Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Would You Know? A Response to RKP's Open Letter to the Cycling Industry

Earlier this summer, Irene Bond wrote an opinion piece on Red Kite Prayer that took me by surprise and made me proud to be a cyclist.  An Open Letter to the Cycling Industry is a lot what I've wanted to articulate here at VeloGirl since the inception of this blog.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a stereotypical woman.  Since I was quite young, I have run around outside, skinned knees, played rough-and-tumble, et cetera.  And I have shuddered and, to an extent shunned, any idea of wearing pink.  In thinking about this, it was/is because I didn't want to be treated the way our society treats girls: As objects, as airheads, as someone (something) who is less tough, less able, less of an athlete.  All this because she is not a male.

Now would be a good time to go read the post.  Read the comments, too; all of them.  The comments are just as compelling as the blog post.  What I find most interesting are the comments that this open letter generated.  Very nearly all of the pushback in the comments is from men.  And not marketers or product designers in the bike industry, but from, apparently, typical male riders.  "I ride with women all the time and they've never complained" or "There's plenty of product and bikes out there for women" and "This is a typical feminist rant and, as such, isn't relevant or credible" seem to be the most common responses from those men.

To those men, I'd like to say, how would you know?  Are you a woman?  Have you ever been a woman?  If you aren't and you haven't been, you'll never know what it is like to be a female cyclist, just as I will never know what it's like to be a male cyclist.  How dare you try to minimize and belittle Ms. Bond's experiences (and countless others) simply because it doesn't exemplify your experience.  Or because you don't see what Irene sees.  To an extent, your gender makes it difficult to see/hear/experience/feel as the author does.  But, you could try and show some empathy, without being condescending or pitying.  We, female cyclists, don't want that.

We want equal recognition and treatment by a predominately male-focused industry.  Stop seeing us as a niche market, and recognize us as a growing market.  Don't belittle us.

To quote the Kathryn Bertine "We [women] hold up half the world, so where's our half of the road?"

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, April 28, 2014

You Ride Like A Girl

"You throw like a girl."  Have you ever had that directed at you?  I have.  Throughout my childhood and my amateur sporting carrier, I've had some semblance of that comment thrown my way.  It's been meant as everything from well-intended motivation to the most degrading of insults.

In our patriarchal Western culture, the "fairer sex" still struggles and strives for equal treatment with male counterparts in nearly every facet of life.  On the job, women are [sometimes] payed less for the same work that a man does.  In athletics, women often struggle for sponsorship dollars, media attention, and fair compensation for risking their bodies and their health.  Check out Half the Road, a documentary by Kathryn Bertine about the professional women's peloton and how it differs from the men's side.


Which brings me to an article in The Atlantic from a couple weeks ago: Is There Such a Thing as a 'Feminine' Way to Ride a Bike


I've never self-identified as a 'femme-cyclist' or 'biker-chic; just as a cyclist.  To tell you the truth, I hate such labels.  Femininity doesn't often enter my mind when I swing my leg over the bike.  I dress in cycling shorts and jersey because it's practical and comfortable, fashion holds little interest for me beyond the pattern on my jersey.  Meaning said pattern isn't going to get me whistled at by drivers or runners.

I'm an athlete and have proudly claimed and proclaimed that status since I played organized sport in high school.  To me, gender shouldn't enter into the equation.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.


Friday, July 20, 2012

It's All About the Flow

Someone asked me recently why I ride my bike on the road.

I've crashed twice in the past four years (user error, I assure you), been honked at and/or nearly hit, and had cars pass close enough that I was able to pound on the rear door. I'm not gonna lie, it can be frustrating and infuriating to ride on the road sometimes. On rare occasions, it is scary; never once have I considered giving it up.

I love it too damn much.

There is something completely freeing and near transcendent about riding a well-fitted and tuned bicycle. After a while, it really doesn't feel like a vehicle, but an extension of yourself.  Many people I meet ask me how I can string 20, 30, or more miles together in one ride.  Simple: it's all about the flow.

See, we studied Mihaly Csikszentmihyi's work on flow when I was in college and I've been fascinated by the concept ever since. 
     In his work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlines his
     theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration
     or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which
     people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter
     (Csikszentmihalyi,1990).

We've all been on rides where the temperature's perfect, the sun is shining, the pedals are turning smoothly, and suddenly, boom, you're done.  And you have little idea as to how you got there.

I love rides like that.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Event: L.A. Marathon Crash Race

I've heard rumors about events such as this: Poaching a course that's been closed off for a race in the middle of the night. I have to say, the idea has a certain appeal.

LA Marathon Crash Race

We need something like this in Minnesota, do they close the course for the Twin Cities Marathon the night before?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Be wary, there is a disturbance in the Force

I'm a cyclist. And not just any cyclist, I'm a roadie. What I do is dangerous. I know the risks of riding and I accept them every single time I swing my leg over the bike and clip in. There are potholes, gravel slicks, gutters filled with sand and glass... there are automobile drivers who aren't looking for someone on two wheels. Like most cyclists who've ridden for years, I've had my share of close calls.

I've swerved through snow, lost control going through sand, been buzzed by horn-honking teenagers, and nearly shoved into raised curbs by SUVs. But, I've never really worried about being attacked, mugged, or otherwise harmed intentionally. Perhaps I should re-think that after what happened to a young bike shop employee a few days ago. Woman Knocked Off Bike, Assaulted On Greenway

It isn't enough that we have to worry about all of the above, but we've got to worry about jerks who want to jack our stuff and hurt us, too?! So, for all of us who commute on two wheels, here are the things I do to keep myself as safe as possible:

Ride with presence. To ride in an urban setting, on the roads and on the trail, you have to have confidence. I don't mean ride stupid, but ride like you own the road, like you belong. Others will sense that confidence, even through a car's windscreen.
Be aware of your surroundings. I ride with lights in the mornings and evenings. I keep my head on a swivel at all times when I ride in or near traffic. Stay away from the iPod if you're riding in the city. If you know what's going on around you, you are better prepared to act.
Safety in light and numbers. As much as possible, ride while it's light out and ride with other people. The old saying is true, there really is safety in numbers.
Consider hornet spray. Mace isn't legal to carry in Minnesota, but hornet spray is. And man, is that stuff nasty to get sprayed in the face with.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dress for Success

In the upper Midwest, it gets cold in the winter. I mean cold as in temperatures regularly don't get above freezing from late November to March. And, here in Minnesota, we tend to get lots of snow. Last winter we accumulated 84.6 inches (that's a little more than seven feet) of snow, our fifth snowiest on record.

With this kind of weather, it can really put a damper on riding. The latest issue of Bicycling printed a guide to make it easy for those of us who don't often ride when it gets below freezing. This is it, reproduced for you:
65-70: START WITH Base layer; short-sleeve jersey; short-finger gloves; socks
60-65: ADD Arm warmers; full-finger gloves
55-60: SWAP IN Knickers or knee warmers; thicker socks
50-55: SWAP IN Leg warmers ADD Vest
45-50: SWAP IN Thicker gloves; long-sleeve jersey ADD Toe covers; a sock layer; ear-covers (comfort over style)
40-45: SWAP IN Tights; long-sleeve base layer; thin hat (you might have to loosen your helmet)
35-40: SWAP IN Shoe covers or winter cycling shoes; thick hat or balaclava
30-35: SWAP IN Heavier tights; lobster gloves or mittens
25-30: ADD Second long-sleeve jersey; mid-layer sock
25 and below: ADD Base layer short and/or knee warmers under tights


Keep in mind that this isn't the gospel and you may need to modify what you wear if it's windy or precipitating, or if you tend to run hot or cold.

There are also a few "clothing calculators" to help you figure out what to wear when the mercury dips. Check out Bicycling and Castelli's what to wear on VeloNews.com.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Did they just say 'skirt'?

I've been participating in athletics and sports since I was a kid playing kickball with the boys on the playground. As I got older, I gravitated to various Asian martial art disciplines, the practice of which impacts my fitness and flexibility to this day. It didn't strike me as odd that a young woman wanted to do these things, and I wore the same uniforms as the men did. I had to change in a different room and I couldn't just strip my shirt off at the end of a workout session, no big deal; no one cared.

With an Olympic year approaching, women will be allowed to box for the first time! Cool, huh? I'm really excited to watch the men's and women's tae kwon do and judo competitions, as well.

So, enter the Amateur International Boxing Commission. They want the female boxers to wear skirts. Skirts! It would be one thing if skirts were a part of the traditional uniform, like for field hockey, but they aren't. The Commission's reasoning for this is "It will make the women easier to distinguish from the men, as if the completely different bodies wasn't enough. Poland adopted the uniform, calling the uniforms more 'elegant' and 'womanly.'" You mean, the different body shape, slimmer musculature, etc. won't be enough?! For the Olympic sports of fencing, tae kwon do, and judo (all "combat" sports) the women wear the same uniform as the men, it's practical!

Boxers have always worn shorts or "trunks". They're practical, they cover what they need to cover, the athlete can move in them, what's the problem? And, heaven knows men mustn't think women have *gasp* hips or thighs. Am I also incorrect in thinking that giving the ring-side judges a view is inappropriate?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Save!

There was quiet fuming in my corner of the world when I read about the dissolving of Colavita-Forno D'Asolo squad on Monday. But, today, I feel a little more kindly disposed towards the veritable circus that is professional cycling.

Colavita's Heal to lead new, big budget women's squad

This is excellent news: More resources, both money-wise and marketing-wise to keep the squad training and riding, able to recruit new talent, and travel to more races. They'll also have the funding to bring in both veterans and new riders, getting a well-rounded, deep squad with the talent to bring home the hardware.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What is happening?!

Days like these I wonder if the cycling world truly is imploding.

Top-Ranked NRC Team Colavita-Forno D'Asolo Folds

"'Without any intention of offending those many wonderful cycling industry companies who have supported our programs for many years, I must admit the direct cause of Colavita ending its women's team title sponsorship was in fact losing key industry supplier support,' Profaci said."

Wow, I'm baffled that another winning team (the HTC-HighRoad men's squad has already folded) has had sponsors back out. I really wonder what the reasoning is, too.
Is the down economy putting the squeeze on sponsorship money? Are these companies not seeing enough up-tick in business from sponsorship that they've decided not to put up the cash? Do they not want to be seen supporting a "dirty" sport, despite the huge strides and ongoing efforts to catch dopers and clean up the sport?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Downsizing, please don't panic!

How do you make the playing field as level as possible? How do you give smaller teams a good shot at winning against bigger, more well-funded teams? How can you, as a race organizer, keep fans coming back to your event year after year; how do you keep it fresh? These are questions that are always on the minds of race organizers, no matter if it's Le Tour or a local event on the NRC.

Nature Valley cuts men's teams to six riders

The organizers of the Nature Valley Grand Prix are cutting the men's teams from eight to six riders, the thought being to shake up the podiums and make the racing more exciting for the spectators. Racers and team directors will have to [even more] carefully choose which riders they take to the race and what role each rider will play. Thankfully, the women's teams will still field teams of eight riders. It makes sense, as the women's peloton is smaller than the men's field and needs all the racers it can get.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Under Lock and Key

I've seen a lot of bikes get stolen over the years, especially in the city and on college campuses. It seems like no matter if the bike is a Schwinn from the 1970's or a newer mountain bike, if it has wheels, it gets stolen.

So, what can you do about it? The answer is obvious, lock your bike. But more than just lock your bike, lock it up properly. Just locking it may be a deterrent, but not locking your bike correctly may also increase the chances of someone riding away.

This guy is a mechanic in NYC and, though loud and opinionated (it is New York after all) he's got good points about how to properly lock your bike up:

1. Make sure the pole or rack that you're going to lock to is securely planted in the ground
2. Anything you want to see again, take with you: Helmet, lights, panniers, etc.
3. Use both a strong U-lock and a cable to lock your rear wheel and the frame to the bike rack and the front wheel to the U-lock.
4. Use a smaller cable to lock your saddle to your frame, or mark your seatpost and take your saddle with you.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It Leaks!

UPDATE:
And, again! Giro d'Italia Stages Also Leaked?

The big announcement for the Tour de France route every year is usually in the middle of October, so I didn't think anything big was going on when I logged onto CyclingNews this morning and saw "2012 Tour de France Revealed" at the top of headlines. Then I read the article's sub-title, "Race owner ASO published 2012 itinerary by
mistake"

To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, "Apparently, there's a leak".

Oh well, this gives us diehards an extra week to analyze the route, the terrain, and make predictions about who will snatch which jersey next July.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where Is The Love?

While scrolling though the headlines on VeloNews at work this afternoon, I came across this:

Top women pros say they deserve minimum salary guarantee

Wait, they don't get one already? I thought the whole point of the UCI was to protect the riders? So, what? The women aren't real riders? They don't deserve the same rights and protections as the men? They mose certainly do! They train, they suffer, they race, they get hurt, the same as the men!

Un-flipping-believable. If I were a member, I'd be writing a passionate letter right now.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Longest Ride

I had planned to ride the 40-mile Tour de Tonka route, since I missed the ride on Saturday.

It turns out following the painted arrows on the pavement didn't work out the way I planned, because this is what my computer said when I got home.

Umm, oops?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ridden Hard: 2011 Specialized Amira Expert

One of the perks of working at a bike shop is you occasionally get to test ride bikes, really nice bikes. Bikes that when you swing your leg over the toptube, click in, and take those first pedal strokes, it's magic. I present to you, the 2011 Specialized Amira Expert.

Yummy, isn't she?

The Amira Expert is a women's specific carbon fiber frame, tuned to a woman's weight, which is on average 30-40 lbs. lighter than the average man. Thus, in order to respond the way it's supposed to, they tweeked the carbon lay-up to respond better to a woman rider.

The bike was spec-ed with full Shimano Ultegra components, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset, a Specialized Jett Comp Gel saddle, and Look Keo Classic road pedals, courtesy of Francesca of the Specialized Demo team.

And how was the ride? She rode like a dream. The carbon made for a stiff ride and the geometry let me dip into the corners at the last second, when I stood on the pedals, the bike rocketed forward, and climbing the rollers was almost too easy (but that could have been because of the compact gearing). I loved the big drop from saddle to handlebars, too. My blue bike is set up with a seven centimeter drop between the saddle and handlebars. Usually, only racers have that aggressive a position on the bike, but I like it because I'm strong enough and flexable enough to be in that position without getting sore and I get the best leverage for climbing and sprinting.

Oh, and here's what she'll look like next year at the S-Works level: First Look: Specialized S-Works Amira 2012

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Okay, the Girls Can Play, Part II

Well, it looks like Andrew Messick and AEG Sports listened to the criticism about making the Stage Six of the AToC a "Battle of the Sexes". The women will now have their own ITT (individual time trial) and a big purse to boot.
Women's Amgen time trial, invitation only, offers $10,000 purse
Mr. Messick, were you really surprised by the negative criticism of your prize money idea? I'm not.

I'm a little murky in my feelings towards such an event. Really, why would organizers just sprinkle women amongst the men in the ITT and tie the women's purse to how many men they beat? It makes little sense to this Women's Cat. 4 racer. I have no doubt that these elite women could ride the legs off a ton of the men, but why tie the money to that? Why not offer the purse in a traditional manner to both men's and women's fields? I don't get it.

I have no problem with women racing with men. I've raced Cat. 4 with Cat. 5 men for my entire (short) racing career. I actually like racing with the boys; it's challenging and motivating, especially when I can catch and stay on some one's wheel. I play co-ed hurling with men that outweigh me by 80 lbs. or more. And I love it! Playing with the guys makes me scrappy-er (is that a word?) and not afraid to make a tackle for the ball. I'm guessing it's the same, only even more so, for a professional woman cyclist.

I think a lot of pro women, purse or no purse, would jump at the chance to ride with the men. I would.

Boys, I still hope the women kick your @$$.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Okay, the Girls Can Play

Sometimes I wonder if modern society and Western culture have come as far as we think regarding women. Specifically, how women are viewed compared side-by-side with men in their accomplishments in professional sports.

There was a little blurb on VeloNews.com two weekends ago.
I didn't even see it. A possible women's time trial during the Amgen Tour of California in May? SWEET! I've checked the AToC website and found nothing. Nothing on the news page, team page, stage page, nothing. Is something rotten in the state of Denmark?

Bouncing around the blogosphere this morning, I found this piece by a communications student: The League of Extraordinary Non-Gentlemen

Women have worked hard in the past 2,000+ years to be seen and treated as having as much to offer others and worth as members of society as men. The prize money for the competing women will be based on how many men they beat? WHAT? Why, after Title IX, Women's Liberation, etc. are you thinking this is an intelligent idea? You say comparisons will be made to men anyway. Why encourage it and perpetuate the idea that women have to measure up?

If you really want to help women's pro bike racing, why not invite all these top women's teams (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12, HTC-Highroad, Tibco-To The Top, Team Vera Bradley, Colavita, et cetera) and let them ride their own ITT? That's what they do in Minnesota for the Nature Valley Grand Prix. And guess what? It works! The women are insanely talented, fun to watch, and yes, they are fast.

Versus is (rumored to be) giving this women's event at least ten minutes of TV air time. How generous of you! We might be able to watch one rider take off, ride the course, and finish in that time. How much airtime is being devoted to the men's TT?

Boys, I hope Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, Evelyn Stevens, Alison Powers, Tara Whitten, and all the other women kick your @$$.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh, Joy! Oh, Happiness!

Parks Dept. Disavows a Speed Limit for Bicycles
For some odd reason unknown to this writer, the speed limit for cars in Central Park is 25 mph and for bicycles it was (posted in fine print on a few signs) 15 mph. In what world does that make sense or is safe?

After some police officers issued at least ten speeding tickets to cyclists in Central Park, the Parks Department disavowed the 15 mph bicycle speed limit and said the new limit was 25 mph, the same as an automobile.

Someone check the thermostat in Hell, I think it just went down .25 degrees.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Mine! No, It's Mine!

While teams were riding their legs off and racing there hearts out at Milan-San Remo, the race radio fuelled debate between the UCI and the teams was getting nasty.
UCI's Open Letter to Pro Riders Regarding Radio Ban

According to this letter from UCI President Pat McQuaid, when riders were surveyed in 2009, only one in four responded and was evenly split between those for and against banning two-way race radios. It goes on to question why the riders' opinions "suddenly" changed and if they were being pressured to change their stance. I find it interesting that McQuaid is criticizing riders for caving in to the wishes of their sport directors, when he admits earlier in this same letter to caving to pressure from television networks.

And now, news comes down the pipe that some teams are thinking of leaving the UCI and starting their own cycling league.
Eleven Major Teams Considering Plans to Break Away from the UCI

The teams are, understandably, keeping mum about a possible break. This whole fight is about so much more than two-way radios, it's about control. The UCI controls every single aspect of the sport: Who can ride, what teams get licensed to race, the race calendar, doping regulations and consequences, what equipment is legal, the list goes on. The riders themselves have very little say in how the sport is governed and run from day-to-day. Perhaps one good thing to come out of this whole thing will be more input from the riders on the sport that they give the best years of their lives to.

Is there no way these people can share a sandbox?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day, Biker Style

Today is International Women's Day, a day to honor and celebrate the social, political, and economic achievements by women. So, in the spirit of celebrating women's achievements, here are a couple articles from Cyclingnews.com regarding the current state of the women's professional peloton and what can be done to improve it.

Five Ways to Improve Womens Cycling

Top Five Influential Women in Cycling

Top Five Rides of 2011

Let's go, ladies!

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.