Lycra, the TDF, Roadies, and lazy journalism

Lycra, the TDF, Roadies, and lazy journalism


On the one hand, I’m wasting my time responding to click-bait. As a matter of fact, responding to it is the very reason click-bait exists. By linking to this cheap, lazy journalism, I am helping it perpetuate. On the other hand, I can’t help myself, and, hope of all hopes, that someone reads this (the author, even!), and actually thinks, “Fair enough. Maybe there is room in my universe for more than one opinion, maybe I’ll stop making sweeping and almost entirely unfounded judgments, and maybe opinion won’t pass for fact any longer.”

And so, Lycra. The Tour de France. Roadies (or, people on anything less than an upright bike, but mostly, just road cyclists). These are among the most used epithets that cheap journos and the average person with an axe to grind go to every time.

The thing is, none of them have anything at all to do with the argument they are trying desperately to make.

Here we have a prime example of this lazy journalism: attempting to credit Lycra with inciting cyclists to misbehave and undermine the greater good. This person got paid for that. With money, I presume.

Lycra Louts

Essentially, the author is upset regarding her perception that the roads of London host the Tour de Fred each and every day, and seeks the answer to the following questions:

Now what is wrong with cycling at a moderate, decorous Boris-pace, in normal clothes? What is wrong with getting to work in a healthy and responsible way while not dressing and behaving as if training for the Tokyo Olympics? What is wrong with bikes being used, and respected by drivers, simply as a way of getting from place to place in a cheerful, low-carbon manner?

Other people have already picked her up on starting an opinion piece that rages against riding fast with facts about how riding fast is actually beneficial. School-girl error, but not at issue here. I will add, however, rather than the “3,500 bike riders killed or injured last year”, the statistic she should have lead with is the only statistic pertinent to this article: “In 2014 (GB), the vast majority – 98% – of killed or seriously injured (KSI) pedestrians in urban areas (i.e. where pedestrians are most likely to be) were the result of a collision with a motor vehicle.” That, and this one: 100% of me agrees with the fact that you can get stuffed – I’ll wear what I want to and cycle at more than 6kph but less than what is dangerous or inconsiderate whenever I feel like it.

Anyway, “the rise of cycling here is a fine thing, if marred by a shockingly high accident rate in the cities”, says the author a little later. Well, it seems as though not enough cyclists are riding fast enough, then, according to your opening gambit. Also, would you care to have a look at the circumstances of the various cycling fatalities for the year and letting us know how many were due to Lycra, or perhaps “riding furiously”, as is the archaic technical term, I believe?

In reality, the answer to her questions above is as follows: nothing. Nothing is wrong with cycling in the manner she describes. And, nothing is wrong with cycling while wearing Lycra – which is more comfortable on the bike, or cycling at more than a walking pace, or using a road bike, or indeed showering once you get to the office. Nothing is wrong with integrating your workout into your daily routine so you don’t have to do something pointless like going to the gym or taking extra time away from your family after-hours.

What I sadly have to remind the author of is how cause and effect works, and what a non-sequitur is.

According to the author, these are the problems, followed by the effects:

Wearing Lycra: it appears to be woven with pure apathy and 100% Holier Than Thouᵀᴹ polyester, contains Integrated Courtesy Barrier (ICB) Technologyᵀᴹ, and everyone knows that all of the chamois’ are treated with a minimum level of whatever potpourri of drugs that 1990’s-era cycling teams used.

Riding a road bike: I’m sure I didn’t realize that, physiologically, the position releases hormones that cause you to be instantly unfriendly, undignified, selfish and irrationally dangerous to pedestrians. Further, you are unable to ride at any pace other than flat-out.

Riding at a pace just above the sweat-threshold: “some of these high-adrenalin chaps are a menace.”

Using clipless pedals: “Many riders, idiotically, actually use racers’ clip-in shoes to fasten their feet to the pedals, even though they must unclip at every set of traffic lights or be dangerously unwilling to slow and stop for a pedestrian.”

I have three responses to this.

The first is that somehow, beyond all comprehension, I am able to ride my road bike, even, at times, in Lycra, at a moderate, safe pace. I am able to observe all traffic laws, wave greetings and smile at those around me, manage not to bang on random cars and terrorize pedestrians, and ride in a manner that does not present any danger to anyone – especially myself – all without even being Dutch or living in the Netherlands.

How, dear author, is this possible? Because I live in the real world.

Secondly, the converse. What do you have to say about this:

This just shouldn’t be possible. The cyclists was riding an upright bicycle with panniers, no less, in normal clothes, after all.

And finally, speed, and the associated gear that aides it (though it’s more about comfort – Lycra – and efficiency – a road bike), is not the issue. Riding in a manner that exceeds one’s ability to account for their own safety and of those around them while leaving room for the ability to accommodate for a range of possible but unexpected circumstances is the issue. I shouldn’t have to, but sadly it seems that the author unaware that motorists and pedestrians do this in numbers that are proportionate, or even worse, to cyclists, yet motorists are the one’s that are killing an alarming number of other motorists, cyclists, and many, many pedestrians. This is not a Lycra Lout issue. This is not even a cycling issue. This is a people issue, and the ones with the most dangerous weapons (motor vehicles) ought to be the one’s in the cross-hairs.

You also seem, dear author, to be against the very idea of maximizing one’s efficiency while traveling from A to B, and subscribe to a strange yet somehow common idea that riding in a certain position (an upright position), all by itself, has the power to endow a cyclist with either special powers of observation, reason, alertness, or power over one’s primal and frightful urges. Some people would like to cycle to work but not wish to donate more time than necessary to the process, because they have other things to do with their time. Believe it or not, some people even enjoy the exercise. Sure, I could ride to work as slowly as possible and get there an hour later, or I could get there with minimal fuss in half that time. As I do each and every day. Without issue. On my road bike. Clipped in even (gasp!).

As you clearly don’t enjoy spending time on constructing logical arguments supported by fact, let me suggest for you your next piece of lazy journalism: that all cars shall have no more power (nor comfort) in them than required to propel them to the posted maximum speed limit, in a time-frame deemed acceptable by those who are biased against motorists who drive too fast. See how that goes.


Header image: The Sticky Bidon