I’m a girl. And I’m proud of my femininity.
I love being around strong women who have managed to blend brains with a pink shade of soft. One of my riding buddies, we’ll call her Holly Bail Bond, is a real life Stephanie Plum. She has hauled some scary dudes to court and she owns a 9mm handgun. Way cool. But you’ll never see her without lipstick. I love that.
So I’m not about to go hatin’ on girls but Girls, sometimes we can take the girlie thing too far.
As riders, for instance. The whole, “You guys are so fierce. I could never keep up” conversation makes me crazy. Especially when I’ve just invited a new girl on a ride. If I didn’t want to ride with you—at whatever speed you ride— I wouldn’t ask you.
This learned helplessness isn’t necessary because you are strong and capable. And if you aren’t strong yet, at least you are capable enough to get strong. Don’t dis your ability. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for our cycling community.
If you ever hope to be a welcomed group rider, you need to show up with a measure of confidence. Everyone is scared and intimidated the first time they join a group. No one wants to be that guy. As girls, it’s okay to voice your fear—once, maybe twice. More than that and you become that girl, the whiner who needs to be coddled along. And that’s not the spirit of female empowerment we women need to represent.
So here is some road code to shake the girlie from the woman:
1. Stop talking about how slow you are. If you are slower than the rest, it’s evident. Healthy group rides account for slower riders and regroup at key intersections. Just ride.
There will always be those groups that aren’t interested in nurturing newer riders. If that’s the group you joined, let ‘em go hammer and find another.
2. Stretch yourself. It’s okay to be the slowest rider, but in groups, there is an expectation you will eventually speed up and ride with the pack. Be a student, listen for helpful tips and show effort in upping your game. The group will celebrate your milestones and be far more accommodating than if you consistently lag because you refuse to employ new skills.
3. Support yourself. BYOT. Bring your own tubes. Good group riders carry their own necessities—tubes, pumps, CO2, water and snacks at the very least.
4. Know how to support yourself. Toting tubes does no good if you don’t know how to change one. Get to a clinic, ask your local bike shop for a primer and practice at home. Inevitably, when I’ve had flats in mixed company, a dude (usually my husband) will swoop in and do my dirty work, which is fine with me. It’s too painful for them to watch my girlie village-think tube-changing event but, hey, at least I know—and so do they—that I could take care of myself if needed.
5. Learn the rules of the road. Hand signals, drafting and taking pulls help everyone stay safe and conserve energy on long rides. Watch and learn, ask questions and practice. You’ll be a far more welcome member of the pack.
So Girls, be girls but be smart and capable girls. Wear pink, if you like, but don’t act pink. We’ll all be stronger for it.
By Carrie Schmeck – Redding, CA