Cycling Fever

Cycling, Sport — By on January 23, 2012 12:31 PM

BY ELISE FANTIN

They say lattes are a ladies drink but these Lycra-clad lads don’t seem to mind.

It’s a breezy Sunday morning, at an hour when most people are still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, but these men have already completed an 80km ride to McLaren Vale and back – with a latte stop in between.

And don’t they love it.

This scenario plays out across the state every weekend, when businessmen swap their suits for Lycra, enjoy the breeze on their face and follow their passion.

One such man is Grange local Barry Gunter, 57, who has been into cycling since he was a little kid.

“I always loved bikes,” he says.

Recalling fond memories of his childhood brings a sparkle to his eyes and it’s obvious he lives and breathes cycling.

“I cycled as a kid.

“My dad found a bike on a building site and said, ‘Here, you can fix this one up and that’s your first bike.’

“I didn’t ride for years and years, but then when I was turning 30 I met a friend who said, ‘Right, we’re going to do triathlons’,” Barry tells.

Although Barry no longer competes in triathlons, his love of riding still remains a passion which he shares with fellow cycling purist David Wickstein.

David, 50, also discovered his love of cycling after switching from basketball to triathlons.

Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

“I was heavily into basketball and I played in the district level for two years,” he says. “But I didn’t enjoy it, so I started looking for a new challenge.

“My cousins in Adelaide were heavily into triathlons, so I finally took them up on their consistent challenges and loved it.

“I did this for quite some time, but work always interfered with the training schedule so eventually cycling and swimming are all that remains,” David says.

Today the pair is part of Team Submarine, a recreational riding group initially sponsored by Barry and David’s employer, the Australian Submarine Corporation.

The team jokingly describe themselves as the perfect blend of experience and talent coupled with speed and stamina, but they certainly look the part with their own professionally designed riding uniforms.

Although age and gender is no barrier to Team Submarine, it is mostly middle-aged businessmen who make up the core of the group.

“The youngest guy would be about 23 and oldest guy would be 60,” says Barry.

“Most of us are in our late 40s mid 50s.”

This group is just one of the many made up of older men swapping suits for jerseys in recent times.

Owner of International Cycle Centre Peter Giessauf has been in the cycling business longer than he cares to remember.

A former professional cyclist, these days his small Stepney shop is testament to his life’s work as he now spends his days helping others to realise their cycling dream or fuel their obsessions; everything from simple repair jobs, to selling every bike gizmo under the sun.

A big grin engulfs Peter’s face as he recalls the extraordinary lengths men will go to hide their spending particularly from their wives.

“Many a time I’ve had to write out a receipt for only half the price of the bike so they will bring in cash and then they will pay the rest on card so they can tell their wife ‘This is how much I spent’,” he says.

“And I had one instance a couple of years ago with a customer- very very well off, he’s a doctor and money is no object- but I had to write out a dummy receipt for him.

“His wife actually rang me up to try and find out how much he spent.”

He has noticed the sport gain popularity amongst the over 45s all over Australia.

“Cycling is the new golf,” he says.

Recent statistics match Peter’s observation, as more South Australians are currently riding bikes than ever before.

The 2010 Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey shows cycling is continuing to gain momentum with participant numbers in South Australia up 3.3 per cent for men and 2.6 per cent for women, when compared to 10 years ago.

Skyrocketing fuel prices, expensive parking rates and increased traffic congestion are just some of the reasons for cycling’s increase in popularity.

It is estimated over 8000 people ride their bikes to work within the Adelaide CBD.

As the popularity of this sport has grown, so too have the safety concerns associated with cycling, particularly in regards to relationships between motorists and cyclists.

Motorists are the bane of riders who are constantly cut off or clipped by inattentive drivers but road safety is a two way street.

“Not all drivers are at fault when there have been accidents,” Peter admits.

Barry agrees.

“It does get me sometimes when I see other cyclists that just don’t obey the road rules and go through red lights”, he says.

Another gripe cyclists have are suddenly ending bike lanes (“What do you do, just vaporise?” Barry laments), but Adelaide City Council is exploring a possible solution.

Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood recently gained approval to obtain an estimate cost to paint the city’s bike lanes green.

“It’s a really powerful message to send that will designate bike lanes as a preference on the street,” says Mayor Yarwood.

“We need to be seen sharing the road.”

The initiative is already in place interstate and overseas but these local Adelaide cyclists are not convinced the plan will solve the safety dilemma.

“I think the cost of it would be too much for the benefit,” says Barry.

“As long as there are well marked bike lanes and signs telling car users that you know there’s a bike lane there stay out of it,” Barry says.

However, any safety concerns don’t hold back Adelaide’s bicycle mad locals from doing what they love.

Team Submarine are now planning their next big adventure- cycling part of the Giro d’Italia in 2012.

Last year, not only did they organise to cycle part of the Tour de France, but a tour bus was arranged to take their wives to the local shops whilst they tackled the terrain.

For Barry and David, their joints may not be what they used to be and their hair may be turning a little grey, but their long Sunday rides and dedication to the sport proves that age is no barrier.

These men are united by their passion for cycling and are more than willing to help each other out.

With peak cycling season almost upon us, an explosion of middle-aged cycling mad enthusiasts will most likely be biking to a café near you.

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