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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Language, Identity and Cycling in the Age of Global Media: Exploring Interpersonal Semiotics in Multimodal Media and Online Texts

Handlebar Tape

This video shows Allan Williams, the same team mechanic we met in the Muc-Off ad, demonstrating how to use handlebar tape. In this case, his expertise is demonstrated not simply through his talk but by showing him actually doing his job. He explains how to wrap the tape, but the camerawork explores not only his task, as one might expect in a demonstration video, but also the location of the team mechanic’s truck loaded with spare wheels and equipment.

The Salute

The final video of the series is a poem read by an anonymous narrator in the form of a gushing tribute to Team Sky and its hard-working members. Unlike the other ‘little things’ videos that seem to offer a reconfiguration of marginal gains in human terms, the poem instead builds on metaphors of war to portray the riders as heroic soldiers who suffer for the glory of the team. The metaphor of cycling as a heroic battle is certainly echoed in the images of challenge and suffering amid scenes of outstanding beauty found in other Rapha videos. Yet it seems distinctly at odds with the idea of marginal gains as it is depicted in the Shimano Dura-Ace development history or in Wiggins’ talk of the search for gains in the Muc-Off video. Nevertheless, the ‘little things’ series does offer a human-focused perspective on the notion of marginal gains that is in harmony with Rapha’s company image and its own support for Team Sky.

By giving each of these detailed accounts a narrator and by filming from the visual perspective of that narrator, the videos bring the viewer up close to everyday experience. Mastering the ability to descend, as described by Ian Boswell, is an obviously important skill for a professional cyclist, yet putting this video parallel to the other narratives implies that the domestique’s work as a bottle carrier, the cheering on of the riders and the bed making are equally important and part of the teamwork that makes up the team. These videos thus provide an interpretation of marginal gains as a philosophy of attention to detail for everyone on the team. Perhaps, indeed, the very power of a motto, buzzword or meme is that it is sufficiently vague for it to be interpreted or narrated in differing ways. Despite the seeming match of interests, Rapha dropped its sponsorship of Sky at the end of 2016, with Mottram explaining that it had not brought in the level of customers he had hoped for. However, they continue to support Wiggins’ development team and the top ranking women’s professional team Canyon/SRAM, whose brightly coloured kit and bikes make a dramatic contrast with the black of Team Sky.

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