Cyclist subjectivity: Corporeal management and the inscription of suffering

  • Brian Joseph Gilley University of Vermont
Keywords: cycling, subjectivity, the body, suffering, discipline


The body of the European road cyclist, gaunt faced and emaciated but with enormous muscled legs, is an indelible image. This image has been venerated and parodied by film, literature and used in nationalist propaganda. The heroic persona of the cyclist who shapes their body to maximize strength-to-weight ratios further reinforces discourses of body management. Yet, the men who exhibit the superhuman strength to endure the requisite suffering are also docile bodies continually put through disciplinary regiments by their team directors, sponsors, the cycling industry and themselves. It is this contradiction between the veneration of individual suffering and cyclist as a form of subjectivity where we can investigate the ways in which the cycling industry naturalizes techniques of domination.