Women and Bikes: Part of Who We Are

In my internet meanderings this week, I stumbled across CycloFemme, a group promoting Women’s Biking Day this Sunday, which also falls on Mother’s Day.

Ahh Mother’s Day—certainly intended to honor women, but the “holiday” seems more vilified by retail experiences, flower arrangements and stuffy brunches. Also, the day seems fueled by men. I do not appreciate this. I have heard more about mother’s day from men than ANYONE this year. Sorry, guys, but beyond appreciation from mothers around you and the one who birthed you, you don’t have as much say in the matter.

Cycling should be a celebration!

On the subject, though. My Twitter feed was exploding with cycling-oriented posts about taking Mom cycling. I’m sorry, come again? You’re suggesting I buy my mom a bib and/or kit and/or Terry saddle/skirt/other cheesy man-made piece of cycling equipment? Get real. I would never purchase that for myself, let alone the most important female role model in my life. Besides, she prefers tennis.

All this internal banter led me to a greater question in my mind: Even I am opinionated about why women don’t bike. I certainly wouldn’t demand my Mom saddle up for a spin after church, though I would be delighted if we could arrange that. (I’m really banking on the Bike Chattanooga capabilities to make the “Wanna Go for a Ride” question even easier than before…an aside).

I asked a group of my female (and awesome) peers about cyclocommuting last night. Living in a certain part of town was a big issue, as well as with traffic and what an out-of-towner deemed one of the most embarrassing cycling infrastucture tunnels (“Why would ANYBODY show off that tunnel!?”), but the main complaint had nothing to do with safety. It had to do with looking good once you arrived at work.

It came up again at dinner, this time with a group of bikey folks. What would our city look like if instead of having to buy cool, Dottie-inspired helmets on the internet (leading to an entirely different conversation about Amazon/local business/state sales taxes!!), I could get a helmet, accessories I wanted to buy, frames that not only fit my body but fit my needs as well, at the women-run bike shop?

Drinking coffee, mulling over the literal versus perceived impact of women, cycling and retail, my sister’s voice entered my head: “It’s not. About. The STUFF.”

She’s right. It’s about the people, the experiences, the ride. It’s about feeling like a kid, the wind blowing through your hair, with or without a helmet, whether you’re on an old beater bike or a 45-pound Pashley import or a titanium road bike. Whether you’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt or a full suit.

Riding a bike—no matter what gender, body type, familiar responsibilities, career path you have—is about being free.

That’s not to say the “stuff” isn’t fun; cycling opened up a world of accessorizing to me, especially when it comes to riding to work. And bags. And shoes.

But that isn’t a real barrier to cycling. You don’t need stuff to ride a bike and feel free. In my case, I needed inspiration, some hand-holding, and baby steps. LOTS of baby steps, and lots of strong role models.

This Bike Month, and on this Mother’s Day, I aim to celebrate women in my life who inspire me on and off the bike, and thank them for encouraging me to set an example in my life, my neighborhood, and my workplace. Cause cycling is a ladies’ thing, too.


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