My first book review is published

My first book review is published. Bicycles Create 17th Jan, 2018.
Source: Springer

Taking a quick side-step from our usual posts of all things bikey into the straighty-one-eighty world of academia, I was delighted this week to be notified that my first book review has been published!


I found this book review a little nerve-racking to do, for two main reasons.

  1. The book I reviewed was written by two leading scholars in the field, so it was comprehensive,  clearly organised, informative, interesting and very well written.
  2.  It was the first time I have collaborated with my PhD supervisor Prof. Singh on a writing project.

Overall it was a very positive experience.

I enjoyed reading the book, learning some new skills (like how to use Routledge’s online proofreading software system) and having to opportunity to develop different academic writing skills and genres

Most of all, I am so grateful to Prof Singh, who invited me to work on the project with her so I could extend my academic skills, networks and exposure.

She is a wonderful role model and a very positive and inspiring PhD supervisor.

I was previously advised that while undertaking a PhD, it is important to recognise and celebrate the smaller stages of the whole research process  – which this first most certainly qualifies!

So here it is!

Ginsberg, N., & Singh, P. (2018). Consultants and consultancy: the case of Education. Journal of Education Policy, 1-2. doi:10.1080/02680939.2017.1420310

Consultants and consultancy: the case of Education

In their book titled Consultants and consultancy: the case of Education, Gunter and Mills explore how the growth of a consultant class, (a faction of the middle class and comprised of knowledge actors) is working to accelerate the privatization of public education in the United Kingdom. This class faction of the new middle class is redefining what the authors call ‘knowledges, knowings, knowledgeabilities and knowers’ (p 12). The authors have considerable experience and expertise in the research area and this is put to good use in the selection of content and theoretical approaches.

The book focuses on the role and implications on the UK public education service of ‘The 4Cs’ (Consultants, Consulting, Consultation and Consultancy). Each of these 4Cs are defined in detail and refer to actors, practices, exchange relationships and power relations. In doing so, this book provides a valuable exposition of the increasing commodification of knowledge and its implications for how educational policy is being designed and enacted.

The authors are unsettled by the ubiquitous and increasing privatization of the UK education process. In recognizing that ‘the 4Cs are generated by privatization, they create and develop it, and are beneficiaries of it’ (p 95), the book seeks to warn there is ‘no alternative to the privatization of public education’ (p 93) and the ‘creeping commercialization within schooling’ (p 93) will continue, as will the ‘setting up and development of a branded and billable education’ p (129).

The central premise of the book is to raise greater awareness and critical analysis for how the 4Cs are impacting educational management and provision. To highlight this, the authors present their arguments in a clearly structured way, with the book being divided into two main parts. After defining key terms and setting the scene in the introductory chapter, the first part of the book consists of three chapters, where the role and contributions of ‘educational experts’ in the form of corporate consultants, university researchers and industry professionals, are succinctly clarified and unpacked. Part two of the book consists of five chapters. In each of the chapters empirical data generated from three large scale studies is presented with the aid of concepts derived from key sociologists of education (Bernstein and Bourdieu) to think about the processes and issues involved in the generation and management of knowledge within education policy and practice. This section describes the ways in which policies and practices of the ‘consultocracy’ are shaping educational dynamics, tactics and reform.

The book has implications for education researchers working not only in the UK, but also Australia and elsewhere that have witnessed the rise of new middle class factions of consultants. Specifically, the book explores the notion of ‘knowledge regimes’ and ‘knowledge politics’ by drawing on theoretical concepts from Bourdieu and Bernstein as thinking tools to explore the ways in which new knowledge forms produced by the consultancy class (consultocracy) are reaching into schools, classrooms and homes. From Bernstein (2000) the authors draw on the concepts of boundary, pedagogic device, pedagogic fields and recontextualisation. From Bourdieu (1992; 2000 ) the authors draw on concepts of misrecognition, logic of practice, codified knowledge as doxa of self-evident truths, habitus, capital and the illusio of the game.

A limitation of the book, however, is that the work of these theorists is not systematically used to present new insights about the marketization of public education. For example, Bernstein has written about the emergence of new middle class factions engaged in processes of symbolic control (see Robertson & Sorenson, 2017; Singh 2015; Singh, 2017). The book needed to provide more detail about the ways in which factions within the middle class positioned in the fields of symbolic control and economic production are struggling over the pedagogic device of knowledge about public education. The authors provide a deterministic account around the production of new knowledge regimes, and what is thinkable, doable within these regimes. However, as Bernstein (2000) clearly indicated the pedagogic device is a site of ongoing struggle because the stakes are high. Ultimately the pedagogic device governs modes of consciousness and conscience – what is knowable, doable, and thinkable in terms of public education.

This book constitutes one of the sites of struggle over the pedagogic device of public education. Consequently, the book and this review are actors in ongoing struggles over ideas about the re/form of public education.


Bernstein, B. 2000. Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity. Theory, Research, Critique. Revised Edition. 2nd ed. Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Bourdieu, P. 1992. The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Bourdieu, P. 2000. Pascalian Meditations. Oxford: Polity Press.

Robertson, S. L., and T. Sorenson. 2017. “Global Transformations of the State, Governance and Teachers’ Labour: Putting Bernstein’s Conceptual Grammar to Work.” European Educational Research Journal, 1, 19.

Singh, P. 2015. “Performativity and Pedagogising Knowledge: Globalising Educational Policy Formation, Dissemination and Enactment.” Journal of Education Policy 30 (3): 363384. doi:10.1080/02680939.2014.961968.

Singh, P. 2017. “Pedagogic Governance: Theorising with/after Bernstein.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 38 (2): 144163. doi:10.1080/01425692.2015.1081052.

Helmet Survey – Last Chance!

Bicycles Create Helmet Survey - Last Chance!

Do you agree with compulsory helmet laws?

Helmet use for cyclists is an ongoing and contentious issue.

Lately, there have been some very heated, passionate and convincing arguments being thrown around.

So it is very timely that Bicycle Network (BN) is undertaking an open invitation to participate in a Helmet Survey to gauge current community feelings about compulsory helmet laws. Have you put your two cents in yet? Better hurry!


The survey closes Friday 22nd September.

Anyone, anywhere can fill out the survey.

It will take about 5 minutes.


Bicycles Create Helmet Survey - Last Chance!
Source: Google

Bicycle Network is Australia’s largest bicycle advocacy group. It is the resultant amalgamation of Bicycle Victoria, Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Tasmania (QLD, SA and others opted not to join). This group has over 50,000 members and is proactive in responding to current issues and driving more positive change. Hence the survey!

I have been a member for a number of years. In Feburary this year, I went to Bicycle Network’s  Bike Futures 2017 Conference. I was impressed by the range of sessions, quality of work undertaken and  large number of attendees. The event was very well organised and it was exciting to be invovled with such a motivated community of cycling activists!

So it is no surprise that as of today, over 18 thousand people have already completed the Helmet Survey.

However, only 23% of respondents are female – which is a pitiful representative considering that women make up 1/3 of all cyclists.

Why the low representation of females in this survey? This is not good.

Bicycles Create Helmet Survey - Last Chance!

More females needed to complete the Helmet Survey, please!

Anyone can fill out this survey. You don’t even need to be a cyclist.

Bicycle Network would like to hear what the WHOLE community feels about this issue –  including people who ride bikes – as well as those who don’t.

What to do?

  • Step 1: If you have not done so already,  fill out the survey.
  • Step 2: Ask at least two female cycling mates to do the same!

In my discussions with people about this issue, I’ve heard the full gamut of positions, like:

  • Some people have strong opinions about helmets (both for and against)
  • Some people are still deciding
  • Some think this issue doesn’t affect them
  • Some haven’t thought much about it
  • Others couldn’t care less

Patrick Williams published a good little article for ABC Brisbane that touches on a few of the key issues and well worth a quick look if you are interested to hear a little more. (Very interesting reading some of the comments below this article as well!)

Bicycles Create Helmet Survey - Last Chance!

This is what Bicycle Network plans to do with the results of the survey…

Bicycles Create Helmet Survey - Last Chance!
Source: Bicycle Network 

Bicycles Create Helmet Survey - Last Chance!

Wyn Masters and Muffin take on Tassie Tracks

Ryan de La Rue – The Coming of a Champion

I was delighted to see that yesterday Pinkbike featured the below video of Ryan De La Rue (aka Muffin) and Wyn Masters on their main page video feed.

I know Ryan from back in the day racing Gravity Enduro in Victoria and have seen him around since at events like the Cairns World Cup. He was often away working for World Trails, but whenever we catch up, I’m always struck by his calm and relaxed personality and have thoroughly enjoyed his company.

I am spoilt by having exceptionally top quality men to socialise and race with – and Ryan is firmly in that group. He is honest, smart and genuine. I really appreciate that he doesn’t get sucked into the trash talk or ego/bike driven comparisons that many riders can get swept up into at race meets. This is all aside from the fact that he is wicked nimble on a bike and regularly has the Elite Men’s field crapping their pants.

So I could not be more pleased that he is getting more exposure and acknowledgement that he so rightly deserves. To me, Ryan has always been a champion rider. I’ve always appreciated that Ryan is accepting of all types of people and his ability to hold a meaningful and interesting conversation that is not about bikes for longer than 10 minutes – a rare skill at a mountain biking event indeed! I like how he is always himself and is just well…normal!

As an older female rider, I am very grateful for the presence of such strong and reliable men – not just at bikes races, but also within the wider community. In such a male-dominated sport, these men are wonderful advocates for the sport. Thier participation is invaluable as positive role models for other/younger riders and as ambassadors for inclusionary, quality, fun and skilled riding for all.

You know those guys…

Many of us who have been around the Downhill and MTB racing scene for a while have seen the various ways that all manner of men navigate their way into and around the racing circuit.  You are probably familiar with the full range of shit-hot rider characteristics being displayed at various times; bravardo, cocky, arrogant, composed, competitive, conviction, serene, smug and over confident.

I understand race-day jitters and the need to stay focused, but after the event is over – that is when the authentic champions really shine. I’m talking about the riders who go the extra mile like make an effort to chat to new people, stick around to cheer other riders on, takes the time to thank organisers and volunteers. These are the few classy riders who can think outside of themselves and who positively contribute to events and the biking community instead of just taking. In my eyes, these are the real champions.

What makes a true ‘champion rider’?

I agree that riders need a certain element of self-belief in order to ride hard and at their limit – so there is certainly a place for thinking positive and being assertive about your riding. However, there is a definite line between being confident on the bike, and being a wanker about being confident on the bike or just being a wanker who can ride a bike. As I have written about elsewhere, I maintain that the substance of a rider off the bike is just as important (if not more) as his ability to ride fast.

Thankfully, there are riders like Muffin and a handful of others like Jared Graves, Dan McMunn, Troy Brosnan, Kaine Cannon and Chris Pannozo who are truly ‘champion riders’ as they consistently prove through their words and deeds, that they are men of substance – as well as being bloody quick and stylish on a bike.

Best of luck Ryan!

So, for these reasons and more, I am thrilled to see Ryan gaining more national and international exposure for all the time, hard work and passion that he puts into his trial building work and his riding.

If you have the good fortune of meeting or riding with Ryan – have a chat with him and see if I’m at all mistaken …. that’s if you can catch him! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I expect we will be hearing a lot more about Ryan’s successful exploits in the near future.

Best of luck Ryan! Rip their legs off mate!

Follow Muffin on his adventures

Instagram: @rdlr

Facebook: Ryan De La Rue

See more of Muffin’s video adventures on and off the bike here.

Reflections on bicycles from a ‘non-rider’

How can bicycles impact the lives of Non-riders?

Reflections from a Colombian ‘non-rider’.


This guest post is by Diana Vallejo. Diana works at Griffith University as a Client Services Officer. She is originally from Colombia, but she and her husband have been in Australia for a number of years now. I met Diana through work and adore her Latino spunkiness, honesty and vibrant approach to life. I asked Diana to write a blog post about her experience with bicycles after she had described herself very resolutely as ‘NOT a bike rider at all’. I was intrigued. In what way are bicycles represented in the life of a non-rider? Are there ‘invisible’ bicycle connections that non-riders are just not as conscious of, and how far/deep do you have to go before these links are excavated and made ‘visible’. I am always keen to explore a variety of voices and experiences regarding how different people relate to bicycles –and not just bike riders. So I asked her to contribute her thoughts considering her identity ‘as a non-rider’ and challenged her to see how, if at all, bicycles had impacted her life. Following is an excerpt of what she found. – Nina.

Bicycles? I haven’t really thought about them that much…

For me, bicycles are so mundane, so common and simple.

I was not able to see what the great deal is about a mundane bicycle. Until one day I was talking to Nina about how much she loves bicycles and then I found myself very excited just talking about it from some different perspectives.  I would not necessarily have recognised my own connections to bikes (out of sight, out of mind), but during our conversation I was presented with questions like: ‘Well, even though you don’t ride a bike now, you must have some experience with bikes in the past or growing up – what is/was it and how do you feel about them now? How do you remember bikes featuring in your life? How are they being used in your home country?’ I was surprised to be excited about how much I actually had in common with bicycles, despite the fact that I am not at all a ‘cyclist’.

So, to my surprise, I was able to very quickly make three very immediate and reaffirming associations with how bicycles have been linked to me personally, or through my identity – a revelation which surprised me.

  1. My first bike.

Even though I am not crazy about bikes, I can tell you everything about my first bicycle. Funny that! Was it a present from Santa Claus…(or in my case, because of where I come from – a staunchly Catholic community) – was it a Baby Jesus present? Don’t even try to make me explain to you how new born babies bring all the Christmas presents to all those homes! But nonetheless, there was my present – and I remember it vividly.

It is unbelievable how I can still remember every detail of that first bike. I can remember it better that my first doll or my first kiss! It had a green frame and white wheels. It was so beautiful – and fast! I spent some many afternoons on it. I made many friends riding it, and that bike holds for me some of my best memories from my childhood. My first, personal and immediate connection with bicycles.

  1. One bike, one dream, more than one life changed.

But for some other people, this may only be a wish, or even a dream. The second association I can make is through my national identity. I am from Colombia and we have one of the best cyclists in the world, Nairo Quintana. He was raised in a family with economic difficulties where a bicycle was a luxury.  He lived in a small village 16 kilometres from the nearest school. His father saved $30 USD to buy him a used mountain bike. He said once “I treasured it and every time I rode it, I pictured myself racing and winning” – and he did! His best career results are winning the 2014 Giro d’Italia, 2016 Vuelta a España, and 2nd place overall in the Tour de France of 2013 and in 2015. Nairo changed his world thanks to a bicycle. His story and fame gives hope to Colombians and some any others. As an individual he is a national hero, and internationally, he is known and respected. We are proud that cyclists and non-cyclists alike know of his achievements on the humble bicycle.

Nairo Quintana
Source: BBC Onesport
  1. Rough tracks and new beginnings with bicycles for Colombia students

 Postobon partnership Bike Program

On a national level, bicycles are well known in Colombia as being an instrument of social transformation. Another beautiful way Colombians utilise bicycles is through a very well-known bicycle donation program that gets more rural poor children to go to school. This program is via a partnership with Postobon (#1 Soft drink company in Columbia) and World Bicycle Relief – called Mi Bici. I have heard the CEO of Postobon saying that “bicycles are an engine for social transformation, impacting in a positive way”.

This program gives kids bicycles designed especially for the rough Colombian terrain. In some parts of rural Colombia, kids can spend between 45 minutes and two hours travelling to and from school. Sometimes the students cannot afford buses, and the walk can be dangerous and exhausting. Bicycles can reduce most of these trips to about 20 to 30 minutes. But for many of these kids, it is more than just time that is improved by having these bicycles.

More about WBR’s Mi Bici Bike

Why do I believe this is a great program? This is a great program because it is a sustainable program and it allows the kids to have time to rest, exercise, study. This will increase their possibility for a better future. But most importantly for me, this program allows recipients to have more free time to be kids and play!

The Mi Bici Project was WBR’s first foray into Latin America. Just like WBR’s African Buffalo Bicycles, the Latin American bicycles also have a high resistance to environmental forces and tough terrain and a capacity to carry 100 kgs. Also, the seats are ergonomic, frames are reinforced, the wheels are protected, and the breaks are resistant to the weather. This makes the bikes very durable and they are easy to change.

The program also generated jobs for local small businesses and mechanics who are trained to service the bicycles. This has opened up a new employment stream in areas where bikes are distributed, where there is a need for maintenance services and repairs. All this has also been possible thanks to World Bicycle Relief (WBR). WBR were invited to be part of this program because of their experience with similar programs in Africa through their Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Programs (BEEP).

So yes there is no doubt in my mind that bicycles can change the world! Or at least they are for these kids that are receiving them!

This video introduces a girls who has received a Mi Bici Project bike.

Signs in Rotorua NZ

For my last post to wrap up my mountain biking trip to Rotorua NZ, here is a selection of the signs I’ve seen this trip.  These signs added extra humour, interest or general ‘bikiness’ to this last trip which I really appreciated – pretty much every one of them made me smile.


 In order of sighting – here are the signs that made me smile this trip

  1. At Auckland airport I saw this sign high up on a cafe wall – not only was it quintessentially NZ with the the rugby reference, but I also spotted the artist’s signature (bottom left) which was a bicycle, so I knew we were off to a good start and welcomed and understood by our NZ cousins.

Signs in Rotorua


2. On the transit bus from Auckland to Rotorua I saw this on the back of a grey nomad’s van.

Signs in Rotorua, NZ
Source: Dawanda


3. I appreciated this sign as I had not seen it before and I thought it was good way of explaining how traffic (and other road users like road riders) need to converge.

Signs in Rotorua


4. We got into Rotorua and built the bikes for a quick ride in Whakarewarewa Forest. The systems of trails there are so well signed – with all the details you need to know…AND all one way  – bliss!!

Signs in Rotorua


5. I love this sign at the end of Split Enz trail as you come off the logged mountain side and back into the forest – GOLD!

Signs in Rotorua


6. After a great days riding, I’d take Eagle vs Shark as my last trail off the mountain and fly down the road for a feed and a beer at the bottom. Then heading back into town on Sala St there was this sign, which I thought was a great safety reminder to look for cyclists.

Signs in Rotorua


7. One afternoon we cruised into town to visit the bike shops. In the Specialized store there was this display promoting their ‘CycleZone women’s riding month Women on Wheels Photo Competition’.

Signs in Rotorua


8. The we popped into Bike Culture and I saw this hanging on the wall – stoked to see it was the same artist as the first sign from the airport! And another a very pertinent reminder to keep supporting local bike shops as well!

Signs in Rotorua


9. I’ve always said that Rotorua is all over the ‘support MTB as a positive tourist development initiative’ and is a great example for other cities (take notes Brisbane!). Not only is cycling actively supported by local council, small business, infrastructure and the like, but as this empty shopfront at a major intersection in town shows, even vacant windows are used to endorse biking (a little hard to see in these pictures, but you get the idea).

This vacant shop window has been utilised to display massive pictures of local mountain bike trails. Best of all the rider in the picture is female (right) and there are details promoting the Rotorua Bike Festival (left). How easy and effective is it to encourage bike tourism?! Nice one Rotorua!

Signs in Rotorua


10. Although I didn’t focus on it, I did appreciate that at the bottom of the sings for the advanced trails, there was a smaller separate sign that has ‘In an emergency’ details.

These signs were particularly effective (can’t see it fully in this photo) as they very simply gave the emergency number to call (great for overseas visitors – just in case). But also gave the ‘address’ which is the location where the sign is in the forest, so that the ambulance knows exactly where you are.

Again, just another simple, but effective way to make the area so much more easier to use and less stressful. Brilliant!

Signs in Rotorua


11. The bathroom of the mountain bike cafe Zippy has this sign over the communal basin to encourage people to wash their hands – It reads ‘I got worms!! I’ll tell you how I go them, I didn’t wash my hands and how they are in my bottom!” Hilarious!

Signs in Rotorua


12.  On leaving Rotorua to come home, we passed many HOBBITON tourist attractions – so I just couldn’t resist including this one!

Signs in Rotorua

Bicycle Cakes

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing a lot more ‘special’ cakes appearing at festivities lately. I am talking about a very particular kind of cake and I’m wondering if it is just me who is seeing them popping up more regularly.

I should preface this by saying that I am most certainly NOT a cake person. In fact my palate is definitely squarely in the sour/umami camp. Which is why I think I am that one step removed enough to observe the gentle but firm increase in the number of bicycle themed cakes that have magically appeared en masse.

Source: Cycle Web House

The rise of the bike cake

They are certainly not your run-of-the-mill normal cakes. They are hard not to miss given they are often covered in garish-coloured icing and they are clearly decorated with a plethora of bicycle inspired settings and motifs.

I’m pretty sure that cakes and baked goods have always been pretty popular and prevalent.  If there is an actual increase in cakes in general, I think it could have more to do with the upcoming holidays, Christmas and festivities about to take place – and less to do with a sudden unexplainable boom in cyclists needing to express their love of life and two-wheels through the only medium viable in the house at the time their expressive urge takes hold – namely sugar, flour and water. But I could be wrong. Either way, bicycle theme cakes are here to stay.

Whether the bike cake influx is an actual and real phenomenon, or just because I am now more hyperaware of them given that I am seeing them everywhere (similar to the ‘buying a blue car scenario’ – where you are looking to buy a car, and the one you like is say for arguments sake – blue and now as you look around you start seeing blue cars EVERYWHERE – well I think the same thing could be happening here). Either way, it is definitely a ‘thing’.

Bicycle cakes for every occasion

A birthday for a 45-year old man, a wedding cake centrepiece, a kid’s 8th birthday party and a retirement party – all with bicycle cakes. How can this be? It certainly makes for interesting party conversations and throws down the gauntlet to any would-be home-made cake making challenge. I have been impressed with the variety, ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness of some of the bicycle cakes I’ve seen. Whether it is a snapshot of a peloton on a road ride, or a solo MTB ride – many of these cakes transform the humble vanilla sponge or chocolate cake base into towering multi-mountain stage races before your very eyes.

I find many bicycle cakes to be equal parts gaudy, interesting, personal and a little unusual. In my experience, no matter what the cake looks like, it will always be delicious. Bicycle cakes are now branching out from traditionally being the sole realm of kid’s birthdays – as seen recently in the case of retirement, cycling event celebrations and of course wedding cakes……which of course I am no stranger to as my father made my own wedding cake – which was a tower of cupcakes decorated with various aspects drawn from my husband’s and my life – of which bicycles featured prominently of course! Suffice to say the cake was a smash hit and a truly memorable part of the day.  I will always appreciate the effort and thought that has gone into creating an edible vignette of someone’s life and most enduring passion.

Our childhood cakes

I remember as a kid, each year we were allowed to pick a theme or a topic for our birthday cake. Pirate ships, dump trucks, swimming pools, even our family cat – there was nothing my mum could not turn into a creative and visual spectacular that would make Nigella Lawson jealous. Every cake was just as equally delicious to eat as it was amazing to look at. I still marvel at how things like jelly, toasted coconut and licorice straps could be transformed into a giant wave with a surfer on top, a tabby cat’s fur or a swashbuckling marauder’s sword!

Seeing these bike cakes reminds me of happy times with family and friends, of mum’s home cooking and the love and effort that went into making our happiest dreams manifest before our eyes for all to enjoy and devour with delight. Hard to beat and certainly not the same as a store bought cake.

Have you seen, made or had a bike cake?

If you are keen to try your hand, or know someone who can make a bike cake for you and unless you have a favourite (family) cake or ye-olde-faithful cake recipe that has never let you down, or even if you want to mix it up and experiment or try a new flavour or style – then I highly recommend checking out Gretchen’s  Bakery where there are videos how to make your cake. She is a professional baker and on her blog she provides an amazing selection of layer cakes and vegan cakes and also has heaps of inspiring baking ideas and recipes to stimulate your cooking and eating pleasure – no matter what taste, age or event, there will be something on her list you can transform into any cyclists dream dessert.

I’d be very interested to hear if anyone else has been in contact with a bicycle themed cake. Would you/have you had a bicycle themed cake to celebrate a special occasion before? If so what scene would you want depicted on your cake?

Have a look at some of these beauties I’ve seen elsewhere online – a selection of which nearly covers the full cycling code spectrum! Get inspired,  get baking and share the love of bicycle cakes!

Enjoy and happy cake making, sharing and eating!

My cake corner
Source: My cake corner
My Cupcake Addiction by Elise Strachan
Source: My Cupcake Addiction by Elise Strachan
GJs Cakes
Source: GJs Cakes
Source: Dexters
Source: lissascakes
Mountain Bike 21st Birthday Cake - Helen Miller
Source: Mountain Bike 21st Birthday Cake – Helen Miller

The Need for Tweed

Guest blog post by Bear Racy.  

Bear is a cycling enthusiast, intrepid traveller, social commentator, artist and lover of life. In this post, Bear provides an alternative histo-cultural commentary on Tweed themed bike rides.

The Need For Tweed?

Even when done tongue-in-cheek, the popularity of hipsters wearing tweed and riding bikes together smacks of some kind of post-colonial irony. Why do we feel the need, the need for tweed?


On the 5th of November, the Wellington Bay area (NZ) was the latest participant in the growing trend of ‘tweed’ themed bicycle rides. Pitched by Bicycle Junction (NZ) as an event that celebrates the “inherent style and grace of one of the most enduring of humankind’s inventions in the fashion it was intended to be celebrated”, the ‘Need for Tweed’ bicycle ride saw a return to the itchy clothing made from herringbone woven wool known as Tweed.


All about Tweed.

Tweed was popularized by the Edwardian middle class because of its association with the outdoor activities of the leisurely elite. Apart from its grandiose connotations, tweed is a vintage outdoor textile that is moisture resistant and durable – great for cycling, hunting and riding in the cold British weather.

Once considered expensive and highly sought after, tweed signified that you had the time and the money to afford the most cutting edge of textiles, so you could spend your days hunting and riding in the upmost comfort. From this ideal of leisure came the idealization of leisure as a look, which became fashion. Fashion then drove those less well-off to emulate the image, if not the lifestyle, of their tweed slathered betters.

In the 40’s silk jerseys started to replace tweed in cycling and was invented just in time for the blossoming post-war marketing industry to realise that in the world of television advertising, cyclists could make a prominent moving billboard.  The silk jersey was brightly coloured to attract attention to the marketing and to identify the rider within the group. This became particularly useful in televised bicycle races where the spectator was able to easily pinpoint a rider by their jersey. Move forward to the invention of lycra and the colours and marketing have remained. Like tweed, you again have a cutting edge textile used in cycling to promote the comfort of the rider.

Loving Lycra.

At its advent, Lycra symbolised that you were a competitive rider at the pinnacle of your sport -it’s form hugging capabilities leaving no room to hide the sagging beer gut of an amateur, or disguise the gender of the wearer in a sport that at the time was dominated by males.

Wearing lycra meant you were a serious rider. Festooned with the logos of the top cycling brands, lycra began to move out of competitive sport and into fashion.  Like tweed, it became popularised because of it’s association as a textile worn by the elite. And like the tweed wearing Edwardians, this elite was characterised by a group of white males that had the time and the money to indulge seriously in a sport clad in the best textile technology of the time.

As lycra became more commonly available, it started to lose popularity. Perhaps in part because in our modern society, wearing lycra is as naked as you are allowed to be in public, and when worn by a group of middle-aged men, slogging it up a hill, is can be a scary sight to behold.  It could also be due to the common misconception that groups of lycra clad riders will be unaware of, or deliberately flout road rules, thus hindering the traffic rights of the predominant car.

The main reason I believe that lycra is becoming less popular in the community bike ride is because of its association with elitism in cycling. That is to say; it’s not unpopular because it is being worn by elite riders, but that it is being worn by riders that want to be considered elite.

Ride on.

In cycling, there is a distasteful underbelly fuelled by a competitive seriousness that promotes an attitude of exclusivity, where only the fastest riders with the best equipment are encouraged.

Unfortunately, participants are usually upper to middle-class men, and despite the best intentions of the sport, this stereotype seems set to continue with events like the Tour de France, Giro Italy and Tour Down Under, where there is limited focus on the access, inclusion and promotion of women and cyclists from multicultural (non-Western/European) backgrounds.

The costumed ride is the antithesis to this trend, proving you don’t need fancy gear and a jersey full of logos to get on a bike and have fun.

By having a dress-up theme for a ride, organisers can create a sense of fun and silliness, while also providing an atmosphere of cohesion.  Having the option to wear a themed costume creates a more open inclusive dynamic in a group, suggesting that any and all are welcome.

The need for tweed?

So why choose tweed? I can understand that it’s meant to celebrate and idealise the invention of the bicycle and that on the surface it looks pretty darn classy when worn en-mass, but the deeper connotations of tweed and the inherent sexism and exclusivity that come with it, could arguably be also perpetuating some of the worse traits that have dominated cycling culture for the last century.

If you look at the advertising for many of the tweed-themed rides, the repeated depiction is a white guy on a bicycle, while many of the flyers and media for other themed rides are (one would hope) inadvertently exclusive.


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Most of the promotional material and media for tweed rides is independently generated and created in a diverse range of locations globally, demonstrating the insidious nature of exclusivity that is still so predominant in cycling culture. It gives evidence to the inherent sexism that is part of the hipster renaissance around cycling; that promotes a certain stereotype of the ideal rider. It is this stereotype alone that defeats the purpose of the community ride.

Why are groups of community riders trying to separate themselves from a culture of elitist white males on bikes, by celebrating a historical group of elite white males on bikes?

Comfort is key.

Most important when dressing for cycling, is ease of movement and protection from the elements. While wearing a great costume would warrant a certain amount of ill ease, the idea of wearing woollen cycling clothing that when wet, would turn into a personal sauna, (also known as an itchy moist skin sack) is my idea of hell on wheels. So why go back to tweed? Who would actually feel the need for tweed?

I suppose there is a certain amount of irony involved in hosting a bike ride as an inclusive event that celebrates an era of cycling epitomised by a time in human history when a bunch of English dudes owned everything and lived off the backs of the less fortunate.  It could even be that this irony makes the ‘moustache competitions and gender specific costume awards’ a subversive form of protest, but that message is lost on me.

As we experience a culture increasingly being ruled by hipster trends and shifting memes, the irony of the ironic is so muddled, that all anyone can do is ride – and wait for good weather and the next naked bike ride.


The Bicycle – A short film

This is a sweet 7 minute short film by Chris McCoy & Adam Neustadter about the ups and downs of being a bicycle. It was created 2 years ago and has been selected for numbers international film festivals. The main character is The Bicycle  who is personified by the voice of Matthew Waterson and even so often I find myself going back to watch this film because for me, it encapsulates the full range of lived experiences, thrills and spills. I find comfort in the idea that although we may own a bike of whatever the duration tis that we own it, who knows what stories, histories and situations our bicycles are involved in before or after they come into our lives.

I also love the idea that our loved and used bicycles move on to other owners and have new lives and incarnations that we never know about. I think the secret lives of bicycles could be fascinating idea to explore given the rich, unique and interesting stories it would bring up.

I like it also as, for me, this film speaks to the consumeristic nature of our society of buy, use, discard- which has always been challenging for me to engage with – especially in the case of bicycles – a social phenomena of which I have previous created an art bike and  blogged about in the CONS_U_ME BLUES post.

This film will delight and touch any bicycle rider – enjoy the sentiments  – and give your bike a little extra love!

Bihar – Mukhyamantri Cycle Yogina

While reading though some research for my Lit Review, I came across this article: Ghatak, M., Kumar, C., & Mitra, S. (2013). Cash versus kind: Understanding the preferences of the bicycle-programme beneficiaries in Bihar. London, UK: International Growth Centre.

I have previously posted about this program, as it looks like a great initiative, so I was interested to read more about it, but was shocked by a few of the program details and findings that (of course) were not included in this programs’  previous promotions.

Review of the report.

This article is looking at cash transfer schemes and specifically using one case study, the Bihar Mukhyamantri Cycle Yogina (Chief Minister’s Bicycle Programme) a Cash for Kind (Bicycle) program to discuss some of the preferences of the bicycle beneficiancies of this program. It is not analyzing the program as such, although some interesting program results are given which I will expand on, but this paper is looking at to the recipients prefer to get the cash or the bicycle – and why.

Cash for Kind program are where the government disperses cash to recipients, who then use the cash to access a certain ‘kind’ of goods (or service) – usually something that is predetermined and linked as a condition for receiving the cash – in this case the money was to purchase a bicycle for all 9th grade students enrolled in school.

This report is 22 pages, so I am not going to give you all the results and details, but here is a few of the more interesting aspects of the report.

Program Background

The Bihar bike program is a well-known Indian program which provided ALL the 14 year-old girls (9th grade) in the whole state with bicycles. Bihar is one of India’s Eastern States that boarders Nepal and is considered to be one of the most impoverished states in India. The Mukhyamantri Cycle Yogina originally started in 2006 and provided Rs 2,400 for purchasing bicycles but was only for the girls. In 2009-2010 the program was expanded to include all the boys in the state of the same age and for the academic year of 2011-2012 the cash was increased to Rs 2500 per student. In 2012 – 2013, a conditional change was made that only students who maintained a 75% attendance at school were eligible.

So this report is a follow up of this program and was undertaken Sept – Oct 2012 over 36 villages and involved surveying 840 households (as a representative sample of the whole district) of which 958 bike recipients lived (some households had more than one child in the program).

Some of the key results

  • Do the benefits reach the intended beneficiaries – overall, yes.
  • Overall 90% of the beneficiaries reported being happy with this program (no grievances)
  • Issues of corruption – corruption can occur by various actors at various stages, but for this program it was difficult to do and corruption was considered to be very low.

Corruption opportunities:

  •  Ghost beneficiaries
  •  Enrolled in multiple schools – double benefits
  •  Was the accurate amount of $$ received?
  •  Receiving other benefits/services (not a bike)
  • Program administrators skimming a commission by using their own voucher or coupon system
  • Even though there were areas where corruption could occur, not much did with 93.3% reporting having received the correct amount – meaning 56 households received less than they were entitled to.
  • Results show that 98% of those who received the cash/voucher used it as required to purchase a new bicycle – over the course of a whole state – that is a pretty amazing result.
  • 45% said they would prefer cash instead of a bicycle

Rest of the report – some scary details

The rest of the report discusses the determinates of why certain households choose a preference between cash and kind (bicycle) – for example the quality of the bike was mentioned as one of the determinants for choosing cash or bike.

In the discussion, the report indicates a few interesting and very disturbing features of this program.

  • For example, one of the supply side conditions, and the way the program was set up, was that the beneficiaries were provided with cash (provided by the state, but distributed by the teachers at school), then they went out and purchased a bicycle with that cash and brought back the receipt as evidence of a bike purchase. Interestingly, this was not how the full program was implemented. Some districts deviated from this system and 30% of the beneficiaries were required to submit a receipt BEFORE they received the cash for the bike.

This meant 3 things: 1. People had to either purchase the bike with their own money, or 2. Get a fake receipt and 3. This would put extra financial strain on the poorest of the poor, of which this program was trying to help, but forcing into a compromised situation.

  • There were huge delays of payment to the recipients of up to 6-months.
  • Most troubling is, that the program provided an inadequate amount of money to purchase a bike in the first place – 98% of beneficiaries had to add money a significant amount of money to the program cash to buy a bike – on average Rs 979.
  • The market price for the three CHEAPEST bike brands in the area Atals, Avon and Hero (of which about 80% of the beneficiaries selected) range in price of Rs 3100 – 3300, but the government supplied only Rs 2500 – meaning that pretty much all of the recipients had to make up the difference themselves. For the richer households this comes out of savings, for the poorer families – this puts them further into debt, with 25% of all the recipients having to BORROW money to buy a bike – thus indebting them into poverty even further.

And this report states that 90% of the recipients were happy with the program!!??

Don’t get me wrong, the program is ambitious on many levels and you cannot get everything right – and the premise of supplying a new bike to increase school access is something I am very supportive of. However, ethically I have a major problem with programs whose conditionality has a direct and immediate negative consequence for the recipients when program organisers tout the program a success.

Such an error is easily rectifiable with A) doing the right homework to find out how much money is actually needed to buy a bike before implementation and B) increasing the government’s allocation to all beneficiaries if the program is already in effect.

Loan sharks anyone?

The report acknowledges that there is a ‘trade-off between universality and corruption’ meaning that beneficiary needs need to be balanced with the level of leakage and corruption. But given the opening stats  on the low corruption level for this program (98% of recipients got the right amount of cash = no corruption), it is hardly justifiable to decrease the reimbursement amount so much that being involved in the program diminishes the possible benefits to such a point where the needs of the beneficiaries are negatively compounded now three fold from having borrowed money to be in the program. Loan sharks anyone?

As a community development practitioner, I find these kind of programs disturbing, as many of them look good in the NGO reports and social media, but by digging a little deeper there are some interesting lessons to be learnt for future review, modifications and application.

I appreciate that this program is on a massive scale and is one of the first of its kind in the world, but critical features such as supplying the correct amount are basic provisions that should have been addressed before implementation.

I would be very interested to hear the rational given for this cash transfer amount for this program.


Brazil: Bicycles create opportunities for Brazilians

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger


Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, and it is also the place of massive cities such as Rio de Janeiro, which has 12,700,000 inhabitants, and Sao Paulo, with 21, 000,000 people. This expansive and sexy and country is well known for its colourful and warm culture, as well as for its social issues and unequal distribution of wealth. This post will look at some of the different perceptions that bicycles have in Brazil.

Bicycles are for the poor

According to The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) (2014), 40% of those who use bicycles as a means of transportation in Brazil have family incomes of up to R $ 1,200. These are the Brazilians that are more affected by high taxation, which hinders access to a product that has higher quality and a more equitable value, therefore favouring migration to other means of transport, especially motor vehicles.

This taxation could be up to 72% per bicycle – which is manufactured in Brazil. That said, the price of bicycles in Brazil is a real limitation when it comes to providing transportation access to those who really need it. Regardless of the decreasing number of people living in extreme poverty in Brazil, which has at 64% in 2001 and fell from 13.6% to then 4.9% by 2013, according to data released this week by the World Bank. Granting the means of transport within such crowded cities is a must.



Today Brazil is the 3rd largest producer of bicycles in the world, after China and India. It is the 5th largest consumer of bicycles in the world, representing a share of 4.4% of the international market.

However, the per capita consumption of bicycles, fell to the 22th place, which highlights an emerging market with great growth potential. If the prohibitive tax is eliminated by 2016, the increase in sales could promote the economy, give more employments opportunities and the government could collect more money from other existing taxes.


Democratising the use of bicycles.

The City Hall of Salvador worked together with Itau Bank to provide 20 bike stations, where citizens can get a bicycle to ride for free within the city. The citizens just need to call or register their trip with an app on their mobile phones. This kind of initiatives is democratising and encouraging the use of bicycles to go to work or to go shopping. Nowadays, there are even more bike taxis on the roads, which are creating even more jobs.

To conclude, bicycles have the opportunity to make a significant difference if there is enough willingness from the Brazilian government to facilitate this means of transport that could help to break the inequality and will create more equitable opportunities for all.


Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.