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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 is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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39 comments

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Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
4 likes

Getting rid of the tribalistic mentality that prevails would help. It doesn't have to be one or the other, cyclist or driver, especially outside of the blinkered London mentality Vine has. Outside of London it does sadly still makes sense to have a car in many places, but can also makes sense to use a bike for many journeys. I am probably cycling more miles that I drive these days, but with woeful public transport still own a car. Promoting cycles and cycle accessories that allow using a bike more would also help, as well as a certain type of cyclist just STFU about using mudguards being stupid or making you "not a proper cyclist". Both mudgaurds and a pannier rack are a permanent fixture on my bike and its that which means if I need to pop to town for a couple of things I will choose the bike over the car.

As well as this, absolutely wear what you like but also lets get past the idea that cycle specific clothing is the preserve of the peloton. My nuts thank me every time I go for a long ride that I started not caring what I look like if I am on long ride. Jeans are fine for my commute of around 10 miles but beyond that lycra can be better.

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Oldfatgit replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
5 likes

Chinos and chamois pad work for me on my 8 mile commute .. much longer and its not as comfortable as the lycra.

Tucking the trousers in to my socks brings back childhood memories though

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andystow replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
5 likes

Here's a few of us on a 45 mile group ride. I'm the one in the middle in jeans.

Once it gets over about 60 miles I'm more likely to wear something with a pad, but even then not 100%.

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Rendel Harris replied to andystow | 1 year ago
1 like

1980s Carerra tribute!

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
4 likes

Well, just remember that your work suit is not available in hi Viz, so I'm not sure how wearing ordinary clothes will work with the "But cyclists..." brigade.

I remember my commute in the 80s from Kingstanding to Aldridge, assisted by many a tow from those fine gents at WM Travel, my cycling outfit was a pair of cycle clips, and some waterproof trousers that were as suitable for walking as riding.

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Aidanliam | 1 year ago
6 likes

In my view 4,300 miles a year is a lot. It would take dedication and be more than just daily commuting.

Also, assuming you work 5 days a week, commute by bike every working day, get 4 weeks annual leave, plus another 10 days off for public holidays then you're really looking at a daily commute of over 9 miles each way. That's a long commute and one that's certainly pushing into the sport rider territory.

The article says "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" - please check your maths! If your daily commute is 8 miles it would take 537 days to cycle which is longer than a year. Giving the benefit of the doubt that he meant 8 miles each way then that's a long commute! And even with a 16 mile round trip it would take 54 weeks to complete assuming you only work 5 days a week.

What's my take

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Rendel Harris replied to Aidanliam | 1 year ago
3 likes

But someone who uses their bike for shopping, visiting friends, going to the pub plus a bit of gentle leisure riding in their holidays could easily rack up 1000 miles a year just with that, then the other 3300 miles is a less than 7 miles each way commute, or half an hour at a pretty moderate pace, hardly sport rider territory.

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Awavey replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
2 likes

Ive never cycled more than 4,100 in a year, and that was during lockdown, 4,300 is an average of 358 miles per month, thats alot of miles and time spent on the bike for most people, its way above the just use the bike to pop to the shops & commute a bit kind of mileage, 10 miles a day only gets you 3650. So its putting in 50-60 and even 100milers every so often kind of mileage to top up the days the weathers bad, you werent feeling it, you needed a rest etc etc.

unless youre doing 200km audaxes most weekends, which isnt the norm for most people, 4,300 is a pretty high bar imo, its not casual cyclist level.

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andystow replied to Awavey | 1 year ago
3 likes

I agree, it's a lot, and I do about 6000 miles a year total.. My commute is nine miles each way, so if I did it 46 weeks a year (I do get vacations and holidays) that would be over 4100 a year. But most people aren't willing to even consider cycling nine miles each way to work.

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sheridan replied to Aidanliam | 1 year ago
0 likes

Almost everybody I work with lives more than 10 miles away from the workplace - the exceptions are higher paid seniors and managers - this is why housing costs less the further you get away from town centres and CBDs.

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sheridan replied to Aidanliam | 10 months ago
1 like
Aidanliam wrote:

In my view 4,300 miles a year is a lot. It would take dedication and be more than just daily commuting. Also, assuming you work 5 days a week, commute by bike every working day, get 4 weeks annual leave, plus another 10 days off for public holidays then you're really looking at a daily commute of over 9 miles each way. That's a long commute and one that's certainly pushing into the sport rider territory.

Why do you think that?  Just about every job I've ever had has been more than 9 miles away from where I've lived, so if that was 'sport rider territory' then that'd make it impractical for me to commute!

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Nikolai | 1 year ago
3 likes

Cycling isn't yet part of the culture in the UK and so there is no folk wisdom on what makes a sensible bike. Far too many people buy cheap heavy mountain bikes with derailleur gears and disc brakes. For most people, their bike should look like this:

700cx32 tyres
Between 3 and 7 hub gears.
Rim brakes, preferably coaster brake on the rear.
Straight handlebars
Full mudguards
Rear rack.
Lights
£500 new

This very standard bike is pretty much the default across the continent, yet here in the UK is seldom seen. When Halfords sells this bike, and it is their most popular model, then we'll know we've arrived.

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chrisonabike replied to Nikolai | 1 year ago
2 likes

Yes, along the lines of "Bikes for people who aren't interested in bikes particularly".  That's "what's needed" for mass cycling indeed.  Though I bet an increasing proportion would want "electric" added.

We should give people a bit of credit though.  Yes, the "city bike" style is practical for urban journeys being "wear what you like", everything included, almost zero maintenance.  However I bet people who buy "bike shaped objects" know they're not going to be replacing a car.  More occasional pootle (maybe on the pavement, maybe in the park).  So getting "what's cheap and there" or even "what my mates think looks cool" makes sense to them.

For the others a folder will be best, or going faster may make them feel safer in UK traffic, or they may have a few stiff hills, or they might want "fitness with an option to commute" in which case the race / tour / gravel+ style makes sense for them.

Full disclosure - I've currently a "hack of all trades" tourer and... a recumbent.  Did have a "city bike" with hub gears, dynamo, all included and liked that but it clearly looked too new and shiny and left me abruptly. (Another issue with bikes in the UK).

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giff77 replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
2 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

Full disclosure - I've currently a "hack of all trades" tourer and... a recumbent.  Did have a "city bike" with hub gears, dynamo, all included and liked that but it clearly looked too new and shiny and left me abruptly. (Another issue with bikes in the UK).

Well that what happens when you hang about Wester Hailes 😉

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Oldfatgit replied to giff77 | 1 year ago
3 likes

knowing Wester Hailes, he was probably still on it, going down the hill at the Cloverstone Roundabout.
They don't wait for you to get off around there ...  

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chrisonabike replied to Oldfatgit | 1 year ago
1 like

Rarely through Wester Hailes - too far South - but I lived in Muirhouse for a while... and didn't have anything nicked.  I reckon Pilton's less savoury now!  If you stopped for long at a light (not that you would) I reckon you'd better check your wheels are still there before you start off again.

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NOtotheEU replied to Nikolai | 1 year ago
4 likes
Nikolai wrote:

Cycling isn't yet part of the culture in the UK . . . .

I would add after the age of 17.

Almost every child I knew growing up, all of the kids of my friends and extended family and all the kids I've watched grow up in the 30 odd years of living in the same cul de sac have owned and loved bikes.

Improving your dating prospects has to be a huge influence on teenagers transport choice after that age. Sex sells as they say.

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chrisonabike replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
2 likes

Yeah!  Get a couple more wheels (or a motor) - that's the way to freedom / romance / sex.

We know teenagers start to get different interests.  However, just over 100 miles away teens are pretty similar and yet many continue riding bikes to get about their social lives.  They also seem pretty content (as it goes).  Perhaps it's the convenience or perhaps it's not "uncool"?  Seeing all those adults they're trying to become also riding bikes maybe makes it normal?

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andystow replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

In defence of wanting a car, it is a lot more difficult to discretely have sex on the back of a bicycle.

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Steve K replied to andystow | 1 year ago
2 likes

I have a friend who is 6 foot 9 tall and claims to had sex in a (classic) mini.

I realise that this has no relevance to the discussion, it's just your post reminded me and I felt the need to share.

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JustTryingToGet... replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
5 likes
Steve K wrote:

I have a friend who is 6 foot 9 tall and claims to had sex in a (classic) mini.

I realise that this has no relevance to the discussion, it's just your post reminded me and I felt the need to share.

"Friend"?
😄

Avatar
Steve K replied to JustTryingToGetFromAtoB | 1 year ago
1 like
JustTryingToGetFromAtoB wrote:
Steve K wrote:

I have a friend who is 6 foot 9 tall and claims to had sex in a (classic) mini.

I realise that this has no relevance to the discussion, it's just your post reminded me and I felt the need to share.

"Friend"? 😄

Definitely not me - I'm a short arse 5 foot 7.

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hawkinspeter replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
4 likes
Steve K wrote:

I have a friend who is 6 foot 9 tall and claims to had sex in a (classic) mini.

I realise that this has no relevance to the discussion, it's just your post reminded me and I felt the need to share.

Reminds me of when I accidentally filled up an escort with diesel.

She never fully recovered.

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NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

The only cycling specific clothing I've worn in the 45-ish years since I learnt to ride are gloves although I started wearing a helmet about 5 years ago and bought a reflective cycling jacket 3 years ago.

Other than them it's street or work clothes. I have bought multiple brightly coloured Nike Dry Fit T shirts which are fantastic for summer rides so maybe they could count too.

I can't imagine what business it is of anyone else's whether you want to ride in lycra, a suit or a dressing gown and slippers? Better to be on a bike and realise you may choose different clothing next time than not to cycle at all.

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

 

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vthejk | 1 year ago
4 likes

It's all about functionality and purpose. I prefer some kind of activewear - be it lycra, synthetic MTB jerseys or some kind of sweat-wicking, comfy material - when riding almost everywhere, primarily because I rarely ever need to ride a bike for short distances when 'street' clothes would not get too sweaty, uncomfortable or inefficient (think riding up shirt, belt digging into my waist). For such short journeys, walking or taking public transport I find to be more effective. On the odd occasion that I do ride in my street clothes, it's to the shops or short errands where such clothing is perfectly fine.

I would argue that for the very specific case that JV points to i.e. getting beginners into cycling as a utility thing, then it pays to not be fussy about clothing. However, almost inevitably most people will make the choice to wear something apart from their regular clothes to improve their comfort on the bike.

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Eton Rifle replied to vthejk | 1 year ago
1 like

Agreed. When I restarted cycling in 2016 for my short commute, I swore that I'd never wear lycra. A few journeys in office clothes soon changed my mind. Suit jacket tight across the shoulders and digging into the armpits, trouser crotch chafing, belt digging into gut, leather shoe soles slipping on the pedals and getting sweaty from the lack of breathability. Add in a bit of rain and cycle commuting is a very efficient way to ruin good office clothes.

Swapped over to cheap Dhb kit for the commute and a shower at work. Never going back.

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Sriracha | 1 year ago
1 like

In terms of persuading non-cyclists to have a go I think Vine has a point. However, in terms of ending the bigotry against cyclists I don't think it will make any difference - it will just be one step along the way to cyclists being accepted once they are, in all respects, the same as non-cyclists - i.e. they've discarded the bicycle along with the lycra.

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Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes
Quote:

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

Are we missing another "not" in there?

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HoldingOn | 1 year ago
6 likes

You could argue the same about running at one point. People out in their short shorts, skin tight tops and fancy running shoes, but (in my opinion) ParkRun has done wonders to open up running to everyone. My local ParkRun has the 17 minute runners right along with the 57 minute runners.

I am a runner, so over the years I have aquired running lycra and simply used those when I started cycling. I have been trying to convince other people from work to cycle for 18 months now - not a single one of them has made the "I can't cycle because I don't want to wear lycra" excuse. Cold/ wet/ hilly/ take too long/ don't feel safe - but never "people might see my bits" (by the way - I am yet to convince anyone else to cycle)

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Awavey | 1 year ago
2 likes

on the media picking bad photos to illustrate cycling stories, absolutely. The article I shared last week about Suffolk county council getting 7.9million pounds to invest in active travel improvements was illustrated with a picture from one of the Womens road races from 2016 held in Suffolk, regardless of which race it was, a bunch of Elite/Cat1 riders racing on Suffolk roads does not illustrate building a mini holland.

but tbh when you start digging into most topics the media cover, they always have a knack of picking completely the wrong type of photo, cycling is not unique in that regard.

so I dont think thats the problem, its just alot of people seem to get hung up by the "lycra thing". I mean I could wear some yoga leggings, tank top and a hoodie to ride a bike, all made of lycra yet those would be considered "normal/street casual" clothes, but my cycling jersey/shorts combo made with the same material, even can be made by the same clothing company, in the same colours if I want, somehow isnt ?  thats just the person reacting to it as an issue problem, not mine.

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