Cycling Is The New Golf: Lycra and Lattes Replace The Boardroom

We’ve all seen them. Groups of weekend warriors, wrapped in brightly coloured (often overstretched) Lycra, sipping lattes in a cafe packed with what looks like a slightly overweight version of a pro cycling Peloton. The familiar “click-clack” of cleats on polished concrete is all too familiar in most inner-city cafes on weekends. Mixed with the usual brunch conversations, you’ll hear earnest debates on topics like average watts, the aerodynamic benefits of shoe covers and the best leg hair removal techniques.

Whilst MAMILs (Middle Age Men In Lycra) have long been a widely mocked, and dismissed as try-hards suffering some sort of identity crisis, many are now cottoning on to the very real business benefits of the weekend group ride.

Over the last three decades, golf has reigned supreme as the business networking activity for the discerning Executive. Many a high profile corporate deal was sealed on the fairways of the world’s golf courses, or over a post game drink in the country club. These days cycling has firmly entrenched itself as the preferred networking event of the modern business person.

Golf and cycling share many a similarity, and it’s easy to see why increasing numbers of corporate players are hitting the roads every weekend. The fashion choices are notoriously dodgy, with plaid pants or overtight pink Lycra a common sight. The obsession with having, and showing off, the best and most expensive gear is also prevalent in both sports. It’s not uncommon to see a $20,000 bike in a suburban group ride around Melbourne. Carbon wheels, power meters or carbon shafted clubs. It’s all the same really.

It’s the social aspects of a shared, physical activity that hold the key to cycling’s popularity amongst our business leaders though. Rather than the staid, formal and structured interactions that prevail in our boardrooms, cycling offers a relaxed, fluid environment along with a very real sense of shared achievement and camaraderie. The group ride also allows participants to assess their comrades at a pure, primal level without the masks and personas of the normal business meetings. Not only fitness, but a willingness to work for a team goal, self-sacrifice, aggression and resilience are all on display and impossible to fake when you are riding into a screaming headwind with 40kms still to ride. Sometimes it’s the communal suffering of a tough ride that bonds participants. The shared water bottle, the warm pouch of “fruit” flavoured energy gel passed to a flagging companion.

The post-ride ritual of cake and coffee (or a full fatty fry up) is where the magic really happens. Sharing stories of real (or slightly exaggerated) ride highlights, power outputs, average speeds and Euro-Pro fashion tips. The bond that develops on a group ride makes for the perfect environment for business deals to be made. Information is shared, opinions are asked for and given, and contacts are made. It makes sense. Of course you would do business with someone you ride with over a stranger.

As someone who works in a sales based role, I’ve found cycling to be invaluable in building and cementing not only real social friendships, but also mutually beneficial working relationships. I not only enjoy the fitness and social elements of the ride, but find that my work benefits just as much from the open networking of social cycling.

The great thing about cycling over golf is that it takes next to no time to get to a level of competency that will allow you to participate. You don’t have to hit endless practice shots for years on end in order to not humiliate yourself, you just need a bike, some Lycra and a vague level of fitness.

If you’re starting up a business, looking to broaden your network, or just want to make some new friends, cycling is a great way to meet people. See you on the road. I’ll bring my business cards.

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