HONOR THE PAST and the emancipation of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, for the freedom to choose and the chance to wear pants. CELEBRATE THE PRESENT and the riders who keep it rolling, bringing women’s racing to the forefront, pushing the limits, breaking down barriers and sharing the love of the bike with everyone along the way. EMPOWER THE FUTURE of women in cycling and the opportunity for positive social change. Teach women to ride and they will change the world.
MAY 13th, 2012
These words, this admonition from CycloFemme and Sarai Snyder at Girl Bike Love, were the motivation to organize a Ladies Ride on Sunday May13th. Twenty-four women spanning at least 3 generations, riding tall bikes to comfort bikes and everything in between, got on their bikes and rode together.
Attire varied from full kits, colorful jerseys, shorts and tshirts to a jean skirt and pretty metallic sandals. We had teenagers riding with their moms and beautiful inspirational women who could have been those teenagers’ grandmothers. One of the teenagers was my daughter, adding another element of joy to my celebration. The diversity of this group was no accident. People who ride often flock to riders of their own kind. Road racers find groups that fit their speed range, mountain bikers find groups that ride at their preferred technical level and Lolleygaggers find other lolleygaggers who just want to roll for fun.
But this day was about chicks on wheels, not about racing or pacelines or deciding which trails to hit. Instead of just reaching out to my friends who ride, a public event inviting anyone with a pedal powered contraption was planned and befitting the modern woman, digital invitations and a facebook event page were shared. I was friends with only a handful of the women who RSVPd, aquainted with a few more and a complete stranger to many. Not only did we celebrate women’s cycling, but new relationships were forged. Mission Accomplished.
I have never organized or led a ride before. To be honest, I rarely ride in a group. I prefer to ride with my husband, our kids or perhaps a small group of friends. Riding is our preferred way to spend time with each other so for me, cycling relates to a very intimate relationship. But this event idea got me inspired, I was on board immediately. I ordered several packages of the beautiful CycloFemme tattoos of the logo Language Department helped develop. I am completely in love with this logo.
I’ve been wearing the tattoo since I got them in the mail several days before the ride. Right now I have 2 because I didn’t want to take the old one off to put on a new one Sunday. The fact that the proceeds from the reasonably priced tattoos would be shared with Mountain 2 Mountain only made them more appealing. How many women will be touched by this project, not just about women and cycling but about women’s rights and quality of life? The possibilities are boundless.
After a slight mix up on the meeting place and a late start due to some serious tattoo placement decisions, the twenty four of us set out to ride The River Trail. The ride would begin by crossing the Arkansas River from Little Rock into North Little Rock over the Big Dam Bridge which has the distinction of being the world’s longest pedestrian/cycling bridge built for that purpose. Following the NLR side of the trail along through Burns Park and the lovely shade under Emerald Park we passed by the Arkansas Queen and the USS Razorback. The weather was sunny and warm so there was no shortage of walkers, runners and cyclists out enjoying the day. Shouts of “Happy Mother’s Day!” and “Did you see those tall bikes?” were frequent. Around 7 miles in to our ride we crossed back over the Arkansas River on the newest of the four pedestrian/cycling bridges in Little Rock and North Little Rock, bringing us to the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center. A luncheon of tea sandwiches, chips, crudites and brownies had been set up by a couple of male volunteers on a beautiful stretch of shaded grass.
After the ladies had a chance to eat and to visit with one another, old and new friendships being fostered, I tried my best to share the mission of CycloFemme as I understood it and why I got involved. The history of cycling as it relates to women and emancipation, suffrage and rational dress is important for us to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy now. It is imperative that we understand what access to two wheeled transportation can do for women who live in parts of the world that continue to condemn them for wanting those same rights and freedoms.
Immediately, there was discussion of “when we do this next year”. I believe the prevailing idea behind the mission has been met with a resounding “Let’s Ride!” and next time, the ride will be an ocean of women and girls, pedaling away from the women who fought for freedom and equality before them, with the women who are fighting for them, on their way to becoming fighters.
Special thanks to Cliff Li for being a leap frog photographer for the ride and all the guys who set up and cleaned up the picnic for us. More of Cliff’s photos from the Cyclofemme ride can be found on his Flickr Page.