What commuter cyclists can’t learn from Chris Hoy


The BBC have an article “What commuter cyclists can learn from Chris Hoy” by Tom Geoghegan. I’ve commuted by bike for fifteen years, and I’m still happy to learn new things, especially from Chris Hoy, one of the best track cyclists in the world, but this article is completely stupid. More or less everything in it is wrong, dangerous, or completely irrelevant to commuter cyclists.

So let’s look in detail at what Mr Geoghegan thinks I can learn from Chris Hoy.

“[Drafting] is a principle that can be used on open roads when appropriate”

Unless you’re commute with people you know, it’s never appropriate. In order to draft someone safely you have to trust that they aren’t going to brake without giving you plenty of warning (it also helps if they warn you about obstacles). Even cycling in a club with experienced cyclists, accidents happen. How can you trust a total stranger, who may not an experienced group rider, to warn you when they’re about to brake? This seems like a piece of advice that’s bound to lead to accidents.

“What cyclists need to think about is trying to create power through the full cycle if possible, not just pushing down”

Nonsense. When commuting to work it’s most convenient to wear work shoes, so you can’t generate much (if any) power on the upstroke. Generating power throughout the cycle is a way of engaging more muscles and so getting a little bit of extra power that might make the difference between winning and losing a track sprint. On a commute, who cares about these fractions of a second?

“Track cyclists in Beijing have no gears or brakes”

This would be an illegal set-up on the roads on the UK.

“Ordinary cyclists often make the mistake of using the big gears but that’s not efficient as the legs push more slowly”

The difference in efficiency at different cadences applies to a cyclist’s maximum power output: very important to a cyclist trying to win a race, not so interesting to a commuter who just wants to get to work. And anyway, Chris Hoy rides a huge 51×14 gear (7.84 m travelled per revolution) so even he doesn’t take this advice.

“Experienced riders tend to look at the eyes of drivers”

Often you can’t see the driver’s eyes at all: they have a tinted windshield, or it’s too dark to see them. And a driver can apparently be looking straight at you and still not see you.

“In the autumn, the big thing will be bamboo base layers”

This sounds like a bit of marketing hype, but anyway what possible relevance does this have to commuters, who mostly wear their work clothes?

“There’s nothing worse than doing a five-mile cycle ride in a pair of jeans”

I’ve commuted in jeans twice a day for the last fifteen years and never noticed a problem. I don’t wear them on long rides but five miles are so short that it’s not worth changing clothes for. The idea that there’s “nothing worse” is absurd.