Whilst I primarily see cycling as a mode of transport, there are many for whom it is more of a sporting or leisure pursuit. Plenty of cyclists use their bikes primarily for transportation purposes, typically commuting, where the bicycle offers them a time advantage over driving, walking or public transport during peak hours. As sport-cycling is currently the dominant image of cycling sold by bike shops in the UK, it is common to see people riding for a wide variety of purposes on a narrow selection of bikes, typically racing (or road) bikes, mountain bikes, or the horrific merging of the two; the hybrid.
Anyone who gets on a bike to get around is a part of the solution, regardless of the type of bike they choose. After all, even a jump bike with a single low gear and no provision for fitting a saddle is still a more suitable method of getting around town than a single person driving a car designed to carry five. However, at times I do find certain behaviours of other cyclists a bit baffling.
Obsessing over the mass of your bike, also referred to as being a “Weight weenie,” is particularly baffling when taken to extremes, especially on a bike ridden as a mode of transport. I can understand not wanting to carry a significant amount of extra weight unnecessarily, but I cannot fathom why anyone would choose not to have a rack on the bike they ride to work, just to save a tiny bit of weight. Often this means carrying a rucksack on your back instead of a pannier on your bike, the discomfort and inefficiency of carrying your luggage this way is a pretty poor trade-off compared to the tiny bit of extra weight a rear rack adds. Mudguards are another bicycle component which many choose to do without, the need for a change of clothes after even a shortest ride on a wet road, (even after the rain has stopped) to save the added mass of a pair of mudguards seems utterly baffling.
Another seldom-considered factor is what I’d like to call “Weight compensation.” Common cycle wisdom states that less weight gives the potential for a higher speeds, but it also allows the rider to achieve the same speed with a little bit less effort. Safety interventions such as seat-belts and ABS are supposed to make people safer, but often end up subconsciously encouraging people to take greater risks because of the increase in perceived safety. reducing the mass of your bike will probably just end up making you use less effort to travel at the same speed. The body is a dynamic thing, and it won’t take long for it to adapt to the reduced demands placed on it; take off that bike rack and eventually you become that tiny bit more feeble as you settle back to the pace you were travelling at before, losing the muscle strength you once had. I’ve seen this realisation on the faces of many a roadie when I’m out on the Yuba Mundo. The bike alone weighs in excess of three times as much as a good racing bike, but as they slowly overtake me they see I’m only travelling a few km/h slower than they are, on a huge bike which puts the rider in an upright position to boot.
The rider matters a lot more than the ride.