Cycling is a fantastic sport for any child to become involved in. It keeps you fit and healthy, it teaches you independence and discipline, it gives you a sense of identity and you make friends that you keep for the rest of your life.
At the height of the Kelly/Roche era Cycling Ireland had a maximum membership of just over 4000.
In 2013 Cycling Ireland membership has topped 20,000 (Thanks Gary McIlroy for the latest numbers)
The initial boom was sparked by the exploits of Kelly and Roche. Every school kid wanted to emulate their heroes and the bike that they cycled to school on was also the bike that they did their first club spin on.
In 1986 during the previous cycling boom in Ireland over 19,000 girls cycled to school.
In 2011 during the current boom 525 girls cycled to school throughout the whole country.
In the late eighties and early nineties there would be a 53 seater bus from Clonmel and a 53 seater bus from Carrick along with another mini bus and a number of cars going to the races, all stuffed to the max with spotty teenagers. Team Sky may have set a new standard for team busses but the Kavanaghs coach driven by Sean Clarke was better craic with every Mammies good blanket covering all the bikes stacked up at the back of the bus.
Many days in the shop we see a blast from the past. Someone that we raced against underage or as a junior walks in after a 20 year sabbatical and is now ‘back on the bike’
Looking around the group on a Sunday spin many of the faces are now a more worn version of the innocent cherubs of the eighties but the names are still the same, as more and more return to a sport that never leaves the core of who you are.
Many of these ‘returning cyclists’ account for the growth in numbers, along with the ‘Mamils’ who have left the golf clubs in the shed due to having to open the top button of their trousers after a good feed one too many times.
Kelly and Roche gave the inspiration back then and the clubs and volunteers gave the opportunity but it was the bike that you cycled to school or down to your friends house that gave you the physical tool to take part.
With so few kids now cycling to school or cycling anywhere for that matter where will cycling in Ireland be in another 20 years time ?
The main obstacles that we see in the shop that come up time and time again are every parents concern about safety on the roads with the volume of traffic, and the cost of starting cycling. There is no simple answer to safety concerns but there are proactive things that cyclists and parents of cyclists can do.
Cycle with your kids and teach them how to cycle safely on the open road.
Cycle to work, the shops, down town or where ever. Take a bus or other form of public transport and leave the car at home, which is one less car on the road.
Join a cycling club where you and your kids can learn how to cycle safely and where the safest places to cycle are, along with making new friends and becoming part of the cycling community.
Report dangerous drivers and people who park on bike lanes to the police.
Petition local councils for more cycle paths and pedestrian friendly streets, or just ask them to google Holland, Belgium or most of Europe.
Very few people can change the World but anybody can change their own World, so focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.
What can we as a shop do to address the financial concerns ?
We can give every 8 to 18 year old buying their first road bike a 20% discount off the price of the bike and helmet, shoes and clip-less pedals.
We can have a box in the shop with pre loved cycling gear of our own and others who may donate to it, in perfect condition that they can have for free. (If you have some at the bottom of your wardrobe drop it in and we’ll pass it on to any young cyclists who can get some use from it)
We can give their parents a 10% discount on the same package if they are going to go cycling with their child.
We can offer them all the help and advice that they need. We can put them in touch with local cycling clubs.
From today on this offer stands and is open to any young person who wants to take up the most beautiful sport in the World !
(We are also going to retrospectively apply this discount to any Christmas bikes that have been put away with us)
See you on the road,