16 June 2010


I ordered some ball bearings from an eBay seller; they came today.  Soon I'll start putting the Schwinn back together.  

I'm trying to keep as many of the original parts on it as I can. However, I'm not at all interested in historical authenticity, as I plan to use the bike for errands and such, and it will spend a lot of time parked on streets.  Plus, the paint is in such rough shape that re-painting it would mean that it's not period-correct, anyway.

Of course, I'm replacing the things that should be replaced:  brake cables and pads, and tires.  And I'm changing the handlebars to the Milan bars I got from Velo Orange.

Probably my biggest indulgence on the bike will be the Velo Orange fenders.  Actually, they're not expensive--maybe five dollars or so more than plastic fenders.  But they look like a luxury.  At least I can justify them:  Metal fenders have always lasted longer than plastic ones for me.  

As I talk about rebuilding a bike, I am still thinking about what I noticed the other day:  the absence of female cyclists in some parts of this city. Even in neighborhoods like mine, or Park Slope or Williamsburg or any other neighborhood where one is likely to find women on bikes, there aren't many my age.  And,  I suspect, there are even fewer women of my age, or any age, who are tearing apart and rebuilding a bike, as I am.  

For that matter, there aren't very many women who've taken the sorts of bike tours that I've taken, or had the amount and breadth of cycling experience I have.  

I can't help but to wonder:  Had I been born with XX chromosomes and raised as a female, would I be reconstructing the Schwinn?  Would I have been able to specify how I wanted my Mercians to be built?  And, would I have--a week after getting my undergraduate degree--gotten on a plane to London with my bike, a couple of changes of clothes, my camera, a couple of notebooks and a few packs of condoms?  

If I hadn't taken that trip, would I have taken the others?  Would I be cycling today?


  1. It seems to me that it is still socially (and VERY underlying) unacceptable for women to be tool users, in some areas of this country and in the world. So I think that had you been born XX, it probably would have mattered more on your upbringing than gender. I'm a woman, and was encouraged from a very young age by my father to get my hands dirty, take things apart, put them together, use tools and make things. Not all young girls get that. I'm about to start on my 3rd bicycle rebuild. :)

    As for getting on a plane with just a few things to run off to another country with a bunch of condoms, I should HOPE that more young women AND men do just that! You never know how some crazy sounding adventure will effect your life. :)

  2. Amy, you make some very good points. It was very unusual for a girl growing up in my generation to be encouraged to handle tools or machinery that wasn't used in the kitchen or for housecleaning. When I was an undergraduate, there were four female students (out of about 2000) in my university's engineering school.

    Likewise, in my generation (and, I suspect, in this generation in many places), parents would discourage or even forbid their daughters from taking the kind of trip I took. Actually, my parents weren't too happy that I did it, but they knew they couldn't stop me.

    As you point out, whether girls follow such interests and inclinations has much to do with upbringing. I have to wonder how I would have been brought up had I the XX chromosomes and the F on my birth certificate. I have no sisters (three brothers), so I have way of knowing for certain whether or how my parents would raise a girl differently from how they raised their boys. They are fairly open-minded (After all, they've been supportive of me in my changes.), but they are also products of their times, places and cultural backgrounds.

  3. Sometimes I think it's being a woman 'of a certain age' that enables me to ride my bike instead of drive a car, or go camping in the bush on my own for a bit of relaxation. As I age I am becoming less influenced by what 'the norm' is and play more to my gallery of one :) I am in danger of becoming a bicycling cat-lady by 70!

    As to tinkering with tools, I'll give most things a bash, but, I have to admit I LOVE the patient lads at my LBS who are very indulgent of the great-aunt whose done something funny to her bike again!

  4. I am impulsive and averse to commitment, and have done my share of running off to foreign countries - so it is not necessarily a male thing.

    Regardless of XX or XY, our bodies and brains get showered with varying amounts of male and female hormones at different stages of development. Though certain behavioural traits have been linked to androgens and certain others have been linked to estrogens, either gender can experience fluctuations in levels of each at different points in the developmental cycle. So it can be argued that the stereotyped 'masculine' vs 'feminine' behaviours are born out of those fluctuations, rather than from the XX vs XY distinction in itself. And of course, this is without even bringing the social stuff into it.