You know those part-time cycling fans: The ones who pop their heads out in the dead sporting months of summer—when basketball, football and hockey are all on hiatus—to catch a glimpse of the frantic sprints and excruciating climbs of the Tour de France. Heck, you might even be one.
They talk the talk and might even cycle the cycle for the 23 days of the Tour. But a nanosecond after the peloton circles the Arc de Triomphe, these fair weather cycling fans toss their helmets in the closet and return to watching Friends reruns until the start of football season.
To these fans, the Tour de France is similar to the Oscars: a must-see event despite the fact that the only movie they managed to catch was The Avengers. With hundreds of millions of people watching the Oscars, only a small portion saw Birdman on the big screen.
You can say the same for the Tour.
Of the 3 billion spectators, a mere fraction could tell you which team Andrew Talansky rides for or the system used to calculate the green jersey champion. This means millions will abandon the sport until the peloton returns to France next July. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Here are six steps you can take to become a year-round cycling fan. But, we must warn you: Your Froome fandom might eat into your sitcom-watching time.
Step 1: Watch More Cycling1 of 7
Contrary to the popular notion held by part-time cycling fans, the cycling season does not begin and end with the Tour de France.
In August and September, NBC Sports will telecast the USA Pro Challenge and UCI Road World Championships, respectively. Also, the third Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana—a 21 stage Tour across Spain—begins Aug. 22, and NBC will telecast the final stage Sept. 13.
In the year's final months, the racing calendar includes a litany of professional cycling tours, single-day events (also called classics) and time trials. The problem is, there are few ways for American audiences to enjoy these races on TV. And, unfortunately, we can't recommend using any "free live streams"—unless, of course, you like Malware on your laptop, which brings us to our next step.
Step 2: Travel to See a Stage Live2 of 7
Is there a better reason to take a road trip to the Beehive State than to catch a stage of the upcoming Tour of Utah? Of course not! You might even swing over to Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park while you're in the neighborhood.
There's no better way to experience professional cycling than to see it up close and personal. Feel the energy of the peloton whizzing by you at 27 mph, run beside cyclists as they struggle up steep climbs and, most importantly, meet like-minded, or not-like-minded-and-utterly-insane, cycling fans who are sure to make any trip a memorable experience.
Step 3: Keep Riding3 of 7
The Tour represents a New Year's resolution of sorts for would-be cyclists. The Tour inspires them to dust off their helmets and KOM jerseys and take their Schwinns for a spin around the neighborhood. But once the Tour finishes and we enter the dog days of summer, fewer people take to the road on two wheels.
Year-round cycling fans must remain persistent. As the summer months produce sweltering temperatures, purchase a headlight and ride in the cooler night temperatures. In the winter, buy thermal wear or a trainer for indoor riding. Few excuses exist to keep you from pedaling year-round.
Step 4: Read Great Cycling Literature4 of 7
Cycling has long been a muse for outstanding writers. Ernest Hemingway composed beautiful prose of six-day Parisian races in his memoir A Moveable Feast, and science fiction writer H.G. Wells covered the topic with much enthusiasm in Wheels of Chance.
But for the serious cycling bookworm, check out Bad to the Bone by James Waddington or Wide Eyed and Legless by Jeff Connor. The former gives a fictional and surreal account of doping in the '90s that still rings eerily relevant today, while Wide Eyed and Legless documents the ANC-Halford team at the 1987 Tour de France. Both deliver compelling stories and great insight into the sport of cycling.
Or if you're feeling adventurous and spontaneous, visit the cycling section of any Half-Price Books, and you're sure to find something worth a read.
Step 5: Watch Documentaries5 of 7
Searching for cycling documentaries on Netflix will make one fact abundantly clear: the sport of cycling will never break free of its tainted history with performance-enhancing drugs. While many cycling documentaries focus on doping and the sport's negative aspects, they are still entertaining and provide a wonderful history lesson to cycling fans.
If you're going to take a weekend and binge on cycling documentaries, we recommend beginning your epic session with Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist, a heavy 90 minutes about the rise and fall of Tour de France winner Marco Pantani. After familiarizing yourself with the dark side of the sport – every cycling documentary at least brushes on the topic of doping – finish off your sesh with Clean Spirit, a documentary about a cycling team hell-bent on eradicating doping in the sport.
Step 6: Brush Up On Your Cycling Lingo6 of 7
If you want to be a year-round cycling fan, conversing with fellow cycling enthusiasts is a must. But don't fret; it's not as if you're learning an entirely new language. Just make sure you know all of your bike parts, from the fork to the rear derailleur, and understand the difference between the peloton and the autobus.
Don't be afraid to drop a "granny gear" or "monocoque" on your cycling buddies during your next ride. That's how you make an impression.