Sunday 8 December 2013

Sport cycling vs Utility cycling

Summary: Sport cycling is very different to Utility cycling (cycling for transport or practical purposes). It's important for utility cyclists to understand the differences as most advice for sport cyclists is not correct or relevant for utility cyclists.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Carlton Reid

1. Competition, Performance, Speed and Equipment are high priorities
Sport cyclists are interested in competition, performance, speed and a passion for bicycles and cycling equipment. These are often at odds with an urban cyclists primary interest in simply getting from A to B as conveniently as they can.

2. Maximising physical exertion and fitness are primary goals
Sport cyclists want to push and extend their physical limits; so exertion, sweat and suffering are intended not avoided. E.g. See the Prove It video by Strava for sport cyclists: > Strava - About Us

3. Completely different behaviours, habits and rules are devised
The advice, rules and codes of sport cycling are typically irrelevant or incorrect for utility cyclists. For example see this list: > Velominati - The Rules

4. Dominant cycling sub-cultures can inhibit the growth of cycling for transport
In countries where cycling sub-cultures (racing, mountain biking, fixies, etc) currently dominate this can be an impediment to the growth of mainstream, urban cycling. Non-cyclists may observe the "uniforms", special skills and in-group behaviour and dismiss cycling as a hobby of no relevance or personal appeal. See: > Behavioural challenges for urban cycling

5. Comparision of Sport Cyclists vs Utility Cyclists
A recent message from Strava (an app for Sport Cyclists) makes these differences particularly salient so is worth breaking down into a comparison:

Strava - About Us

DistinctionSport CyclistsUtility Cyclists
AthleticWe are athletesNot athletes, just normal people
Distinct PurposeWe do what we do, no matter whatNo separate, distinct purpose - just getting around
Special BreedIt's in our blood- Aren't born that way or special
- It just happens to be the most convenient means of getting around cities
Defining IdentityIt's who we areDon't see cycling as their chief identity differentiating them from others
Separate Rules & BehavioursWe have our own code- No arcane, special code
- Simply adopt behaviours that maximise utility
Performance & CompetitionAlong, together, we strive- Not striving alone or in teams for any competition
Maximise ExertionPushing harder is a source of pleasure- Exhaustion and sweat are not desired
- Getting around comfortably is enjoyable
Measurement & OptimisationIt's how we measure ourselves- Performance measurement isn't necessary
- Simplicity and enjoyment matter more than optimising performance
Extraordinary GoalsIt proves we're crazyEntirely ordinary goals - cycling just happens to be the best method of getting around
AchievementIt proves a great storyNo great story; just doing every day what works best

6. Utility vs Sport cycling explained in one comic
- As usual, the Bikeyface comic series illustrates the differences perfectly through the typical questions people who cycle for transport get asked. See: Bikeface: Utility vs Sport

Utility vs. Sport
Flickr - Bikeyface