02 July 2014

A Cyclist's "I Ching"

When I started this blog four years ago, I was a little less than a year removed from my gender-reassignment surgery.  Before that, I had been living as a woman for nearly six years.

Through my transition, I noticed my riding habits, as well as my preferences in equipment, changing. Actually, early in my process, I wondered whether I would continue to ride at all:  I went through a time when I did very little riding and was occupied with other things.

But, about two years in, I found I was regaining my enthusiasm and the amount of my riding gradually increased.  The number of miles or kilometers I ride--and, perhaps, my intensity--has not returned to what it was when I was full of testosterone (and myself).  I wondered how much of that change--not to mention the shifts in my gear preferences--had to do with estrogen replacing testosterone, and how much was simply a function of aging.

My doctor and everything I've read related to gender transitions said that I would lose some of my strength and endurance from my hormonal change.   I assume most of what I've read wasn't written by cyclists (and my doctor isn't one), so nothing was mentioned about changes in bicycle and accessory preferences.

Actually, I've always been, if not a "retrogrouch", something of a classicist when it comes to bikes.  I have never owned a carbon-fiber bike, or even a titanium one, and have ridden very few parts made from those materials.  Save for a couple of aluminum bikes, every steed of mine has been constructed of steel, mostly with aluminum alloy components.  I prefer the look of classic or classically-inspired bikes, but more to the point, a rider can form a mutually supportive relationship with one over a long period of time.  They can be adapted in ways that today's ultra-specialized bikes can't be.  Moreover, I have had repairs made to steel frames that wouldn't have been possible on frames made from other materials.

And, even when canvas bike bags and other vintage-style accessories were all but impossible to find here in the US, I looked for stuff that was interesting, tasteful and distinctive: I never went for the Darth Vader all-black look or the cartoonish graphics found on too many current bikes, parts and accessories.  For about a year or two, Cannondale offered bike bags made with Andean-style woven fabric; I used one such bag, which mounted under the seat, for many years.

But now other cyclists are discovering the utility as well as the beauty of older equipment, or gear inspired by it.  Or, perhaps, I am simply finding out about such cyclists.  I ride and chat with a few here in New York (like Hal Ruzal of Bicycle Habitat) and I've come into contact with some through my blogging.  I think in particular of the author of Lovely Bicycle! in the early days of her blog, and of the current "The Retrogrouch" as well as Ely Ruth Rodriguez, who made the bags I've been using lately.    And, of course, there is Chris Kulczyki of Velo Orange, who started off by selling old parts he and his friends found in warehouses and, later, having modern versions--often, with better materials and design refinements--made.

One thing all of those cyclists--and others I've encountered--have in common is that they're near my age or, at least, past the stage in life in which people equate novelty with quality or, at least, hipness.  It's at such a time in your life that you stop thinking that fenders are only for people who are too (fill in the blank) to win a race!


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