Cycling in Ireland has seen a huge surge in popularity over recent years . With the success of the Cycle to work scheme more and more people have decent bikes that enable them to enjoy going for a bike ride . Every road in Ireland now seems to have a cyclist on it at weekends .
For a number of years Mountain bikes were by far the most popular choice among the non racing fraternity . People used them to cycle to work , slowly , to cycle around town , slowly and for general excercise , slowly . But when a good mountain bike was brought up to an actual mountain or wood , a whole new world of enjoyment opened up .
Hybrids , bikes that basically give the upright position of a mountain bike but with larger diameter , narrower wheels more akin to a racing bike , then saw a huge surge in popularity . What were once seen as old fashioned looking bikes became available in mountain bike looking colour schemes . Once people tried one out and discovered how ‘free’ they felt on the road compared to a mountain bike there was no turning back . The hybrid became the number one choice amongst the general consumer who wanted a functional bike that they could cycle to work on and get a bit of exercise on at weekends . Many even use them at the shorter distance leisure tour sportif events .
The leisure tour , or Sportif as they are known has become a phenomenon in cycling terms over recent years . Whilst Marathons always saw fields of thousands of runners a good cycling leisure event may have had fifty or sixty riders . The exception would have been the Wicklow 200 or The Ring of Kerry which would have had a couple of hundred cyclists in each event . Over the years the numbers were growing and then these two events were joined by the likes of The Sean Kelly Tour , The An Post leisure series and The Stephen Roche Tour de Cure and the numbers taking part in all events mushroomed .
For years , in the shop , when showing people a bike we would often hear the following ‘ I don’t want to be bent over on one of them racers , too hard on the back and sure you can’t see where your going and they’d puncture wicked easy on Irish roads with them narrow tyres ‘ . Manufacturers listened to these concerns and a new breed of racing bike was born . Specifically aimed at the Sportif market , a racing bike with more relaxed geometry and a higher head tube which gives the more upright position and is fitted with 25mm rather than 23 or even 19mm tyres addresses many peoples concerns . However the most important thing about buying any bike is to have your position set up correctly . Once you have the correct position there should be no problem with back pain , etc.
Now the racing bike has become the most popular choice among many new cyclists . It makes for a faster commute to work than even a car in urban areas . In general exercise terms not only are people using the bikes to get fit but many set the goal of a leisure tour and train specifically for the event which brings them up to another level of fitness again . Many now even go on to the next step of taking out a racing license , which opens up another realm again which I will cover in the next post .