Women's Corner - August 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I like to bike alone. Yes, I realize that Potomac Pedalers’ motto is “Why bike alone?” But I like to bike alone. Don’t get me wrong, I like to bike in groups, too. In reality, I simply like to bike. I know it makes a certain number of people uncomfortable when I say I like to bike alone. Their big worry is the safety factor. I’ve heard from women that they won’t bike alone. I’ve heard women discuss the threatening and harassing behavior they’ve endured on their bikes. I’ve seen the same type of issues discussed on the Women and Bicycle Facebook page. It’s an unfortunately all too common occurrence. The exact statistics are debated, but I think most women have had some type of negative interaction based on their gender on or off the bike. Yes, I occasionally wonder if I’m safe out there on my bike by myself. And many rationale women have made the decision that the risk is too great to bike alone. I’m saddened that we live in this type of world. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but in the here and now, I’ve made the decision to bike alone. But I’ll support any women who makes the opposite decision.

I’ve heard other women say they’d bike alone, but they wouldn’t know what to do if there were a mechanical problem with their bike. This is one problem that can be fixed easily. Many local bike shops have classes. There are also bike repair classes just for women, if that makes you more comfortable. Check out a class and learn the basics of repairing your bike. Then keep up with your skills. One woman suggested you schedule tire changes for your bike, just so you don’t lose the skill. The knowledge that you can fix it by yourself can give you the confidence to bike alone. Just don’t forget your basic tools and a new tube.

Other women will bike alone, but only if someone knows their route and is available to pick them up if something happens. This is a great idea. 
It gives you freedom, but a way home if needed. Just don’t forget your charged phone. Not only can you call for a SAG wagon, but you can use the maps if you are lost.

As for that motto, there are plenty of reasons to bike alone. You can’t always find someone to ride with where you want to go, when you want to go. Nobody does my exact commute at the exact times I’m going. I’d never bike commute if I wanted a commuting friend. Going alone gives you more freedom – no one cares if you start late or cut the ride short. No one complains if you add more hills, more stops or extend the ride. You can let your mind wander. You don’t have to focus on who’s talking to you. 

Though, I do recommend focusing on where you’re going and the conditions around you. You can derive a real feeling of accomplishment getting from one place to another under your own power. You can gain confidence in your cycling skills as you navigate tricky situations. In fact, you can gain such confidence that you could feel comfortable leading PPTC rides. 
Yep, riding alone can lead you right back to riding in and leading groups.

In fact, riding in groups can be a great time to try riding alone. Find a PPTC ride that’s a little slower than you regularly ride. On a slower ride, you can go faster than the slow group, and slower than the fast group. This way you’ll have people behind you if you run into trouble and a group you can catch up to if you’re feeling lonely or uncomfortable. You’re not fully committing to riding as a lone woman, but you can still try it out. You can also sign up for the Back Roads Century. There will be plenty of people around, but you don’t have to ride with any of them. There will be fully stocked rest stops and a SAG wagon if you have a catastrophic problem. I’ve ridden the BRC partially alone. I started out with a group that had to go off to volunteer, rode alone, ran into friends, rode alone, rode with strangers, rode alone again and came into the finish with a friend. I felt safe, but didn’t feel I had to stay with a group. It was a great “alone, but not really” 
experience. I recommend it to any woman who wants to try riding alone, but needs some security to take that first step. You may be surprised how much you like being alone.

- Deborah Turton, Women's Ride Coordinator

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