'Skills to Pay the Bills': Gender Difference in Mountain Biking on Display
This paper analyses a short video showing the opening of a skills area in a mountain bike park. After viewing the mayor cutting a ribbon to officially open the skills area, we watch 19 mountain bikers putting in 32 runs in the skills area. Only three of these feature women, and in contrast to a core group of young male riders who display showy and risky jumping skills, the women appear to ride very cautiously. Given this contrast, the video could be used to analyse the social construction of gender difference in mountain biking, bolstering an existing view that ‘mountain biking is for men’. However, by bracketing this assumption and focusing on fine detail, this paper attempts to move closer to the noticed difference itself. By considering the specifics of mountain biking skills, and its emplaced situated logics, the gender difference may not be as stark as first thought. Care has to be taken over this argument because there is a pressing question of data adequacy: given that the video under examination is edited and framed, does this limit its analytic purchase? An answer is provided not by conceptual discussion, but by showing what can be made of the video in analysing key visual fragments. Additionally, the details of the video are supplemented by reference to one other key piece of cycling research, and one other ‘natural video record’ of mountain biking practice. The paper contributes to the growing recognition of the value of video data in the ethnographic analysis of mobile interactive practices.
mountain biking, display, gender, video