Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Jeremy Vine tells cyclists to "cycle in anything you like" — wants media portrayal of cyclists to move away from Lycra and race bikes

Results of a new Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital study showed cyclists nearing 50 have significantly less gluteal fat, plus more muscle, than sedentary people — health benefits Vine doesn't want people to think are limited to mamils...

We've got good news and even better news for you this morning — cycling keeps you fit (if you didn't already know) and even better, it can keep you healthy regardless of if you choose to wear Lycra skinsuits and ride a carbon aero race bike.

Of course there is nothing wrong with indulging your passion for the sport, but BBC and Channel 5 broadcaster Jeremy Vine is keen to change public perception of cycling and its health benefits. No, you don't have to be a 'proper' cyclist racking up hundreds of miles a week and keeping your average speed high to reap the health benefits which have been further emphasised by a study published this month in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

The pedalling presenter's call comes after The Times newspaper reported the results of the research, led by Professor Alister Hart of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, showing that cyclists with an average age of 49 who cycled over 4,000 miles a year and had been riding regularly for roughly 15 years had "much lower levels of fat infiltration" on their backsides as well as "greater muscle mass" than inactive individuals of the same age.

Illustrating the story, The Times used a photo of a sport cyclist wearing Lycra and a helmet and presumably, if the picture dropped any lower, aboard a shiny road bike. An editorial decision Vine says "sabotaged" the "lovely piece".

"[It's] guaranteed to make 99 per cent of people think 'that looks like a professional sportsman'," Vine suggested. "Hey, cycle in anything you like and get just a fit as helmet-guy."

It is an interesting point. The study found that 28 "committed recreational cyclists", with an average age of 49, who had clocked up annual distances of 4,349 miles and had been cycling regularly for 15 years on average had just 14.8 per cent fat infiltration in their gluteus maximus muscles versus the 21.6 per cent average of sedentary people of the same age.

Likewise, on the gluteus medius muscle there was an average 11.4 per cent fat infiltration in the cyclists, compared with 16 per cent in the sedentary individuals.

"These lower levels of fat infiltration into the gluteus maximus and medius muscles are a valuable marker of muscle health, good mobility and healthy hips, that tend to decline with age," Professor Hart explained. "We now have clear evidence that cycling is a great way to stay physically healthy for longer. It helps to maintain muscles and prevent them from being weakened by fat infiltration, delaying some of the effects of ageing."

The cyclists were "a very long way from being elite but were enthusiastic". "In fitness terms they'd be on a par with people who train for 10km, half marathons or marathon events for fun," Hart told The Times, saying a study comparing the effects on the muscles of men and women will be published shortly.

Vine's point is that yes, while the description of the riders might on the surface scream middle-aged man in Lycra, there is no reason why a cyclist who does not identify as a sport rider could rack up the necessary eight-mile-long daily commute to hit the 4,300-mile number, thus by illustrating cyclists as people who ride for sport we may inadvertently be telling those who just want to ride to work or the shops in their everyday attire that these health benefits are not for them.

Another reply to Vine's tweet, from Jan Kenny, said it was "Quite refreshing to see cyclists in Amsterdam recently — not a scrap of Lycra about — all just wearing everyday clothes (indeed some very chic!)"

Leicestershire Loves Cycling, a campaign group promoting cycling in the East Midlands county, added: "Those images entrench attitudes around 'cyclists'. We will never get the cultural change we need to see unless people understand from pictures that cycling is for children, women, the elderly, the disabled. It's not just for those who are on racing bikes and sporty. That's niche."

In short, wear whatever you like while riding your bike...

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

Add new comment

39 comments

Avatar
eburtthebike | 10 months ago
5 likes

An interesting point, but I doubt that what the cyclist is wearing has any effect on the anti-cycling prejudices of editors and programme creators: they hate us whatever we wear.

It would undoubtedly help if the media did use more pictures of cyclists in everyday clothes, but why would they do that when they hate us?  Doubtless everyone here will remember the minor furore that greeted Chris Boardman riding in ordinary clothes with no hi-vis or helmet: most media just ignored the whole thing though, presumably on the grounds that they wouldn't publish anything positive about cycling.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
3 likes

Chris Boardman's NL vs. UK video from 7+ years back bears repetition.  ("I've spend a couple of days now cycling riding around the streets of Utrecht and seen tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of bikes - but I haven't seen a single 'cyclist'.  I've just seen just normal people in normal clothes doing normal things...").  Although everyone will go on ignoring that "because it's not like that round here / that's not how it works in the UK".

Of course once there are numbers of "normal" people cycling* those same people will then happily tell you that you'd be weird to drive some journeys when they're more convenient to cycle.

* Which will only happen if we facilitate it by making cycling feel safe and convenient.  (After all - it is safe in the UK, right now...). The lesson from everywhere is that won't happen just by "encouraging cycling" with nice ads, warm words, providing a bit of training (although there's nothing wrong with that).  Or "promoting safety" with more ads ("share the road"...), handing out lights or hi-vis.  Not even building "exceptional" infra if that exists in isolation.

Avatar
cyclisto | 10 months ago
4 likes

Safety and comfort for cyclists in roads with car traffic is depending on speed. If you are slow, you are almost an obstacle. To be fast, you need sportier bike, thus more specialized clothes.

If you want to get rid of lycra, make cyclists feel safe and comfortable with dedicated cyclepaths and reduction in motor vehicles exhaust fumes.

Avatar
Patrick9-32 replied to cyclisto | 10 months ago
6 likes

Or bring motor vehicle speeds down to similar to casual cyclists. 

Actual average speed in cities can be as low as 7mph which is a pretty casual cycling pace. If cars did that speed all the time instead of going fast and then stopping everyone could feel safe to cycle. It would make carists feel inadequate though if they weren't passing something. Maybe we could install a 4mph hare system on the side of the road like at the dog track so drivers would always feel like they were passing something?

Avatar
Starley | 10 months ago
3 likes

Most councils/media just don't know how to promote cycling, probably because they just don't understand why people would choose to cycle when they could drive everywhere like a 'normal' person would. Maybe in the influencer led world of ostensibly clever marketing campaigns, they've lost sight of how to get a simple message across. Most of the people I see riding bikes everyday, going to work or the shops, are in their normal clothes. It's accepted that most people do what's normal and easy. To my pea brain that's one of the ways to get more people riding - show them people who they can identify with, not members of an alien species in their technical clothing or safety gear. The health benefits of regular cycle commuting are moot until you can actually get people on a bike.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Starley | 10 months ago
4 likes
Starley wrote:

Most councils/media just don't know how to promote cycling, probably because they just don't understand why people would choose to cycle when they could drive everywhere like a 'normal' person would. Maybe in the influencer led world of ostensibly clever marketing campaigns, they've lost sight of how to get a simple message across. Most of the people I see riding bikes everyday, going to work or the shops, are in their normal clothes. It's accepted that most people do what's normal and easy. To my pea brain that's one of the ways to get more people riding - show them people who they can identify with, not members of an alien species in their technical clothing or safety gear. The health benefits of regular cycle commuting are moot until you can actually get people on a bike.

When I worked for a council, we employed an advertising agency, one with a track record in promoting cycling, to tell us how to do it, so at least some councils know, and one of the major things was cyclists in normal clothes.

It is quite difficult to get non-cyclists to ride a bike, and they will come up with all kinds of excuses not to; dangerous, sweaty, hard work, rain etc, etc so it isn't quite as easy as you think it is to get them on a bike.  If it was, the message would have got through by now.  People don't make rational decisions, and even when you point out that it will make them slimmer, healthier, fitter and wealthier, they still cling to their car, despite complaining about being over-weight, being ill, not being able to climb stairs and not having enough money.  It's far more complex than just putting out a few pictures of cyclists in jeans.

Avatar
JustTryingToGet... replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
14 likes
eburtthebike wrote:
Starley wrote:

Most councils/media just don't know how to promote cycling, probably because they just don't understand why people would choose to cycle when they could drive everywhere like a 'normal' person would. Maybe in the influencer led world of ostensibly clever marketing campaigns, they've lost sight of how to get a simple message across. Most of the people I see riding bikes everyday, going to work or the shops, are in their normal clothes. It's accepted that most people do what's normal and easy. To my pea brain that's one of the ways to get more people riding - show them people who they can identify with, not members of an alien species in their technical clothing or safety gear. The health benefits of regular cycle commuting are moot until you can actually get people on a bike.

When I worked for a council, we employed an advertising agency, one with a track record in promoting cycling, to tell us how to do it, so at least some councils know, and one of the major thinks was cyclists in normal clothes.

It is quite difficult to get non-cyclists to ride a bike, and they will come up with all kinds of excuses not to; dangerous, sweaty, hard work, rain etc, etc so it isn't quite as easy as you think it is to get them on a bike.  If it was, the message would have got through by now.  People don't make rational decisions, and even when you point out that it will make them slimmer, healthier, fitter and wealthier, they still cling to their car, despite complaining about being over-weight, being ill, not being able to climb stairs and not having enough money.  It's far more complex than just putting out a few pictures of cyclists in jeans.

I cycle in all sorts of clothing, lycra, jeans, cookie monster onesie, office dresses. These are the things I have learned:
-Jeans are terrible if it's raining, the denim holds the water. Cycling is also terrible gor your jeans, it wears the inner seam.
-fit and flare office dress, not pencil fit. Otherwise the oncoming motorists see a middle aged woman's gusset encased in 80 denier. Sorry not sorry.
-converse are harder to cycle in than heels.

Avatar
cyclisto replied to JustTryingToGetFromAtoB | 10 months ago
1 like
JustTryingToGetFromAtoB wrote:

-converse are harder to cycle in than heels.

Wow

Avatar
Shades | 10 months ago
9 likes

Very good point.  I was in Berlin for 4 days, using a bike for transport, and only saw one cyclist in lycra (the rest, and there were a lot, were in ordinary clothes); obvious he was a roadie going off on a ride.  I know plenty of people who just look at you blankly if you suggest going somewhere on a bike and wearing regular clothes.  Equally, plenty of people get all coy about dropping into a pub/restaurant wearing lycra; watch all the pinch-faced punters when you you pile into a posh restaurant for lunch in lycra.  Actually the majority don't give a sh#t.

Pages

Latest Comments