Recently, a gal pal and I were sitting around her living room talking. And since we’re cyclists, the talk naturally centered around our favorite activity.
“You know”, she said, “sometimes guys (now, to be fair, there are probably women who are guilty of this as well, but in her and my experiences, it’s always been guys) just sort of take over without asking permission.”
She continued, “I have a headlight on my bike and I keep it pointing down when I’m not using it. So one day I’m on a club ride (the exact club shall go unnamed) and we had stopped for a break when this guy, without saying a word, grabbed a tool out of his tool bag and repositioned my light. He didn’t even ask me about it. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have done that to another guy!”
My friend is a very experienced and strong cyclist. Very strong. She flies up the hills. I can never keep up with her.
Then she relayed another story.
She had been out riding and came across a guy who had a flat. He had no tube and no idea how to fix it. My friend took out her tool bag, grabbed a tube, and fixed his bike. The guy was dumbfounded. “You know how to fix a flat?!” he exclaimed, as if it were some deep mystery that not everyone was privy to. “You have all the tools?” He couldn’t seem to get beyond the fact that my friend had tools and knew how to use them. (For some reason a ZZ Top song is running around my head right now…)
Again, she said to me, “I’m sure he wouldn’t have said that to a guy.”
I knew what she meant. I had had a similar experience last summer. I was on a club ride (the exact club shall go unnamed) when I had a flat. I was riding alone in- between groups of riders at that point and stopped to fix it. Which is when I discovered that a part had fallen off my new (and very much loved) frame pump. Several guys stopped to make sure I was okay and one of them immediately took over, removing my rear wheel, whipping out the tube, and announcing that I had a pinch flat. He then replaced the tube and the wheel and pumped up my tire.
Now, I really appreciated the concern and help. I really did. It’s just that I have my own way of fixing flats. It’s sorta like meatloaf recipes. There are lots of them, almost all of them are great, and we each have our favorite. And I have a method that has worked well for me for a long time.
Anyway, my point is that this guy didn’t even ask me if I wanted or needed help. He just took over. Would he have done that to a guy cyclist? Doubtful.
I’ve been a serious cyclist for over 30 years. I was president of the Seven Hills Wheelmen around 25 years ago. I’ve trained and worked as a tour guide. I’ve ridden across country (back in ’89) and in Scotland, England, the Canary Islands, Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and Mexico (okay, in Mexico I only biked across the border for lunch and then biked back, so that probably doesn’t count). I’ve given clinics on fixing flats and drivetrain maintenance. I’ve taken basic and advanced bike repair classes. I carry a lot of tools with me (since I ride alone a lot). I’m fairly experienced, in other words.
Now, I realize that there are women who don’t know how to change a flat. But there are men who don’t know how to change a flat either. I was on the Seacoast Century over 20 years ago and rode with a guy who got a flat. He hadn’t a clue what to do. I quickly changed it for him and when we got to the finish, he excitedly told all his buddies, who had left him in the dust and returned before him. And recently, on the Cranberry Ride, a woman who was riding with a man got a flat. Neither of them knew what to do. So I fixed it….after asking if they needed help. (She was going to call AAA, which is a very cool option to have, but would have taken significantly longer than the 5-10 minutes it took to replace her tube after a pinch flat.)
Many women say to me, “But of course I’m going to let someone change my flat! I’m not crazy…” Valid point. But let me ask you this: If you’re riding alone sometime and get a flat, will you be confident that you can fix it? And will you be able to fix it in under 20 minutes? If not, the next time someone offers to help you fix a flat, first of all thank them, and then consider asking them to oversee you while you fix it yourself. There’s nothing like doing it yourself a few times to give you the experience and confidence you need for a lifetime of riding!
Karen was our most recent Featured Woman Cyclist of the Month! Check out her profile! Will see more blogs from Karen soon!