PEOPLE have a habit of over-complicating things. I’m not sure why they do it, but it’s not necessary and neither is it without consequence.
Take cycling, for example: two wheels, two feet and go. Simple, or so you’d think, but cycling seems to have become horribly intricate and puzzling recently, almost to the point of being off-putting.
Gone are the days when you simply grabbed your racer, BMX or Chopper and belted about with your mates. Instead we have road bikes, hybrid bikes, commuter bikes, cross bikes, mountain bikes, downhill bikes. There are also the sub-categories of touring bikes, racing bikes and, perhaps most perplexing, the “entry level bikes”. These do not, as you might expect, come with stabilisers. No, they’re just for people (adults) “starting out” with the implication being that once you’re up and going you need to buy another bike.
And then there is the most patronising of all: the ladies bike. That used to mean a bike without a cross bar (now called a step-through bike), but now it is about bikes designed for women, as if we are a standardised size and shape, uniformly different from men and the only gender with difficulty swinging a leg over a saddle.
Lastly, there’s the issue of “accessibility”. I heard a woman on the radio last week talking about making cycling more “accessible” for women. Please. As soon as someone says something like that, it almost acts to further exclude the group they refer to. There’s no mystery here.
Cycling, at the moment, is going through something of a revival, whether it is down to Sir Chris Hoy and the success of the Team GB cycle team in the London Olympics last year; or the popular bike-to-work schemes that allow employees to buy bikes cheaply through company salary sacrifice schemes. Cycling is in.
Popularity, however, breeds competition and as they strive to find their niche in this expanding market, manufacturers are baffling people with jargon, making cycling seem overly complicated and expensive, and potentially turning people off from an amazing pursuit that can be as laid-back as pottering about the park with the kids or as hardcore as the amateur leg of the Tour de France.
Thankfully the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling is taking a more mature and realistic view of cycling, women’s cycling in particular. Their brilliantly titled “heels on wheels” event next Saturday, the penultimate day of their week-long festival, isn’t about putting cycling out of reach of women or anyone else; quite the contrary, it’s about encouraging everyone to get pedalling and to have fun.
And it is as easy as that.
The saying “it’s like riding a bike”, is commonly used to refer to something once learned, never forgotten. We genuinely should not forget that. Cycling isn’t any more complicated than it used to be and you still don’t need an expensive, gender-specific bike. Two wheels, two feet, go.