Monday, September 26, 2011

Mistaken Identity

A few years ago I had short hair. I loved my little hair cut: it was sleek, sexy, had some edge and said Paris fashion all over it. Not only was it short, but it was also bleach blond. So picture this: slender cyclist woman in full cycling kit topped with product-controlled, spiky white. Unbeknown to me, this combination didn't exactly scream Paris fashion! On the contrary: whispers of athletic lesbian lingered in the air. The number of times I was mistaken for a lesbian, winked at by women and fed lesbian pick up lines that year is beyond my comprehension. My hair is long now.
Athletic women excel in a world dominated by male performance. Did you know that there is actually a women's Tour de France? Of course you didn't! Because it is not televised, not advertised and receives no media coverage (and it has not actually run in the last 2 years).. sadly, even if it had, not many people would watch it! Women in sport have had a hard time receiving the recognition they deserve (this is slowly changing). In numerous cases, women in sport are also assumed to be lesbian. I, personally, have found this to be an identity conundrum! As an athlete who has had many years of competition, I had set aside my feminine self in order to access my competitive edge. Perhaps it wasn't the hair cut that people were basing their opinions on, but more so the vibration I was expressing in my intensity as an athlete (although the hair cut probably didn't help)!
In recent years, accessing my femininity has meant exploring the world of make-up, wearing dresses and selectively utilizing my intensity in competitive arenas only. Most recently, my femininity has translated to riding my new commuter in a dress and high heels to meet friends in Yorkville. I am learning that there is an air of grace and beauty about a woman dressed to kill, riding a bike with a basket filled with baguette and a bottle of wine. The important thing to take from this experience is that we all need to come to a place of awareness around what sexy means for us and how to access that feeling: whether it's on a bike, listening to your favorite music or wearing lacy underwear beneath your workout clothes! Whatever it is, we all need to know how we can feel sexy. After all, when you're feeling your sexy self, the world is simply a better place!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beyond Reconciliation ..

Sometimes things happen and relationships fail. Sometimes one party in the relationship completely screws up and the other in unable to forgive. Sometimes vibes change and it is necessary to move on given that you're no longer on the same path seeking similar outcomes. Sometimes issues in relationships are simply beyond reconciliation.
I have travelled many miles with my car and we've had some fantastic times. But, in the last year, something has happened and our vibe has changed. He used to take care of me in a way: warning me when there was a radar gun around the corner, reminding me to keep my sticker valid, encouraging me to stop for entirely 3 seconds before proceeding through a stop sign. But now, well now, it's like he doesn't even care!

A month ago I was awarded $500 worth of motor vehicle infraction fines in six days. This may seem alarming to you. What may be even more alarming is that none of the $500 were due to speeding or reckless driving. Even MORE alarming is that this is not abnormal for me. I typically get pulled over every few months .. costing me, to date this year, a few thousand dollars. The August validating evidence of my bad car karma was the last straw for me. Shortly after the last ticket was handed over, I walked to my insurance broker's office and requested that they put a hold on my insurance (I mean, I was leaving for Europe 3 days later anyway). My decision may have been a little reactionary. However, after spending 3 weeks in Europe riding my bike and considering my options, I have decided that this may be the best decision I have made in a while! I DO have legs and I have a fleet of bicycles and, well, if the weather is really horrible, there is always public transit.

I am committing to this endeavour for one year, of which I am a week in. After getting two flats in two days on my race bike from hitting glass on my commute, getting a wet, rooster tail on my back from cycling through water, in addition to pulling a muscle from carrying a backpack while cycling, I decided to invest in a proper Dutch commuter (see photo above). The Dutch have been doing this for a while: they must know SOMETHING about the sit up geometry, the wider tires, the fenders and waterproof panniers!

I have noticed that my new bike gets quite a few looks and smiles from both walkers AND people in cars (especially in Markham where bikes are less common)! I have also noticed that riding in the rain isn't so bad when you have rain-friendly equipment and that police cars no longer induce a state of panic in me! And I've noticed how peaceful it is to ride a bike home from work at 9pm when the streets are quiet, the full moon is out and the crickets are chirping. Maybe this new relationship will work out just fine after all!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Flat Lands ... NL

I'm sure most of you who know me beyond this blog know that I am now in the Netherlands. There is a lot that I love about the Netherlands: being a part of my heritage, there is a natural attachment to the culture, the language, the way of being. From a riding standpoint however, the flats really challenge me. Many cyclists really like the flats: the ease of it on the bike, the speed, the flow. However, being a bit of a lightweight mountain climber, I find the flats especially difficult: I would rather tough it out on a mountain any day!
I will give you a list of things that are unique to the Netherlands though when it comes to cycling:
-Helmets are not manditory. In fact, helmets are not even suggested! There are very few cycling accidents in the Netherlands despite the plethora of bicycles on the road.
-Bicycles are build to carry entire families: there are cargo bikes used in the Netherlands that have wooden boxes at the front of the bike. These (usually covered) boxes can carry 3+ children who are protected from rain!
-The "green heart" of the Netherlands near Hilversum is an area of farmland with long open roads (perfect for cycling). It is a beautiful area to ride. Farms back onto one another and are owned by different farmers, however, I have yet to see one fence between any of them. I'm not sure how they keep track of whose cows are whose! :)
-Cyclists do not acknowledge each other in the Netherlands. This is interesting since, in France, you are considered rude if you do not say "bonjour" to other cyclists on the road. The only reason I can fathom for this difference in culture is that there are so many cyclists in the Netherlands that you might lose your voice from saying "hello" so much!
-Despite a lot of rain, people, more often than not, commute by bike.
-The infrastructure for cycling in the Netherlands is far superior to that of any city in North America. Cyclists have their own lanes completely separate from the road (separated by a median). They have their own traffic light signals and their own bike highway signs indicating directions and city locations. There are red and white signs for more direct routes and green signs for rural routes that are more scenic. Superior system indeed!
When it comes to cycling as a lifestyle, the Netherlands is the best city I have found to date. A dutch friend of mine who has lived in Canada for about 12 years now recently informed me that she is considering a move back to the Netherlands. When I asked why, she answered with, "I am tired of getting on my bike everyday in Toronto and worrying for my life. Cycling is my lifestyle and I would like to live in a city that supports it". My move might be coming just as quickly!