Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

31 October 2010

Cycling Through The Gates of Autumn

I got up late today.  So my ride took me to a sunset:


The sun has just set behind Jamaica Bay, near the place it meets the Atlantic at Breezy Point.  I stumbled over this view on the Queens side of the Gil Hodges-Marine Park Bridge.  That view led to another bridge:


To get to these views, we crossed another bridge:


The day was chilly and windy, and became more of both after we crossed this bridge from Beach Channel to the Rockaways.  But somehow I didn't feel the cold.  Maybe I was channeling the sky:  Clouds spread like a shawl across a graying sea and houses that still have some of the warmth and light the sun within them.

And the way to these views was a bike ride through the gates of autumn:


Some of us have to carry a lot to get there:


Sometimes the journey is long, or seems that way:


And where does it lead?  Hopefully, to some place like this:


And it continues.  There is no escaping it, though some will try:

b

That's a washed-out stretch of the Greenway, where it parallels Belt Parkway along Brooklyn's South Shore.  I asked someone to take a photo of me, but I didn't like it.  So I took this photo of a couple I saw cycling.  

Where else could they have been riding but through a sunset in the gates of autumn.

30 October 2010

Cycling vs. Fishing: The Class Structure in New York City?

Sometimes I ride down to the Canarsie Pier, as I did today.  It's on the South Shore of Brooklyn, along the Greenway that connects Howard Beach to Sheepshead Bay and parallels the Belt Parkway as it winds along the beaches and coves of the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay.


At just about any time of year, in any kind of weather, at pretty much any hour of the day or night, people--usually older men--fish off the pier:




In my time, I've seen plenty of guys fishing off piers and bridges.  The ones I see on the piers seem to have a mutual non-acknowledgment pact with cyclists.  The ones on bridges, on the other hand, are often resentful or simply hostile toward cyclists.  That may have something to do with the fact that on bridges, we tend to pass closer to them than we do on piers, as the walkways on most bridges (where cyclists usually ride and fisherman cast their lines) are only a few feet, if that, wide.


It seems that the worlds of cycling and fishing, at least in urban or suburban settings, exclude each other, whether or not by design.  Sometimes I see men riding bicycles to their fishing spots.  But they aren't riding to take the ride; the bike is strictly is a means of transportation and portage.  As often as not, their fishing poles are strapped or even taped to the top tubes of their bicycles.


Perhaps some of those fisherman resent or envy those of us who are cycling for its own sake, or for training.  After all, even if we have to put down payments on our bikes and pay them in installments before we pedal them, we have lifestyles--and, with it, access to the means, or whatever will get us the means, to buy a nice bike.  Most of the fishermen (Most are male.) are poor and/or working class; many have families they are supporting in full or in part.  And most of them, at least in this area, are members of racial and ethnic minorities.  At the Canarsie Pier, as in other fishing spots in this city,  they are usually Caribbean or Latino.  On the other hand, most cyclists, including yours truly, are white.  Even those who are Caribbean, Latino or from other minority group tend to be a bit better off, financially as well as socially, than those who are fishing.


Hmm...Could it be that this city's class structure can be delineated according to whether someone fishes or rides a bicycle?

29 October 2010

As Lovely As A Tree?

Someone--I forget whom--once said that there are two ways to hate poetry.  One is simply to hate it.  The other, according to the wag, was to read Alexander Pope.


I would agree that there's no hope in Pope.  But even he couldn't do the sort of damage Joyce Kilmer caused.  After reading Kilmer, you might find yourself hating trees as well as poetry:


I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree


A tree whose hungry mouth is prest 
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;


A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her arms to pray;


A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;


Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who ultimately lives with rain.


Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


After that last stanza, is it any wonder that it's so difficult for a poet to get a grant, much less to sell volumes or his or her works?


It just figures that Kilmer attended the school from which I got my B.A.:  Rutgers.  But, interestingly enough, he dropped out after his sophomore year because he couldn't pass their required math courses.  Then he transferred to, and graduated from, Columbia. (So much for the superiority of the Ivy League, right?)


Kilmer and his poem are like one of those awful songs from some absolutely wretched band that gets under your skin and circulates through your body and mind no matter how hard you try to get rid of it.  And "Trees" came back to me when I saw this yesterday:




Such a classically autumnal arbortoreal form can make even an industrial-style campus that was built during the post-industrial era, like that of my main job, seem like a New England idyll.   Marianela, my old LeTour III, felt right at home in it:






She, at least, resists comparisons to trees.  For that matter, so do Arielle, Tosca and Helene, my other bikes.


Perhaps I've been too  hard on Kilmer.  After all, it is pretty difficult to make something that's about a tree yet more, or at least as, beautiful.  I've tried, and I know I've failed to do that.


Here's something that depicts a tree and is quite lovely, if in an unexpected way and place:




I feel that it's the most beautiful coin ever produced in this country.  Maybe if I had too much time and money on my hands, I'd try to enlarge it enough to use as a front wheel.  It's certainly more attractive than those carbon-fiber tri-spoke wheels!

28 October 2010

If the Other Shoe Doesn't Drop, It Popped Out of My Commuter Basket

I don't get sick often.  But it seems that when I do, I am ridiculously busy as soon as I get back to my normal routine.  And so it has been the last two days.


Well, at least I got to ride to and from both jobs today, and the other day.  Both days were full of fall colors and decidedly non-autumnal warmth.  Yesterday, on the other hand, we had weather that was even less autumnal, except for the kind of light we had:  Wind-driven downpours frizzed and soaked everything in sight so that even the reflections of sidewalks in the windows frizzed and soaked like cats dropped into swimming pools.


So...an unrideable day was sandwiched between two days of near-perfect riding conditions. I guess I'd rather have it that way than the other way around.


I was running a bit late this morning on my way to my regular job.  So I barreled down streets--including a stretch of one that looked like a washbord and made me feel as if I were riding on one--like a moonshiner on a backwoods Southern road during Prohibition.  I don't know whether it had to do with the vibrations or my blood pumping (or both), but  felt as if the things that had been making me sick were leaping out of my body.  


Even with all of the vibrations that shook me--and even though I was riding to work--I was enjoying the ride as if it were a foliage weekend tour in Vermont.  Inside one of the rear baskets, I carried a canvas tote bag that contained my students' papers, a textbook for one of the courses I teach and a pair of black patent slingback high heels.


The only problem was that when I got to work and reached into the bag, only the left shoe was in it!  I checked inside the bag and  in the area surrounding the spot where I parked my LeTour and up the block:  No luck.  I didn't have time to re-trace my route.


 So I was reduced  (literally) to spending the day in the black flats in which I'd pedaled.  They aren't bad-lookng shoes, and they're very comfortable.  And, to tell the truth, they really weren't bad with my outfit, which consisted of a plum-maroon cardigan with gray piping over a lavender blouse, a flannel skirt in the same shade of gray as the pipng, and a pair of sheer pantyhose in that same hue.  As one of my students said, it all looked "very elegant."  But the patent slingbacks with three-inch heels would have given it a bit more pizazz.


Oh well.  Maybe some kid along my route found that other shoe.  I guess if the kid were mine, I'd rather that he or she found a middle-aged woman's dress shoe in size 11 wide than a crack vial or shell casing!

25 October 2010

Critical Lasses In Edmonton

Now I have to take a trip to Edmonton.


No, I'm not going there to take in an Oilers' game.  And, while the idea of biking or hiking in the Rockies and taking in the Edmonton night life appeals to me, I've never made going there one of my goals.  


Lately, as a result of Sarah Chan's Girls and Bicycles blog, I've been reading about Edmonton's bicycle scene.  Until I came across her blog, I thought that cycling in Edmonton looked something like this:






You might accuse me of New York Provincialism.  You've seen an example of it on that famous New Yorker cover:




Since I started reading Girls and Bicycles, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters and other sites, I've formed an impression of an active--velocipedically as well as politically--cycling community.  And it seems to embrace diversity--and, yes, there's more of it than I, the jaded New Yorker, expected--in ways not commonly seen.


How can you not love a place that has a "Critical Lass" ride?


But the thing that really got my attention was a practice of Bike Works, the bicycle cooperative EBC operates.  On the first, third and fifth Sundays of every month,  BikeWorks is open only to women and transgenders.


Now that was an eye-opener for me.  I didn't think that there were enough transgenders, let alone transgendered cyclists, in Edmonton for them to be so recognized.  There's my NYP at work again!


If I ever were in Edmonton, of course I would check out BikeWorks on a women's/transgenders' Sunday.  However--and, as someone who hasn't been there, my view is admittedly limited--I have mixed feelings about  such a practice.


On one hand, I'm glad that a bike shop or cooperative wants to make its facility female- and trans-friendly and give us a "space."  In a sense, they're acknowledging that there aren't enough such spaces and hours.   And I know that sometimes (actually, often) I want to be around other women only, not out of any animosity toward men, but because of our particular ways of seeing and experiencing things. 


On the other, I have to wonder whether that will help or impede our acceptance by the larger cycling culture, and the culture generally.  I feel the same way about other gender-segregated institutions such as schools, and ones that are dedicated to LGBT people.  Some educators and psychologists raised the same concern when the Harvey Milk School was opened in New York.


Don't get me wrong:  I'm happy that the folks at BikeWorks recognize that there are indeed transgendered cyclists and that we, like other female cyclists, sometimes feel alienated and excluded from the larger cycling culture.  I don't doubt that they are trying to make us feel more welcome and to counter some of the condescension and hostility female cyclists have long complained about in cycle shops and clubs.


Still, I find it interesting that such a thing is happening in Edmonton and not in New York, at least to my knowledge.  

24 October 2010

A Sunday Without A Ride

The doctor was right when she said that my eye infection was viral rather than bacterial.  That's the reason why it's cleared up on its own, albeit slowly.  So my eyes aren't burning.  But the virus seems to have moved to other parts of my body:  I've been congested and my Eustachian tube (what connects the inner ear with the throat) feels as inflamed as my eyes felt.  


I think it's the reason why I felt so tired after riding home from work on Thursday night, and have felt tired ever since.  It figures I would feel this way when we were having a Perfect Fall Weekend.  


It's Sunday.  Perhaps a bit of worship(!) might be in order:




Is there a Church of the Long Island Rail Road?  (Yes, they spell it as two words.)  Near the foot of this "shrine" is one of God's creatures:




Her name is Kiki.  She patrols a tiny snack shop in Woodside, where I've stopped on my rides to or from work.  She claims to be Charlie's long-lost sister.  


Anyway...If I'm posting about railroad power lines and cats in delis, I really need to get back on my bike.  I will.  I'd argue that it beats other ways of transportation:




Is this the real reason why they're the only US automaker that hasn't gone bankrupt?

23 October 2010

Pedalling To A Dream, Twenty Years Later

The other day I pedalled to and from work--my regular and side jobs.  And during my ride home, I took of my favorite detours.




I took this photo from Fort Totten, on the North Shore.  I think it's the first time I rode inside the former base after sunset, much less by the light of the full moon we had the other night.  


Once, when the Fort was still an active military facility, I took a moonlight ride through the park just outside the gates.  Then, as now, a path skirted the edge of the water and passed underneath the Throgs Neck Bridge. That path and park were as lovely then as they are now.  




That night--more than a lifetime ago, at least for me--I coasted down Bell Boulevard, from St. Mary's Hospital, where I was doing poetry and creative writing workshops with handicapped and chronically ill kids.  The wonderful thing about doing poetry with kids of that age--especially those who have never gotten out of their wheelchairs or beds-- is that you don't have to tell them to dream.  For them, their unconscious and conscious lives are one.  Even if they cannot escape the constraints of their bodies, they aren't simply imagining that they are running, flying, jumping or dancing because their minds and are actually in moving in a jeu d'esprit with the light of their own stars.


I remember pedalling on that cold, windy night with a moon as full as the one I saw the other night and wishing that I could have brought those kids there with me.  After all, if I could be so moved, I could only imagine what kind of effect such a night in such a place would have on them.


Then I got very angry--at myself, because there was no one else there that night, and at that place for stirring up such passions in me--when I realized that all I was wishing for them was my own experience which, by definition, they never could have, any more than I could have lived their lives.  And the crisp clarity of that night's sky--which was reflected, again, the other night--was, in reality, as chimeric as the lights seen in the mist.


They might have enjoyed being in that place as much as I did, but they didn't need it--or, at least, they didn't need it as much as I did--in order to dream.  In fact, the crisp, almost brittle, moonlit chill seemed like the clearest sort of reality the way any sort of shock or trauma seems the moment after you experience it.  It seems so real precisely because it's the only reality you have at that moment.  But that is exactly the reason not to trust whatever perceptions or sensations you have at such a time--though, of course, you cannot trust anything else. There is no past or future, there is only the present--not even the Eternal Present-- just the moment, repeated a million times every second until there is no other moment to repeat.  Repetition does not generate clarity; it merely breeds familiarity.  


And so I pedalled home that night.  And some of those kids where wheeled back to the homes of their biological or other families, while others stayed in their beds in the hospital.


What I didn't realize, at least consciously, was that I was dreaming of the ride I took the other night.  Heck, I didn't even want to know, much less admit, that I could still dream that way.  


I was very tired the other night:  Some would say that I probably shouldn't have ridden.  But, somehow, even though I was pedalling at about half my normal number of RPMs, I felt as if I were levitating on bay water rippling between the surface of the path and the moonlight that was reflecting off it.  That is not to say that it was all effortless; I was very, very tired.  But I was not exhausted; I was not beaten:  I couldn't help but to ride, to keep on riding, as the light of that moment filled me.  


In other words, I was in a dream.  I hadn't gone in pursuit of it, at least not the other night.  But I really never had any choice but to follow it, even when I didn't know that I still could still dream it.


I fell asleep not long after getting home.





20 October 2010

Back In The Saddle Again

Today was the first time I've spent any time at all on any of my bikes in a week and a half.  My eye infection seems to cleared up, finally.  My riding consisted solely of errands, and it was my first time on the Gyes "Parkside" saddle I've installed on Marianela, my old LeTour.


I made a couple of other changes to her, too.  As I had a bottom bracket and chainring, and had gotten a suitable pair of crankarms cheaply, I took off the old double crankset.  Marianela is now a true single-speed.






And I sold the old cranks on eBay for a bit more than I paid for what's on the bike now.  Because the cranks were engraved with the "LeTour" name, they had some value, apparently, to someone who was doing a period-correct restoration.  Ditto for the stem, which I sold and replaced with a newer steel stem that has a longer extension and is a bit more upright.


After having a seat stolen, I am using an old messenger trick on the new saddle.








I took an old single-speed chain and cut it to the length I needed to wrap around the saddle rails and seat stays.  I inserted the chain segment into a piece of old inner tube, and after wrapping the encased chain around the saddle rails and seat stays, I riveted the ends of the chain together.  


I'm going to keep the ratty-looking paint, as that bike is parked on the streets.  Besides, I like the color, even with the current state of the paint job.

18 October 2010

What I Carried In The Original Messenger Bag

Sometimes I wish I'd saved the bag I used when I was pedaling the canyons of Manhattan to deliver legal documents, fabric samples, slices of pizza (!),  manuscripts--and a few envelopes and packages with their own unwritten "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies attached, if you know what I mean.


That was a strange time in my life. I had a college degree. I'd lived and worked in Paris.  But I had absolutely no idea of what I wanted to do next.  Actually, I didn't want to know:  I knew that I could be turned into a writer and/or an educator, in some fashion or another, but I was too angry to want those things, or much of anything else. And I was stupid enough to think that sort of anger made me superior to, or at least more sensitive or wounded than, other people.

I told family members and my few friends (actually, by that time, one friend) that I wasn't ready to commit to a profession, or to even work in an office.  The truth was that I couldn't have done those things, not to please them or anyone else.  And there simply wasn't anything motivating me to do those things--or much of anything else, quite frankly.



A grandmother and an uncle who were very close to me had recently died.  And a friend had committed suicide. Of course, I had other demons and ghosts as well.  I didn't think anyone else could understand them; in truth, they didn't even make sense to me.  So,  I didn't want to talk, much less answer, to anyone unless I absolutely had to. 


So what else could I have been, at that time in my life, but a messenger?  


Remember that in those days--circa 1983--there was absolutely no status in being a messenger.  It wasn't a job that hipsters (or their equivalents in those days) did.  And only the really hard-core cyclists rode fixed-gear bikes; they weren't the status symbols of those who were trying to show, or make themselves or their friends believe, they weren't bourgeois.  


At that time, messenger bags weren't fashionable accessories.  


So, when I stopped messengering (Surely you had some English teacher who told you "No gerunding nouns."  I never listened. It just figures that I teach English now.),  I sold my bag without thinking about it.  I'd just begun to work for American Youth Hostels, when it was located on Spring Street and the neighborhood still had some halfway interesting art to be seen and sandwich shops with names like "Rocco and His Brothers." One guy, named Judah, used to hang out there when he wasn't making his rounds on his old  Peugeot.  He had been a messenger, it seemed, since before the rest of us were born.  I used to see him on the streets when I was dodging cabs and pedestrians for my commissions.  So, at one time or another, did every other messenger in Manhattan.  


He told me that a friend of his was going follow him into the business I'd just left and therefore needed a messenger bag.  I'd used mine for about a year. Smog, slush, rain, pizza drippings, spilled drinks-- and a couple of burns from cigarettes that weren't made by companies that contributed to the campaigns of Southern politicians-- left their almost-still-viscous mosaic on the once-bright green canvas. Still, the bag was as strong as it was the day I bought it.  So, Judah's courier- novitiate friend paid me not much less than I paid for the bag.


When I bought it new, it was just like the bag in this photo--except, of course, that mine was green:






It was made--to my order--by a small company called Globe Canvas, which was located in the basement of some building in Chinatown, if I remember correctly.   The guy who, it seemed, was Globe Canvas, asked who I was working for, and knew which size and color bag to make.  He was an older Italian gentleman and seemed like one of those forces of nature that always did, and always would be doing, whatever you saw him doing.  I hear that he died a couple of years ago.  I'm not surprised, as he was far from being a young man even then.


Anyway, these days, it seems that every other company that makes messenger bags--or, more precisely, bags that reflect the self-conscious aspirations to hipness of their owners as much as the style of the bags I carried for a year--says that theirs is the "original."  


I say that if their bag was the original, nobody would--or could--buy it.  Only the down-and-out, reject-of-society messenger of yore could ever have had such a thing.  And he wouldn't be bragging about it.


They were great bags, though.  Almost nothing you can buy today is as well-made.  I'd love to have mine now, even if I haven't used a messenger bag since the day I made my last delivery.

17 October 2010

Missing A Ride

Today I had planned to go for a ride with my cousin.  Back in January, I went bike shopping with him.   He ended up with a Bianchi hybrid, on which he swapped the stock saddle for a wider one.  He's a bit older than I am, and hadn't ridden for decades before he bought his mount. I am happy that he bought a bike that he'll actually ride; I won't try to nudge him toward a more "serious" bike.


This would have been the first time we rode together.  However, I had to cancel:  My eye infection is still healing, and I don't want to take any chances.  Plus, having this infection has left me very tired.  I remember reading somewhere that a significant portion of our body's energy goes toward making our eyes function.  It makes sense:  When our eyes are tired, we are tired.  


It's just my luck that today has been just about everybody's idea of a perfect fall day.  It's been pleasantly cool and crisp, and the sun has shone brightly.  It's a welcome change from the driving rain we had for a couple of days, and the two days of 40mph-plus wind gusts that followed.  It's exactly the sort of day when I want to get on my bike, period.  


I wonder whether doctors are being sarcastic when they refer to people like me as "patients."

16 October 2010

When You Have A Couple Hundred To Blow

You can't make this stuff up.






Believe it or not, at least two companies are actually making carbon fiber racks that clamp on seat posts.  They both look something like what you see in the photo.


Bontrager and Topeak both claim that their versions of the carbon-fiber seat post rack can support seven kilograms.  That's reasonable enough, I guess:  If I had a seatpost-mounted rack, I don't think I'd want to put much more weight on it.  And, if I were going to carry panniers and camping equipment, I don't think I'd be using any seatpost-mounted rack, whatever its material.


Then again, I don't think I'd be using anything made of carbon fiber if I were carrying much more than a spare tube and a multitool on my bike.  Actually, I don't have, and don't plan to install,  anything carbon fiber on any of my bikes.   Whatever weight savings those feathery tidbits might offer would be negated by the weight my body is storing, as bodies are wont to do when they reach my age.  And the carbon-fiber weight savings would certainly be nullified by, say, saddle or pannier bags, let alone what anyone might put in them.


And although failure is relatiively rare in high-quality bike parts and accessories, I wouldn't want to take the chance of breaking any carbon-fiber part or accessory. Carbon-fiber tubes are particularly nasty when they fail:  They break along a jagged edge, like a glass bottle.  And carbon-fiber edges are as sharp as those bottle fragments.  If a carbon fiber seatpost were to fail, having an uncomfortable saddle would be the least of my worries.  All that beautiful work Dr. Bowers did would certainly be for naught!


Of course, a broken rack wouldn't have the same consequences.  But things could get ugly once that broken rack and its contents fall into the rear wheel.  And if that wheel is made of carbon...


Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but I still think that fiber belongs in cereal and carbon in filters.   

15 October 2010

A Mixted-Up Free Spirit

This bike was parked on West 14th Street, near Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan:



It's a rather odd mishmash of bike design.  On one hand, it's a traditional American women's frame with a swooped-down top tube.  Another aspect of traditional American desgn is the mini-stay connecting the top tube with the down tube, which is also curvy in the manner of traditional American women's frames.

What I found interesting, though, is the top tube consists of twin parallel tubes, not unlike what we see on French-style mixte frames.  And those tubes are welded together, as they were on lower-priced American bikes of the time, rather than lugged and brazed or filet-brazed.  

This bike also has an Ashtabula (one-piece) crank, which was also typical of lower-priced American bikes of the time.  

The bike is a Free Spirit, which was a line of bikes sold by Sears during the 1970's and early 1980's.  Most of those bikes, as you might imagine, weren't the sort of things bought by high-mileage cyclists or entusiasts.  Most of them, like the one in the photo, were made by one of the lower-end American manufacturers like Murray or Huffy, although there were a couple of "lightweight" models--including one with Reynolds 531 straight-gauge tubing in the main triangle--made in Austria by Steyr-Puch, the same company that made Puchs and Austro-Daimlers.  Later Free Spirit bikes were made in Taiwan, before bikes from that country gained respect from dedicated cyclists.

They, and other sporting goods sold by Sears, were endorsed by none other than Ted Williams.  He was a great player, but somehow I don't think of him as a free spirit.  (I never saw him play, as he was a bit before my time.  However, he has my respect because, in his Hall of Fame induction speech, he advocated for the induction of Negro League players, none of whom were enshrined in the Hall at that time.)  

I'm sorry I couldn't take a better photo.  I was squirreling in between the few inches (I ain't as skinny as I used to be!)  between the bike and the scaffold for a building that's under removation.  So I couldn't get into a much better position to take a photo.  Also, I used my cell phone, as I didn't have my camera with me.  I  had gone to my doctor, who monitored the healing of the conjunctivitis I came down with, and I wasn't riding or thinking much about photography.  

The bike looks as if it was ridden once or twice after it was purchased, then it was holed up in a garage or basement before its current owner found it in a thrift shop or garage sale.  Although it's a bike I wouldn't buy for myself, I'm glad it's getting use,  And, even though I never liked the paint jobs on this or any other Free Spirit, I think this one is kinda cute, if in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, with that basket on the front.

14 October 2010

Beryl Burton and Lana Lawless

I am going to mention Lana Lawless and Beryl Burton in the same post. Why?, you ask.


Well, I just happened to read about both of them today.  All right, you say, but what else do they have in common?


Not much, I'll admit.  But Beryl Berton is relevant to a question brought up by what Lana Lawless has done.


Ms. Lawless has made the news during the last couple of days because she's suing the Ladies Professional Golf Association because they won't let her play in their tournaments.  Why is that?


The LPGA is excluding her for the same reason they would probably exclude me, even if I met the organization's other requirements.  Yes, Ms. Lawless (Don't you just love the name?) is transgendered.  She had her sexual reassignment surgery in 2005.  


The LPGA, and much of general public--even some who are fully willing to accept that Ms. Lawless is as much of a woman as Lisa Ann Horst--argue that Lawless and other transgender women have advantages conferred upon them as a result of their XY chromosomes.  Although I don't have any statistics handy, I'd bet that, on average, we are taller and heavier than most women born with XX chromosomes.  Also, we have broader and denser bone structures (which is the reason why, even after years of taking estrogen, which weakens bones, osteoporosis is all but unknown in male-to-female transgenders) and, usually, more muscle mass. 


Now, it's easy to see how such differences would confer advantages on us (well, not me, given  my age and the shape I'm in!) in sports like American football--or in basketball, where height makes right.  But even in the latter sport, mens' (or trans-women's ) advantage isn't as great as one might think, since basketball players of both genders are in the top percentile for height.  (I mean, really, how much advantage does someone who's seven feet tall have over someone who's six-foot-nine?)  And, while I admit I don't know much about golf, as I've neither played the game nor followed the sport, I still have to wonder just how much of  an advantage one gender really has over an other.  Some argue that someone with XY chromosomes can make longer shots, but somehow I suspect there's more to winning a golf tournament than that.  Otherwise, why would there be so much of an audience for it, and why would even social golfers spend so much time practicing.


My point is, it's commonly assumed that if a woman with XY chromosomes were to enter a women's competition, she would dominate it and eliminate the women's competition's/league's/race's raison d'etre--or, at least, eliminate its audience and sponsorship.


That brings me to Beryl Burton.  She dominated British women's cycling at a time when it was coming to its own.  In fact, she was arguably as well-known as the male racers of her time.


That's because, at one point, she held the 12-hour time trial record.  Not the women's record, mind you--the record.  Moreover, she held that record for two years (1967-69), and at 277.25 miles,  she had an advantage of five miles over the men's record.  


Think about it:  She was riding faster, over a distance, than most of the male professional cyclists of her time.  And her record still stands as the women's record; only a handful of men have beaten it--even though she was riding in the days before disc wheels, carbon frames and skinsuits.


You might argue that she is an exception.  She is certainly unusual, but she's not the only female athlete to have held  a record for both men and women. Such a thing is relatively common in swimming and a few other non-contact sports.  As an example, when Gertrude Ederle set the record for swimming across the English Channel, her time was a full two hours faster than the previous record, which had been set by a man.


So, the examples I've set out beg this question:  How much of men's dominance of sports is really due to men's actual or alleged superior athleticism?  Could it be that men's dominance in sports other than American football, basketball, or a few others, is really due to the facts that they've been playing longer and that there is more of an infrastructure, if you will, of sports for boys than there is for girls?  Even after nearly four decades of Title IX, it's a lot easier to find a team, league or program for boys than it is to find their counterparts for girls, particlarly in smaller and rural communities.  


And what does that portend for the future of transgenders in sport?