Thursday, May 31, 2012

Girl Power?

Now that I am gaining some momentum in the midst of my endurance block (I've ridden 7+ hrs this week), work is taking me to San Francisco for a few days. I hope to find a stationary bike in the hotel to keep up, but I'm guessing this week is shot. This trip is precluding me from riding in a classic all-women ride north of Salt Lake, Little Red Riding Hood. It would be good to get a century under my belt.

Which brings me to the topic of all-women rides... they are cropping up all over the place. Part of me thinks it's great; a venue for all types of women riders to gather in a non-stressful environment to cycle together. I get that many women are intimidated to participate in cycling events with men, who tend to be more competitive and may be intimidating. These all-female events draw hundreds of riders, and it's great to see the diversity; young, old, skinny, fat, tall, short, etc. Although it sounds weird, it reminds me of the time I went to see the Vagina Monologues. I was incredibly moved by the beauty of women of all types. It was wonderful to see and accept that women of all shapes and sizes are lovely. Events like Little Red promote the idea that you don't need to be an Amazon woman to enjoy a cycling challenge.

BUT... over the years, Little Red has also been extremely disenchanting, as I have watched clueless riders take up an entire lane, mindlessly chattering to each other, while frustrated drivers wait to get around them. Efforts to educate these cyclists on rules of the road have been mostly ineffective; it's still a melee of swerving, nervous braking, and road clog... and every year there are threats of revoking the event license because of unnecessary crashes and traffic interference.

As I browsed the Little Red blog last week, I realized that the educational message this time was directed to riders like me! The site preached that Little Red was not an event designed to provide opportunities to achieve your fastest century time. Translated: competent female riders need not apply. Because efforts to educate novices on riding etiquette have failed, the strategy now is to rein in faster riders who possess the ability to use a pack to move along quickly.

It gets even better (or worse, depending on your perspective). Little Red is a venue to promote other all-female rides, like Pamper Fest, in which you can get your nails done and have a massage too, all in a sea of pink fluff. (maybe they should consider liposuction and face-lifts as well). The message I'm getting is: women can't really ride, and they shouldn't lose sight of their real purpose... to look good. So, the heavyish granola woman on the mountain bike should consider a manicure to improve herself.

It's not for me! I'm not young anymore; I'm riddled with wrinkles, gray hairs, and mysterious brown spots. I can ride a bike, and I'm getting better every year, even at this late date. It would be great to encourage women to focus on what they've accomplished and where they are headed, rather than this constant message to stay looking young. Let's raise the bar and focus on substance and celebrate the many ways women are great!

I'm disappointed that I don't seem to fit in the all-women venues or the "real" cycling races. I'm somewhere between and spend most of my time cycling alone, but I still experience the joy of almost flying during an acceleration or fast descent, and I guess that's the point - to find joy. I hope that the variety of opportunities out there help others find that too.

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