It is October, the last VSP of the season is up, there is still some race in China no one cares about. The road racing season is over. It is time for a little Velominati reflection. We tried to put in as many women’s races into the VSP as we could. They get little press, finding a start list is tough, picking the top five even tougher. But the women are out there on the same courses as the men. They are riding shorter courses for a lot less money and publicity. Locally I see some serious women out riding and racing but not enough. @mel sent this in a while ago but now is a good time to address it. She is a force of reason. Also this week we added an excellent link to our Keepers Sites, Winnipeg Cycle Chick and this chick is as messed up as the rest of us. Women with tan lines are the best.
I don’t see much in the way of Velominata-written content here on the site. And God knows it’s sometimes tough to tell a chick from a dude based on nicknames so maybe I’ve missed the chick-lit. In fact, I bet there’s a whole gaggle of broads out there that would fall off their pastel pink and blue girlie bikes if they knew what tomfoolery went on within the confines of this site (case in point, the June 3, 2012 article featuring the finer points of blowing snot rockets and horking lung butter). So here I am, wanting to say something earth shattering about broads and bikes but really, all I can come up with is: where the hell are all the Velominata?
It seems somewhat absurd that I’m writing an article ranting about the lack of Velominata to an audience that likely already includes a group of them. Sure, there’s loads of kick ass chicks out there that can lay down a strip of V on the pro race circuit but I’m not necessarily talking about those women (although secretly I wish I was one of them). I’m talking about the female equivalent to all the dudes out there that regularly read this site and who live and ride by The Rules. Yes, yes, I know that some of you do race. Whatever. But many of you don’t race and are still pretty damn bad ass in my book. Why can’t I find similarly bad-ass women to ride with?
I’m not saying I’m the fastest chick out there. And I’m definitely far from being the slowest. I love my beautiful, sexy bike. I love the history and culture of cycling. I love the nuances and etiquette of the peloton. I love that I understand and follow The Rules. So what the hell is up with the majority of women out there just not getting it? Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to prove to me that you’re an awesome hill climber or flat land specialist or that your 5 or 10-minute power output is similar to that of the Brothers Grimpeur. To be honest, I appreciate the quiet modesty of someone who is a damn fine cyclist looking for ways to get better and to share the love of the sport. I’m the first to admit that I’m no powerhouse. At 5 foot 6 and 145 pounds I weigh what a lot of the male pros weigh. Seems like a total rip off that my power to weight ratio sucks in comparison, but I got over that years ago. I still try to ride with the guys but I know that I’m always going to have to work relatively harder to keep up. Thus my desire to find a group of women that are willing to ride and carry on like all the fun-loving Velominati out there.
I’ve taken heat over the past few years for being a bit of a loud mouth and maybe even a bit of a bitch. In reality, all I’m trying to do is advocate that women get out there and freaking ride. I want women to love their bikes like I love mine. I want them to get excited over the fact that riding isn’t always fun and it isn’t always pretty but that it is always awesome. I want them to understand that not every ride is going to be a great ride but that even a bad ride is better than no ride. I want them to know that getting dropped isn’t the end of the world. I also want them to know that if you can’t ride like a bad ass, then do like me and at least look PRO.
Four years ago, in an attempt to find other like minded women, I formed a bike shop-affiliated women’s road group. Over the years, the membership grew to about 100 members. Pretty freaking impressive, right? But as with any club, there was a small group of members that rode regularly, a group of members that did nothing but complain and a group of members that made cameo appearances a la the Muppet Show on their once a month rides. After four years I couldn’t take it anymore and I walked away; which is a shame considering my goal all along was to get women to love cycling.
Seriously though, when did women become such…pussies?
I blame society to a large degree. No need for me to get into a sociological discussion on the environment in which we grow up in and how little girls are taught to be delicate and little boys are taught to be tough. I guess a lot of the anti-V female attitude starts pretty early on in life. Kind of easy to understand why a 50-year-old woman just getting into cycling opts for flat pedals and handlebar mirrors. Careful, you might fall off your freaking bike and break a freaking bone.
I also blame bike manufacturers and bike shops. There’s nothing remotely cool about pastel blue flowers on a triple-chain ringed road bike with crap components and a kickstand. Nor is there anything pro about a mint green sleeveless cycling jersey with no rear pockets and grinning kitty cats emblazoned on the chest, a flowery pink-visored helmet or the world’s biggest European Posterior (Wo)man Satchel. You won’t need to eat a fucking sandwich on the ride so no need to carry all the fixings along with you under the saddle. Is it possible that bike and cycling-specific clothing manufacturers are furthering the pussification of women?
Women need to understand that if they love their bike, they’ll likely love the sport. I admit, I’m a bit of a spoiled ponce and have always ridden pretty decent bikes. I have a number of bikes in my stable but by far, my favourite is my 2012 Specialized S-Works Venge. Like any good Velominata, I’ve made sure that the stem is slammed and that my saddle and bars are level. I like to think I look some kind of bad ass mofo when trying for the casually deliberate look at a stoplight or in front of the local café. If I can’t be the fastest, I can at least look damn good. Juxtapose that with a woman who has a 25 pound bike that rides like a school bus, bars that rest under her boobs and a saddle the size of a sofa. Sure it was a smokin’ deal at $850 but seriously, does she love riding it? Does she even enjoy riding it?
Some of you Velominati are to blame too. I’ll likely get shit on for saying this, but isn’t it often the spouse or boyfriend that buys their wife or girlfriend their first bike? How come I see dudes out there on hot looking, hugely expensive Italian bikes with all the bells and whistles laying down the V on all the other dudes in their club and then up rides wifey on some cheap-ass piece of shit? Try riding her crap bike and then you’ll get an idea about why she doesn’t want to ride any further than 30kms or along any routes that requires she turn left, turn right, ascend or descend anything steeper than her driveway.
As women, we do have to take a large part of the blame ourselves. Over the past 4 years, I led an average of 3 to 4 club rides a week. I have some great friends that I ride regularly with that I met through the club but there are also a handful of women out there that just plain don’t like me. Okay, so I can be a judgmental cynic at times, but I also like to think I’m a pretty likeable sort. It was the fact that I always attempted to keep the group in check that some of the women didn’t like. The rides were always too fast, too slow, too long, too short, too hilly, too flat. There was the social aspect: for example, Broad A wouldn’t ride next to Broad B so instead of closing up a gap in the paceline she would sit one bike-length away and sulk about not wanting to ride anywhere near “that damn bitch” (my words, not hers). There was also the emotional aspect: if someone showed up that couldn’t keep up it was like god damn high school all over again. I made it clear that the club did not have a no-drop policy and that while it was great to come out and work to keep up, you may sometimes have to ride home alone or with a friend. Dear god it was like I was a tube-top wearing pole-dancer in the Middle East. I’m pretty sure I felt stones being thrown at me on any ride after I made that announcement. For a lot of women, fitness and skill level on the bike are tied up in emotions. Come out once and get dropped and they never come back again. Compare that to my husband who once rode for six solid weeks with a group of guys that didn’t talk to him and dropped him on every ride. When I’d ask how his ride went he’d say “no one talked to me and I got dropped but I’ll go out with them again tomorrow”. Eventually they talked to him and he can now lay the hurt on any of those hairy-legged bastards, but still, he didn’t have a freaking mental breakdown.
And so, where do we go from here?
First I think that women need to Harden The Fuck Up and just say no to all the marketing, the bullshit, the crap bikes and the pissy attitude. Get outside and freaking ride.
Bike shop owners and manufacturers aren’t going to change anytime soon but if women stop buying their crap maybe they’ll stop selling and manufacturing it.
All you Velominati reading this need to help your wife or girlfriend understand just how awesome cycling can be. And yes, that may mean buying them a better-ass bike.
Finally, to all the Velominata out there: next time your friend shows up wearing a pink-visored helmet, mountain bike shoes, a cycling skirt and a sleeveless jersey: roll your eyes and snicker a bit and then take her out for an epic ride. If she sees you looking and acting all pro then maybe, just maybe, she’ll lose the visor and the damn skirt and lay the V on someone else once in a while.