Leaves in the bike lane…
Swift tires crunch through them, loud
I’m glad they’re not wet
Sometimes, I get grumpy about having to do things: I don’t want to go to work. I know I’ll feel better if I do, but I don’t want to go running. I don’t want to make dinner.
There are whole hosts of things I sometimes petulantly don’t want to do, but usually, it’s not about the thing itself–it’s about being tired of the routine. If I don’t want to go running, it’s probably because I’ve been running the same (or similar) route for too long and I’m starting to get bored. If I don’t want to go to work, perhaps I’m not excited about what I’m currently working on. Generally, switching something up will get me back into it.
This is what happened with last weekend’s OR Randonneurs 100k ride that I was super excited about initially. Somewhere between posting about it on this blog and then actually riding to the start of it, I got to feeling grumpy. I didn’t want to ride a ride I rode last year. I didn’t want to follow a cue sheet. I didn’t want to have this experience that for whatever reason seemed old and tired to me.
What I did want to do was see all the other people riding it, and then do my own thing. Which is what I did. I rode to the start in Forest Grove, hung out with everyone getting ready to ride it, and then took off for my own exploratory ride, all around Forest Grove, Hillsboro, and a long and convoluted way back to and around Portland.
It was exactly what I needed. A ride where I had no idea what to expect put the thrill back into a Saturday full of biking; giving myself total license to take whatever road looked interesting at the time made me all the more excited to be out.
Would I have enjoyed the 100k ride if I’d made myself do it? Probably. I’m sure that once I started it I would have warmed up to the idea. The roads it covers are lovely, and it was a great day for biking. But I’m pretty psyched that I got my own exploratory and meandery bike ride in. Sometimes you’ve gotta switch it up, yknow? :)
Perhaps you remember that this summer, I had a chance to take a spin on the Death Ride down in California. It was a pretty sweet ride that, because of its out-and-backs, give me plenty of time to see most of the other riders both in front of and behind me. And of those riders, it sure seemed like I saw an awful lot (an awful lot) of men, and not that many women.
So fast forward to today, when I stumbled across the official 2013 Death Ride stats, as posted on their website. Ready?
Rounding up, only 17% of people who rode the Death Ride were women. No fricken wonder it felt like everyone I saw was a man! They all WERE!
Not that I should be particularly surprised, I suppose. Of the members of Randonneurs USA, for example, the USA’s non-competitive, long-distance cycling organization, 18% are women. USA Cycling, a competitive riding organization, has 13% women. Even if you switch sports and hop over to ultra running (where I thought women were much more heavily represented), the numbers I could find float somewhere between 25 and 30% women. For some reason, I thought that there were many more women involved in endurance sports. What’s going on?
Granted, these numbers are often about membership in something, and it’s definitely possible to participate in long-distance cycling or running or whatever without actually being a member of any organization. But when the same sorts of numbers seem to manifest in rides (among others, like the Death Ride) as well, I start to wonder.
What’s the deal, yo?
I know there are many ladies who are into endurance sports. Women are good at endurance sports. Why the underrepresenation? Is it simply that–generalizing, here–women have different priorities? Is it a matter of chicken-and-egg visibility? That is, if you don’t see women doing something, you assume that as a woman you’re not welcome? Do women come to these things later in life, say, if they’re going to have kids?
I really have no idea. I’m baffled. And I’m not sure why it bothers me so much. All told, I don’t really mind biking or running with a bunch of dudes–but it smacks of inequality to me, somehow. I mean, it’s not (I don’t think) like anyone is actively trying to keep women away from endurance sports. On the contrary, I’m sure most organizations spend a fair amount of time wondering how to attract us. But something is going on, whether ingrained in social expectations or just in what seems attractive or feasible, and I don’t like it. I want to believe that every woman feels like she has the option be like and do anything she darn well wants–and it’s crazy to me to believe that really only 20 percent of women want to be participating in any sort of endurance sport.
Though maybe it’s true? I have no idea.
There was a fun stat from the Death Ride that I think is awesome, gender aside: the oldest person to finish it–keep in mind, this was 130 miles, with more than 15,000 feet of climbing–was 84 years old. That’s pretty awesome. If only that person had been a woman! ;)
So there I was this evening, sitting on my porch and thinking about Thanksgiving. I know, it’s a ways off still, but my family’s already asking about holiday plans–and probably with good reason, since I can be difficult to pin down.
The result, though, is that I’m sort of considering seeing if I can get down to California, which of course means I’m thinking about transportation.
To get to California, I see four options:
I was thinking about these options, because it’s never an easy choice for me. I would really love to take the train, for example, since it’s (relatively speaking) an environmentally friendly option and I really like trains–but for a trip of only 4 or 5 days, upwards of 32 hours spent in transit just seems like too much.
Even a car feels like almost too much, not only because driving isn’t my favorite thing ever but also 20 hours is still kind of a lot of time. And it ultimately costs more than an airplane, which takes half the time. But on the other hand, even though driving by myself (or with James) in a car for 20 hours seems super long and fuel-guzzling, I know that it’s still better in terms of carbon footprint than flying.
If flying were less of a heinous impact on the world, I would probably fly without a second thought. But as it is, I always feel a little bad about it.
But then again, any way to get down to Sacramento quickly is going to have an environmental impact. This is sort of what I was thinking about. In Portland, I’ve structured my life such that I don’t ever have to do anything but ride my bike. Even most things I want to do involve nothing more than human power, or sometimes public transit. But in moving far away from where I grew up, I’ve also built into my life the fact that if I want to see my family, especially in quick snatches, I suck up a whole bunch of resources to do so.
I guess I was trying to figure out how I felt about all of that. Even though it’s been made normal by current culture, maybe it’s not reasonable to assume that hopping down to California (or wherever) for a few days is actually a viable use of resources. Maybe we shouldn’t be making decisions based on convenience. Maybe until we finally invest in really fast rail (that would be so sweet) or some other and less resource-intensive means of transportation–maybe until then, we should consider the cost of going someplace far away to be a higher investment in time.
But then again, why shouldn’t we embrace modern conveniences like flight? Though what if those conveniences are what contribute to destroying our world?
I can see you rolling your eyes now. I can see you telling me to stop overthinking it. But seriously. This shit is important. I’m sort of wondering if I should stop going to Sacramento unless it seems worth it to take the longer and less environmentally heinous transit options. If I should restructure my conception of what’s possible for long-distance travel the way I’ve consciously structured my life in Portland to make “possible” equal “accessible by bike.”