Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ride Like a Girl!

(Thanks to Terry Bicycles for the title; it's their advertising tag line.)

My bike is red and shiny. It has a bell. If it had baskets on the back and a little dog peeking out, you'd confuse me with what's-her-name, the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. (Mrs. Gulch?? Is that it?) On this bike, I noodle around town -a small feat since this town is the size of your desktop. Or, I go for long rides that take all day. I haven't duplicated my husband's epic rides. Once I tried and failed, so we won't belabor that point. Sigh.

It's an accident that one of my favorite fitness activities is linked to the history of feminism. So, you have Victorian England. (Brace yourself for gross over-simplification.) Women could play croquet, do some archery, and perhaps play a little well-supervised tennis. And someone else chased the missed balls. Okay. But the invention of the "safety bicycle" -the version with a chain and equally-sized wheels- meant that women could go off unchaperoned. Moreover, the bike changed women's clothing. You might be able to play tennis essentially standing still and occasionally waving a racquet around. But you can't throw your leg over a bike, wearing a corset and 40 yards of fabric in your dress.

There's also the world view shift that must have happened. Suddenly women could go somewhere without help. Under their own power, literally and metaphorically. Uh oh. No wonder it was controversial.

Really, I just like my bicycle. I like the wind in my face. I REALLY like the wind at my back. I like the sun on my shoulders. I like the way my muscles feel after a long ride. But it's great to know that, in a weird small way, I'm part of a long line of women cyclists making a new way in the world.

Don't just ride like a girl. Ride like your great-great-grandmother. Blaze a new trail!

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