Ladies, Equality, Style

A pithy subject I know. Fear not readers for bianchista doesn't intend to ride upon her soapbox to wax lyrical about all the inequality and disparity within racing and specifically ladies arcing. No, these words are merely a stream of my consciousness if you may - born from a sapling of a conversation had at the weekend over as particularly interesting post ride flat white (or three). I got thinking about what I like about cycling, what inspires me as a 26 year old female amateur cyclist, who does not (yet) race (this is something that may change in 2011....watch this space), who are the role models I have, whom do I look at as 'cool' 'hip'...whose style I wanna channel when throwing out some KM's with the boys of a weekend.
Its about equality right? For me, the women I think are super-cool-no-questions-asked are those fierce yet feminine, aggressive girls serving it right up along with them men week in week out. I ride with guys and i love it. I want to be as fast as them, hurt people on the hills as much as them, I want to be right there with the lads when turning myself inside out on an 18% wall of tarmac, I want to drop those suckers on a screaming descent (something I'm not ashamed to say I'm fairly gung-ho at....given the exorcism of all fear of crashing after my accident!)
I look at some of these girls who can hold it right with their male counterparts and its so incredibly inspiring and a kind of philosophy I buy into as a rider firstly, and as a girl secondly. I love when out on a group roll and I'm right up there on the climbs, or happy to drill it when taking a pull on the front. I mean sure, there's going to be plenty of times when the men are too strong, but showing this grit and mixing it up in a fearless way is something that instantly secures respect of any fellow rider, male or female.
There's a handful of riders out there I love because they go hard and they are fast without abandon. Browsing the Rapha Continental rider page you can see the addition of a quick lady into the fold in Carey Schleicher-Haselhorst. I love the idea that a lady is turning herself inside out along with those nippy lean guys on these gruelling rides. You have riders like the glamorous butt-kicker Heidi Swift, putting some serious hurt on the US cyclocross scene, and always looking glam (check out her nails!). Don't get me wrong, its not about looks here, its about being brisk, pacey, and encapsulating a gritty but feminine style. There's nothing I find less appealing personally than a defeatist attitude when it comes to riding, when ladies always assume there going to be slow and don't want to attempt to mix it up with the boyo's on the weekend rollouts. Wasn't everyone slow at some point of their riding lifetime? I'l always chase a wheel up a climb, regardless of whether its a rapidly-disappearing-from-my-horizon-because-hes-so-quick kind of affair. Its that trying that makes it all so worthwhile. See.... us girls like to suffer too!.
Maybe that's what I love to see in ladies cycling...it can be summed up as simply as I like to see girls willing to make themselves suffer for the sport. This is true equality.... forget the arguments women have lower average speeds and the races are a shorter mileage, its truly equal in the sense that we are more than capable of making ourselves suffer and hurt every bit as much as the boys out there, and that's something any detractor or chauvinist cant take away. Riding hard and 'giving it a go' as they say = true panache in my book. Check the painface out below of Liz Hatch, drilling it right at the front makes me want to jump right in there and chase down wheels. 
The longing for this equality even comes down to the clothes for me. I make no secret of my hatred of these companies who insist on offering us hot-pant style shorts (unflattering for the most) or adirning every bloody item with a horrible sprawling Hawaiian flower. Its a lame stereotype we want this kind of stuff, whereas I actually just want the style of the men's items cut for the female form! Probably why companies such as Craft and Rapha are receiving glowing reports from ladies donning their clobber for those training runs. Anyway... enough on that....
Should you want some sites to visit that fly the flag for super fast and tough-as-nails ladies, look no further than the excellent I Get Cross blog of UK fast girl Claire Beaumont of Rapha Condor ladies team. Some great posts there its a definite bookmark. Also check out Heidi Swifts Grit & Glimmer, some great musings on all things ladies & cycling. Also worth a peep is top racers Maryka Sennema's little project.
So ladies.... suit up, jump in the saddle and go hard today. It cant fail to disappoint....

11 comments:

Pépé said...

Whilst taking a map-break at the top of a climb yesterday, a string of riders came past us - only one female rider in the group and she was sitting on the leader's wheel deciding whether to jump him before the top. The other dozen male egos were spread out behind trying to chase on. And she was the only one with a sense of style - all the others in huge gloves and overshoes, hi-vis jackets, breath-taking stench of mildew, and rattly mudguards. Rapha, Assos and a Bianchi... chapeau to her.

Nicole said...

One of the problems with having to out jump the guys is that unless you can do it well already, where do you start? It's hard to get going with group riding when, however hard you try, you're always at the back. The men will be patient for a ride or two but then it's back to normal. And I hate being dropped. Step up I suppose.

It's very rare to see a woman out gunning the guys. I'm as gutsy as they come, but I can't hold it for too long on a ride.

And for god's sake, why all the pink? I wouldn't be seen dead in flowers or any kind of design on my gear. Why do they offer it? Does anyone buy it? Even Brompton, twee of twees only offer a women's bag in shocking pink. WTF? Rapha and Castelli work it for me but I get slightly embarassed turning up in hundred's of pounds worth of kit while the guys ride in stinking flouro rags. And beat me...

I wish there was a CC for women who like to ride it hard, not race, but don't want to feel under pressure all the time.

Good post.

Haris said...

way to go, girl !

Stefan R. said...

its not the bike and not the cloth, the legs make us move! and about colourful or non colourful cloth: I am a little tired about the Rapha hype around, do all these blog mentioning rapha in every second post get paid for it? what has the cloth to do with the performance of our legs?

Carina B. said...

if you want to be good in any sport, you´ve got to make an effort and train regularly, but " suffer for the sport. This is true equality.... " ? why should women be the same as men? that´s scary ;))
men by nature are physically stronger. nature knows why , if you like i can also explain

yes , it´s cool to be able to ride with the guys (the top fit guys) but same as Nicole, i can only do it for a while . Maybe it´s my mind that doesn´t want to suffer so much or is not competitive.
for me cycling can be fast or slow , i just love sweating , breathing , getting my mind cleansed and keeping my body doing something.

when people make stong physical efforts for a long time , you see it in their face. many young cyclist in their 30´s look like they are 50 years old , gosh no.. ;))

Bianchista said...

stefan - its not about 'rapha' but yes they are one company thats seemed to have realised and cottoned on to the fact that some (and id argue a lot) of women dont want to wear lame clothes cut like pornstars and plastered with flowers in oastel shades of pink and blue only. There's a few other companies out there such as castelli that also realise this and are making great looking clothing for ladies to feel good in and not like they are some scantily-clad barbie doll out on a ride. And no, im not paid to mention rapha every other post (this actually is far from the case) I am a fan like yourself - a member of the RCC club (again like yourself), I purchase a lot of clothing and items from them and I love the company and what they are doing for the scene of cycling. I could equally say why in every picture you post of yourself are you wearing rapha? you and I both know the answer to this - because its top quality gear. End of discussion :->

Carina & Nicole - its not about being able to neat the guys day in day out - lets be honest we will never do that :) but its about 'having a go' and showing you aren't afraid to suffer a little. Cycling is a very personal experience, and as such I can only speak for myself and my mind.... On some days when my legs are strong and I can stay with the boys it gives me a great sense of satisfaction in myself (hey I was always a competitive child hehe)

As long as ladies are out there loving and enjoying cycling then who is anyone to judge? certainly not me that is for sure.....


Keep peddling

Stefan R. said...

Gem, yes I am a fan, but not a "fan boy", well, maybe I am. I wear the nice stuff and have fun, and yes, when sometimes somebody takes a picture of me, you see what I wear. and yes ;) I like it. but, I dont like the hype what is around it, in twitter, in blogs.... same happens for example to apple, not every apple product is fantastic so is not every rapha product. a phenomena of the internet are for example these private product "reviews". some of them are so ridiculous, since most products show their weak side only after intense use. most is praised without questioning anything.

about top quality? I am sitting since 25 years on the bike, bought many stuff, from many different brands, all have their faulty products, including Rapha, and, I spent a LOT in rapha over the last year, they dont have less problems then other companies, the list is LONG! ok, I got a great treatment, but I also carry my good clients "on hands". you want to see the cuffs of my tweed jacket worn 5-7 times?

nothing meant to be personal, just an opinion.

;) best regards Stefan

Carina B. said...

" On some days when my legs are strong and I can stay with the boys it gives me a great sense of satisfaction in myself" ok, agree ;)

also i think some people actually like that flower porn star stuff, or else why does it sell ?
luckily i don´t have to see it too often, i ride alone , or get to watch stefan from the back ;))

Stefan R. said...

hey frau Berlingeri, there are many things that sell and are ugly. but for example: pearl izumi, they have nice things for woman. why always black in black? ;)

my next shirt:

http://media.rei.com/media/tt/29f67e06-fd62-4b80-bb93-cd78aefc7cc9.jpg

Steve Caddy said...

You nailed it.

Cycling's crux is commitment and effort, suffering and self-sacrifice. The gender of the soul turning the crank is irrelevant the moment that the head drops, the shoulders hunch and the face takes on that slight contortion.

That application of self against self, machine, road and others is what riding and racing is all about. Any lesser rider can garner the respect of their betters, spat out the back or not, by simply sucking it up, biting their tongue, putting teeth to the st em and digging deep within. Man or woman makes no difference.

And for the same reason, women's racing — CX, XC, crit, classic or tour, — can be every bit as interesting as mens'.

Stefan R. said...

by the way, since we also talked about Rapha up there. Rapha overshoes are just crap! I used them now for some month, holes everywhere. and I do not shoot at them with small bullets nor do I use them for cross country jogging. I use them on the race bike, thats what they are made for, I thought. maybe they are only made for looking at them....

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