Friday, November 09, 2012

50 Things That Changed Cycling

While I was looking up something totally different, I saw this headline and found an interesting long post about 50 things that changed cycling.  While the focus is on the UK, there are a lot of thought provoking items for anyone interested in cycling. 

Below are a few of the 50.  I've left some of the explanatory text where I thought it might not be obvious.  As an enthusiastic, but casual biker, who doesn't hang around with many cyclist types, I find this fills in a few of the big gaps in my understanding of the cycling world.  The whole list is here at Cycling Weekly.

49 The England Football Team
A pretty poor bunch aren't they? They are uninspiring before a match, most of them don't look like they want to be there during it, and they are unconvincing afterwards. They help cyclists look even better, thanks lads.

47 Cartridge Bearings
Before these beauties bikes ran on open bearings; steel balls, either loose or held in a race. They were lubricated with grease, or if you were a brilliant mechanic looking for a performance advantage you could use oil. The thing is water got into them, so did grit, and they needed regular cleaning and even replacement, which was a faff. 

You had to take the component to bits, clean every part and maybe fit new ball bearings. They had to be set in grease, at which point a couple would roll under something, and the whole thing put back together again. Cartridge bearing ended of that and cycling is better because of them.

46 Bad weather
Yeah, bad weather is bad news for cyclists, but look what it's given us. The turbo trainer for a start, which you could say is a machine from Hell, but if cycling performance is your goal then it's one of the most effective tools in you have.

42 Polystyrene
The first modern cycling helmets were made almost entirely from this simple packing material. Helmets are more sophisticated now but polystyrene, or versions of it, still feature in their construction. Polystyrene has saved cyclist's lives and made cycling safer.

41 California
The American state gave us BMX and it gave us mountain bikes, two things that saved the cycle industry in the late 70s and into the 1980s, and became Olympic disciplines.

30 Synthetic chamois 

26 The National LotteryWe have a lot of world-beating bike racers now, far more than at any other time in British cycling history, but they aren't a breed of mutants. There has always been talent in the UK, but there was no real system to develop it. The champions we had just had extraordinary self belief and did it alone.
Now there is a system, a well funded one that is the envy of the world. Talent doesn't get wasted anymore, instead it's nurtured and directed along the right path. This is facilitated by the vision and quality of the coaches and administrators involved in cycling now, but it's only made possible by money from the National Lottery.

25 Modern lights

21 EPOWe didn't say this was all about good changes, but EPO certainly changed cycling. It's slightly delusionary but pros from the pre-EPO era have said that it was a drug that had to be kept secret because it made a difference, where they argue that things like amphetamines and steroids didn't.

16 The compact chainsetThese have changed two things; they mean you don't have to be an absolute racing snake to ride the great mountain climbs of cycling and enjoy them, and they have opened up some spectacular new places for pro racing.

10 Cycle lanes

6 Derailleur gears

2 The internetIt's changed everything. It's changed the way we get news, the way we socialise, the way we shop and the way we spread information. But for once cycling just reflects society in this.

Again, the whole list is here.

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