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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In the US its nowhere as near as popular as in Europe. Particularly Italy. The Italians seem to love the bicycle, does anyone know why? You see bicycles all over Europe but the passion for the sport in Italy is crazy. I would have to say the French are right up there as well.

There are tons of manufacturers of frames. I am surprised so many are still in business. Truly fascinating as in this country they would probably all buy each other out and consoldidate ala Cannondale and Trek.

Can someone explain it to me. Excuse my ignorance in advance :)
 

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Europe also has much better public transportation. Bikes were used as transportation in the in the US and in Europe. Many years ago, bicycling was huge in the US- with velodromes all over, crazy multi-day track races, etc. Europe kept their public transportation and biking culture--- the US relegated biking to the realm of children's toys as everyone started to drive and cars reached godlike status.

That is my opinion.


tincanman99 said:
In the US its nowhere as near as popular as in Europe. Particularly Italy. The Italians seem to love the bicycle, does anyone know why? You see bicycles all over Europe but the passion for the sport in Italy is crazy. I would have to say the French are right up there as well.

There are tons of manufacturers of frames. I am surprised so many are still in business. Truly fascinating as in this country they would probably all buy each other out and consoldidate ala Cannondale and Trek.

Can someone explain it to me. Excuse my ignorance in advance :)
 

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For a sport to be popular, there has to be some sort of connection between the athletes and those who watch them. One of these connections is the feeling "I've done or am doing something like that and I know how difficult it is." A huge number of Europeans ride bicycles to work, to go shopping, and to spend a few hours with the kids on Sunday, so they can easily make the connection beweeen themselves and the racers. It's important that the regular street bikes look and function similar to the bikes ridden by the racers. If they don't, no one will watch. It's one of the reasons the UCI insists on the diamond frame, and why very few people other than recumbent riders watch recumbent races.

A similar thing is going on in the USA with the hugely popular stock car racing. If you drive the interstates, you can identify with the racers and have a great deal of fun watching.
 

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Italians

I saw a statistic recently that Italians are something like 4th or 5th in Europe for percentage of the population riding bicycles, behind (if memory serves) Holland, Germany and France. Note that this included all types of cyclists.

I suspect some reasons for the 4th or 5th ranking might be 1) Love for cars, 2) The generally hilly terrain all over Italy which tends to discourage older riders.

That said, having just returned from 2 weeks in Tuscany, I saw many, many more riders, especially serious road riders on high end racing and mt. bikes, here then in any country I've ever visited. So it's possible that there's a greater percentage of serious cyclists - I.E. racers, euro-pro wannabee's, etc... in Italy then elsewhere, which might explain the impression that formed your question. Note that I also had no way of knowning from what countries all those riders were from, but the typical male (and the occasional female) riders on racing bikes, that formed my impressions, did not look like they were on multi-day tours. They looked like locals, riding nice and expensive Italian bikes.

SB
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Interesting...

You said it was popular in the US years ago. Around what time was that? Just out of curiosity. I remember when I was a kid all the kids were continually riding around on bikes. I dont see that as much anymore. As a matter of fact I dont see children really playing outside at all anymore.

filtersweep said:
Europe also has much better public transportation. Bikes were used as transportation in the in the US and in Europe. Many years ago, bicycling was huge in the US- with velodromes all over, crazy multi-day track races, etc. Europe kept their public transportation and biking culture--- the US relegated biking to the realm of children's toys as everyone started to drive and cars reached godlike status.

That is my opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I Know What You Mean...

Every time I have been to Italy (been there about 6 times) I have noticed HUGE numbers of cyclists everywhere. Even in small towns. Early in the morning they are everywhere. Packs of them riding have a great time.

This was one of the things years ago that got me back into it. Than I came back to the US and realized it was 2 very different cultures. Not many take cycling seriously the way they do in Europe.

Steve B. said:
I saw a statistic recently that Italians are something like 4th or 5th in Europe for percentage of the population riding bicycles, behind (if memory serves) Holland, Germany and France. Note that this included all types of cyclists.

I suspect some reasons for the 4th or 5th ranking might be 1) Love for cars, 2) The generally hilly terrain all over Italy which tends to discourage older riders.

That said, having just returned from 2 weeks in Tuscany, I saw many, many more riders, especially serious road riders on high end racing and mt. bikes, here then in any country I've ever visited. So it's possible that there's a greater percentage of serious cyclists - I.E. racers, euro-pro wannabee's, etc... in Italy then elsewhere, which might explain the impression that formed your question. Note that I also had no way of knowning from what countries all those riders were from, but the typical male (and the occasional female) riders on racing bikes, that formed my impressions, did not look like they were on multi-day tours. They looked like locals, riding nice and expensive Italian bikes.

SB
 

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Coming from a car guy point of view, Italians love finely crafted works of speed. Can you say Ferrari? The Autobahn is a showcase of wicked advanced technology. So Campagnolo sets it self apart from Shimano in high end drive trains. The beauty of an Italian fine tuned racing machine surpasses all (Ferrari 250 GTO). The roots are right there w/ Michelangelo, DaVinci, etc. The 1st bike.
 

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I don't know about the historical roots of Italian cycling, but I will say that northern Italy (which is the center of Italian cycling, the Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, and Veneto areas) is a fantastic place to cycle. Big, beautiful mountains, vineyards, public fountains in every town, lots of countryside and not much sprawl or suburbs.

There is something to be said for the "finely crafted speed machine" theory as well; Italians are unrepentant materialists who love nice clothes and the latest cell phones and so on. A beautiful bicycle is exclusive yet within the financial reach of many, much more so than a Ferrari.
 

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Some reasons

Italy has a long and rich cycling history with many legendary riders and legendary climbs. I've been told as recently as after WWII that cycling was the most important sport in Italy. It's in the blood.

Then, there are all the legendary builders...

In the province of Verona alone there are something like 50 cycling clubs (imagine that in your county) and every weekend there are activities ranging from "raduno"s (a somewhat causal ride but the roads are closed off while the 500 or so riders pass through) to granfondos.
 

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It's because Americans are fat asses. They can watch baseball or football and think to themselves, "Look at that overweight slob. I could pump a few weights and do that." They can recall they played the game when they were in high school; and just like Al Bundy, they can imagine if things had worked out a little differently they might be a pro.

Those Dorito chowing super sizers will never have any sort of connection to cycling. And the kids growing up get little motorized, plastic cars to drive around their neighborhoods rather than bikes, so don't think it will get better in the future.
 

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Under ACrookedSky said:
It's because Americans are fat asses. They can watch baseball or football and think to themselves, "Look at that overweight slob. I could pump a few weights and do that." They can recall they played the game when they were in high school; and just like Al Bundy, they can imagine if things had worked out a little differently they might be a pro.

Those Dorito chowing super sizers will never have any sort of connection to cycling. And the kids growing up get little motorized, plastic cars to drive around their neighborhoods rather than bikes, so don't think it will get better in the future.
Ah, the way to fix it though is to show them the speed of a bike; there are a couple guys in my class, jocks no less, who are now interested in cycling, because they were riding down a 35mph road and i passed them. (Tailwinds! :D )
It's kind of funny, they're currently learning that baggy jeans dont mix with WalMart drivetrains.
 

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Honestly don't know the answer -- every country has its favorite sport.

Brazil, Mexico and others - it's soccer (aka futbol).
US has a few. I'd guess football is the favorite (although baseball fans will argue that one).
Great Britain - rugby or cricket? Not sure which.
Japan - eating weird stuff for money on TV.
How did Italy get lucky enough to end up with cycling? Maybe there's some direct link between the pasta gene and the cycling gene.
 

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magicant said:
Honestly don't know the answer -- every country has its favorite sport.

Brazil, Mexico and others - it's soccer (aka futbol).
US has a few. I'd guess football is the favorite (although baseball fans will argue that one).
Great Britain - rugby or cricket? Not sure which.
Japan - eating weird stuff for money on TV.
How did Italy get lucky enough to end up with cycling? Maybe there's some direct link between the pasta gene and the cycling gene.
GB (and pretty much the rest of Europe for that matter) - footie

To the OP - were you on a cycling trip at the time?
 

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Not to rain on the cycling lovin-in, but Italy's favorite sport is football, by a mile. Cycling is certianly far more popular over there than here, but football is the uncontested number 1. Cycling is maybe similar to Formula 1 racing in popularity, as far as spectator sports go. Of course, cycling is much more popular as a hobby than F1 racing!
 

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Years ago

tincanman99 said:
You said it was popular in the US years ago. Around what time was that? Just out of curiosity. I remember when I was a kid all the kids were continually riding around on bikes. I dont see that as much anymore. As a matter of fact I dont see children really playing outside at all anymore.
Around 1900, the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists) had well over 100K members, when the population of the US was something like 1/4 of what it is now. Bicycling was immensely popular in the transition time between the invention of the modern bicycle (around 1890) and the rapid growth of car ownership after WWI. If you go the the "library" they have these things called "books" and some of them are about 'history" and you can read up on this stuff :)
 

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Belgium?

Americano_a_Roma said:
Not to rain on the cycling lovin-in, but Italy's favorite sport is football, by a mile. Cycling is certianly far more popular over there than here, but football is the uncontested number 1. Cycling is maybe similar to Formula 1 racing in popularity, as far as spectator sports go. Of course, cycling is much more popular as a hobby than F1 racing!
If I were to pick a place where it seems to me that cycling is the favorite sport, I would say it is Belgium. But, my perspective may be warped by the fact that I was in Belgium during the weekend of the Tour of Flanders. The number of cyclists that one sees in Belguim, from lean men wearing team kits and riding nice bikes to old ladies wearing skirts and riding beaters gives some support to the theory above that the more people who actually ride bikes in a given place probably brings out more support for cycling as a sport.
 
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