Monday, September 26, 2011

Euro Cycling Bits

On a recent trip to Europe, I visited three places which all had something to do with bicycling, despite the fact that my time there was completely off the bike.

Stop One: Prague, Czech Republic. Clearly, the "Lance effect" of the new XC World champion Jaroslav Kulhavy aka "Kulhec" is huge. The August World Cup XC race in Nove Mesto na Morave attended 30,000 spectators (according to the Czech cycling magazine ) and 250,000 people watched it on TV! That's as if 600,000 people came to see a MTB race in the USA (based on country populations). And of course, another Czech Michal Prokop is again (for the third time) a World champion in 4-cross and few other Czech female and male racers placed among top ten.

I saw many people riding bikes around Prague, mostly hardtail mountain bikes fitted with racks, lights and fenders. The city bikes seem to be absent, but a creative use of bikes for advertising is definitely not:

Stop Two: Paris, France. Nothing cycling- worthy here, except the fact that I rode in a taxi by the place where the Tour de France finishes every year:

Stop Three: Leiden, The Netherlands. Very nice university town with the standard Dutch biking culture. Dedicated bike lanes with their own traffic lights, everybody riding in their street clothes, no helmets, talking to each other, talking to their cell phones etc. 

All Dutch street bikes are pretty much the same and there are so many of them everywhere. The bike parking and storage does not seem to be an issue:

And surprisingly, for a small country and a historical town with narrow streets and sidewalks, bikes and bike racks occupy a dominant space, literally and figuratively speaking:

We live in one of the most cycling friendly places in the USA, the Bay Area weather allows us to ride all year long, most people can afford really nice bikes, yet the car society tradition continues and the best American MTB athletes do not place above the 20th rank in the UCI events. As with so many other things, mountain biking was invented here but perfected elsewhere.

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