The other day I attended a clinic at REI called “Basic Bike Maintenance for Women”. Did I learn about bike maintenance? Yes. Is that the point of this post? No.
To be honest, if something ever malfunctioned on my bike (tire, chain or otherwise) out on the trail, and Joe wasn’t with me, I’m not sure what I would do. Hike up a hill until I got cell service and call Joe? Look up tutorials on YouTube with my phone? Laugh my head off with my girlfriends while we fumbled our way through an hour long flat tire change? Judging by the amount of time it took us to figure out one of those fancy tire inflators the other day, I’d place my bets on the latter. I knew I needed to brush up on my maintenance skills.
So when five minutes into the workshop a woman raised her hand and said “So… how do you shift into a harder gear?”, I’m ashamed to say my initial thought hovered somewhere between annoyance and impatience. Had I stumbled into the How-to-Ride-Your-Bike workshop? Of course the instructor graciously took her question and walked her though the whole process, and while I grumbled to myself about this distraction, I noticed that several women in the room had the same question.
And suddenly I felt like a complete fool. And a hypocrit.
Here I was in a room FULL of women. No two were the same. They ranged from road bikers to mountain bikers, v-breakers to disc breakers, moms, daughters, 20-somethings to 50-somethings. And a good number of these women seemed to be taking up biking for the first time.
And I was annoyed? What? No way! A 40-something woman in the front row had just bought her first mountain bike! How cool is that?
Thing is, I’m a huge proponent of women entering adventure sports no matter what age they are. It gives them a chance to learn something new. To push themselves physically. To build confidence. To get outside. Be active. Reap the rewards of positive endorphins. And if I have to sit through a 5 minute lecture on gear shifting, then so be it.
I was suddenly so proud of these women. I almost wanted to go up and hug each one of them; tell them “welcome to the family.” But I didn’t. I just sat back and enjoyed their questions. Their excitement. Their apprehensiveness. I re-learned the art of tire patching, how to take better car of my bike and what to check before I set off on a ride. I left feeling empowered, inspired, and part of a community of women.
And what did we do for our “play date” last week? We worked on our bikes while the kids played.
This picture makes me laugh. Apparently by “played” I mean sit around moaning about the heat. Don’t worry, things picked up a little after we introduced bike washing…