The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book on technology, distraction, and why training simply is the most effective way to improve your cycling. To get updates and follow the progress of the book please sign up for our newsletter.
“Honor those who seek the truth, beware of those who’ve found it”- adapted from Voltaire.
In his 2017 book The Death of Expertise, author Tom Nichols makes the case that although “The Internet is a magnificent repository of knowledge…it’s also the source and enabler of a spreading epidemic of misinformation.”
No, the internet isn’t the boogeyman, but for cyclists, the interwebs are just as likely to feature a bottle of snake oil as they are to offer up quality training advice. This landscape of misinformation demands a navigational strategy.
Whether you view the internet’s agnostic approach to truth as a feature or a bug, learning how to better evaluate sources of cycling advice can be a significant advantage in your quest to get faster on the bike.
So who is worth listening to when it comes to cycling advice? Before we answer that question, a quick detour. Research suggests that one’s confidence in their knowledge rarely translates to knowing much at all. This phenomenon is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
The Dunning-Kruger effect states that “…those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.”
In short, the louder and more enthusiastically someone proclaims the discovery of a training silver bullet, the more skepticism you should heap on their claims.
So how do you identify the real expert? Again, author Tom Nichols lays out a concise framework.
“Experts stay engaged in their field, continually improve their skills, learn from their mistakes, and have visible track records. Over the span of their career, they get better, or at least maintain their high level of competence, and couple it to the wisdom—again, an intangible—that comes from time.”
While Nichols describes a broader framework for identifying expertise, let’s narrow our focus to cycling. Here are three criteria I’ve found helpful in clearing a path toward those who embody cycling wisdom. Cycling experts:
- Have or continue to work in academic research. (i.e., the scientific method forms the core of their world view).
- Have practical experience working with the best athletes in the world. (i.e., they translate science from the lab, into the real world of cycling, helping to produce world-class performance).
- Have contributed to “best practice” recommendations within exercise science. (i.e., they work collaboratively with other top professionals)
These guidelines don’t encompass every type of cycling expert. Still, they do help construct a framework to prioritize the kind of cycling expertise that should define the bulk of your training time.
Data Driven Athlete
1. NICHOLS, TOM. (2019). DEATH OF EXPERTISE: The campaign against established knowledge and why it matters. Place of publication not identified: OXFORD UNIV Press.
2. Kruger, J. and D. Dunning, Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. J Pers Soc Psychol, 1999. 77(6): p. 1121-34