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  • Good journalism makes for uncomfortable reading sometimes
  • linusr
    Full Member

    The latest ST newsletter has an interesting discussion about the drinking culture within cycling.

    Hannah says: “I’m going to take the slightly unusual step here of recommending to you an article from another publication. This piece by Gloria Liu puts into some very thorough words what I’ve been thinking about for a while – though not, you may note, actually doing anything much about. I think that, for many, it will be uncomfortable reading.” Does Cycling Have a Drinking Problem? <– a long article but well worth a read.

    I haven’t had a drink for over 30 years and I feel much better for it. Seen too many of my friends have their life damaged or ruined by the macho drink culture. Perhaps less of a problem nowadays with young people drinking less than my (late boomer) generation did.

    Also seen too many predatory blokes preying on drunk girls/women. It’s an issue that you should perhaps return to.

    Exploring the countryside on two wheels and feeling good after it is better than any drink and much better without it. And I’m a better person for it.

    Well done Hannah and ST for publishing good stuff, again.

    Full Member

    I can honestly say that I have never ever associated cycling with drinking. I’m 46 so have been around a bit. I cycled home from the pub once or twice when I was younger. Literally, once or twice I’ve stopped somewhere nice and had a beer whilst road riding in the Alps or Pyrenees. But I can’t say I’ve ever thought that cycling and drinking go hand in hand.

    Free Member

    Hmmm, got a lot of conflicting thoughts on this.

    The linked article, and the linked linked article’s claim that cycling is booze orientated seem like nonsense to me. My rides have never finished at a pub or involved a pub unless there was nothing else. And I’ve been mountain biking for 35+ years.

    Sad people gonna alcohol is true with or without biking. We Brits generally have a problem with alcohol consumption. Some of us ride bikes. There is an overlap, but not convinced it’s causal. Climbing clubs I’ve been in defo were more drink orientated. Paddlers and their swim beers. Yada yada yada. I’m sure you’ll find loads of people with a sporting obsession that like a drink. Linking it to the sport is bollocks. At least they’re doing a sport unlike the huge number of people who just drink as a hobby.

    I’m always surprised and somewhat deflated whenever pictures of beer feature in the weekly rides thread as a highlight. It confuses the hell out of me. You spent x hours doing the sport we love, and presumably enjoyed it immensely and yet the photo you choose to share is of a glass of liquid on a table. Truly tragic.

    And then the real rub. I’m just jealous. For the last 3 years I’ve not been able to drink any significant alcohol. The most I’ve had is two pints. On an average day even a glug of wine gives me a splitting headache. A 330ml beer gives me a hangover. I’d love to finish my ride at a pub and have a few pints, but I can’t because I’ve got a drink problem 🙂

    Still wouldn’t take a photo of the bloody thing though

    Full Member

    I read the email last night and thought it was thought provoking, although my experience is probably the other way round.

    In my twenties I drank after work on fridays a lot then went out on Saturdays as well. I noticed it ruined my days out on the bike. I moved jobs and the first Friday night my new colleague, now good friend, asked if I fancied mountain biking. What a great start to the weekend, and I gradually eased off the lost weekends to riding refreshed.  As I’ve tended to drive when riding, drinking has never been part of the culture for me. Now in my 40s, I drink socially only, but most of my socialising is now through mountain biking so I don’t drink much at all. Feel so much better for it.

    Like tobacco, drink advertising needs to be banned along with gambling, there’s no need for it. Once it’s banned the money will move into other industries, advertising won’t dissappear, there may be a short term dip but i think the spending will come back via other markets that have been suppressed by alcohol and gambling spending.

    Full Member

    I think cycling is not very different from the rest of our society in that drinking is deeply ingrained at all levels. Be it drowning ones sorrows, rewarding one’s efforts or celebrating an occasion, all call for a drink, apparently. I struggle with it from time to time (dry atm). I do, however, think things are changing for the better, which is encouraging.

    Full Member

    I’m not going to voice an opinion on the cycling/drinking culture because it’ll no doubt be shot down in flames by a few on here.

    I will, however, say that the recent email articles from Hannah have been fantastic. Same goes for a few of the STW podcasts she’s done.

    Full Member

    the recent email articles from Hannah have been fantastic. Same goes for a few of the STW podcasts she’s done.

    Yup. Agree.

    Full Member

    Yes, thanks Hannah. Great journalism.

    Full Member

    Really nicely written piece by Hannah, and the linked article made for interesting reading too.
    I don’t really drink as I don’t like the flavour of beer, lager, wine etc so I’m happy ordering soft drinks. However all of the Friday night shop rides I used to go on ended at the pub. Locals would have a few, drivers would usually have one.
    Events like Twentyfour12 would be sponsored by local breweries and drinking after the race (or by pit support) was a part of it, however I’m not convinced the same culture exists here like the States.
    I couldn’t see beer shortcuts existing in any events I’ve done (I’m gobsmacked it’s even a thing to be honest) but the post ride drink, yep, for sure.
    I’m glad low alcohol beers are becoming more commonplace and I feel there is less pressure to “have a proper drink” but I’m older and give less ****s what people think now!

    Full Member

    Like tobacco, drink advertising needs to be banned along with gambling, there’s no need for it. Once it’s banned the money will move into other industries, advertising won’t dissappear, there may be a short term dip but i think the spending will come back via other markets that have been suppressed by alcohol and gambling spending.

    Definitely. All that marketing expertise and social psychology misused. And it also irritates the f*** out me to see drink adverts, followed by car adverts, followed by more drink adverts, and more car adverts in the cinemas and elsewhere. What message is that sending?

    Full Member

    Good piece, and the linked article was thought provoking. Must admit to being a bit surprised at the reported extent of drinking within the US biking scene though. I’ve never really been one for mixing riding (or any sport I’ve participated in) and drinking, maybe the odd post night ride pint, or a beer at home. Despite having a dodgy relationship with alcohol in my teens and twenties. I have noted the numbers of MTBs parked outside the local pubs on a Saturday however, and the local fell running clubs always seem to be at the pub….I’ve always assumed it was one drink and home, maybe I’m wrong. Riding with any level of hangover, ie. after any more than one beer, is a non starter for me.

    Full Member

    I stopped drinking for a couple of years around age 20, seeing it was an expensive way to waste money.

    I have one or two beers a week now. Rides with mates may end at the pub for one of those. Our club has a Thursday night social ride in the summer that finishes at a pub. We can get 30-40 people out on that, it’s one of the clubs intro rides.

    Most of us have one drink, and then ride home. A couple of groups of friends ride home via another pub for more.

    I’m not aware that the cycling around me has a drink problem. Some cyclists may have a drink problem, same as the rest of society.

    Full Member

    Yeah, my experience is the inverse also, bike riding isn’t a “dry zone” as such, but booze and bicycles don’t really seem to run together for me, you need to be functional to enjoy bike riding and booze doesn’t help that.

    I suppose for some the social side might spill over into a post ride pint or going for a drink with riding mates socially outside of riding, but neither of those sounds like problem drinking (to me at least).

    I’m early 40s and have gotten well past my boozing habits of my 20s, been there, done it the novelty is long gone.
    I probably drink on average maybe once or twice a month now tops, and never to the extent that the following day is a write-off.

    Yep, reading the article it’s not a cycling has a drink problem thing it’s cycling in Crested Butte that sounds like it’s stuck in the 90s or something….

    Full Member

    I’d echo that the linked article (being in a US magazine) is far more relevant to the US than the UK mountain bike scene. The UK doesn’t have many events sponsored by breweries, and it’s pretty uncommon to see people get beers out of rucksacks mid-ride. This isn’t uncommon in the US, as is the sparking up of a joint or pipe, something I’ve never seen on a UK mountain bike ride. There’s also less of the sitting in the car-park with beers out of a cooler scene too – usually because it’s too wet and cold! (And also because the US has a far laxer social conscience about drinking beers and driving, as if beers don’t count as booze – that’s definitely not the case in the UK and non-drinking drivers are accepted without question. As are non-drinkers for that matter…)

    In contrast to Hannah, I’m totally pro-alcohol if you want it. Most of my winter night rides over 30 years or so have been from pubs – mostly for the dull reason that they have large, empty car parks in the winter and unlike the twee tea and cake shops, are open after 4pm and they mostly welcome muddy riders, so it makes sense to meet there and have a beer afterwards – or not a beer, I’ve never seen anyone being pressured into having a beer and anyone who chooses to have an OJ and lemonade isn’t made to sit on a different table.

    From my own experience, I have hugely enjoyed the association of beers after a good ride, having a beer in a 24 hour race pit between laps and a good after-ride beverage. I like bikes and I like beer and the two sit well with me – especially if it’s a short, off-road ride home afterwards – and again, it’s rare that anyone has more than two pints after a night ride – it’s just too cold and damp (and late!). The singlespeed scene has always had an association with beer, but again, I don’t recall anyone being guilted into drinking (apart from the UK champs in 1998 where you had to have beers the night before or face a time penalty – but the non-drinkers were fine with that).

    With the next generation less interested in drinking as a hobby, I can see that any association with beer and bikes will fade, especially in the UK, and I don’t reckon we have anything to be that concerned about. I’m more concerned that most of those same US cycling events are sponsored by macho car companies like Jeep and Subaru…

    Full Member

    For me, if I have a drink ‘problem’ the drink is normally a symptom rather than a cause.

    Trying not to drink just creates an additional pressure I don’t need in my life. Even if I’m not drinking the underlying problem is still there and it’s manifesting itself in different ways.

    If you are a member of a group that all drink heavily, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. The simple fact is that drinking with a group of friends is bloody good fun and if it’s not but you’re all still drinking together anyway, well, maybe my first point applies.

    I would say, if you’re worrying about your drinking, don’t. Instead try to figure out the underlying issue and focus on that. Your drink ‘problem’ may well solve itself if you do.

    This is all speaking purely from my own experience. I appreciate others may have very different experiences, particularly if it is secondhand watching a friend or relative seemingly destroy themselves with drink.

    Full Member

    I couldn’t see beer shortcuts existing in any events I’ve done (I’m gobsmacked it’s even a thing to be honest)

    the one I’ve done, it was a tiny shortcut, and the amount of beer dished out was a mouthful. If I’d had 2 pints over the course of the 7 hr event, I reckon I’d have been on the podium… I understand the American ones require you to shotgun a can.

    Any social rides I’ve done that have finished in a pub, as above, it’s more because they have a car park and somewhere warm to sit, and it’s roughly 50/50 those who have a beer vs soft drinks apres ride.

    As Chipps says, North Americans do seem to have a stronger link between beer and bikes, lots of talk of it on more US/Canadian centric forums.

    Full Member

    Not naming any names but I’ve deliberately avoided riding with some clubs and groups who don’t as a rule to go the pub after a ride. Even on social rides you rarely get to have a good chat with people, so the after-ride pub visit is an almost obligatory requirement as far I’m concerned. It makes the difference between having riding-buddies who you sort of know and good mates, and I can happily say that I’m good mates with most of the people I ride with mainly because we do the after ride drinking. You can’t put a price on the social aspect of biking, and whether we like it or not, a lot of that socialising happens in the pub after a ride. Without it I’d probably be a depressed hermit who never leaves the house.

    The simple fact is that drinking with a group of friends is bloody good fun

    Amen brother! ✊

    Full Member

    For me nothing beats that “well earned beer” at the end of a long hard days exercise.  I don’t care if its with others or on my own.  a well earned beer is a real joy.  Several reoccurring themes amongst the photos I take and the “well earned beer” is one of them

    had a few of them last summer

    Full Member

    I think the problems arise when a well earned beer turns into 8 well earned beers, then the amount of earning required drops over time, and bikes become the excuse to have a beer

    Full Member

    @dazh that reads more like you just wanting a bit of post ride social, rather than insisting alcohol accompanies any chat.

    Would you attend a ride if a post/mid-ride Café stop was on the cards rather than a post-ride pub visit?

    Full Member

    I don’t think that the drinking culture in cycling is any worse than in society at large. There may be a more localised problem in the places mentioned in the article – craft beers seem to be more than an optional accessory in some of the niches and communities.

    But it’s fairer to say that society has a drinking problem and that bleeds over into cycling in some places, and a small number of cyclists find their cycling habits complement their pre-existing alcohol habits.

    Full Member

    I drink far less than I used to partly because of the trap that Tom outlined above – I sort of fell into a similar one.  I often go several weeks with no alcohol.  However that “well earned beer” is the one I doubt I will ever give up

    Full Member

    Like a lot of people on here I’ve ridden and raced for years. Within the road scene there was very little drinking going on. Tours away would involve beers, but not excessive. An awful lot less than what Jo Holiday Maker would have been drinking.
    Even post racing, going away on cycling breaks, the amount of alcohol consumed would be negligible.
    Training rides in the summer may finish in the beer garden, but most of us would have a small number of beers and then get collected by the other half. And that would be a rare occasion.
    Within the mtb races and cross races, maybe two beers after a race. But all social, maybe the night before if we were camping we’d have a couple of beers. The mountain bikers probably did drink more and were more social.

    But being honest, I just don’t really see it. The roadies I raced with where so weight and fitness focused that during the season the racing was the focus….I’d probably go as far to say they (and me) focus too much on racing and “neglect” our families, I just don’t see the cycling / beer relationship.

    I’d say it may be just as mentioned above, some people enjoy beer and they enjoy bikes. Just the same as some people enjoy beer and they enjoy remote controlled cars.

    Full Member

    After hot day on trails and consuming 3 pints of mutzig in Bar Robinson  I was unable to cycle down Morzine high street, so yes it is a problem in cycling. Don’t try it kids

    Full Member

    Within the mtb races and cross races, maybe two beers after a race. But all social, maybe the night before if we were camping we’d have a couple of beers. The mountain bikers probably did drink more and were more social.

    At small scale maybe. But it didn’t take long for the 24hr races in particular to turn into massive all-night drinking sessions on the Friday* which quite memorably caused a lot of disruption a couple of times – once involving fireworks being set off over the lake.

    Back in the days when MTB races used to involve DH on Saturday, XC on Sunday, it wasn’t uncommon for the DHers to all get absolutely hammered on the Saturday after their event and then the XCers to get all pissed off that they were unable to get a decent night’s sleep before their race due to the riot going on outside.

    *Edit: that’s probably slightly unfair, maybe I should say “for a vocal minority of people within the 24hr race scene…”

    Full Member

    I guess I come from a Rugby background and I’m comparing the two sports. My dad was a Rugby league player back in the 70’s, I played through the 80’s until late 2000’s, so I’ve been around the game for a good 4 decades. There was a proper drinking culture involved, dangerously so I’d say. Cycling in comparison was child’s play. In fact one of the draws for me to cycling was to get away from the drinking scene associated with Rugby.
    I played both Union and league, both formats had a drinking culture. League possibly less so, or at least in the clubs I played for.
    Having been on rugby tours and also team cycling tours, the levels of drinking is massively different. One of my tours was to Hong Kong playing rugby as a 17 year old, I’ve never been so disgusted in my life. But for the majority of the guys, it was just the norm. Cycling team winter training camps have always been sedate in comparison.

    Full Member

    The article linked in the OP doesn’t make uncomfortable reading for me- it just describes a scene/culture that I don’t really recognise at all. Maybe its like that in certain parts of the US but certainly I don’t see it here in the UK in any way and I suspect it’s only very small pockets of the US that are like that?

    I’ve been cycling for fifteen years and could count the pub stops on one hand (literally). I can recall one single time where I had drinks mid-ride- a big ride in Yorkshire on the hottest day of the year and we had to wait for a guy who had a mechanical and took his bike into the shop as we passed through Skipton leaving us waiting around for an hour or two there. Even then, I think we only ended up in the pub as the ride that day was an odd mixture of “proper” cyclists and some other lads from my office who very much casual guys who fancied a day out.

    As others have said, western/developed societies tend to have a drinking culture that is arguably problematic and cycling is part of those societies. You could only say cycling had a drinking problem if there was a demographic of people who didn’t really drink, or have a problem, were getting into cycling and then developing a drinking problem afterwards as a result of their participation. There’s just no way there’s a significant demographic of people who fit that bill. Personally, I drink loads less now as a “cyclist” than I did before.

    Otherwise, are we seriously going to list every single recreational sport, activity, game or hobby that anybody might do and claim it has a drinking problem- we already know that society has an obsession with drinking, its unhealthy and that this permeates pretty much everything we do. Cycling is pretty far down the list of things that specifically encourage it.

    I know its January but the introspection and hand-wringing on this one seem a bit much, it just doesn’t seem like its an issue at all to me.

    Full Member

    I have a bunch of mates.

    We sometimes go for a bike ride.

    We sometimes go down the pub.

    We sometimes go for a bike ride and then to the pub.

    It’s all good.

    I bet there’s a bigger drinking problem in darts. 😉

    Full Member

    i have 3 loves in my life. family bikes and beer.
    it is not a boast, or a brag. it is what makes me who i am.
    to end a nice bike ride, with a good beer, whilst in the company of my number 1 cycling partner ( my wife ) is a perfect combination for me.

    Full Member

    Amen Ton

    Full Member

    Something I read about Chris Cornell and his addiction always stuck with me…

    I used to ride mountain bikes around with my friends, and we’d keep 40-ouncers where the water bottle was supposed to be. But once I removed the mountain and the bike, there was just the drinking.

    (Apparently Chris & Eddie Vedder used to go mtbing in Washington state)

    We don’t really have that kind of culture in the UK thankfully

    I spent my twenties on a mission to get wasted every weekend (by whatever means) I had a brilliant time, but part of me regrets that I could’ve been fitter faster & had a lot more money for biking instead

    Nowadays I still enjoy a drink but nowhere near as much

    A cold beer or 2 after a race or ride with mates is mint, but I could take it out leave it really.

    I see my boomer parents drinking far too much & piling on their health issues

    I hope my kids show more moderation than I did, I doubt they will

    Full Member

    The drink I associate most with cycling culture is overpriced fancy coffee TBH.

    Having said that, there’s nothing better than ending your ride in the pub (or in the garden) for a pint and a natter, it’s where legends, tall stories and fables are born

    Full Member

    I was in a relationship with someone who had a drink problem when I was younger. He did not ride bikes.

    Since then, rides that ended in the pub taught me that there were people in the world for whom ‘just one beer’ actually meant that. Which was a bit of an eye-opener.

    Full Member

    Even on social rides you rarely get to have a good chat with people, so the after-ride pub visit is an almost obligatory requirement as far I’m concerned. It makes the difference between having riding-buddies who you sort of know and good mates

    I remember quite clearly going to the pub for the first time after a Friday night ride and not knowing who the people were because I’d only ever seen them in the dark via bike lights and helmet torches!

    And totally agree that in the UK, pubs = warm dry places after a cold wet night ride, which is more common than most of us would like!

    Full Member

    Firstly, what a great and thought-provoking article – well done Hannah. It certainly rang some bells with me
    Does cycling have a drink problem? IMO, no, not per se. Do some members of society? Yes. And some members of society cycle. So in a Venn diagram kind of way, there are cyclists who drink. Some drink one or two, some much more
    It’s the same in the climbing and mountaineering world – the “well earned one” after a tough climb or a long day out on the hill are present and correct in that arena too. As are the two, three, four earned ones plus the ones afterwards back at the campsite or hut, bunkhouse etc.
    Snowsports are the same – apres-ski happy hour, anyone?
    For whatever reason, some activities that involve a fair bit of physical effort and that call for a bit of a wind down and chat about the day afterwards seem to have a “let’s have a drink/two/n” attitude to go with it. Rightly or wrongly this pervades and unfortunately it sucks some people in a bit too deep.
    Speaking as someone who has now had 6+ months of counselling to try to kick their (excessive) habit and isn’t really much further forward, it’s a very slippery downward slope that is very hard to get back up. As my counsellor said to me, “It’s an addictive, depressive, carcinogenic, sedative toxin – why would you put it in your body?” – and yet for some reason we do …

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