I belong to a newborn bike team that was formed by a popular LBS as a way to bring more cyclists into the sport. I’m one of three women on the co-ed team and, through sheer terror that I will lose any fitness and no longer be able to keep up, I’m the most consistent woman on the group rides in town.
It’s certainly not because I’m the fastest. Not even by a long shot. I’m a forty-two year old mother of teenagers that only started riding anything more than a commuter bike in 2010. I believe in cycling for transportation and for health. I think cyclocross is the greatest sport ever invented and, someday, I hope not to crash my mountain bike every time I get on it. In other words, I’m just an average chick that likes to ride a bike. Yet I can’t seem to convince many other average chicks to join me out there.
I think it has to do with the fact that it’s intimidating to be a woman in a group of very fit guys. And when I say very fit guys, I’m talking about the fastest cyclists in our community. Nice guys, but very fast. Most of the group rides we do have a “catch-up” segment that allows the group to re-form before moving on down the road. I’m usually the last one in, or next to last if I’m having a good week, and often a few of the guys will swing around to accompany me to the end. This is what keeps me going. I love these guys and, though I hold things up, they always encourage me. Still, I will do just about anything to not have to be the one to ask them to dial it back a bit.
And they are guys. Though we may all keep a Lady Schick in the shower, cycling is a very testosterone oriented sport. With the one-up-manship, crude language and large amount of spitting, it’s hard to convince a girl friend that pedaling a bike for two straight hours in a harrowing pace line is sane, let alone fun.
I think women have a place here though. All of these guys have wives or girlfriends that only want a bit of encouragement to get them regularly riding. There are plenty of women in the LBS glancing at the zippy new road bikes, but talking themselves out of it because they have no one to ride with. Well, dammit, I’m going to do something about this. I’ve learned from the best how to be encouraging and supportive and it’s time I pay it forward.
March 2013 will see the start of a new Weekly Women’s Ride in our community that is fun, inclusive, and all female. No intimidation to keep up with the guys, no worries about how those funny shorts look, and no spitting. We will ride for the sheer joy of the wind in our faces and for the happy-hour margaritas we will consume when we’re done.
But I’m not done with the guys. As the year progresses, maybe I can convince one or two of the women to tackle the Thursday night group ride with me. Then, a few weeks later, maybe someone will try Tuesday Night Worlds. If I’m really successful, there will be a group of women enjoying cyclocross with me in September. The crowning achievement, however, would happen when another woman and I get on the front of the November gravel ride and we hear a masculine gasp from the back say “Can you gals slow it down a bit?”
Michelle Windmoeller first learned to ride in 1977 on a used gold chopper-style bike with a wicked banana seat. Since then she has toted schoolbooks, kids, household furniture, and, literally, a commercial kitchen sink on her bike. Based in Columbia, MO, Michelle owns Blue Cypress Solutions and writes about health and wellness issues. She officially invites you all to join her for a long, leisurely ride in Missouri sometime. She’ll bring the PBR. Photo Credit: Kate Woodard