Epilogue: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

25 Aug

*But was afraid to write about without data to back me up.

Writing this series was more emotionally difficult than I expected. In my “Looking Back, Moving Forward” post in January I wrote: “I’m not really sure the year will bring…I see myself speaking out more for women’s issues in cycling. I’ve written about it some and gotten into a few Twitter fights. But I’ve been biting my tongue a lot.”

I was biting my tongue because I knew that people would challenge my statements: “I’m a woman and I like repairing bikes” or “I’m a man and I prefer protected bike lanes too.” That’s why I needed the survey to prove that there are indeed demographic differences that may not fit your personal experience.

I also knew that criticizing the “faster, longer, harder” sport-driven emphasis of cycling would challenge people who are comfortable with cycling remaining an activity for an elite breed of rider. Real cyclists have the strength to climb 10% grades, the skill to clear rock gardens, the endurance to commute 15+ miles to work one way, and the courage to merge across high-speed traffic. Those who can’t are encouraged to learn some skills and try harder. Those who don’t want to are relegated to novice status, even if they’ve been riding for decades.

Because of this cultural bias, I felt compelled to show my credibility as a skilled rider and former racer when writing this series. It bothers me that I felt I had to do that to be taken seriously.

This series is complete, but I pledge to keep writing now and then about women and bicycling. I already have one partially written about everything a high-end mountain bike shop does to win women’s loyalty, and another about everything a race organizer did to alienate beginner racers. As I said, I’ve been biting my tongue.

What issues have you experienced as a woman in cycling? Did it affect how much, where or what type of riding you do? What changes would you like to see?

Arastradero Bowl


Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Women & Bikes


12 responses to “Epilogue: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

  1. gasstationwithoutpumps

    August 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    To tell the truth, your being a (former?) racer and avid mountain biker actually decreases your credibility for me. I’m much more interested in commuting and utility riding (“not sport, transport”), and so I’m always a bit leery of advice from people who do a lot of riding just for fun—they may deliberately choose longer or harder ways to bike places, just to have more “fun”.

    You pieces on terrible bike racks, on bike dates, on dressing for the destination, on the bike tea party, and so forth do a lot more to establish your credibility as a bike blogger than any number of years of racing.

    • ladyfleur

      August 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      I hear you about being leery of advice from racers and “avid cyclists.” I’m the same way about getting advice from strong male riders.

      Because I’m a bit of a chameleon on the bike I find it interesting to see how people react differently to me based on how I’m dressed and which bike I’m riding. It’s particularly funny to me to see the reaction I sometimes get when I ride a short gravel stretch on the river path on my mixte in a dress and heels.

      And I’m glad you enjoy my city cycling stories. When I started this blog two years ago I wasn’t sure having a blog that spanned different types of cycling from long road rides to dirt trails to transportation bicycling would work. The bike world can be very tribal.

      What I’ve found is that sport cycling folks are interested in my city rides and bike fashions too. It’s opened more than a few eyes that bikes don’t require special gear for a quick ride across town and I’ve seen a few even try it. And a handful have bought city bikes that make it a lot easier. That’s one reason I keep writing.

  2. Lorri Lee Lown

    August 26, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Janet, thank you for having the courage and taking the time to share your analysis and personal experience. Like you, I span many types of cycling, from commuting to touring, recreational riding and racing. I agree that the focus on the “sport” of bicycling can be a bad marketing tool for the rest of the market (and potential bicyclists). I encourage you to keep thinking, keep promoting the bike to women (and men), and (of course), to keep riding!

    • ladyfleur

      August 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Lorri, of everyone I know, I think you have the closest attitude about and approach to cycling that I do. I’m so grateful that the racing (and riding) community has you training new riders, training new racers, challenging riders with programs like your Death Ride training, and hosting races like the Menlo Park Grand Prix where the women’s races are not down at the bottom of the list (literally).

      Thank you for your service.

  3. Matt

    August 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I’m all for slowing down. It seems I’m not alone!
    “Cyclists who are looking for tough workouts have plenty of company. But for other bikers, that is just not how they roll. Instead, they are meandering over to “slow-bike” clubs that are cropping up around the country”

  4. echo

    August 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I just read all of these at once. This was a thoughtful and well-written series. What a fantastic way to apply the data from the report! I’m half jealous that I didn’t do it first!! =) I’m glad I am now officially following your blog on wordpress, and not just reading through twitter! LOVE your blog!

  5. Alex

    August 27, 2013 at 7:28 am

    As someone who does cycle 19 miles each way on a commute I feel a bit like I”m being lumped in with the vehicular cycling group. I would also love decent cycling infrastructure. I can take the lane and all that but I don’t want to have to. I commute so far as my work location moved after I bought my home, I could do my route in under 15 miles if I went in a car but some parts too scarey for me on a bike. Some of us MAMILs would like a good infrastructure too.

    • ladyfleur

      August 27, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Taking the lane is a vehicular cycling technique that a lot of us use daily (including me). I feel about it just like you do. I can “drive” my bike, I just don’t want to do it all the time.

      I was talking about the vehicular cyclists that openly fight against separated bike lanes and other bike infrastructure under the belief that bikes can always function better in regular traffic lanes if cyclists just learn their techniques. That’s not you. To me, vehicular cycling is fine when car speeds are relatively low (e.g. under 25 mph) and the general public (not just the law) believes that bikes have just as much right to the road as cars. Sadly, in most places neither of those two is true. Well, in English speaking countries that is.

      Oh, and the survey was clear that a strong majority of men want separated bike lanes (64%). It just wasn’t as overwhelming as women (94%).

      My commute is 11 scary miles or 14 more pleasant miles if I ride the whole way. But I take the train with my bike so I only ride 5 miles. If I had to ride an hour or more each way I wouldn’t take my bike every day like I do by taking the train. Can you believe I had some guy (a driver no less) joke that I was “cheating” by taking the train?

  6. Matt

    August 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Then there’s this. I didn’t know where this went — the Five Things, or the Fashion Friday. We need something similar for men.

    • Matt

      August 29, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Whoops. Delete this.

  7. Matt

    August 29, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Whoops. Wrong link. How do I delete that? I meant to share this one:

    I’m tired of my boxers giving me grief.

  8. Liz West

    January 24, 2014 at 4:27 am

    I’m a senior rider and I’ve been avidly back on a bike for about 5 years, riding almost daily. I hesitate to call myself a cyclist around people because I’m not into the sport of cycling. I am immediately asked how far I go or what ride I’m joining. I just ride, I tell them. Cycling provides a ground for me and gets me outside. It’s fun. It’s exercise I can keep doing a long time. I like to visit local bike shops and see what they have and sometimes talk bike talk. At three shops they now have a woman staff member to help women customers. I think they are trying to be more female friendly but products matter more to me. I’d like to see the bike industry cater less to racing and endurance cycling and have some bikes with higher handlebar stems.


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