t have the “richness” and layers that cycling has.

      As to the sexism: it’s probably a cultural thing (question: are many of the commenters that saw sexism there Americans? I see that card coming up more often in the US than in Europe). I acknowledge he could’ve done better on some sections, so I’m not defending the text, only trying to understand the underlying thought.

      I don’t see how admiring someone for the beauty in addition to their skills is unflattering or diminishing, but please tell me what I’m missing here. Guys have man crushes on Faboo and Cippo not only because they ride hard, but also because of panache and style. I find it hard to dissociate the rider from the person and everything that entails.

      I ride regularly with dozens of women of different ages and beauties, my wife included. They are first and foremost admired for their strenght on the bike, but I can’t pretend our male hearts aren’t moved if they are also stunning or very charming. I could say the same thing about co-workers. It’s a different thing when women are judged based primarily on gender or looks. But in an environment where that really doesn’t matter or can lead to negative or unfair outcomes – say, on a 15% gradient road – how bad it can be to find a girl attractive or not.

      • Well, I’m Dutch and male and I thought the part about women on bikes was fairly retarded, so I’m not so sure this is about culture. Vincent’s sexual preferences are his own right but I don’t want to hear about them on a cycling blog. Also, if he saw a group of only women cycling for the first time last week, he’s had his head up his behind for a while. I see them all the time. Unless you get the wrong idea, I have great respect for anyone that gets to write a guest piece on INRNG.

  7. “The first Anglo-Saxon era started in the eighties with riders like Phil Anderson. This was at a time when other Australians didn’t understand you could make money as a cyclist.”

    Actually started before that with several classy Brits such as Hoban, Simpson in the 60/70s and Aussies raced even before that in big races and GTs… Mockridge and later Wilson et al. Aussies knew about the money all right as there was a healthy racing scene making money in handicap races from before the turn of the century. It’s true that “skippy” made a living racing o/s and the first one to wear yellow, but it was as much a feat of monumental willpower and determination to survive in that particularly hostile Euro scene of that time.

  8. Many people couldn’t give a sh*te about cycling, cyclists, cycle lanes, cycle shops, cycle holidays, mamils, women on bikes or whatever. Cycling will NOT take over everyones lives and as an avid lover of cycling I for one think thank goodness.

  9. the section on women’s cycling was well meaning but betrayed an underlying sexism within cycling that is why women have found the sport and cycling in general so tough to get into. As we all generally become more enlightened and companies see that there are potential big bucks for the female market (by not needing to always mention sex appeal in the same breath as women’s cycling), the unconscious misogyny and sexual objectification of people like the writer and many of the commenters will slowly dissipate.

    Too slow, but progress is progress however slow

  10. I’ve certainly noticed it in advertising, however they don’t often use them in great ways.

    For instance Mitsubishi has some crap SUV that they’re trying to flick off. They show a fixie with a guy who looks like a bike courier having come from a job. It then pans out to see that it is sitting on the roof and he’s driving around this pile of crap in the inner city.

    1. Of the bike couriers I know, NONE of them would optionally swap their bike for a Mitsubishi SUV.
    2. Nor could they afford to.
    3. Trying to drive that monstrosity around the CBD during a weekday would be at least twice, if not 3 times slower than riding.

    Awful ad from a company/ad agency who clearly just don’t get it.

  11. I really take issue with some of the judgements being made here. Sexist? Patronizing to women? Elevating appearance over athletic performance? I completely disagree. The author clearly states he gives total respect to women who are riding the bike, and their performances.

    Observing that women are getting more into the technicalities is of cycling is not discrimination, nor patronizing. I’m a man and I don’t know jack about gears, components and power output. I don’t cycle in a serious way (yet). So how is that not an accurate criterium? The author simply reasons: He sees more female cyclists with detailed technical knowledge about cycling -> therefore it seems that more female cyclists are practicing the sport in a serious way.

    So what about finding female cyclists sexy? If the author were to put looks over sporting value, or be underappreciative of women’s sporting value in any way, then yes, this would be a valid point. But he doesn’t. So it isn’t. In fact, nowhere does he link his feelings for female cyclists to his value for women’s cycling at all. He is simply stating his feelings on finding women on bikes sexually attractive, and guess what? Women have it too: It’s part of human life.

    So this open display of human emotion can be uncomfortable for some women getting into the sport. I completely understand and agree that this is a problem. However, you can’t simply demand that one group ignore their emotions simply so that the other group won’t have to ignore theirs. So for those of you who are judging and dismissing the fact that men are expressing their sexual emotions on the subject: you’re being as one-dimensional as those who are saying that women will have to put up with it. The answer lies in the middle: men have to be aware and respectful for women’s emotions, and vice versa.

    • Agree, find it more level-headed and thoughtful than just screaming “sexist” at anything that refers to sexual attraction.

      I once read a book by André Van Lysebeth that compared posters of semi-nude girls in car shops to sculptures of deities dating from 4.000 b.C. All in all, he says that even though it might look distasteful, it can also be considered a form of worship of the female beauty and power – maybe a bit clumsy, I could add.

      In the end, women rule. We’re seeing a ressurgence of female values, and hopefully those values will be the ones guiding our societies in a century or so.

  12. Isn’t there a rumour that Alonso’s team next year will have Ferrari as a sponsor?

    I seem to remember there was a Ferrari Bike (by Colnago) in Harrods London at one time, and before you say “eewww Harrods. Get you…”. I was working in London at the time and wondered what all the fuss about Harrods was. At the top of the escalators was a red Ferrari bike… .

    So maybe the author’s Group 4 is not far away…

      • An important part of cycling demographic in Italy, nowadays owns a Ferrari or something like that.
        Businessmen owning and managing their own (small or big) family business, who find themselves at ease with cycling culture, since they recognize in it values they like to *brandish* such as “tradition”, “effort”, “competition”. They love the *popular* dimension while showing off their four zeros top-notch bicycles 🙂
        Maybe asking advice to any doctor that appears to be their cars’ namesake (or “viceversa”).
        And it was like that long before cycling started becoming cool.
        You may think that we’re speaking of little numbers, but in Italy (especially in “cycling regions”) this is a social category more widespread than elsewhere, and their weight on the market is considerable.
        Besides, they have an impressive impact on other people’s behaviour (high level professionals, managers, and even middle-class people) thanks to their nearly mythological status in Italian culture (il “Piccolo Imprenditore”, even when he owns a multinational corporative business…) and to their constant presence on the public scene.
        I think Pozzato’s family holds a business, so he owned his Ferrari before starting to earn his wage as a cyclist, ore something like that. Bettini, on the other hand, had to gain his own supercar out of victories…

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