Rainy Night Rolling Reverie

  • Short, natural hair is the way to go for black women who bike, especially if you get caught in an unexpected rainshower;
  • Soma’s B-Line tires are ideal urban tires for rain slicked streets. The water just sluices right off them; which made me glad I had…
  • SKS Longboard fenders. The extra length can make hopping off curbs dicey, but they’re great at keeping water from splashing up on your feet or onto the underside of your frame.
  • Getting caught in a light but soaking shower is a game of mind over matter. If you smile — especially at the bumper to bumper line of cars at a standstill over on your right — you’ll find that you can almost forget about the rain for awhile. Just blink now and again and make sure you wear waterproof mascara.

Try One On For Size

a Rivendell Betty Foy bicycle in a field
Rivendell Betty Foy in Pemberton, BC

If you’re anything like me, you try a lot of things on for size as you go through life.

Maybe you’ve gained, lost, (and in my case, regained) weight. As our bodies fluctuate, we sometimes lose sight of what size we wear at any given point in our lives. Vanity sizing only complicates matters, so if you’re buying anything but the basics, chances are you have to try on clothes before you buy them.

If you’ve moved from one town, one state, or one country to another, you may play with different identities, or try on a new outlook on life. When a person’s physical geography changes, I find that their mental geography often follows suit.

I’ve tried on a lot of different bicycles over the years. I’ve owned a Norco hybrid, a Trek comfort bike, a Batavus Fryslan Dutch city bike, a Rocky Mountain road bike, and, most recently, a Norco City Glide bicycle. While each of these bikes held a special place in my heart, I was always in search for the perfect bike. I wanted a bike that could take me anywhere and everywhere I wanted to go, and I didn’t want to have to worry about tire size, or bike weight, my own fitness (or lack thereof).

Why am I writing about this? Maybe it’s to justify my bicycle obsession, but that’s not the only reason. I want new cyclists to understand that trying a lot of different bikes and riding styles on for size is completely normal, and is part of the process of becoming a more confident rider. As your skills mature, it’s highly likely that your needs might change. Go with that. Don’t try to make do because you’re afraid of seeming flaky or indecisive. You might have to buy — and sell — a lot of bikes until you find the one(s) that work best for your type of riding. There are as many different kinds of bikes as there are riders, and you won’t truly know which style fits your life until you try one or more on for size.

(I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to do a full review of the Betty Foy. All I know is that she rides like no other bike I’ve ever owned, and I fell deeply in love with this bike at first ride.)

Bike Shop Betty

my Rivendell Betty Foy frame at Dream Cycle in Vancouver

So, this is happening. I still can’t quite believe it’s happening, and heaven knows I can’t really afford it, but it’s happening.

Details on the build to come. You’ll know it’s complete when you hear the high pitched squeals coming from Vancouver.

Fat People Ride Bikes, Too

There’s an update to this post at the end.

No, it’s true! However, Flying Pigeon LA apparently thinks that fat people are fat because they drive everywhere and are against bike lanes:

Look, I know it may be hard for you to understand Flying Pigeon, and it seems like an easy assumption to make what with the OMG TEH OBESITEE! panic that is so widespread in North American discourse, but there are a whole host of reasons why people are fat, and not all of them have to do with inactivity.

The reason people in Denmark and The Netherlands are thinner than usual has to do, in large part, with genetics. Their diets also factor in because people in Europe tend to eat less processed food than we do here in good ol’ North America.

Another factor is how their cities were planned to support pedestrians, density, and yes, cycling. However, in many European countries, cycling infrastructure didn’t become widespread until the 70s, and that was a direct result of oil embargoes, the energy crisis, and citizen outrage over the number of traffic deaths.

But even though these countries have far greater bike share than we have here in North America, a majority of residents in Denmark and The Netherlands still choose cars as their primary mode of transportation, as evidenced in this chart that was used in a BBC News Magazine story about the reasons behind cycling popularity:

chart displaying the bicycle, automobile, and transit sharing percentages in major European cities

More people in those countries drive more places, yet you’d be hard pressed to find very many fat folk there. Boy, that’s a real head scratcher, innit?

You’re in LA, and you know far better how sprawling and car-centric the culture is, so it isn’t really necessary for me to say any more about that. Because you’re in the US, you know more than most how easy it is to find processed convenience foods, and how the culture supports working until you drop, leaving little time or energy to prepare meals made from whole, real foods.

Oh, you know all of this already? You just think it’s funnier to fat shame bike lane opponents because of their waistlines, even though we know fat shaming doesn’t work?

Oh. OK then. I really have only one thing to say to you.

Fuck you, you fat shaming fuck. Profane, knee jerk emotional response removed.

Update: after a lengthy exchange with Flying Pigeon over Twitter about fat shaming and why it was wrong, I was finally able to get my main point across:

I feel better after speaking up about this. The goal is to get everyone, regardless of fitness level, age or ability on bikes, and the way we do that is by advocating for better bike infrastructure, not by snarking on people’s bodies.

Previously: Nobody Asked You

Heart and Soul

In case you missed it, I was filmed by the Vancouver Cycle Chic crew last April, and was one of the four local cyclists featured in their Vancouver Cycle Chic series.

As you’ll see, I’m a bit of a ham, but that’s not the reason I agreed to take part. Generally speaking, in Vancouver, cycling is viewed as something that only super thin, super fit people can do. I was younger, thinner (relatively speaking) and hadn’t yet been diagnosed with a chronic illness when I started riding a few years ago, but I haven’t let weight gain, fatigue, age, and near-chronic pain keep me off my bike.

Riding makes me feel like Vancouver belongs to me, and that I belong to it. I’m just as much a part of this city as anyone else, and seeing it while riding slowly by on two wheels makes me appreciate all she has to offer.

Be sure to check out the other films in the Vancouver Cycle Chic film series, and buy your tickets to the Cycle Chic Social while you’re at it.

ps: If you’re wondering why I’m not riding my Dutch bike, I was in an accident last March that flattened the front wheel. The driver felt so bad about the accident that he offered to buy me a new bike, the one you see in this video. I’m planning to get the Batavus fixed one day, but right now all my energy and attention is focused on bringing home a Betty, hopefully in time for my birthday in September.

Riding Our Way Fit – Not Thin*

After discussing Carnie Wilson’s second weight loss surgery on Twitter earlier today, an idea took root in my head.

See, I love riding bikes. I ride because I love it, not to lose weight, something that is obvious to anyone who has seen my daily ride. I bought a road bike last year, thinking that riding it would help me get fitter, faster, but mostly it’s just been collecting dust out on my balcony. You see, the problem isn’t with the bike, it’s with me.

All of the road cyclists I know are thin and super-fit. And it’s not as if they aren’t supportive and helpful — they are — but when I ride with them, I’m very conscious of not being anywhere near as fit as they are, and I worry constantly that I’m slowing them down.

I started thinking that surely there were other fat-bottomed folks in the Vancouver area who might be interested in a fun, supportive group fitness ride for heavier riders. We could start slow and gradually work our way up to 50km/50mi or 100km/100mi rides over the course of a few weeks. I’ve been checking out Selene Yeager’s Ride Your Way Lean training book, and while it’s a bit aggressive, there are other options available – David Yeager’s Ride Fit is less aggressive than Yeager’s, and may be more suitable for people who are looking to set a base level of fitness.

So what say you? Does this sound like something you might be interested in? And if you’re a fitter rider, would you be interested in perhaps serving as an informal coach to help us become more comfortable on our bikes? Leave a note in the comments below!

  • I felt this title deserved a bit of an explanation. I’m not interested in pursuing weight loss for the sake of being thin, or fitting into a more socially-acceptable dress size. My focus is being as fit as you can possibly be, at whatever weight you are. It’s not my intention to disparage or discourage anyone who wants to ride to get thin. Not at all. However, my goal with this group is to focus on health and fitness at any size.