This story originally ran at The Toast about four years ago. A slightly different version ran in Adventure Journal Quarterly. What I love about it now, actually, is that some of the commentary about culture and gender seem almost out of date. Like ideas about women and sports and what we can and can’t do, that terrain is shifting fast. So I guess what I’m saying is maybe there’s a glimmer of hope in these things. Either way, I still like this story. It has a lot of bikes in it. And bikes are good.
I’m working in my kit again. I thought I could escape, but then the phone started nagging. So I sat down to answer it and to answer that other thing, and to edit that one thing and to make that other thing. Sitting still is hard. I just want to go ride. The internet is such a dick sometimes.
So here I sit, my padded shorts feeling like diapers in my cushioned office chair. On the bike, I don’t notice the padding. Off the bike, it shifts and bunches like an over-sized maxi-pad. Finally, I pull up the straps on my bibshorts and zip my jersey.
If you’ve never seen bibshorts, they look like shorts with suspenders attached. Before the time of lycra, cyclists wore wool shorts with actual suspenders. These days bibshorts are a weird, one-piece contraption, the parts sewn together painstakingly by women in a factory somewhere in Romania. The sewing process is not easy. The lycra is pieced together and the seams placed just so. No one wants a seam in the vagina.
I’m a Title IX girl. I swam in college, my team funded because the law required it. Eventually I got bored of chasing the pool’s black line and turned mountain bike racer. My friends and I used to say that women’s participation in sports was one of the last battlegrounds of feminism. We were more optimistic about feminism then, and in truth, about life.
The wheels thunk as I ride down the stairs to the sidewalk and shoot through the grass to the street. The bike doesn’t really stop. Somewhere between the emails and interview transcripts and editing corrections and can you just do this one thing, I need to adjust the brakes, but I haven’t gotten around to it. It adds excitement to the whole thing to ride a bike that doesn’t really stop. You just go faster.