I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I am more than capable when it comes to servicing my bicycle. I can clean and oil my chain and cassette, as well as patch up or change a flat tire, and can make small adjustments to my brakes and rear derailer. In fact, some Spring, I'm usually the family bike mechanic, and I'm proud to do it, because I love being handy. However, earlier this year I applied to a bike shop for a sales position, hoping to use the opportunity to learn even more about bikes, and was told that I didn't have enough knowledge about bikes, particular road and racing bikes. I'm not sure if my gender and presumed ignorance about bikes played a role, but I can say that there were no women on site when I went for that interview, and showing up in heels and professional attire likely didn't help.
On those rare occasions that I do see women in bike shops, many times they fit a certain stereotype: t-shirt, baggy pants, short hair cut, tomboyish appearance. I am by no means saying that these women aren't good at what they do, and the certainly deserve respect for being a small minority in the bike shop/maintenance world. Still, why can't you dress in pretty clothes, like to ride bikes AND fix them up, too?
This brings me to a bigger point. There are lots of women on bikes, but there could be more, and I think one of the ways of doing this is making bike look more accessible and appealing for the ladies. Safe infrastructure is definitely an asset for that, but I've already spoken to that a few times, so I won't go on about separated lanes being awesome. I think that goes without saying! It also takes getting the word out, and celebrating women on bikes. I like to think I play a part in that by showing my family and I doing every day things by bike, dressed in our every clothing. Here's a few other groups that try to empower women to get out on their bikes, straight or otherwise, and celebrate our beauty:
Vancouver Cycle Chic (And the worldwide Cycle Chic community)
Let's Go Ride A Bike
Vancouver Velo Vixens
From group rides, charitable events, and general tips on staying fashionable on two wheels, these groups, and many others, celebrate beautiful people enjoying bicycles and the beautiful act of riding them. Without intending to, they humanize riding a bike, taking it away from the notion that it's an extreme sport, not for the faint of heart. That all you need is a bike and a desire to use it, and an acceptance that you CAN use it without changing the way you look and act.
|The next generation of beautiful ladies on bikes...and I'm proud|
to be her mom
So back to the title of this post. Clearly, lots of "straight" girls like bikes. We know which type of bike suits us best, how to fix them, and love riding them in our regular clothes. It's time that the bike community catches up a bit, and there are bike shops who are starting to accept it. Shops like Vancouver's Whoa Nellie don't reinforce the road warrior stereotype, catering more to the average city cyclist who is simply using a bike as a means of mobility. As a woman, I don't walk in shops like these and feel out of place, instead I feel welcome and respected. The North American cycling community is changing, albeit slowly, but I'm happy to be an active part of its renaissance.