Kath Bicknell

A lot of the work you see on this website comes from the world of cycling. What many people don’t realise is that the background to my professional work in the cycling and media industries comes from spending most of my life studying theatre and performance.

Earlier this year I joined Dr Robin Dixon and Dr Chris Hay in the Department of Performance Practices at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). This department does the ‘theory stuff’: Performance history and analysis, unpacking scripts against their original cultural and historical moment, looking at how big ideas from those time periods come through in the art that was being created alongside them, critical thinking and theoretical tools for describing work that’s happening right now. Read More

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Working in cycling media offers the chance to get stuck in to many different types of writing. Feature articles and interviews, opinion pieces, how-tos, news, product tests…

One thing I really enjoy about testing equipment is the opportunity to weave together experience and critique. You don’t write about a product by sitting in a chair and thinking about it. You get out there, play with it, push its limits and discover how it transforms the experience of an activity you love. These processes sit side-by-side with my academic work as well: investigating the ties between equipment, performance, embodied action and cognition. Read More

‘Flow State – On the Topic of Flow’ is a feature article I wrote on the psychological experience of Flow for the mountain bike magazine of the same name. It took the academic work I’ve been doing in this area and shared it with the community that’s been the subject of that research.

I like the way the story was laid out for print. As you turn from the opening page to the next, a rider appears on the trail ahead. For me, Stirling Lorence’s images immediately conjure up sensations of pumping the bike behind a smooth and skillful rider along a timeless section of trail. I love that mountain biking brings on experiences like this so frequently.

The article talks about the characteristics common to these sought-after states and how they relate to optimal experiences on the trails. Examples of an absence of flow are discussed as a way of looking at how riders can change how they think about or approach the trails. This helps to make the euphoria of a flow-type state more likely to appear, leading to increased enjoyment and smoother, better riding as a result.

Academically speaking, this work opens the door to new ways of understanding embodied problem solving and filtering strategies – such as those riders use to stay in flow longer. It also helps us to better understand the techniques athletes use to perform as well as possible when things aren’t just ‘happening’, or simply don’t go to plan.

This research demonstrates the active and important role of thinking during such scenarios. The risky, variable and fast-paced environment of mountain bike races means participants discuss these phenomena in insightful and articulate ways.