Saturday, September 30, 2017

Changing My Definition of Femininity - An Ode to My Bike

When I first met her, I thought she was beautiful. I didn't know what kind of bicyclist I would be. Roads? Trails? Three miles a week, or more than that? I didn't know. But this bike... She was purple, with a step-though frame, and flowery vines painted on. Anyone who saw this bike would know it was a woman's bike, no question.

Few things give me as much joy as dismounting. I slow way down, pull one leg through the frame to sit side-saddle, then hop off and start walking. I imagine that I'm a slip of a girl - light and lithe, like a fairy princess - gently tripping along the ground. I always stick the landing, but... Well, at 5'9" and almost 200 lbs, I am nothing like a fairy princess.

I started taking longer and longer rides, working from "Whew! Three whole miles!!" to a 7-mile commute, then a 10-mile weekend ride, then 20 miles, then 30, and then I did a metric century (100km, or 62 miles). I started biking to work, and got panniers to put on her rack so I could carry my work clothes and towel - yes, my commute is far enough that I have to shower when I get there.
Gradually, I came to realize this was the wrong bike for most of what I do. She's heavy and bulky. And while her geometry allowed me to bike in a dress and maintain some modesty, it's not even slightly aerodynamic. I knew I needed a road bike - something faster, with more room at the top of the gears. But I loved my step-through frame. No road bike would have that, and I was bummed that I'd have to give it up.

My marvelous local bike store (Crofton Bike Doctor) set me up with a bike someone had traded in - a Specialized Ruby. A carbon frame with a nearly horizontal crossbar, pedals you have to clip into, and drop-down handlebars like a ram's horns. She's not a very girly color. But she is slender, and light, and nimble. And she's fast and strong. This bike wants to go uphill. She wants to beat the motorized vehicles on the downhill... and she gets much closer than my hybrid ever did.

With my hot pink helmet, my hot pink-trimmed biking shoes, and all the flowery, girly-colored spandex I can find, I think we're still feminine enough.