Fulminating against helmets makes you sound like one of those lycra-encased twunts who blow red lights and scare the shit out of people on shared walkways by blasting by blasting past at 40 km/h
Serious roadies more or less always wear helmets, except for the few who make a point of wearing cycling caps. But most of the extremely vocal advocates for bare-headed cycling I know are the 'everyday cyclist' types who are more likely to be riding something with panniers than a carbon fibre race beast.
Buying a helmet is a small part of the cost of buying a bike. It is not a deterrent, nor, really, the "messy hair" factor.
Actually, I think the main deterrant is the inconvenience factor: it's another thing to look after/lock up. Lugging a helmet around when you're off the bike is a pain; but they're hard to lock up securely and leave with the bike. Like lights, they're something that you need but are annoyingly vulnerable to theft.
Regardless, I agree that the helmet debate is mostly a red herring. Provision of decent cycling infrastructure - in the sense of physically separated bike paths that actually go sensible places and form a usable network - is the key step.
I personally don't really get on with panniers. Instead, I have a saddlebag on my commuter bike - it hangs just behind the saddle and holds about 8ltr of stuff, which is plenty big enough for raincoat and work clothes. Plus, it makes the bike look like an old school English tourer - I've had several other riders comment approvingly on it. Carradice saddlebags, handmade in Lancashire.
Riding sportingly, I'll dress sportingly - i.e your standard lycra shorts and a bike jersey (in either lycra or merino - I can recommend Soigneur for locally-made merino jerseys that look very smart).
Riding short distances - anything under about 5k, basically lunchtime errands or trips between offices - I'll just wear whatever. My errand bike has flat pedals (DMR V8s - with a pair of rubber-soled shoes they're astonishingly grippy) so it's all good even in normal shoes.
My commute is about 20k and includes a rather large hill, so I tend to treat it as a sporting ride and go hard, typically in the lycra/merino combination as stated.
As regards cycle-specific clothing, my number one pick would be a good rain jacket. Yes, you can ride in a normal raincoat; but anything cut normally will tend to bunch up at the top of your thighs when you're cycling, which is pretty uncomfortable. Cycling jackets are cut high at the front to avoid this. Plus, y'know, bright orange.
And if you've not tried bib shorts yet, you really should. I no longer own a pair of non-bib shorts. Everything stays exactly where you left it, there's no chafing and no tight waistband. Brilliant.
As a Kiwi who lived in Japan I must confess to being unable to uncover any rugby whilst there
Actually, the only time I have ever been to a rugby match was in Japan (mind you, that was back in the 90s). It seems to be played at some universities - much in the same way that, say, rowing isn't a huge sport in the UK but some universities field excellent teams.
Relevant to the original cycling tip, here's an excellent article from a forensic pathologist - and keen cyclist - in Christchurch:
No amount of gaudy apparel will remedy the failure of drivers to perceive the presence of cyclists, but increasing numbers of participating cyclists, sufficient to make them an ever-present and expected part of road activity, will very likely do so. The marked increase in the prevalence of cyclists on Christchurch roads in the last five years is very encouraging to me because this will increase car driver perception of us all.
The research that he references in the second paragraph is best demonstrated by the following video (a classic in the study of visual awareness):
In the 10 or so years I’ve been doing it, I reckon I’ve had definitely malicious behaviour – dodgy driving, shouting, thrown things, what have you – about once a year on average.
This dovetails with my experience, both cycling here and the UK.
Also highly visible would be a high wattage flashing moving light on the helmet.
Not the helmet, but in winter I ride with one of these running on my front wheel: http://store.monkeylectric.com/ - it's as disco as hell, but it's pretty visible.
Yup, time is my greatest barrier.
For me, time is one of the reasons to cycle to work.
I'm in Wellington. I used to live in Newlands and work in the CBD (10k trip, and I live on a big hill). Driving in peak traffic took about half an hour and cost ludicrous amounts for parking. Taking the bus took anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes, depending on traffic, plus waiting time at the bus stop, for about $8 per day. Cycling took 25 minutes in, 3 minutes to lock up, or 40 minutes home (that hill). So cycling was, for me, faster and cheaper.
Right now, I live in Johnsonville and work in Miramar (20k trip, still living on a big hill). It's a 50 minute ride in and just over an hour home (hill!). Which sounds like a lot, except that the alternatives aren't much better. In rush hour traffic, it can easily take over 45 minutes each way to drive. Taking the bus requires at least one change of bus, and I've never managed it in less than 80 minutes. It does make sense to drive if I know I'll be working late past rush hour, but otherwise I'm going to be spending about the same amount of time either way - and again, riding is more fun, cheaper, and good exercise.
As the distance gets longer, the math starts to get dodgier; but in rush hour traffic, for anything up to around 10k, the bike's a clear winner in my view.
Drawing your sample from people who ride in the Taupo Challenge means excluding even most regular cyclists.
Just realised that I took part in that survey. Ha!
Worth pointing out that 1/5 of the survey respondents did the relay, rather than the full ride (see fig 2 of the full report Russell links above). The relay has four legs, so these riders would have ridden either 40 or 80k, rather than the full whack. Yes, these are a minority of the survey sample, but it does mean that not everyone responding was a shaven-legged whippet. I've done Taupo a few times since and I can confirm that there are a large contingent of "average" bike riders who do it as well, particularly in the relay sections.
As a cyclist, I stick to the road code, unless immediate safety needs dictate otherwise, because then other road users have a much better chance of predicting what I will do.
Agreed, and that's how I ride. It's worth taking five minutes of your day and having a re-read of the Road Code for Cyclists; it's well-written, easy to understand, and actually pretty sensible.
That said, there's a few minor tweaks that I think we could make to the road code as relates to cycling. Specifically, I'd like to see the following implemented here.
Idaho stop laws- allowing cyclists to treat "Stop" signs as "Give Way" signs. That is, allowing riders to roll through a stop sign rather than having to come to a complete stop. On a bike, you're usually going slowly enough that you can get a clear view of the intersection and make a judgement on how safe it is to proceed, without having to come to a dead stop. So called because this has been legal in Idaho since 1982 with no obvious ill effects. See BikePortlands FAQ on this.
Allowing left turns on red for bicycles. Basically, making it so that a red light acts as a stop sign for left-turning cycles - you have to come to a complete stop, check that it's definitely clear, then you can make the turn. A similar rule operates for cars across most of the US, with few ill effects. Wikipedia page.