Call for Abstracts | Cultures of Mountain Biking in Contemporary Societies | Edited Book Collection, Routledge

Expressions of interest are invited to contribute to an edited book entitled Cultures of Mountain Biking in Contemporary Societies. Firm interest in this book has been established by Routledge.

In a very short time, mountain biking has become one of the most popular forms of outdoor exercise. In the US, there are now approximately 9 million riders (Statista, 2020), and, in the UK, participants are estimated to number 5 million, averaging 31 rides a year (IMBA, 2013). These figures have increased dramatically since the emergence of the global pandemic, as government restrictions on structured leisure and the growth of ‘hyperlocal’ (Mackenzie and Goodnow, 2020) adventures have provided opportunities for people to evaluate their exercise philosophies and practices, whilst exploring more ‘natural’ and less rationalised alternatives to traditional sport. It is for these reasons, among others, that mountain biking has been heralded as one of the most significant developments in the history of the bicycle (Berto, 2008).

As its popularity has increased, mountain biking has been transformed from an informal pastime to a highly specific organisation governed by unique rules, institutions and formal codes of practice (Frédéric et al, 2010). Since the early 90s, a number of purpose-build mountain bike centres have been established, including 67 across the UK, 87 throughout continental Europe and many more in North America, Australia and New Zealand (Gibbs & Holloway, 2018). These centres have become major hubs of social and economic development, generating thousands of visitors per year and an additional spend in the (often deprived) areas where they are located. The sport now has its own, recognised, governing body (UCI), a dedicated world cup and world championship competition, and is included in the proceedings of the modern Olympiad (Savre et al, 2009). Consequently, there has been a discernible growth in attempts to stimulate mountain bike tourism through the development of mountain bike trails and parks in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, France, and Scotland (Buning and Lamont, 2020; Buning, 2019).

Despite, or perhaps, because of this ‘sportization’ (Elias, 1976) process, mountain biking has witnessed a diversification of styles that has elicited a series of tensions within the mountain bike community, as well as with other users of the outdoors (Brown, 2012;2014). While identities are often premised upon the perceived unique characteristics of the activity and the participants (McCormack, 2017), research has also found that participants also demonstrate significant variances in their adherence to sub-cultural values (McKewan and Muller, 2018). This has led to different orientations towards certain geo-political considerations, including: the relevance of purpose-build trail centres (Gibbs & Holloway, 2018), adherence to land-access laws (Brown, 2015), the safety of other land-users (Chui, 2003), acknowledgement of Indigeneity and recreational colonialism (Hresko and Warren, 2021) and the protection/maintenance of the ‘natural’ environment (Cherrington, 2021; Cherrington and Black, 2020). Importantly, literature has also pointed to a range of social and cultural inequalities in relation to gender (Withers and Livingston, 2010; Nash and Moore, 2020), race (Bordelon, 2019) and class, as well as age-related differences in experience (King and Church, 2019). Thus, while it is tempting to imagine an overarching subculture, contemporary mountain bike cultures might be more appropriately characterised as consisting of ‘disparate small groups of participants, or idiocultures’ (McCormack, 2017:346), each with their own set of motivations, goals, and identities.

Proposed Focus

In recent years there has been a growing corpus of literature emanating from a dedicated group of scholars, whose analyses have helped illuminate both the social, cultural, and political significance of mountain biking, and the diverse number of identities upon which these cultures are predicated. However, when positioned alongside the ever-expanding disciplines of lifestyle sport and cycling studies writ large, mountain biking remains conspicuous by its absence (Taylor, 2010). The intention of this collection, which will be the first of its kind, is to showcase and promote the excellent work being done by existing scholars in this field, whilst advancing and stretching our conceptual and empirical understanding of contemporary mountain bike culture(s). Chapters with an empirical or theoretical focus, which address the following major themes, are of particular interest:

      • The historical development of mountain biking.
      • The (social) identities of mountain bikers and motivations for participation.
      • Corporeal, embodied, and phenomenological accounts of mountain biking.
      • Mountain biking, climate change, and the environment.
      • The management and/or administration of authorised or unauthorised (i.e ‘wild’) trails in particular locations.
      • Critical accounts of paid and unpaid labour in mountain biking (i.e mechanics, coaches, trail builders, political advocates).
      • Mountain biking and experiences of risk.
      • The relationship between mountain biking and contemporary social formations, including an analysis of their potential in addressing/exacerbating a range of social barriers/inequalities.
      • The social, economic, and environmental impacts of mountain bike tourism.
      • Media representations of mountain biking.
      • (e)Mountain biking, technology, and consumer culture.
      • Mountain biking, health and wellbeing.

Submission guidelines

Abstracts of no more than 500 words and a brief bio should be sent to Dr Jim Cherrington (j.cherrington@shu.ac.uk) by 11th March 2022. Decisions on abstracts will be made by April 2022.

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