It started with an orange one when I was six. Of course, it was decked out with the customary training wheels. Little did I know, however, thanks to my German-engineer dad, those training wheels were getting higher everyday. Finally, they were just grabbing air. So I learned to ride my first two-wheeled bicycle without much fuss. My next one was sparkly blue, equipped with a comfy banana seat, and red and white streamers. After that, I was finally ready for a “real” one, one with gears and hand brakes and all that jazz. I chose a pink 10 speed Raleigh — rode it down dirt hills that would make a mountain bike look twice, without hands, pretty much anything I could get away with. The scars from those times have just recently faded. And then, I grew up.
As an adult, it never occurred to me to ride a bicycle. What for? I had a car now. The thrill of being on a bicycle as a kid was buried deep under years of semi-responsible adulthood. Still, my love of flying down a road on a two-wheeled vehicle was never quite dead. Instead of bicycles, I became enamored with the adult version of two-wheeled fun: the motorcycle. Any chance I had to be close to motorcycles, I took, including speeding down the 1-495 DC beltway in a side car. Thrilling!
Fast forward 15 years. I am now married, and my partner and I have owned three motorcycles so far, none of which we could really afford. We are now bikeless, and it never occurred to me that a bicycle might be a reasonable substitute. I mean, seriously, pedaling? It…was…so…wrong. Recently, I drove into a snowplow with my Saturn. It was totaled, and my insurance paid only cash value. Cash value my a#@*. So, I now own a vintage Huffy 3 speed cruiser. Out of pure necessity, I rode this human-powered two-wheeled vehicle. On my first ride, I was suddenly transported back to my 16 year old self. I felt unencumbered in the same way as I do when on a motorcycle. Revelation. Now, I can’t wait for the weather to warm so I can ride without having my ears hurt for an hour afterwards. I’ve already picked out my next bike: an Ortler 7 speed with a back coaster brake (a more natural way of stopping for a mc’er). By the way, finding a 7 speed bicycle with a coaster brake is no small feat. But, thanks to my obsessive nature, Spring Break, and Google, I got to spend many hours searching for one. It’s rather fitting, I think, that Ortler’s are made in Germany.
Now, what in the world, you might be thinking, does this have to do with women and fitness? Not much, really. For a long time, I was under the illusion that cycling was for fitness or the environment, for what some NYT columnist called “Bo-Bo’s” — the Bohemian Bourgeoisie — not really a biker grrl’s cup of tea. But let’s be honest, there are much safer ways of becoming fit, and cars are apparently transforming themselves to be environmentally friendly, not to mention the possibility of jumping on an electric bus to get where you need to go. In my mother’s words, then, bikers and cyclists are really “cut from the same cloth.” Cycling is a thrill, period, not just for kids, not just for men, something everyone should try at least once. And, who knows? It could even lead to more female mc’ers, which in my opinion would be spectacular.
So, fellow bikers, I hope you will all join me in singing this, or at least get it on your iTunes.
Heidi is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Geneseo. She is married to Mitch, and lives with him and her four cats in York, NY. She will be starting a tenure track position at Geneseo this fall.