the year that was: some of the not so good bits of 2013

by Kate Smart

 

Now that we have all stuffed ourselves so full of food, we can barely reach for the remote control, it’s time to restore balance again by taking the time to reflect on those parts to the 2013 cycling season that didn’t quite make last week’s highlights list.

 

Bike helmets out of style

As a purveyor of all things vintage, you would expect little resistance to retro style bike helmets here.

Oh, how wrong you are.

I love the 80s.

The 80s were brilliant.

But, and there is a monumental but here, there are some things from the past that are best left in the past.

That includes retro style bike helmets.

also perfect for ice hockey
also perfect for ice hockey

They should never be resurrected. They should never be allowed to make an appearance in any suburban street, let alone in a professional bike race.

These old style helmets, that resemble a watermelon that’s been sliced in half and plonked on some poor unsuspecting cyclists head, were the torment of thousands back in the day.

And while on this little rant about all things retro, I can say back in the day, because I was there in the day. Back in the day cannot be said by anyone born after 1990.

remember when Gran used to crochet your bike though? thankfully, this hasn't made a comeback
remember when Gran used to crochet your bike though? thankfully, this hasn’t made a comeback

Do we have an understanding? Good.

So, back to the helmets.

I know you hipsters want to think you invented cool. You all think anyone born before 1985 couldn’t possibly appreciate the wonderful objects of the past. I mean, it’s not like we were there for them the first time, right?

Call it vintage, call it retro, call it whatever you want, but the objects from the past we bring back have a style that is worth hanging on to. They have to. They are the artifacts from our past that fill us with warm, nostalgic memories.

The reality is, some things from when we were seven should stay back in 1983 and these hideous bike helmets are perfect examples of this.

Thank God Bernie Eisel found a use for these ridiculous, please return to some retro cabinet, never to be seen again helmets.

God bless ya, Bernie.

 

Sexism in Cycling

Well, now that I’m on a rant, I may as well keep going.

Sexism in cycling seems to be the topic that just keeps on giving in 2013.

Peter Sagan’s pinching of Maja Leye’s bottom on the podium at the Tour of Flanders brought condemnation from just about every quarter of the media.

apparently she was asking for it...
apparently she was asking for it…

Irrespective of your opinion of podium girls, these women are models employed to do a job and the sexual harassment of any woman is unacceptable.

Sagan did eventually apologize for his actions but his grab of Leye’s backside suggested for many that sexism is alive and well in cycling.

To add further insult, Sagan’s actions came on the same day the great Dutch cyclist, Marianne Vos won her first Women’s Tour of Flanders.

It’s hard the believe the Dutch champion, who has won just about everything on two wheels, only snared her first Ronde this year.

the scintillating Marianne Vos
the scintillating Marianne Vos claims Flanders

It would have been brilliant to watch but sadly coverage of women’s cycling is almost non-existent.

Cue segue into my next rant.

Women’s cycling does not lack an audience because no-one wants to see it.

The problem is, we can’t see it.

If we can’t see it, it becomes difficult to write on, which then makes it difficult to analyze, discuss or engage with.

This lack of coverage cascades into a range of flow on effects. If we can’t watch these races, it becomes increasingly difficult for event organisers to attract sponsorship. A further effect is the lack of prize money on offer. Whether we like it or not, sport is a business and without coverage there is minimal opportunities for this aspect of the sport to grow.

Pushing for this current state of affairs to change is something we should all put on our priority lists for 2014.

 

Maybe the reopening of a cycling store isn’t the ideal place to get your boobies out

When the well known Melbourne cycling store, Total Rush, hired topless models to parade around at its grand reopening, we Melbourne folk found ourselves deeply divided.

The marketing strategy may have been successfully used by luxury car brands to hawk its goods, but at a bike store the strategy failed miserably.

For many, this was just another example of sexist attitudes toward women in cycling.

The store’s owners did apologize but only after they had deleted Facebook posts and tweets.

For many the apology came about with little sincerity, with accusations that it was the high end bike brand they specialize in selling pushing for it.

Hiring topless models for a bike store reopening was a stupid move and one that seriously undermines the commitment of this store to women in cycling.

Total Rush pertain to have a commitment to women’s cycling through the sponsorship of a women’s National Road Series team here in Australia and they conduct weekly women’s rides.

This is obviously fantastic, but it appears these initiatives are nothing more than paying lip service to the role of women in cycling when they pull such an ill conceived stunt as this.

From a thoroughly cynical view, the suggestion is this store sees an investment in women’s cycling as a marketing strategy, not as a genuine commitment to enhancing the profile of women’s cycling.

Once again, though, there is a big but here.

Yes, Total Rush were stupid but some quarters of Melbourne were bandying about the accusation of misogyny like it is the latest buzz word.

Let’s reserve that word for men who are women haters. Just because a man does a stupid thing, and let’s be honest, men are always doing stupid things, they aren’t then misogynists.

All in all, it’s been a pretty disappointing year for the treatment of women in 2013 so let’s hope that 2014 can bring about some reversal of attitudes.

Those reversals, however, can only come about through working together and educating ourselves to be more respectful.

That’s why I don’t support boycotting particular shops and brands.

In this instance nothing is achieved by pretending we all live in some kind of Garden of Eden and we have some magical power to banish those we see as transgressing our rules.

There is a time and place for that punishment, but it is not here.

Looking to the future, though, I’m starting to get seriously excited about what I am sure will be a great summer of racing here in Australia.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year and bring on 2014!

_____________________________________________

Kate Smart is a Melbourne based freelance writer. She writes mainly on cycling, although tennis and Australian Rules Football (AFL) are her other topics of interest. She has a strong anti-doping stance and is most interested in the institutional cultures that encourage and foster such transgressions. After a lifetime on the sidelines, she discovered the joys of getting off the couch and getting involved. She’s completed a couple of half marathons, very slowly, and rides her bike in the same manner. You can find her on twitter @katesmart12.

 

 

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