What’s the point in road cycling?
Ok, that’s a slightly provocative title, but it’s coming from wanting to understand something I don’t get! What is it about road cycling that people find enjoyable?
So I’m mountain biker, have been for 26 years now. From well spent summer holidays mucking around in local woods and riverside jaunts when I was younger, to trail centres and former railway lines today, my cycling has been almost exclusively off road. In fact I’ve always actively avoided roads – if a route calls for anything more than a few hundred yards of linking tarmac, I’ll normal not do it!
Nowadays us cyclists are pretty spoilt with purpose built cycle paths, trail centres and converted railway lines (I do wonder if Dr Beeching realised the healthy transport network he was unlocking), so there is little need to go on a road. But some people actively choose to avoid all this, don very tight clothing, perform questionable “aerodynamic” beauty regimes and pit themselves against millions of unobservant vehicles with a penchant for squashing two-wheeled things. Er why?!
Traffic is definitely a concern of mine on the roads. That’s perhaps a defeatist attitude and raising awareness is better than abstinence, but there are many more cars on the roads now, with more distractions and seemingly more distracted drivers. Put it this way – I’ve never had to do an emergency dive out of the way because of an articulated lorry cutting me up while riding off road.
But maybe I’m over sensitive, so ignoring traffic, what is actually fun about road cycling? I see posts between road cyclists and they talk about increased average speed for longer. Really?! Seriously, if average speed is all you have to get excited about, I would hate to be stuck in a lift with you!
What about the scenery? I think one of the great things about mountain biking is getting to places you’ll never normally see. Even on the cycle paths through the housing estates where I live there are some great views and nature you will only see by riding.
But scenery will only distract for so long, so what about the riding itself. Road bikes are designed to be quick and efficient pedalling machines, to be used on a road designed to be safely taken by something 10x wider. Yawn! Granted location might have something to do with it – I could almost understand someone wanting to ride the road from say Langsett to Strines or Ladybower in the Peak District. Amazing views, engaging corners, descents and climbs, it’s almost tempting. But then I remember there is the even better Cut Gate byway over the top with all that and more and entirely off road with the extra fun that brings, and still wonder why anyone would prefer the road. Especially as most people aren’t faced with such epic routes – they’re just pottering along the A346.
That “extra fun” is perhaps the biggest difference. I will confess to a short attention span (my 4 year olds are better!) and the idea of just pedalling for hours with nothing to do but pedal and aim for the unmissable road in front fills me the same excitement cutting a lawn with a pair of nail scissors does! The fun part of mountain biking for me is the “go anywhere” ability. If I do have to ride on road, I’ll normally have to amuse myself by jumping off kerbs or taking a diversion up/down a steep bank to relieve the tedium. Unfortunately the tedium sets in within about 500 yards for me, so I don’t know how anyone copes for 10s of miles! Even on my commute to work I have to have a nice short diversion with a technical climb and some steps later in the route to keep me sane and make it fun.
And fun is what it’s all about surely? Cycling is a leisure activity and something we give up our free time to enjoy. Look at a mountain biker after a ride and there is normally a huge grin on their face and effervescent enthusiasm about what they have just done. By contrast the average roadie just looks in pain – where’s the fun in that?!
This is all just my subjective opinion of course – if it makes you happy, then I’m happy for you of course. I just might find you a bit odd, that’s all 😉