On Your Bike
Bradley Wiggins may have said cycling is still a ‘minority sport' in his interview with the BBC after last Wednesday's time trial gold but the truth is that some of the UK's best chances for Olympic gold come on two wheels: and that getting around in this way is on the up in the UK.
From MAMIs (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra) all over affluent suburbs and counties on Sundays with their £2,000 bikes, to the thousands cycling Boris bikes across London, to the thriving mountain biking in the UK's forests and the huge BMX culture in urban environments and extreme sports circles, cycling is not quite the minority sport it once was.
But what would happen if our favourite cyclists had to choose another means of transport on two wheels? Being insurance types we couldn't help but wonder what kind of motor vehicle such speed demons would choose if they weren't able to power themselves with their pedals.
Here's our speculations on the motorised preferences of four of the UK's best-loved Olympic cyclists:
With his leather jackets, cropped haircut and artful facial hair, there's no question of what Wiggins' vehicle of choice would be: a Vespa. The time trial gold medallist is a self-confessed total mod, and a sleek scooter would no doubt be a perfect complement to his off-duty look. We can only hope he drives it with less speed than he rides: the pace he picks up on the racing roads just won't work when weaving in and out of London's jammed streets!
Britain's BMX queen, who currently rides with Cheshire's Ghost Riders, Shanaze Reade is the world BMX Champion and a real performer: aggressive, determined and willing to take risks. She cycles for herself and gives everything; caution to the wind. So what if we took her BMX away? We think she'd go for something that can handle the tough terrain, and cope with a few unpredictable turns and off-road diversions. A Jeep or very hardy quad bike. Shanaze came off her bike in the last turn of the Beijing course in 2008 in an attempt to overtake the eventual leader; we can't guarantee her Jeep insurance won't be a bit higher thanks to that daredevil attitude she's loved for.
Thwarted in the velodrome on Thursday 2nd August, Victoria Pendleton nevertheless remains one of the nation's best-loved cyclists. She's powerful but sleek and determined; often given short shrift because her physique is slim for a cyclist, but a force to be reckoned with. We think a sporty but slim motorbike is just her thing.
A gold medallist on Thursday 2nd, and the carrier of the Team GB flag into the Olympic site, Chris Hoy would need something pretty special, and hard-wearing, to takeover from his bike. We think a customised transit van - moving a lot of bulk at high speeds, up and down the country, with finesse. And still looking good for it. And a sir to boot - a national treasure, much like the Ford Transit, or LDV.