Women’s cycling survey part 4 – what do people like about cycling in general?

In part 3 of the women’s cycling survey analysis, I included the chart for the answers to the question “What is it you like about cycling?”.  The chart was from the options we gave them, but there was also an open response box, which 550 answered, and in part 3 I talked about the different riders, kinds of riders and teams people named in that.  But there were lots of other reasons, too.

What else do people like about following cycling?

These are things more than 1 person said:

Tactics/strategy 22
Following rider development over the years/spotting up-and-coming riders 19
The accessibility of riders and races 10
Complexity of the racing 8
Bravery 7
Tour de France 7
Learning about/seeing other countries 6
The aesthetics – the beauty, colour, the machinery, the style 6
The specific atmosphere of races 6
Aggression 5
Chatting about it on twitter/social aspect 5
Drama 5
Unpredictability 5
Downhill MTB 4
Riders who’ve retired! 4
Virtual DS games 4
The history behind the sport 4
Classics 3
The back stories of the female cyclists and the road they took to cycling 3
Team work and selflessness 3
Gravity enduro 2
Paris-Roubaix 2
The length of time a race takes 2

I included some quotes in the last part, about cycling in general, but these ones struck me here – so many cycling fans have a great turn of phrase!

The strategic chaos that creates surprises in the races and results


The history, the politics, the grand exploits, the passion


Sorry ticked all boxes cos watch any and all cycling I can find, for all the reasons above…even including Carlton’s commentary about windmills and castles.


Oh God, where to start, lots, the riders, their stories, determination, focus, tactics, courage, fortitude, bravery, inspirational people, the training and the bright shiny colours, the women’s peloton (UK and overseas), Cross MTB XC & DH (women and men), not that interested in the men’s pro peloton (other than bus envy)


I first got into cyclism because there were some races nearby and as a elementary school aged child, I loved all the free stuff from the caravans (I’d enjoy any event where I’d be given free ice cream) and I started watching cycling races on TV because I wanted to see whatever was on afterwards. I’d also like to mention that I always loved the stuffed animals the winners get. … and then I got older and started caring about the actual sport.


Stock in trade response to why i watch cycling – “men, with shaved legs, hurting themselves” but really it’s more than that and the women are admired just as much. I have absolute respect for all endurance athletes.

Obviously interested in British riders & teams but have a number of favourite riders men & women from all nations


The complexity of the tactics, particularly in road cycling but also some of the track events.  In what other sports do your allies become your enemies within a single event?

There’s such a range of responses, here, from the purely sporting to the very personal.  These two, especially, touched me

I’ve got ME/CFS so can’t do any cycling, but love watching it. The drama, the ‘toughness’, the great sport.


I wouldn’t say I support a specific team, although I did contribute to Project X, and follow Matrix and Wiggle as they are British teams. I got in to it as I watched the Womens Tour and something on the Welwyn day was the trigger to stop smoking, and made the decision to get a bike and get fit.

One of the factors that’s clear from the answers is that it’s not just about turning on the TV for one race, for a lot of people, but how it changes over time.  As I mentioned in Part 3, watching riders develop is part of the enjoyment for a lot of people

Love teams that work improving riders, fan-interactions and credibility as the Giant/Liv-Shimano 3 team setup. Only missing a womens devo team…

That fan interaction is something that people talk about all the way through the survey – from interaction with teams and riders, to the community aspect and interaction with other fans:

I love the social community atmosphere while at a race and the different but also fun, following along on the internet.

It was interesting to me that one of the things that comes up in this section, and others, is how following races online adds something – it must be a fascinating thing, for those people who were cycling fans in the pre-internet (or pre-social media) days to compare.  I’d love to hear any comments you might have on that, for my final part (whenever that happens) so if that sounds like you, leave me a comment, tell me on twitter, or email me at prowomenscycling [at] gmail.com.

There’s a strong cohort of people who answered the survey who race at different levels, and who like to follow it because of that

Following teams I compete with or against, and riders who I compete with or against (females), or who I know (males)


I follow most closely the females in my discipline, then the males in my discipline (Gravity) enduro MTB, then ditto for my 2nd discipline (downhill), then big events/interesting news stories in the other disciplines, e.g. FMB freeride tours, multi-day (gravity) enduro events like the Trans-Provence, XC World Cups, the occasional Oz XC race, and occasional cyclocross event if I’m doing it, road events that friends are doing, TdF, etc


I raced against a neo-pro for Hincapie, Rob Carpenter, in collegiate racing, and he just blew everyone away, so it’s been cool to follow his career cause he’s a cool dude and makes me feel better about getting destroyed by him

There’s also a strong section of people who will watch absolutely anything as long as it’s on two wheels

I follow most forms of cycling, but primarily cyclocross because it is a dynamic sport with real life, accessible stars like Vos, Nys, Compton, and Stybar.

Finally, I want to end with these quotes – they’re long ones, but they reflect a lot about the answers – there’s no one thing or another, people like watching cycling for a mix of things, all at the same time

I like the rawness of cycling. Human + bike -> how much speed can that person produce, for how long, over a different course.
I also ride an old, second-hand metal racing bike around my local streets and lakes and hills, so appreciate — in a relatively VERY much smaller way — the challenge of climbing; the trepidation of descending; the thrill of speed; occasionally also fall off (i.e. the thrill of concussion, asphalt burns and A&E) i.e. the joy of riding my bike.
I like the context of riders’ and teams’ development in a season and over seasons.
I joined Project X after enjoying all the Slulu Voodoo videos.
I had the good fortune to meet Emma Pooley in 2013 while she was writing her PhD and co-leading the Le Tour Entier campaign, so I follow her, the current and alumni of SLULU, and other riders because they write interesting blogs / promote equality in racing / tweet interesting stuff or because their riding is entertaining.
Tough question, because I’m not entirely sure how this happened.
The first specific rider I took an interest in would be national hero Tom Boonen about 6 or 7 (8-9 even?) years ago. But I don’t know if now I would consider watching him whenever he just happened to be on TV as following.  It just happened.  And if he didn’t win, that interest was a whole lot less.  So you could say I looked up to his sporting prowess, but you’re not really a fan if you’re only interested if your rider wins.


As a general rule, I honestly wasn’t that interested in cycling. Being Belgian you kind of took stuff in by osmosis.
What little interest in cycling I had then completely disappeared during the doping scandal years.

Ironically this is around the time I started riding myself. I was a cyclist with zero interest in professional cycling apart from watching men’s cyclocross, but not really following it either. I just rode my bike. Farther and harder each time.  I liked doing it and that was that. I would go to the hairdressers and the conversation would stop the moment it was clear I didn’t know or care squat about pro cycling
This just to illustrate how now, I kind of look back and wonder how I became so interested in it.

I was initially more interested in the gear and tech stuff I found in bicycle magazines. That and Marijn de Vries’ columns, which were about more than testosterone, tactics and statistics. More about what I liked about riding a bike, and just more… interesting I guess. Not to use the word poetic, which they were, really.
From here on I took an interest in the team LB-ladies and that has been my re-entry into pro cycling as a fan. Both the men’s (Hansen! Henderson! Greipel) and women’s equally, but it’s fair to say that now, generally i know more about women’s cycling than men’s.
(I blame Sarah Connolly for that. Twitter has been a huge catalyst for my knowledge of pro cycling.)The next year already, I think, there were transfers and i just kept tabs on my favourite characters of that team (Carlee Taylor, Marijn de Vries, Ashleigh Moolman, Liesbet De Vocht…)

Long (!!! sorry) story short:
It’s all one big stepping stone process, and you end up with riders you like and want to do well in their careers. And that I think is the main theme for me. The red line through what I like about pro cycling.
Great sporting achievements. Great people. Great stories. Awesome. Thrilling! And I’m happy to be able to follow it all.
With ever growing interest of course comes the awareness of inequality and other issues within the sport.
Just to say, it grows on you. And I like it.

Up next:  Part 5 – the top 10 things people like best about women’s cycling

If you have any questions about the data, or comments on the analysis, or you’re interested in stats I haven’t addressed, please do let me know, because at the end of the series I’ll be answering questions and doing extra analysis in response.  I’ve got a couple of questions lined up, so if you have anything you want to say, or want me to look at, please do tell me in the comments.


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