Friday, October 7

Cycling and the ‘socializing’ power of sport


There is no doubt that cycling is experiencing its best historical moment in our country. And it does not seem that the pandemic has made a dent in its implementation. According to the latest surveys of sports habits in Spain, the people who use the bicycle every week to do sports have gone from 6.7% in 2010 to 10.3% in 2015 and to a surprising 19.7% in the recently published survey corresponding to 2020. In other words, if in the five years from 2010 to 2015 the increase was 3.6 points, between 2015 and 2020 the increase was 9.4 points; almost twice as high. And 13 points more than just a decade ago. If we add to this those who use the bike to do sports more occasionally, but frequently (such as once a month), the results are as spectacular as expected.

A matter of taste: this is what the 2021 trends are in the purchase of bicycles

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And it is that in recent years everything has increased: the use of the bicycle as a means of transport, the use of the bicycle as an instrument of sports leisure, the number of bicycles sold and / or rented, the practitioners who define themselves as men and practitioners who are defined as women (the only categories computable in the surveys), all age ranges, licenses for both men and women (almost double the average for Spanish sport in general), the number and duration of outputs…

What is clear is that this consolidation of the social acceptance and popularity of cycling has come to stay. It will reposition itself, perhaps, but it will not diminish its practice much

It is possible that these last and difficult months represent a certain bias in this overview. During the pandemic, cycling has given many people an added freedom: a getaway, a departure from the routine, a necessary contact with nature, the enjoyment of an unusual environment … (“I go out to clean my head” , a collaborator told us). And it is also possible that this bias is corrected when some kind of normality returns. But what is clear is that this consolidation of the social acceptance and popularity of cycling has come to stay. It will reposition itself, perhaps, but it will not diminish its practice much.

Transport and leisure, city and nature

On the one hand, the use of the bicycle as a means of transport is today much more integrated in our cities than it has ever been. The pandemic has also served as an excuse for many people who have preferred the use of an alternative and non-polluting means of transport such as bicycles, rather than continuing to use public transport that, in addition to being carried out in mainly closed environments, had schedules very crowded where people who had to travel did not feel comfortable or safe.

But, on the other hand, cycling has greatly increased its presence as a leisure getaway sport, out of the city and in contact with nature. The ‘grupetas’ or groups of cyclists have grown in the last year and, when possible, have increased their outings.

An individual sport?

A curious fact is that, usually, when we talk about cycling, we think of the pairing of the person and the bicycle; and we assimilate it, therefore, to a mainly individual sport. And yet, there is possibly nothing further from the truth. And it is that all sports, even those considered as individual, have a social aspect. But it is clear that this fact occurs in the case of cycling with a much greater emphasis.

It is possible for a person to go out alone, it is evident. However, cycling is a sports practice that occurs mainly on weekends and holidays, and that is usually associated with longer trips, since it is not feasible to be able to go out for many hours and several times a week. Therefore, it is reserved for special moments of longer leisure and, especially, shared.

And it is that, in cycling, to the exercise itself, other complementary relational leisure activities are added. Thus, it is not uncommon to organize outings with relatively longer runs, in the company of friends or family (common or changing, but very often habitual) to carry out routes that have intermediate stops that are chosen from the most common perspectives. tourist (contemplating a certain landscape, or visiting or resting in a certain place of interest) to the most gastronomic (going out for breakfast, lunch or eating in certain places, restaurants …), among many others; yes: always relational.

The socializing power of sport

And the thing is that one of the great virtues of sport lies in its socializing power; in its ability to create identities (local, regional, national …) or simply group, to create a shared ‘we’ that works and that becomes one of the pillars of our social life.

It is true that team sports tend to generate much more this feeling of cohesion than individual sports. But in the case of cycling, this phenomenon also occurs in an intense way, and it cannot be ignored.

On the other hand, it is also true, according to the aforementioned sports habits surveys in Spain, that men more frequently find their circle of friends linked to the world of sport than women. However, it is also true that the latter are progressively increasing their sports practice and are adding more and more to these shared experiences, either in family environments or, increasingly, in that of friends who are located and grow in environments sports

Social capital contributed from sports environments

And it is that, paraphrasing the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the And is that, paraphrasing the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the ‘environment that sports provides us gives us’ social capital’. It gives us access to people, knowledge and tools that allow us to grow in our contacts, but also in our skills and abilities.

Cycling (sport in general) has a strong socializing power, which ends up forging our environment, the people who are part of it and, ultimately, our experiences

Sport (or rather, physical-sporting activity in general) provides us with social contacts that place us in a network, and with them we interact and grow as athletes, but also as people; as individuals, but also, and very especially, as beings that live and function in society.

Possibly, some people will think, cycling is not football. Perhaps it is not a team sport that makes us depend on each other and relate from the first moment. But there is no doubt that the world of cycling is far from being just an individual experience. It is, more and more, a sport to be done in a group, to be shared and enjoyed together. And, as one of our informants once told us: “We go out with the bike, but almost the least thing is the bike. The thing is to go out all, and have a good time.”

And it is that, far beyond the physical-sports activity itself, cycling (sport in general) has a strong socializing power, which ends up forging our environment, the people who are part of it and, ultimately, our experiences.

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