All ages and stages
By Roger Childs
The cycling community covers a wide range of people and levels of fitness. At the top end there are the professionals who compete in the Tour de France, Olympics, track races and events all round the world, but still continue learning each day about different techniques and protective gears.
Meanwhile, in the local area there are skilled mountain bikers who roar down windy tracks in Whareroa Farm at over 35 kph, and little kids, barely out of nappies who confidently ride two wheelers down the footpath in our street.
Around the country governments, local and national, have been developing cycleways and biking lanes for this rapidly growing form of exercise, even as luxury hobbies of the rich. There seem to be new off-road cycling routes being opened up all the time following on the huge success of the pioneer Central Otago Rail Trail.
Watching the pros
Viewing cycling on television has grown with the popularity of the sport. Years ago the Tour de France was the only big race shown on sports channels, and you could get a half hour highlights package of each stage. In July this year you will still be able to get the 30 minute summary, but if you have the time, you can see the whole of each stage, or just the last two hours.
These days you can also view the Italian and Spanish tours (the Giro and Vuelta), many other European events, the Tour of California and the Tour Down-under in South Australia.
Even if you are not a great fan of the cycling, the commentaries, pioneered by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, include plenty of fascinating detail on the beautifully filmed landscapes, as well as the architecture and history, as the bike riders pass through.
The speeds of these top cyclists are amazing – over 80kph down winding roads and up to 60kph in the finish straights. At this level it is very definitely not for the faint-hearted!
More sedate at the local level
Since the turn of the century an increasing number of people have taken to riding to work or school. Local authorities, often in cooperation with the New Zealand Transport Agency, have made it safer and easier for this to happen.
The superb 6km sealed cycleway through Queen Elizabeth Park is a case in point, and many students bike to and from Paekakariki to Te Ra School and Kapiti College on a daily basis.
It is great to see so many older folk on bikes around the Kapiti District, and no doubt they are out and about across the country. Biking groups have become more and more popular, and local cafes vie for the custom of these folk as they will always have a coffee and a bun on the agenda when they set out.
Starting at an early age
These days every kid wants a bike from the time they can walk, and many get use to the motion on wheels as Mums and Dads take them for rides on the back or front. There have been many inventive modifications carried out to cater for the kids. Just today we saw
~ a Mum biking along towing a carriage with two small people inside
~ a Dad on a bike with two separate bikes attached behind with a youngster on each.
Children also learn early on about wearing helmets, and being able to ride legally on footpaths makes the process much safer than in years gone by.
Plenty of local authorities have widened footpaths or put in cycle lanes to allow people to do their biking away from the cars and trucks.
In the Kapiti District the expressway has a cycleway/walkway along its entire length and this is used by people of all ages on a regular basis.
We are in the midst of a cycling revolution and long may the wheels keep turning.