There are no statistics backing it up, but cycling is undoubtedly the fastest growing sports activity in Slovenia. Every spring there appear more Slovenians on the road riding a bike.
This fact is supported by increasing bike sales and the arrival of new bike shops in the last five years. In Slovenia more bikes are sold per capita than in any other European country. Because people are starting to ride a bike in Slovenia, they all need a new bike. Many Slovenians don’t have a bike yet where as in cycling country the Netherlands much less bikes per capita are sold because there are already more bikes than inhabitants.
Slowly Slovenia is becoming a cycling country. But for the moment most Slovenians aren’t buying bikes to ride to work. For the short commuting distances most still prefer the car. Strangely enough, a growing number of people start to ride a bike in weekends for fun over distances which exceed their daily commute several times.
Why is cycling more popular as a sports activity than as a way of transport?
In the Netherlands cycling is extremely popular as a means of transport. People ride the bike to work, to school, to shops, to a visit. Riding a bike just for fun is much less popular. In Slovenia it’s the other way around.
Slovenia has a lot of mountains. It’s not easy to get to work by bike if you have a big climb to conquer on the way. No one likes to arrive at work sweaty.
The bike infrastructure is not very encouraging for riding a bike. Many busy roads leading to the city lack cycling paths. Cycling paths in the city are poor. See more about that here. Slovenia and the bike unfriendly bike path
Many people feel cycling as something that is not safe. Especially in and near cities. More about safety you can read here: Safety is a feeling
But wasn’t cycling becoming more popular? Yes, because….
…Slovenia is a beautiful country to discover by bike and in the countryside there are many small roads with little traffic. Despite being one of the most mountainous countries in Europe there are many routes which are suited for riders of any level.
Slovenians love the outdoors and love to be active. People don’t replace an activity with cycling but just add it.
Hiking and running are still the most popular sport activities in Slovenia. For example, the Ljubljana Marathon attracts every year over 20.000 runners.
Slovenia’s largest bike event, Maraton Franja, attracts yearly 7000 cyclists. Maraton Franja, this year part of Cycling Festival Europe, is an important stimulator of cycling. With the Family Marathon the event already enthuses children for cycling.
Despite being an individual sport, new cyclists in Slovenia seek companionship. New groups and clubs are being formed with people who are new to cycling.
Slovenske Specialkarke is a brand new club with women who ride race bikes. The club started with a women’s ride four years ago and evolved this year into an official club. The club’s aim is to get as many women as possible on a race bike. There are regular rides which are accessible for women of all levels.
The growth of cycling in Slovenia goes all the way up to the professional ranks. For a country of just 2 million inhabitants Slovenia has a lot of professional cyclists who compete on the highest level. In 1986 Primoz Cerin was the first Slovenian who rode the Tour de France. This Tour de France there will be four Slovenians at the start. Slovenian racers are winning races at the highest level. Top level sport can’t exist without a broad recreational base.