Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

English

Advisor/Chair:

Lisa Gabbert

Abstract

This thesis is a study of the “underground” cycling community in Ogden, Utah. Countercultural cycling micro-communities exist across the United States, if not the world, but have not yet been thoroughly studied by folklorists. This research establishes a foundational understanding of the nature of underground cycling culture, particularly in relation to identity. Using folkloric definitions of identity and subculture as my foundation, I examine four different facets of cyclist activities: folk art, folk events, narratives, and the community’s use of space. These four facets provide a variety of lenses through with to examine actualized, expressive cyclist behavior. Each facet also illustrates the different levels (personal, community, and global) at which identity is performed.

The most personal performances of cyclist identity are through the folk art of modified bicycles. Modifications tend to reflect the personality of the cyclist, and consequently a bicycle comes to hold much symbolism for the cyclist. The communitylevel studies consisted of examining group events where I observed how the group interacted with itself. The performance and participation in activities are what constitutes an actual cycling community, rather than a series of individual cyclists.

The examination of narratives moves outward to contextualize the cycling microcommunity within the larger Ogden community. This chapter explores the role of conflict, illustrates how cyclists think of themselves, and illustrates how cyclists define themselves in opposition to motorists.

The community spaces examination looks at the use of physical space versus digital space. These spaces illustrate how the community behaves amongst itself versus how the community behaves amongst the larger, online, Utah cycling community. The physical space reflected the creativity and utilitarian needs of the group. The restrictive digital spaces manage to be expressive through images and language. Internal group conflict occurs more often online, however, due to infractions of implicit group etiquette, possibly as a symptom of a less personal form of interaction.

The marginalized, cyclist identity seemed to hold the greatest rewards at the more intimate, personal levels. Moving outward towards broader community-level contests, cyclist identity seems to become a source of conflict.

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