What sort of cyclist are you

Types of cycling  

There are many types of cycling – in fact, as many as there are types of bikes. Essentially, this boils down to 3 main categories:

  • Utility cycling
  • Cycling for Leisure, recreation and cycle tourism
  • Sport cycling

 The following summary is a very general overview covering all the main sub-groups. Note: Many cyclists fit into more than one sub-group in more than one category. Which one[s] do you do?

Utility Cycling

On-road means openly sharing road space with vehicles OR using advisory cycle lanes (a dashed line) OR mandatory cycle lanes (a solid line) – a square blue cycle sign indicates a road cycling route

Off-highway cycling means using a dedicated cycle path adjacent to the road or a shared use path being part of the footway whether segregated or not – indicated by a circular blue sign / a circular blue line with a diagonal line split showing a cycle on one segment and a pedestrian on the other

Off-road generallyrefers to cycling on either a sealed surface or dust-topped path which has shared use and is traffic-free. Off-road in this sense is not mountain biking – same sign as for Off-highway

Cycling for leisure, recreational cycling & cycle tourism

Cycling analysts use the term ‘leisure cycling’ to refer to ‘free time’ cycling journeys for leisure purposes as opposed to utility purposes. The term recreational cycling refers to ‘free time’ cycling with commitment including more saddle time even if the pace is leisurely. In some cases, saddle time can extend into days. Yes, it seems like hair splitting but that’s how cycling analysts see it. In the main there are two over-riding categories (pun intended) being on-road and off-road.

On-road cycling means what is says – cycling everywhere totally on roads for enjoyment

Off-road cycling means what is says in the broadest sense and covers all aspects including mountain biking and cycling on wide flat easy trails.

Cycle tourism

a)      On-road split (individuals & clubs)

Touring cyclists riding linears & loops (minimum 2 days / 35 to 100 miles per day)

 Day & part-day rides – visiting & local cyclists (approx 6 to 120 miles per day)

 Day / part day rides as part of a holiday (occasional cyclists – 6 to 24 miles + charity rides)

         b)    Off-road cycling – with clear overlap into cycle tourism

Leisure (& utility): easy, level, shared-use, traffic-free paths (novices, families, & less confident cyclists + others

Mountain biking (MTB): Cross–country, freeride, downhill

BMX in all its forms

Sport cycling

This is a quite separate category of cycling which includes numerous subsets like road racing, time-trialling, triathlon, velodrome racing and cyclo-cross up to Olympic level.

QUOTE: Planning for Cycling’ – Report to Cycling England 2008

Growing public interest and support

11. Recent increases in fuel prices, longer term issues about security of energy supply and the approaching recession make transport more expensive in both absolute and relative terms. At the same time the contribution that cycling can make to healthy lifestyles as well as the success of the British cycling team in the Olympics has generated more interest in cycling generally. The number of bicycles sold is reported to have increased sharply over the past year. As the Economist reported in relation to bike manufacturer Giant, “after a slow 2006, sales took off last year in Europe and America as fuel prices shot up. Suddenly a bicycle seems like the remedy for many modern ills, from petrol prices to pollution and obesity”. In the UK, the industry is upbeat about its prospects despite the recession.

12. According to national data, the majority of adults agree that everyone should be encouraged to cycle to assist their health (87%), help the environment (79%) and ease congestion (73%). Around 37% of people agree that that they could easily walk or cycle on journeys they currently make by car. Further there is public support for taking measures to improve conditions for cyclists. Just over two-thirds (68%) of respondents agree that ‘cyclists should be given more priority‘, while only 11% felt that ‘cycle lanes on roads simply reduce space’

Each sub-segment as identified above is growing and has a series of knock-on implications for jobs created, jobs maintained and income generated all of which can be manifested in a myriad of different settings and ways. These span rural micro-enterprises to the National Cycling Exhibition at Earls Court, London lasting 4 days; sales of Mars bars and cups of tea to sales of carbon bikes worth £5,000.00 (plus); the sale of mixed quality route information and the employment of MTB ride-guides to the expanding number of cycle repair mechanics. Cycling is very much on the UP!

QUOTE: Planning for Cycling’ – Report to Cycling England 2008

This is an important time for cycling. While there is a growing recognition of the contribution that cycling can make to some of the greatest challenges facing society; climate change, increasing levels of obesity and transport congestion, it is less clear whether and how this wider contribution is reflected in priorities for investment in infrastructure and activities to encourage cycling.

Four years on in 2012 after 2 British cyclists finished first and second in the greatest and most arduous cycle race in the world, The Tour of France and after yet more cycling success in the 2012 Olympics, in the UK cycling is now more popular than ever.

The time is well overdue for more realistic investment in cycling routes and facilities.

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