Kath Bicknell

We can learn so much from people who are really good at what they do. So how do we do this? And why does it matter?

A book chapter by John Sutton and I asking, and answering, these questions was recently published in an exciting volume pulling a whole range of interesting work on skill together: The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Skill and Expertise, carefully and cleverly edited by Ellen Fridland and Carlotta Pavese.

For our contribution – ‘Embodied experience in the cognitive ecologies of skilled performance‘ – we take a brief tour through some of the existing research on experts and embodied expertise and explore some of the many, varied (and quite cool) methods for producing this. Contrary to the view that experts can’t accurately recall or articulate what they did and why when the pressure is on, we finish by looking at a case study from road cycling that shows just how much some people can tell us about their own performance processes – why they did what they did, when they did – and why this is so incredibly valuable to researchers interested in skilled performance processes. The chapter is also a plea to more researchers to study expertise in the complex, unpredictable settings where that expertise is deployed: out in the world rather than in a lab or other controlled environment. (Although the lab studies sure do teach us a lot as well. Truth be told, I often want to share this chapter with researchers I look up to in a range of different disciplines and say, ‘Work with us! This is what we bring to some of the questions that you are interested in as well.’ Collaboration and healthy interdisciplinarity for the win!)

Read More

But most of all, thank you to Ride Guide for considering the writers. No one ever thinks of the writers!

Without words and the perspectives of the writers and journalists, mountain biking may well have been another gear based sport, but there is something more to this than riding and racing. It can be the struggle, the exhilaration, the adventure and mis-adventure, the highs, lows and tragedies. A writer has a gift to transport you to another place and take you on a journey, drawing you in with their with their words, and for a short period, you become transfixed to the page (or screen). The writers below have the ability to do just that, so still do it, while others have moved on. Either way their legacy and future work will continue to shape this sport for years to come.

Read More

What do we mean when we talk about the connection between bike, body and trail? How do small changes in bike set up change the way you move? How about a whole new bike?

My chapter, “Technology, Equipment and the Mountain Biker’s Taskscape,” was recently published in Women in Action Sport Cultures: Identity, Politics and Experience, edited by Holly Thorpe and Rebecca Olive. Drawing on theory from anthropology and phenomenology, this chapter looks at some of the behavioural and social implications of the cycling industry’s shift to design bikes with female riders in mind. It draws on my work as an academic in conjunction with my work as a product tester working for bike media.

wasc-2

Abstract:

Research exploring risk in sport tends to focus on the relationship between behaviour and action from a psychological or subcultural standpoint. In this chapter I explore the variable ways technology mediates experiences between body and world, action and perception. I do this by drawing on insights from phenomenology and anthropology to investigate recent developments in bike design aimed at improving the ride experiences of female mountain bikers. This foregrounds the role technology and equipment can have on the development of confident ‘I cans’, demonstrating the impact equipment has not just on performance, but on behaviour and embodied perceptions of risk. By exploring the way new technology mediates individual and social experiences in mountain biking, this chapter reveals the dynamic relations between equipment, perception, cognition and performance.

The book brings together compelling perspectives from a range of academic disciplines on sports including climbing, parkour, snowboarding, surfing, mixed martial arts, roller derby and biking. It makes me proud to be a rider, and proud to be part of this growing, global research community as well. You can read more about the book, including previews of other chapters, here.

wasc-1

wasc-3

gari girls-8

If you can’t track down a copy of the book through a university library, but are interested to learn more, please get in touch.

Photos, including a couple of the local ride crew in Sydney: Kath Bicknell

One of my favourite things about mountain biking is that no two trails are the same. Local environmental conditions dictate the design of quality trails, the experience of riding them, and the mountain biking culture that develops around them. In fact, this is the very reason mountain bikers love to travel so much. Read More

A film about riding and not-riding in and around the incredible landscape surrounding Cairns, Australia. I wrote, directed and produced this film with Toyko Swim Team. Chris Baker shot and edited it bringing his unique style from the fashion world to the trails, while Wade Lewis made magic happen just about every else where magic is make-happen-able. Read More