Jul 192012
I Am Woman. I Bike. I Am Strong.

One of the many things I love about biking: It makes me feel strong. Not as strong as the women who are currently riding the Tour de France route ahead of the men, mind you, but still.

As I mentioned a while back after a bout of the flu, I measure my return to health by what I’m able to do on the bike (guess you could call that a recovery ride!). I know what gear I should be using to climb particular stretches on my route home, and I don’t like being in the granny gear any longer than I have to as I rebuild strength. Given the topography of Spokane hill climbing is not optional so I get the chance to take this particular test all the time.

In addition to climbing hills I sprint for the occasional light, since despite my usual effort not to sweat I find myself timing the lights in my own little race.

It isn’t just leg strength either. I routinely pick my bike up to carry it in and out of the house and up and down a flight of stairs, fully loaded with whatever I’m carrying around that day. I can wrestle the bike into and out of the back of a car if need be, not that this comes up very often.

No, they’re not mine.

With this strength, I can go places fast, or what feels fast to me. A rate of speed a driver would find painfully slow, say, 18-20 mph, feels really fast when you’re making it happen yourself. I take satisfaction from the feeling of flying along under my own power, making my own breeze on a hot day. The evaporative cooling effect seems to outweigh the muscular work effect so I feel cooler overall (until I stop, that is).

Adding to the feeling of strength is the distance I can cover on a bike. If you compare biking to walking or running, this represents a big capacity differential. A weekend jogger who might cover 2-3 miles on a regular route won’t spontaneously head out the door to run a marathon. But I can springboard easily from my daily commute—typically 5-8 miles or thereabouts—to a weekend ride of 30-40 miles or more. As long as I’m properly fueled I can ride a long way just with the strength I’ve developed from a relatively easy commute.

I think this feeling of strength is important for women for a couple of reasons.

One is simple good health: If you’re feeling strong you’re feeling healthy.

Another is that we get plenty of signals that we’re not (as) strong, not (as) competent (as men). (The annoying parentheses and doubled-up grammatical structure are to emphasize the fact that people may not state the comparison to an assumed baseline norm, but it’s still there.)

Just as I feel more mechanically competent with my bike than I do with my car, I feel stronger because I ride. I also get to feel strong occasionally because I–in a direct battle of the sexes–get to chick a guy now and then.

Feel strong. Ride a bike.

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Reader Comments

  1. Interesting.. I also cycle to work which is a 2 mile trip and I do find that it means I can just get on my bike and ride 30-50 miles with relatively little problem… I however struggle to find the time to do longer rides which i need to do as I am training for Route 66 this October for charity. i quite like your idea of 30 days challenge just to get on my bike for some time each day, no matter how little to help me build up to the 4 weeks of 100 miles a day I’m going to have to do. Like your blog.. some interesting thoughts.
    The thing that gets me out on my bike in the first place is the knowledge that once i’ve got out of the town I live in i get the feeling of freedom that i can just go wherever I want with no restrictions – makes me feel totally free.

  2. I loved this post. After meeting you at a blood drive a few months ago, you inspired me to get a bike and get moving. Even though I’m still relatively new to bike commuting, I love the feelings of freedom and power that getting myself around on a bike provide!

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