The Future of Cycling: Challenges and Possibilities symposium

On 1-2 October, a diverse collection of academics, industry, government, athletes and recreational riders will get together in Cambridge, New Zealand to talk about cycling. The Future of Cycling: Challenges and Possibilities symposium, hosted by the University of Waikato, will be held at the Avantidrome, New Zealand’s Home of Cycling. I describe this place to people on the Western Island as like the Australian Institute of Sport, but just for cyclists.

I’ve always found cycling to be a great leveler. Having gotten into the sport at 16, I’ve met so many people who work in broad-reaching professional roles. The thing is, I never would have had such interesting conversations with these people, spanning all number of topics, if we didn’t have bikes in common. I fancy the symposium will feel a bit like that too, with an ease of conversation stemming from experiences, and a lifestyle, that so many of the participants enjoy.

I’ll be speaking on a wrap-up panel at the end of the 2-day event, but am looking forward to hearing from others just as much. An abstract for my academic paper is below. This one draws on recent research and fieldwork undertaken with the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University, Sydney.

When skills on the bike become skills for life

A lot of research into sport at the elite level focuses on how to improve or maintain high levels of performance. We talk about athletes gaining ‘experience’ but we struggle to describe what this is in concrete, transferable ways. As a consequence, our ability to talk about how expertise in cycling transfers to careers and life after competition is also limited.
This paper investigates the ways embodied and cognitive skills developed through cycling assist with performance in challenging or unfamiliar tasks off the bike. My analysis draws on expertise developed through over ten years of racing and training in cross-country mountain biking, alongside a16-month fieldwork period learning the static trapeze. Phenomenological and autoethnographic observations from the bar are placed alongside arguments from cognitive science about attention and awareness in novices and experts. This reveals unique insights about the impact and experience of strategic thinking, focus, emotion regulation and embodied coping in high-pressure, high-risk scenarios. These findings encourage new ways of conceptualising training and race experiences, and demonstrate the benefits of interdisciplinary approaches to research on embodied action and skill acquisition. In addition, they reveal valuable areas of skill transfer that come from participation in sport at an elite or high-amateur level and how these have potential to translate to other areas of work, study and life off the bike.

Woo bikes-4
My surfing, Cultural Studies alter ego, Rebecca Olive, takes to the nearby Rotorua trails (and conference fliers). Kath Bicknell.