Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

12 August 2012

WE BIKE at Smorgasburg

Yesterday I promised to tell you about the event where I saw the Pashley Mailstar, which is used by the "posties" of Royal Mail in the UK.

Liz (R) showing two cyclists how to repair an innertube.

Liz Jose, the founder and president of WE Bike (Women Empowered through Bicycles) used the bike to transport a table tools and various WE Bike schwag to a repair workshop/recruitment drive held at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.  

We volunteered our own bikes for "the cause"!

Actually, some might argue it wasn't a full-blown repair shop.  What we did was to teach some female cyclists (and, in a few cases, men who accompanied them) how to fix flats.  If a cyclist--especially a female rider-- learns to do only one repair, this should be the one.  If nothing else, knowing this basic skill can keep you from getting stranded.

Erin (facing to the side), Shelley (in pink t-shirt) and Liz (seated).

The fear of getting stranded by a deflated tire, and not knowing how to fix it, is one of the most common reasons why people won't take longer rides or use their bikes for transportation.  I think this fear is greater among female cyclists, for we (well, many of us, anyway) have more reason to fear for our safety if we are stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar or unsafe area by ourselves.  Also, I think that many women have been taught, implicitly or explicitly, to distrust their own abilities to fix even very basic things, not to mention to be self-sufficient in any number of other ways.  

Having been raised as male, I wasn't inculcated with that same distrust of my abilities.  Of course, I did not understand that until I started the transition that has culminated in living in the female gender of my mind and spirit.  I suppose that, in addition to some skills that I possess, that self-confidence might be what I can offer the women and girls who join and ride with WE Bike.

I hope that doesn't sound condescending, or as if I'm some well-intentioned  but misguided do-gooder.  I have been known to do things at least partially for altruistic reasons, and I can say that joining WE Bike is one of those things.  But the most important reason why I've decided to involve myself with it is that, since my transition, I've come to feel out of place in both the formal and impromptu men's cycling groups in which I've participated.  Even the so-called co-ed groups are dominated by males.  Not that I have anything against them:  I simply feel that I want and need other things now, as my motivations for (and, most likely, style of ) riding have changed.

Plus, so far, I'm enjoying the company of the women in WE Bike.  Isn't that the real reason to be involved with any group, whether or not it's formally organized?

As for the dilemma I faced: I managed to look presentable enough, I suppose, for the writing workshop.  I don't know whether anybody there noticed, but I was wearing a cardigan/jacket over the sundress in which I rode to the workshop--and to the WE Bike workshop.  But once I got to the latter event, I covered the top of my dress with something else:

I'd say that the fit might've been a bit snug, but the color worked!  And somehow I managed not to smudge the T-shirt or sundress in spite of the grease and dirt on my hands!


  1. Transition does seem to have made me more clumsy and less confident! Or I could put it down to failing close vision and age...

    When young bikes were everywhere and parents taught their kids how to fix them partly to get some peace. I find more take their bikes in for repair much like they have to take unrepairable cars...

  2. Coline--I think that cycling, like many other endeavors, has been taken away from the people. Now the bike industry, with its constant "innovations", leaves people with the notion that they have to bring their bikes to a "specialist."

    That situation reflects what we see in so many other areas. One of my favorite professors wrote literary criticism and history in language that was elegant but completely understandable by anyone who can read the English language. Now so much of what passes for "scholarship" is just a jumble of contrived words and convoluted sentence structures that undermine non-academicians' confidience in their ability to read it. If they don't give up on it altogether, they take courses and pursue degrees because they come to believe they need those "scholars" with their arcane vocabularies and all-but-foreign language in order to truly undertand a novel, poem or whatever else might be on the page (or screen).

    Sorry if this seems like a rant. But I try not to be elitist, just as I try to free myself from the sexism I unconsciously imbibed in my upbringing and education as a male!

  3. A friend who was a university professor of design retired and the department was taken over by his much younger wife who decided that she had better get a PhD which is the current fashion. From the moment she started we ceased to be able to understand what she was trying to say and her husband did not understand any of the language in her thesis! Strange new world we live in...