The proceedings from the Australian Cycling Conference, “Everybody’s Cycling?” have now been published online. Even if you’re not into the academic side of things, I’d encourage you to take a look. There are so many interesting projects happening in the cycling world and it’s worth flicking through to get a sense of how broad these are: cycling for people with disabilities, transport and town planning innovations, uptake issues among women riders, the list goes on. The study that surprised me the most was one that examined the reasons cyclists cite for breaking the road rules – a choice that is often made when it feels safer than an obvious alternative.
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, traveling 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.
This paper won the prize for Best Academic Paper at the conference in January 2013.