Does the TDU get more bums on bikes?


Eithne Johnston rides her bike – but questions whether or not South Australia’s Tour Down Under gets more everyday folk riding. 

The Tour Down Under has become a staple of Adelaide’s summer social calendar, and there is nothing better than seeing the village set-up, the tourists arriving, and the locals, cyclists and non-cyclists, coming together to celebrate a great event.

There is no doubt about it: the TDU is great for South Australia.  It highlights the state on TV screens across the world, it brings money, tourists and an atmosphere to rival Mad-March.

But does the TDU encourage people to ride bikes?

As a casual bike rider and tennis player, I compare the TDU to the Australian Open.  Does watching the Australian Open make me want to get out there and play tennis? Sure!  Does watching the TDU do the same for my bike?  Not really.

I just can’t relate to the TDU’s professional riders.  I don’t wear lycra – mainly because I don’t own any and I don’t see the need, but it is disappointing there is an anti-lycra sentiment in South Australia that stretches into the cycling community itself.  Realistically, a lot of cyclists wear both, and in Adelaide especially, all cyclists, regardless of attire, share a common goal… better bicycle infrastructure.

Personally, I really want to like the TDU for the competitive as well as the social benefits, and I do… but it takes effort.  Aside from the attire, I can’t relate to those super fit guys doing the seemingly impossible.  They’re so confident, they don’t care how busy the road they ride on is, or whether there is a wide, well-defined bike lane.  They often ride in big groups, experiencing the safety and confidence that that brings and they are, of course, far more confident on a bicycle than I will ever be.

Do they really care about better bicycle infrastructure?  Do they care about the sustainability and money saving benefits a cycling commute brings?  Do they care about getting more bums on bikes?

So, why am I motivated by elite tennis players and not by professional cyclists?

People play tennis for similar reasons, but people cycle for so many different reasons I probably can’t even begin to list them.

Cycling can be a profession or a lifestyle, and yes, for some it is both.  But it’s these varying motivations that I believe create the distinction between the lycra brigade and other cyclists; between riding competitively and casually commuting; between being inspired by the riders in the TDU and being indifferent.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below. 


EithneAbout the Author

Eithne Johnston is a Marketing and Communications Volunteer at Bicycle. She’s a university student works part time in the media industry, which means early starts! She loves the sustainability and well-being benefits that her long, early morning commute along the Outer Harbour Greenway brings.  She’s been lucky enough to ride a bike in numerous countries around the world but still loves coming back to Adelaide to watch its progression as a city of the future.

9 Comments. Leave new

Good article to get the talk started, I suspect the answer is the TDU inspires sporting (recreational) replication but does little for the more important area, commuter cycling. The weekend warrior numbers are probably well up anecdotally, which is a good thing, but commuter cycling has grown much more slowly and is pretty low across the Adelaide metro area. Former Premier Rann talked up the impact of the TDU as he would but it was never substantiated with actual evidence, I know, I looked into this matter a few years ago, more hype (or smoke and mirrors) than reality. Proper research would tell us more about motives to take (or re-take) up cycling and also to continue with it, this includes role of TDU and other cycling events, and also, the obstacles.

Trevor Butler
January 23, 2015 8:09 am

disagree……. I am both a lycra clad and working clothes clad cyclist, road and MTB and in either form I find both the TDU and le tour de france motivates me to spend a bit more time on the bike, and I reckon the same can be said for a whole heap of others as there always seems to be more cyclists around during these events.


I live in Victor Harbor and always avoid the TDU. Another big TDU pile-up on commercial TV News tonight, I had to avert my eyes. Seeing such nasty pile-ups will keep some bums off bicycle seats and maybe attract some.

Thanks for posing the TDU question Eithne ~ the Victor Harbor community is quite divided on the issue of the benefits versus the disruptions it causes and whether the claimed benefits are accurate. Cheers Don

Stephen Janes
January 23, 2015 6:08 pm

Totally agree, an elite cycling event bears little relationship to the daily commuter or utility cyclists, may even cause more angst with the pampered Adelaide motorists. Ensuring that the general population is aware of infrastructure improvements, even the little improvements, and the current Love to Ride promotion are more likely to get bums on bikes.


I see the elite bike riders as the inspirers for other cyclists, showing just how far and fast it is possible to ride, making us ordinary transport riders reconsider the distance to the shops…maybe it isn’t that far. A number of the riders have lent their profile/shoulder to efforts to make day to day cycling better, eg the one metre matters campaign. I also feel the coverage on TV makes drivers more aware of riders, so perhaps (I hope) more willing to share the road. Over all I feel the TDU is beneficial


It is also a great form of transport, it’s exercise which keeps you healthy, fit, collecting vitamin D, great for the lungs, you sweat, burn off all that fat,and it’s more fun than driving a tin box !!!


I think that events like the BUPA Challenge Tour have a much bigger impact in getting people to ride; anyone can participate, and there are distances suitable to all fitness levels and to all levels of lycra-ownership.

Events like this get people cycling, and the hype of the TDU gets people involved, where they might not be aware of the more casual events such as the BikeSA Grand Slam series.

So the professionals raise the profile of the community ride, which is what gets bums in saddles.


The Challenge tour inspired my wife and I to take up cycling again in our late 50s


I estimate that watching the tour down under since inception has inspired me and would be a 40% factor in my decision to start riding after a 20 year hiatus. The other 60% was the opportunity to ‘Cycle for Culture’ a work-placed initiative to learn more about the Kaurna people on our doorstep in 2013.


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