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Published 06 June 2012 06:57, Updated 07 June 2012 04:15
Shaun Gatter ... State of the art bike equipment can set riders back well over $5000 but proponents say the team element of cycling builds team work and corporate connections. Arsineh Houspian
It’s 7am and the sun is barely cutting across Port Phillip Bay to clear the chilly fog of a winter morning. It lights the path ahead of Shaun Gatter, pricing manager at GM Holden, who is pumping along Melbourne’s Beach Road as he has done at least once a week for more than 15 years. If it weren’t for the vast clouds of fellow cyclists who have joined him, he could just about cycle the track blindfolded.
“I don’t know if it’s Cadel Evans, or the community rides, or more exposure on TV or what’s driving it, but 15 years ago I would be alone and now there are literally thousands of cyclists here every day of the week and tens of thousands on the weekends,” Gatter says. “I go down and meet with the local guys and we’re all business people, so it’s become a great network of contacts as well.”
Long-loved cycle tracks such as Sydney’s Centennial Park have experienced a similar boom. There, hundreds of informal and formal cycling groups take advantage of the car-less tracks each weekend and similar numbers use cycle friendly paths, mapped out on the City of Sydney council’s website. In the past five years, cycling has gone from a sport limited to kookie commuters and niche athletes to a popular participation sport.
About 2.4 million people took up riding as a regular exercise in 2011-12, up from 1.6 million in 2006-07, research house IBISWorld says.
The economic benefits of an increase in cycling are manifold. The Australian Cycling Economic overview, published by the association of Australian and New Zealand road transport and traffic authorities Austroads, suggests the cycling industry employs 10,000 people and generates $1.25 billion in revenue a year.
Bicycle commuting contributes $36.5 billion a year to the economy through improvements in health and wellbeing, reductions in traffic congestion and a cut in the cost of transport infrastructure, the report shows.
And when it comes to corporate types, early morning cycling has replaced golf as a good opportunity to network.
The deputy chief financial officer of Westpac, Peter King, has long been a member of the Sydney University Velo club and in the past 12 months also joined corporate cycling networking group Australian Cycling Executives, taking the opportunity to double-up on exercise and making useful contacts.
“The thing about riding is that you don’t need huge amounts of money to get access to high-end equipment,” King says. “It’s the only sport where you can get access to the very best equipment for a reasonable price. You can get a really good quality bike for under $2000.”
But it doesn’t stop at the bike. Wheels, pedals, cycling shoes and a state of the art helmet will still only set you back a further $5000, making bike bling a more viable luxury than most.
And beyond the high-tech equipment, both King and Gatter say the team element of cycling feeds directly back into the workplace, while the regular exercise keeps body and mind clear and charged.
“It’s not like running where you’re puffed out all the time, or golf where you don’t really get any exercise because you’re riding in a buggy all the time,” Gatter says.
“We’ve all got so little time that cycling is the perfect activity because you can talk and exercise at the same time.”