Gear freaks / The cyclist

Also known as: ruff stuffer (mountain bike cyclist), roadie (competitive cyclist), tourer (recreational cyclist), commuter (cyclist who cycles to work), cycle courier (cyclist who cycles for work).

Favourite locations: Camberley, Epping Forest and other small green belt areas on the outskirts of London; the Alps; Oxford or Cambridge; hanging around the reception desk of media companies; sitting on the floor of the goods van on British Rail trains; canvassing the "Bicycling Baronet", Sir George Young, Secretary of State for Transport; where nobody else is (mountain biker).

Numbers nationally: 20 million people own bikes; 6 million people are regular users and 1.1 million people cycle to work each day.

Magazines: Cycling and Mountain Biking Today, Mountain Biker International, Mountain Biking UK, Cycling Plus, London Cyclist (magazine of the London Cycling Campaign), Moving Target (fanzine for cycle couriers), the Folder (available to members of the Folding Society, the representative organisation for owners of folding bikes).

Hazards: dangerous driving (172 cyclists were killed in this country last year and it is not only other vehicles that present a hazard. Mark Welsh, a 26-year-old television researcher, recently died following a head-on collision with a roller blader in Hyde Park); punctures; verbal and physical abuse from other road users; rain; exhaust fumes; saddle sores; oil stains; unseemly references to lunch boxes (verbal harassment is a problem for both female and male cyclists, particularly if asking for directions in a pub while wearing black Lycra shorts); being chased by dogs.

The kit: changing gear used to mean shifting between three speeds that were attached to the two wheels and frame, but now with more new bikes being sold than new cars (over 2 million bicycles were sold in the UK last year, and big wheel-dealers Trek USA have annual sales estimated at $250m), the Gore-Tex and Lycra you wear on your wheels are as important as the 24-speed, titanium-framed wheels themselves. Cycling credibility no longer hinges on bike-clips and strong calf muscles. If you want to turn heads at the traffic lights be sure to have Oakley shades, Shimano tooth profiles, Grip Shift's shifters, Judy's forks and jackets with the pocket in the rear.

The gear: Trek USA reinforced Lycra cycling shorts with anti-bacterial insert, pounds 24.95; Jack Wolfskin Warm'n' up shirt, pounds 19.99; Polaris Stratum waterproof breathable cycling jacket with fully articulated elbows, Scotchlite high-visibility seams, velcro cuffs and stormflap, pounds 19.99; Croakie ear- band, pounds 14.99; Cannondale Kevlar high-abrasion resistant socks, pounds 15; Shimano M10 cycling shoes with Velcro straps, pounds 69.95; Trek USA Criterium gloves with shock-absorbing padded palm, pounds l4.95.

Accessories: Marin Palisades bike with Shimano STX Drivetrain, 15-gauge spokes, Rock Star Sealed Hubs and Quake Tire, pounds 525; Giro Ventoux helmets, pounds 95; Oakley M-frame splatter hand-painted Mumbo sunglasses, pounds 120; Resprocity anti-pollution mask with activated carbon filter and exhaust valve, pounds 19.99; Respro Hi Viz reflective waistcoat, pounds 19.99; Trek Vision 15 Halogen front and rear light set, pounds 22.99; Blackburn Mini Pump with rapid- fold double action, pounds 18.99; Abus granite Futura D-lock, pounds 59.99; Tiptop puncture repair kit, pounds 1.50.

Optional extras: Freedom Commuter Zip Together Panniers, pounds 69.99; K9 Cruiser dog lead bike attachment, pounds 20; Chain Check travel oil-free chain cover, pounds 15.

Ultimate gadget: Polar heart rate monitor, pounds 169.95. Worn on the wrist and resembling a digital watch, this provides cycling fitness enthusiasts with a continuous digital pulse rate reading and the facility to pinpoint optimum heart-rate training levels. For an extra pounds 250, a Polar Interface Package will off-load the recorded heart-rate information on to a compatible PC, where it can be displayed graphically for further analysis.

Bare essentials: any bike from the Trek 700 series (from pounds 220); bike- clips, pounds 2; Tiptop puncture repair kit, pounds 1.50.

Ultimate experience: cycling down sheer drops (mountain biker); leaning into a corner at high speed; cycling past stationary cars stuck in a traffic jam; freewheeling on pounds 3,000-worth of titanium-framed Merlin Extralight.

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