Some girls, they go get fitted for wedding dresses. I get fitted for bicycles. OK, well I just had my first fitting ever for a bike. And I think I am going to be really happy.
So this whole bike shopping experience has brought up a few issues for me. Thankfully, financial was not one of them because my parents were very generous and financed the bike as a birthday gift. [Thanks, Mom and Dad!]
I have been kind of looking for a new road bike for about a year, and it went far beyond what materials and components I wanted, and though the shop/bike mechanic I eventually chose had a brand I was very interested in, I chose him for other reasons.
Because every other shop I walked into took me right to their women’s bikes. Many of which are called, in the catalogs, “femme.” (more on that in a second)
Women’s bikes are constructed in such a way as to account for the fact that women are generally shorter and have short torsos, narrow shoulders, and smaller hands. And do I appreciate that there is an effort (even if it is a marketing tool, i.e. tap into a new market, a la Nike and many other sportswear/gear companies) to recognize that bikes are designed based on men’s bodies.
But, as I pointed out to every guy who took me over to the femme bikes, I don’t have a typical woman’s geometry. I have short legs and a long torso which makes the shorter top tube that women’s bikes have not only useless for me, but detrimental. But it isn’t that much of a difference–half an inch, maybe, they say. Well 1) if it isn’t a big deal, why have a woman’s bike with a shorter top tube, and 2) of course it’s a big deal. Moving things just a few centimeters on a bike can make a huge difference, especially when you hit mile 75 of your century. You don’t want back and neck pain with 25 miles to go.
So then I got, “well the handlebars are narrower.”
Dude, look at me. My shoulders are not narrow. I am not petite (despite my short legs).
So basically every time I walked into a shop, I had to “come out” as a some kind of atypical woman because I have broad, muscled shoulders and arms. I had to point out how not like a woman I am so I could get the right bike. And while this said a lot about their abilities (or lack thereof) as bike experts, it created a certain amount of consternation for me around my body type–and my sexuality (because it’s very hard for not think about the sport/physical culture and sexuality connection these days). I fall on the more feminine side of queer women/lesbian spectrum and I am attracted to people who fall more on the masculine end. But I have been read as not feminine enough by some of these people–while others see me as too feminine (for a lesbian). And even though I have never considered altering my workouts, it still feels kind of lousy some times.
I don’t have any experience as a straight female athlete. But I have recently come to better understand the female apologetic (the behaviors in which female athletes display their femininity in order to “compensate” for their athleticism). I don’t feel as if I compensate because I like skirts and cute shoes (and some sexy heels too), but I have spent a lot of time thinking about this ongoing belief in the incongruity between femininity and muscles (and I’m not talking about those soccer mom biceps). And I have a lot more sympathy and far less judgment of those young women who are trying to find the balance. I’m an adult, not in an intercollegiate sport, and I still feel pressure from my so-called community and from random bike salesmen.
Thankfully, I go for my second fitting later this week with Joe, an older, straight, white guy, who told me right away that, of course, I didn’t need the femme bike. Because he knows that fit is the most important thing.