Riding Bikes
Written by
Rachel Jacobsen
February 2011
Written by
Rachel Jacobsen
February 2011

I went for a bike ride the other day with my husband. The day was the quintessential California day, in the middle of Winter, with a cloudless sky and 80 degree weather. We decided it was a good day for a bike ride, so we pulled out the bikes and went on a voyage to see my sister, brother-n-law, and nephew. My husband has a mountain bike that is gigantic, with 29'' wheels, quite fitting for a man who is 6'5'' and pushing 250. I on the other hand have a beach cruiser, and although a beach cruiser is a nice ride for the board walk, it is not so fun on the normal terrain of a typical suburban neighborhood. Hills, no matter the tilt were excruciating, I vaguely remember the time when bike riding was easier, in fact just about everything was much easier back in the day. Anyway, to the point, my beach cruiser has a bell, and I decided to use the bell as a greeting during on our bike ride excursion.

I would ding the bell to other bikers and nod, as if to say 'hey nice day for bike ride', but I quickly began to realize that nobody was nodding back. Trying to get people to say hello quickly became the underlying joke of the whole bike ride, I would ding the bell at opportune moments in passing someone, hoping to elicit any sort of hello, to no avail. I will credit one guy who we passed by at a red light, he was sitting on his motorcycle, I dinged the bell and gave him and upward nod, and he honked back, he was my only success. On the ride back home during a long strip of road, I began to think about why someone wouldn't want to say hello when someone was clearly trying to reach out to them.

Initially I thought that perhaps my bell usage was turning people off. Bells are generally used as a cautionary tool, and I happened to be using it as a greeting one, so maybe I was pissing off the biker community because I wasn't following the rules. I imagine this to be the equivalent of being in a car and honking at everyone to say hello, in that case I probably wouldn't say hello either, in fact I would hate to think that I could have even been portrayed in that fashion at all, certainly wasn't my intention. The other option I came up with for why these bikers were being conclusively antisocial, was paranoia. Perhaps my bell ringing came off as bait for an ulterior motive, and consequently they had to preserve their dignity by ignoring the proposition of being lured into a potentially uncomfortable situation.

Either way, I wasn't about to stop everyone we passed in order to find out why they weren't saying hello, and so I gave up the battle, no more bell ringing for me, well at least no more bell ringing at people. As we were getting closer to home, there is a parallel road off the main road separated by a grass divider, I decided to go on the inside, as my husband stayed on the main road. I'm riding along enjoying the rest of my bike ride, when I hear someone say 'Hows it going'. I turn to look over my shoulder to catch another bike rider passing my husband on the opposite side of the divider. Motherfucker just got a hello! I yell over to Paul asking if he just received a hello, to which he arrogantly replies 'YEP!'. I couldn't help but laugh, the timing and everything was so perfect, it couldn't have been written better. I get it, okay, apparently biking is a mans sport, and women should be at home barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen cooking diner.

The world of bike riding has always been a mysterious one to me, now I'm not talking about the average cruising type of bike ride, I'm talking the ones that get fully dressed in skin tight bike riding gear, shoes that connect to their pedals, and bikes that have tires as skinny as your finger. Lance Armstrong did something right, whatever it is that he inspired in the heart of these hardcore bikers is working. Pretty much every day of the week I find myself delicately navigating bikers on a regular basis, and what's interesting is that about 95% of the bikers are men, occasionally I see women amongst the crowd, but predominantly men.

One Saturday I was driving down Westlake Boulevard in Westlake Village where bikers come out in droves, on the other side of the road there was a pack (do you call them a pack, or maybe you call a group of bikers a business? Is there an official term?) of bikers who were rapidly riding up behind a woman going for a walk. She was good looking with long dark hair and tight fitting clothing, with a nice physique, and as they got closer one of the pack leaders began to swing his arm around implying that he was going to give this girl a nice swift smack on the bottom. He ended up having no follow through, but proudly turned around to make eye contact with his pack, the proverbial 'did you see that' glance. It was actually quite entertaining to watch, in fact it helped me look at bikers as people as opposed to objects within an obstacle course.

The point of that story was to hone in on the dynamic of the bike riding community, from an outsiders perspective. Now I'm a passionate person, so I admire anyone who is passionate about bike riding to the point at which they are willing to wear spandex and risk their lives on a daily basis while riding next to pissed off drivers. But just as there is a general etiquette for even going to the grocery store, there must also be some sort of etiquette for bike riding, and I clearer was breaking some rules. I wonder if being a woman on bike ride, is like being immersed in the middle of a work environment that is predominantly men, like where my husband works. He works in such a man cave, a building that is 50 years old, rusting walls, and full of tools. Was I just strictly out of my domain?

Of course I could also look at the situation from the bike riders perspective. Your a guy, I'm sorry, man, and you are out on your daily bike ride. I imagine it's a lot like how I felt when I was jogging, from the moment you hit the pavement nobody else exists, which is pretty much the reason your even doing it in the first place, and also for health reasons of course. Therapy riders, they hop on their bikes and let the endorphins do the rest. There's no wife, kids, boss, clients, customers, or any other obstacle to get in your way, it's just you the road and the journey to your destination. I think I am beginning to understand, I know what it's like to have that one thing that takes you away from the normal day to day interaction. The simple act of getting out of your head and letting your body do the rest, what a gift.

That's it, respectfully I will leave my bell ringing for a place where it may be appropriate, like the board walk. I now realize that these bikers weren't being conscious of their antisocial ways, they were in the zone, and I was merely a decoration in the vista of their journey that day. Just as they are passionate about their bike riding, I am passionate about understanding what drives people to do what they do. Just as they ride their therapeutic rides to break up the day to day rigamarole, I like to analyze in order to appreciate the day to day rigamarole. The Yin and Yang of physical and mental exercises. It's easier for me to appreciate what moves someone when I look at it from the angle of passion, because really at the end of the day, I don't know anyone who would be willing to throw on a tight spandex jump suit, unless completely motivated by passion.

Ironically, as I was driving to the park with my daughter today, I came up behind a gentleman driving a car with a license plate that said “LV BIKIN”... Ride on man! See now that is passion!

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