Monday, September 7, 2009

Discuss : Contemporary Body Culture In Cycling

Anthropology of sport is an emerging research area for Dr. Brian Joseph Gilley of the University of Vermont. His research narrows in on the ways body culture in professional road cycling articulates with transnational sporting tradition and business. In particular, he is concentrating on the surveillance of bodily movement (inspired by the work of Henning Eichberg, a famous cultural sociologist) by the cycling sports industry. This research includes investigations into the ways cyclists manage their bodies and the ways specific forms of bodily movement are endorsed by the cycling sports industry (fortunately or unfortunately).

Attached below are 4 pages from a paper of Dr. Gilley's focusing in on the culture of the cycling sport. Titled Cyclist Subjectivity: Corporeal Management And The Inscription Of Suffering, it suggests that to deconstruct cycling discourse is to reveal the mechanisms of an unquestioned set of values governing individual bodies. Dr. Gilley seeks to answer where these values came from and highlights a picture for us where the political economy of cycling and techniques of corporeal management are all surrounded on one thing - the individual cyclist's body.

After you have finished reading, you can engage in a discussion here with me on issues of the body culture in our sport. This is an interesting topic and some questions ring in my mind for you people across the world. Questions such as the following :

Has our "established" values and systems of cycling body culture (that you see on TV, read about, or hear from other people) forced you to do some things with your body that you would otherwise not have done had you not been a cyclist?

Have you been pressured to dope? Have you starved yourself or lost an unhealthy amount of weight to stay with the weekend group ride or gain that addition in your power to weight ratio? Have you lost out in a relationship where your partner wouldn't accept you spending so much time and energy training, and on top of it all, looking gaunt and weary in parties and other social events because of this training? Do you think there's a stigma in your country or culture around "thin" because "thin" is considered inferior? Have you lost a job because your boss thought you look unhealthy and not suited for the task and you reached that state due to your cycling activities? Are you always in the widely popular mindset of "ride strong, ride fast, take risks" that you get yourself involved in unnecessary crashes and injuries which, of course, risk your health?

C'mon, let's talk!
Anything is possible on this blog!

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Overemphasizing Power To Weight Ratio

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Phil said...

This is a great topic for a discussion!

I think the United Nations humans rights group should have a close watch at endurance sports, particularly the field of pro cycling. I'm not joking. I think our modern culture has gone beyond a point where suffering, punishment, levels of difficulty are all accepted and the individuals who come out of these tests alive are considered heroes, and the sponsors and companies that stand behind them stand to make huge amounts of money. We've desensitized human suffering. Who in the world knows what these athletes are going through for the promise of a good life, six figure incomes (if they make it) and what else.

This year when I watched the Tour de France, my wife asked me whether this was a healthy sport. I think my words were : 'I don't think so'.

Anonymous said...

Talk about hitting the right topic. The organizers of a decent cycle tour near my area think some "fat" is bad and cycling with compact gearing is "wimpy" or in other words, for losers. Its as if they determine fitness by what gearing you ride on. That's ridiculous. Body culture or whatever it is, people's idea nowadays of a peaceful, recreational ride is an absolute, non-social, all guns blazing 30 mile ride until everyone is the group is literally dying by the end. If you can't stick with the group, 'you must really suck as a bike rider.'

Ron said...

All great comments so far. Thank you. Yes Rib @ 5:55am, it is an enlightening paper and must be read by people who like to just stop and stare at the cycling scene from a distance. There is an invisible code in cycling, set by culture, that sets the proportions and methods by which bodily suffering is to be undergone. Reputation and honor is all based on how you inflict suffering upon others, upon yourself.

I would love to hear about what others think too. Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

since when did you need research to show that cycle sport is focused on the individual cyclist. its always been like that. its where the money is.

HELL(cat) ON WHEELS said...

ahhh lovely topic... I think this is where "burn out" comes from. Yes, I live in a bustling cycling community and frequently get questions like, "How much do you ride?", or, "what's the longest ride you've ever done?" or "why aren't you racing?" etc. etc. Interestingly, I never get questions like, "what's the most pretty, scenic or most fun ride/race you have ever done?"

In fact, I was brought into this sport by my fiance' SPECIFICALLY, because he knew that I liked to over do it and injure myself while running, so he thought I would enjoy being able to torture myself and suffer on a bike! LOL... strange when it's actually typed into words.

I competed in a road race a few weeks ago, was dropped horribly and haven't ridden my road bike since, because I've been in a funk -- I have, however, ridden my mountain bike...because it's FUN. I do think "fun" is often left out these days... and as my fiance' said earlier today, "no, he's not doing the local ride tonight, because sometimes he's just sick to death of being beaten up on by higher Cat racers and SOMETIMES, he just wants to ride his bike...for fun, alone, cuz he wants to". I second that.

It's a given... it's become all about the suffering, how much I can suffer, how much I can make you suffer...but sometimes... like today, I want to ride a bike for the same reason my 10 year old wants to ride his, cuz it's fun!

Cycling Mind said...

The physical act of bicycling stimulates my mind and my body, in a form that no other recreational activity has yet to reach. The temperature of the human body is regulated by the hypothalamus, an area in the brain. Maintaining body temperature at balanced level is important for a cyclist to avoid the risks.
Cycling Mind