I asked the women of the Pedal Women’s Cycling Club if anyone was interested in riding up Deer Creek Canyon. Radio silence. I scrolled through the pedal RACING Strava group and saw a discussion with the Racing Team posting about the same route. I was the only woman who clicked “I’m in.”
Anxiety rushed through me as I pedaled my way to the meetup location for this All-Men’s-Plus-Jessica jaunt through Deer Creek Canyon. I imagined them leaving me in the dust, choking on the dirt that flew in my face. I envisioned them treating me as “less-than” because I was a young woman. I anticipated conversations without me, gasping for air as I attempted to keep up with them, and sneers once I pulled up next to them.
I considered turning around or riding up Deer Creek alone to avoid these misogynist men I created. Instead, I was 15 minutes early. I saw a few Pedal jerseys riding past me. I was afraid that I missed the meetup or that they were going to try to avoid me or whatever other ludicrous idea I imagined.
10:30am came and we were standing in a group. My outgoing introvert introduced herself to the 6 or so men that were propped on their bikes. I made a very unfeminist comment of “I’m going to try to keep up with you.” One of the men laughed, “We’re taking it easy today.” Note: Deer Creek isn’t particularly “taking it easy.”
I stationed myself in the middle of pack of bikes so I could use their energy to push and pull me along. I kept up for a few miles and then the group separated into two. The first three were fast and I fell behind with the other four men. We laughed and joked around. We waited for each other at the top of a hill or at a stop sign. It was a drop-and-meet-up kind of ride.
I learned that it wasn’t as intimidating riding bikes with experienced male cyclists as I once thought. We routinely checked in with each other: how we were all feeling, where everyone was, if anyone was having any bike issues and if they have a way of taking care of it. There was one man whose spoke broke and Team Wife was coming to get him. One of the men stayed with him until she arrived.
Aaron, the leader of the group bike ride, was incredibly supportive for all of us: he encouraged us as a group and encouraged me separately: “You’re the only woman who joined us – you’re representing them well!” He hung back with one of the men that started slowing down. He had even helped me the previous weekend with my flat tire.
Typically, I shy away from group rides because I assume I won’t be able to keep up or that the other rides will not want to wait for me. I was happily proven wrong with this group of men. It didn’t discourage me from riding with men in the future; above all else, it made me a stronger rider as I forced myself to keep up with them. I was so afraid of looking like a jackass that I kept up with them for the most part and heard later from one of the women in Pedal that I was “impressive.”
People, men, women, aren’t as scary, intimidating, or rude as sometimes we imagine them to be. It’s okay to join a new pack or riders, even if they’re all male. It’s okay to ask for advice or help if you need it. And it’s okay to push yourself to stay with the pack to be later told you’re impressive.