Cycling and the long tail

I love cycling. Riding my bike is a great way to relax after work; it keeps me fit and its got a nice social side to it too, when you get out with some friends on a Sunday morning. I used to ride a lot back in the 1980s, gave it away for a long time and got back into it a couple of years ago. The photo above is from the 80s: Lemond and Hinault in the Tour.

In the 1980s I joined a cycling club and got into road racing.  And became interested in the premier cycling events in Europe such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia as well as a score of other races.  Trouble was, living in a television world pre-internet, the media was dominated by footy and cricket.  I’d wait eagerly for one of about two regular cycling magazines that came out. My favourite was the English magazine, ‘Winning’, which I’d devour cover to cover even though it was four months old before it got to us. I remember sitting in front of Channel 9s’ ‘Wide World of Sports’ all afternoon to catch on my VCR the three or four minutes of Tour de France coverage they’d show, interspersed with hours of sports I didn’t care much for at all.

Which brings me to the long tail.  Or the media version of it. Coming back into cycling post-internet made me realise again just how much things have changed. I can get the results of the Giro instantly, I can follow it live by text and have just discovered that I can actually watch it live on internet TV, which I’ve started doing.  I subscribe to twenty-four cycling blogs from big media organisations like Yahoo down to a bad tempered bike rider in NY.  I joined the Southern Vets Cycling Club and check the racing schedule online. I still buy magazines but mainly for the pictures and for something to do on the tram. I used to make notes about my rides in an exercise book; now I enter them on MapMyRide. I skipped Excel completely.

Things have changed. There’s a long tail.  I no longer have to get what the mainstream media dish out, and anyone into a ‘minor’ sport, a hobby, a recreation, an interest, can connect up.  I can be in touch with other cyclists, with the news of the sport, and with other fans. Even though SBS has come on board with cycling I watch less TV and get more and more of my news and information from the web, and from a news network I’ve created of people and organisations I respect or trust.

And that change, in the way a ‘minor’ sport can be understood and communicated, is repeated elsewhere in a thousand ways for thousand interests. Including education. A change has come.

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