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How about forging deals and picking up contacts while cycling instead of playing golf? Cycling Plus editor Rob Spedding swapped his carbon clubs for a carbon bike – and it looks like others are doing the same...

OFF THE RADAR: Is cycling the new golf?

Fore…is cycling really the new golf? Well, I’ve got my plus-fours…

I hate playing golf. For a few years in my late 20s I tried to get into golf. I bought some clubs and spent Sunday mornings bad-temperedly hitting balls into streams, dense undergrowth and generally spoiling many a good walk.

I started playing because my friends played – they were all far, far better than me – and from what they told me it was a great way to ‘network’. Yeah, well if anyone wanted to ‘network’ with the apoplectic madman routinely breaking his clubs I didn’t meet them. And I guess I wasn’t alone, for the past few years a number of people have been proclaiming that cycling, and road cycling in particular, is the new golf.

According to a recent report in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, the phrase was coined by a Melbourne investment banker called Craig Bingham who noted that affluent middle-aged men were using cycling in the same way that they’d previously used 18-holes – to have fun, keep fit and make business contacts.

Someone who seems to agree is Sven Thiele, the man behind the classy pro-am London Paris Cycle Tour. “I know of one corporate cyclist who did his biggest deal on one of our rides –$10 million worth of business,” claimed Thiele. “Business people started getting back on their bikes for fitness, but they’ve soon realised that it’s good for the health of their business too.” I rode Thiele’s event last year and it’s hard not to agree. As a humble magazine editor I felt a bit of a fraud mixing with the mainly affluent, successful middle-aged men riding their Litespeeds, Scott Addict LTDs and Trek Madones. Lawyers chatted away with surgeons who sucked on the wheels of company directors. I don’t doubt that a few deals were forged and useful contacts made during the three-day 600km ride. I’d imagine that a couple of rounds of golf were arranged too.

Another man you’d probably imagine would be happiest on an Essex golf course is Sir Alan Sugar, but a recent Money Programmeon BBC2 showed The Apprentice star and former-Amstrad boss on a road bike in the Spanish hills.

If cycling really is the new golf, I think it’s great for the cycling industry – even in these tough times business folk need to network, need to unwind and, more importantly, need to spend money. It’s also really good news for me personally as I no longer have to drag myself around the local links.

My mates, too, are hitting the road so we can now spend time together while riding. And, the best bit? Now I’m showing them how to play…

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