THE CYCLING CONJECTURE

Cycling is a passionate affair, it's history, grit, determination, but also innovation and... conjecture.

Although rivalries have always been part of the sport, social media have now given dualism of opinions a loud platform.



We have had discord between the two major groupset companies (Campagnolo vs Shimano), or between riders, (Coppi vs Bartali; Cancellara vs Boonen; Lemond vs Hinault, etc.). Books have been written about it, and plenty of banter has been dished out over the years.

The immediacy and exponential reach of social media has escalated the debates surrounding certain topics, as more people are inclined to share their own views based on personal experiences.

It can be about the effectiveness of helmets, the use of cycle lanes, disc or caliper brakes, the veracity of doping suspicions.

It's a melee of convictions, affected by belief, half-truths, conspiracies, likes and dislikes.

Partisan tunnel vision is not new, it's just that now we're armed with spreadsheets, pseudo data, dubious sources and a myriad of deductions.

Insufficient evidence, lack of proof or dissonant research often leaves chasms in interpretation.

Conjecture is seldom solved not necessarily because of the lack of information, but often by the sheer amount of data available.


The approach most people use is heuristic (hands-on, self-taught), basically an educated guess, rather than a cold look at facts, which are often unreliable.

There are also social factors involved (and a fair amount of mob mentality). We tend to follow the opinion of people we respect or like (consciously or unconsciously). Conclusions are drawn by a sense of belonging (more or less what happens with football fans towards referees' decisions). An attachment to a point of view can originate from logical truths or from a combination of truths.

That involves two types of judgements, analytic or synthetic. With the analytic, we tend to see facts at face value, based on available knowledge/logic; while the synthetic judgements are reached with knowledge about the topic and something related to the topic.

Analytic: Wiggins is a Tour de France winner.

Synthetic: Wiggins won the Tour de France because he had help from doctors.

Both sentences ring true (to some), only the first one, the analytic one is reliable because the fact is based on undisputed events, while the synthetic one is based on added knowledge (true or false depends on the source).

There is something rewarding from conjectures. They help to spread knowledge, and they generate debate, which is healthy for the sport. But they also trigger hatred, insults and the creation of phoney experts in an already saturated field.

Moderation and respect are paramount if we want to keep this as the most beautiful sport.

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