Rides With Wolves
May 2, 2010
Total mileage: 429
Lately I’ve been wondering why I’m the only woman riding with men. On our weekend rides it’s usually me and Husband, plus one or two male friends. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that sometimes I crave a more equitable distribution of testosterone and estrogen.
Why is it this way? Maybe because the rider pool in Topeka is small. It’s not a bicycle-friendly community by any stretch of the imagination–not a bike lane anywhere in town. You have to be willing to place yourself on the road with cars, and few women I know are willing to risk it. But it’s also more than that.
Seems like most women–particularly those my age–don’t want to work very hard at exercise. A nice leisurely bike ride on a sweet sunny day with little wind is no problem, so long as there’s a bike path under their tires. But put them in a situation where there’s road grit on top of sweat, the lungs are about to explode, and cars are flying past? Forget it. Riding 50 miles or more on a bike as fast as you can is crazy, and that kind of crazy is the province of men.
It’s also true that the physiological playing field between men and women is far from equal. This is both depressing and intimidating. The boys have more muscle. They’re super tough for us girls to beat because they engage that extra muscle in every stroke of the pedals. I am always trying to beat Mr. Spoked up the hills, and he is always kicking my ass. At a certain point he just sails past me.
And yet I keep trying to best him. Like the guys, I push myself to the brink of exhaustion and feel actual pain in my attempts to stave off the atrophy that comes with age. Does the fact that I’m willing to do this to myself mean that I have more testosterone than the average woman? I don’t have a clue, but I do know that riding with men has made me understand that the brain controls your physical limitations as much as the body. Because of them, I work harder, go faster, and get stronger.
Any woman can do the same. I’ve never thought of myself as particularly athletic. My attempts at team sports (particularly those involving throwing a ball) have been dismal failures. Put me on a bike, though, and I can do a creditable job. Something happened over the past decade, as my body began to betray me. I decided to join the ranks of men who rage, rage against the dying of the light. And if that means I get a little lonely for female companionship sometimes, well, so be it. I’m riding with the wolves.