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The surprisingly professional world of amateur cycling

Adam Foster, Group Executive - Communications, Dimension Data | Aug. 18, 2015
Amateur cycling is a sport on the rise. Here's how and why.

Adam Foster, Dimension Data
Photo: Adam Foster

Fitness, convenience and commuting are three factors fuelling its growth, not to mention the enjoyment derived from scenic Sunday bike rides. But another major factor is the role of data; widgets and applications created for professionals but made accessible to keen amateurs so they can keep up with the pros. More data and greater visibility of cyclists on the roads has caused a groundswell of interest in cycling at the amateur level.

Indeed, many in the industry think it is the ability to record improvements in performance and fitness, plus a growing number of ways to share information with peers. This is the true driver of cycling's renaissance as a sport and a dedicated pastime.

Cycling and technology are increasingly entwined, not just in the professional world but also for commuters, leisure riders and fitness enthusiasts. The same technology that was once created for elite athletes is now commonplace, made accessible and affordable by advances in technology and slicker distribution channels.

But while in many sports, amateur participants use data in an amateur way, cyclists have grabbed the opportunity to adopt top tech with both hands. The average five-a-side football game, for example, won't see players tracking speed, distance travelled, heart rate or calorie burn. Players don't often wear cameras and they rarely upload stats or footage to social media websites.

But the reverse is true of a growing number of cyclists who zealously log every detail of their ride. Questions they want answered include "how long did it take?", "how far did I climb?", "how much energy did I use?" and "were there any notable incidents?".

Such is the demand for this level of self-assessment that websites like have been set up to act as a repository for all the information being created. Users record their training sessions using compatible GPS devices, upload the data, analyse it, compare with previous uploads, share with friends and rate their performance against the pros.

The rise of telemetry data channels and places where the information can be stored, crunched and compared is creating a broader appeal among people interested in tracking their fitness. This in turn is encouraging more people to take up the sport and is the driving force behind its recent growth.

Cycling is a sport that's steeped in history and is very pure; it's the individual against the elements. The opportunity cycling has is obvious: people love to watch it and technology provides the ability to engage with a wider audience.

Over the last 10 years, the popularity growth is material with track cycling success at the Olympics, British winners of the Tour de France and other major races. Ten years ago in the UK, one used to go out and you wouldn't see anyone else on two wheels. Today, you go to a café in the middle of nowhere and you can't get a seat because it's full of cyclists.


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