Past proceedings from the Australian Cycling Conference suggest that, at least locally, much of the research discussed there examines issues relating to uptake, infrastructure, sustainability, commuting, tourism and risk factors. When I sat down to write a paper proposal for the 2013 conference, there were two things I wanted to contribute from my own work. One was ideas about how we can look toward the actual experience of cycling to discover more about the sport and the theory often used to discuss it. Given there is so much writing on the web from cyclists, about the diverse experiences had through the sport, the second thing I wanted to discuss was how we might be able to consider writing such as this as part of a broader academic method. The full abstract for the paper is below.
The conference takes place in Adelaide, during the Tour Down Under, from 21-22 January. If you’re interested in finding out more about the topics to be covered there, have a look at the program on the website. Research from the conference will be published after the event.
As participation in cycling grows, so does the amount of research on the sport. But this writing often falls short of accurately conveying the experience of cycling – what it feels like to pedal along on two wheels, and how these experiences are understood through a complex interaction of sophisticated sensory pathways.
One place that is rife with detailed accounts of riding is the blogosphere. Online communities of mountain bikers (as an example of one particular cycling culture) provide countless, reflective, first person reports of riding. These reveal the myriad experiences had while racing, travelling and preparing for the next event. Although heavily coded with insider terminology, these accounts provide rich descriptions of what anthropologist, Michael Jackson, would call the rider’s ‘lifeworld’.
This paper discusses some of the opportunities these data provide for theoretical arguments about sport and performance. By considering the experience of riding in all its lived complexity, we can then build upon ideas about embodied action and awareness to reflect upon a wide range of other circumstances, projects and events.