Why We Ride
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)