OK, OK, after my women’s rugby rant, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to do another one. This time it’s cycling.
Put “girl on bike” into Google images (potentially NSFW,depends on your filters…) and let’s see what comes out.
Apparently, when riding a bike, women should either be a)half naked draped over a motorbike or b) looking super happy, accessorised with a basket, heels or wedges and ideally a floaty dress.
I unfortunately don’t really fit into either of these categories.
This is me on a bike…
As you can see, I am just about smiling, but there is NO way I could leave my hair down, I would feel terribly exposed in a dress and heels just don’t cut it if you want to go anywhere in a hurry. OK granted, this is on trails in the south of France rather than commuting, but for simplicity, I look pretty much the same, just a different bike and accessorised with some high vis and a really flipping big backpack that makes me look like a turtle. Also it’s rare to have weather nice enough to cycle without 500 layers right now.
So how should women be riding bikes?
We had the outrage when a cycle lane for ‘women to pootle along in‘ was suggested (I am, unfortunately, a ‘lycra clad mad cyclist’ according to this article) The apparent ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach to women’s specific cycling gear is slammed left right and centre (I have no right really to speak on this, I ride a black and pink specialized dolce which was partly (ok, more than partly) purchased because of the colour, I have a purple jacket, my shoes are black and pink…) and I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve overtaken a man whilst commuting and he’s then felt so outraged at ‘being chicked’ that he has to overtake, only for me to repeat the motion when he can’t keep up the pace. (HA.HA.HA)
And let’s not mention the time when I was asked, when purchasing replacement brake pads in a well known cycling retailer, if ‘I was OK fitting them or if I needed a man to help’.
PS I am actually very good at fitting brake pads. My dad taught me over Skype once.
So, my overall thoughts on the matter:
- I don’t think heels are practical for cycling really, particularly not around the roundabout at Vauxhall whilst wearing headphones and with no lights.
- Bike lanes SHOULD have somewhere for slower people to go, but it’s not just for women. It’s also for drunk men on boris bikes and people who haven’t quite got the concept of using their gears to prevent an unnaturally high cadence. This will also help to boost people’s confidence – yes, the speedy riders do come flying past, but it’s like a motorway- going really slowly and wiggling all over the place is not conducive and other cyclists will find it irritating. Breeze is a good place to start learning how to ride safely and build your confidence.
- Pink is fine. Pink is also fine for men. Black is fine. Purple is fine. Heck, if you want to cycle in your multicoloured pyjamas then go for it. (I will probably judge you though, as will a fair few others) Ladies’ cycle wear is expanding – all the big names carry women’s ranges – I know there are complaints about how much is carried in stock but hey, the fact of the matter is, more men do cycle and shops do have this thing they do where they stock to demand (i.e., if we cycle more and buy more cycling clothes hint hint, they will stock more). MTB gear is great for baggies if you don’t fancy full on lycra and if you try a men’s jersey and it fits, no-one will really know.
- If you ask a cyclist (be they male or female) if they want a hand, just think about your words. No-one likes being made to feel incompetent, especially not because of their gender but everyone likes someone who saves them 10 minutes when they are already in a rush and are all fingers and thumbs. Cycle Confident (amongst others) run some cracking basic bike maintenance courses that will get you up and running in no time
Also, I do want to point out that I’m not just a cycling bandwagon jumper because of the recent rise in profile – I’ve been dragged up ski lifts on mountain bikes since I was tiny and have been humming the ITV TdF show theme tune for a long long time (I won’t tell you about the time me and my sister made top trumps cards and drew every cyclist (including those we have nicknames for) AND made up a song. And last year gravitated to drinking games)
Women’s cycling is on the up, we’ve got some fabulous GB track and road stars and this is helping to get people all over the country involved. I know that I can easily get frustrated with people not going fast enough but hey ho, I’m like that with people on the tube as well and I’m just competitive and impatient. I don’t mind people going slowly as long as you are not in my way. i.e. don’t overtake at the traffic lights and sit right in front of a bunch of people who you know can cycle faster than you- although this tends not to be the women…
The bugger is though that the men still have bigger legs. I’m off to go squat and will report back once I’m averaging 18mph on my commute.