IT’S THE SEASON TO GIVE A LITTLE JOY — BIKE JOY!
– I feel extremely grateful that many of you have purchased my book – either here on the web site, at the Portland Sunday Streets events, or at any of the local book, bike, or gift shops that carry it. I wrote the book to share biking joy with anyone able to turn a pedal. With the holidays approaching, maybe there’s someone in your life that deserves a copy as a gift?
From now through December 24, you can purchase a copy of Women on Wheels as a gift for 15% off!
We will ship your purchase gift wrapped.
Just click here to go to the e-store – with U.S. shipping, the discounted book will be $16.71.
With International shipping, the discounted book will be $20.21.
This is Neha, seen from behind.
Neha was riding in front of me a few days ago, as I headed over to a yoga workshop in NE Portland.
When I saw Neha’s trailer advertising Masala Pop, I was intrigued, and started to follow her. Or more accurately, I saw the trailer, wanted to take a quick photo of the fun and funky bike set up, and set out to try to catch Neha.
I didn’t think it would be hard – she was only half a block ahead of me. I grabbed my camera from my pannier, slipped the strap over my head, and gave chase.
Neha proved surprisingly hard to capture. Each time I would pull behind her at a stop or intersection, she zipped away from me.
Finally, about 10 blocks into the (one-sided) chase, I pulled alongside Neha at a red light on Multnomah.
“Wow!” I said, glancing down at her bike, which sported a square battery pack. “I guess I should have guessed you have a pedal-assist bike.”
She smiled widely. “I just got it a few weeks ago, and it has definitely changed my life.”
The light changed, Neha zipped off, yelling something about finding her at the farmer’s market.
I smiled for at least a couple of blocks, thinking about how I’ve said for over two years that e-bikes could be a fantastic boon to biking women, even though the sales numbers in the U.S. have been so disappointing.
Here was Neha, proving what I’ve thought all along to be true!
When you meet 100 or more people at a trade show – in this case the New Amsterdam Bike Show, you may think you start to see a pattern in who stops by your booth to chat, or just look, or take your book in hand and buy it.
But then someone walks up and changes your mind.
Today my someone was Justine.
Justine sidled up sideways, dress in an oversized coat, black ballet flats and a sashed blouse. Her blond hair was freshly washed and neatly combed, though not exactly ‘coiffed’. Justine wanted to talk about cycling, city cycling, and at first it was a little hard to believe that she actually was a cyclist.
It wasn’t altogether obvious – she didn’t show any of outward signs of being either a new or an experienced cyclist – no backpack with blinky lights affixed, no clipless shoes, no helmet dangling from hand and, from her build and demeanor, really no indicator at all that Justine had ever been on a bike.
But then she started talking, and it became clear that Justine is a very dedicated cyclist.
Yet the longer she talked, the more mysterious the story became, for Justine described her time as a racing cyclist, and as a bike messenger. You couldn’t, or wouldn’t, upon meeting Justine, think bike messenger. At all.
Finally, in a sweet, confiding tone, Justine explained that when she previously was a man, she had been a messenger and a racer, had worked in a bike store and actually been none too tolerant of the women cyclists coming in through the door.
Then Justine completed her journey and her surgery to become a woman – a woman who enjoyed riding her bike – and instantly she understood the differences between being a ‘male cyclist’ and a ‘female cyclist’. Suddenly, Justine said, she had empathy for the women who don’t have such a pleasant experience when they walk through the bike shop doors.
And yet, what unites Justine’s experience as male biker with Justine’s experience as female biker is clearly joy of biking. Yes, it’s a cliché, this idea of biking joy. But it’s really why we do it. At the end of a long day, Justine long gone, booths clearing out, show over, the one thing I wanted to do was put my feet to pedals and bike home. To have the chilly New York air in my face, to lift my weary shoes from the pavement to the pedals, to roll along thinking about nothing else than the ride, and arriving alive.
That’s why we ride.
(Read more about Justine’s journey at midlifecycling.blogspot.com)
There must be something socially a little dangerous about a women on a bicycle. Why else would repressive Islamic regimes forbid women from riding? Why would North Korea make it an offense for women to ride in pants?
One forgotten WWI cyclist, Dorothy Lawrence, rode her bike to the front lines, masqueraded as a man, helped plant trench mines, gave herself up and was arrested, was pressed to not sell her sensational story to the news, wrote a book, got censored, got raped (according to her), and was sentenced to an insane asylum, where she died four decades later.
If nothing else, Lawrence demonstrates the power inherent in woman + bike.
A frustrated freelance journalist, Lawrence wanted to be a war correspondent, but no paper would give her a job, though she had a few clips under her pen. So she made her way to Paris, travelling with a bicycle she bought for two English pounds.
From Paris she tried to get to an area of combat by bicycle, but realized she was unprepared to infiltrate a company. Back to Paris she cycled, finding two sympathetic soliders willing to help her get a uniform, which they smuggled to her over time under the pretense she was their laundress.
Hair cropped, breasts under bandages, Lawrence again rode her bike to a nearby part of the front, and eventually befriended a sapper (soldier engineer) who helped her hide and eventually took her along on night missions planting mine bombs.
After some days, Lawrence’s health and courage failed her, and she gave herself in to her regiment’s Sargeant. He had her arrested. Suspected as a spy, Lawrence continued to tell her straightforward tale until she was released, but not before military authorities made her sign a pledge that she would not sell her story. The threat of a woman cycling straight into a war zone seemed to make the British military exceedingly unnerved.
Lawrence’s book Sapper Dorothy Lawrence was suppressed until the war’s end. She was dubbed ‘The Only English Woman Soldier” but hardly enjoyed much fame before, claiming she had been raped by her church warden, she was confined to a mental institution in 1925. She died there in 1964