The Continuation of Baskets vs. Racks vs. Panniers

On my last post, I actually veered away from my intended subject and somehow got into the economics of bicycle accessories. I was meaning to write more about the negative, and often sexist connetations that many people (cyclists or not) put on certain types of bicycles and their riders.

Basket – a guy once asked me, “do you think a man could pull off a basket?” Sadly, the sports-oriented focus of cycling in N. America has so stigmatized front baskets that people (men especially) specifically stay away from them for fear of not looking like a “serious” or “hardcore” cyclist.

Vintage ten-speeds, three-speeds and cruisers generate an even louder condescending sniff from those people who think that they can go faster than you simply because their bike is 2 pounds lighter than yours and more aerodynamic. Have they forgotten that pedaling is the main part of making a bicycle move forward? And in city traffic, there isn’t really alot of extended time in which you could actually make use of the increased aerodynamics of your 15 pound bike.

Living in Santa Cruz with a vintage 10-speed bicycle, I didn’t experience too much of this attitude. After all, probably half of the bikes there are cruisers or vintage upright-style bikes. After moving to NYC from Santa Cruz where people aren’t as “serious” – what the fuck does that mean anyway? – about cycling, yet ironically there are more people biking around, this attitude became very apparent to me. With my old 3-speed step through bicycle and female self, it became obvious that some of the suprised looks and condescending treatment  I got were because my bike and myself was apparently not “hardcore” enough. Somehow, riding an old vintage bike as a woman makes certain people perceive you negatively as a “casual” or “trendy” cyclist. (When I was in NYC, cycling was very “in” and “the new trendy hipster thing”.) While it might be true that some new cyclists do gravitate towards these vintage bikes for looks, comfort or whatever, there isn’t any good reason to be dismissive of these bikes as unworthy or unpractical for biking in a city, and thus dismiss the person on the bike as someone who is too ignorant to know what she is doing when buying or riding a bike.

Alot of this, though, is due to whether someone is male or female, something that is alot harder to change than a bike. Male cyclists are often perceived as more capable and knowledgeble and “serious” cyclists than women, by both other cyclists and non-cyclists. When I was in NYC, alot of the men that I met who were involved the bicycle movement were rather critical of those they thought were simply cycling because it was the new “it” trend. People who didn’t seem like they were “hardcore” or “dedicated” enough – meaning looking like a “cyclist” enough – were easily dismissed. With the new “trendiness” and popularity of cycling (for many reasons), female cyclists – especially newer ones – are suddenly suspect as simply jumping on the bandwagon since cycling is the new “in” thing. It’s like women have to prove that they are really “dedicated” and “serious” about cycling and the bicycle movement whereas guys get a free pass in cause they’re male.

The treatment at bicycle shops can sadly attest to this. While I haven’t been to many bicycle shops as I don’t service my bike alot or buy alot of accessories, I’ve still noticed that at certain places, I get taken less seriously by male mechanics and staff while other male customers who in appearance better fit the “cyclist” image/stereotype easily receive better treatment and service. Other women have also had similar, and sometimes even worse experiences. I think in conclusion to my rant/light analysis of gender in relation to cycling in n.america, it seems that many people (the majority of whom are men) have simply switched over from car culture to bicycle culture without any thought for the existing sexism within car culture and how to prevent that from being an established norm in a new social movement.

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One Response to “The Continuation of Baskets vs. Racks vs. Panniers”

  1. A. Squeaky Wheel Says:

    I agree with you on a lot of points, both about the absurdity of tech fetishization and about the odd attitude towards female cyclists.

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