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Commuter, pootler or racer: Why your bike is your identity

Your lifestyle is likely to reflect your cycling style, researcher finds

If you’d be unusually upset if your bike was stolen, there may be a reason for that, according to new research.

A cyclist’s bike often becomes an important part of their identity, according to a student at the University of Alberta.

Cyclist Karly Coleman, writing her master’s thesis on how rider identities are linked with their bicycles, found that in the same way one might identify with being a Volkswagen driver or a BMW driver, a cyclist might have a strong feeling about being a commuter, or a racer.

She told the Edmonton Journal: “The Ferrari drivers are typically some kind of person and the Volkswagen owners who are another type of person, probably not the same, they wouldn’t necessarily hang out in the same bar.

“And you get that with cyclists. Cyclists who are racers and cyclists who are commuters, they don’t really hang out that much.”

She added: “I grew up in northern Saskatchewan where the dominant culture is more automobile-oriented.

“So when I was 16, I got a car and cars were cool to have … I lived 4-1/2 miles out of town. No one even thought that you would ride your bicycle 4-1/2 miles.”

In Edmonton, Canada, where she moved to study however, the hipster culture is heavily bike-orientated, and she became fascinated by the phenomenon.

When no one considers cycling to be a viable transportation option, you end up with cities that are very unfriendly to cyclists, said Coleman, but she said that paradigm is changing.

“Bicycling infrastructure in particular gets created because people talk about it,” she said.

“Watching somebody else use that infrastructure in a role-model kind of way, then you would use it, then you would understand, ‘My neighbour does this, my neighbour rides her bike everywhere, I’m going to ride my bike. I’m going to try.’ “

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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