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Monday, April 19, 2010

A Message From Michael

I will not be participating on this ride, but I thought I would post the notice in case anyone out there would be interested.

Here is my blog post on the same route from a couple months back:

I hope a few of you can make it. It is always a good time.
Nantou Reprise:

A bunch of you are already signed on but I thought
I'd widen the pool a little.

Schedule: Friday I am returning in the afternoon from Linkou to
Taichung. I am already taking two bikes + two other people, assuming
we are not rained out. I can take one more. Friday night we plan to
ride to Jiji or Shuili and sleep there.

Saturday Taipei people can come down on the early HSR, switch to local
(at train station at HSR station) and then meet in Shuili at 10 am.

The weather seems to be clearing but rain is still forecast for
friday. So stay tuned. Sunday it will be clear but Saturday looks like

Michael Turton

Fish+Bicycle: This One's For The Ladies

" under capitalism, patriarchy is structured so that sexism restricts women's behavior in some realms even as freedom from limitations is allowed in other spheres. The absence of extreme restrictions leads many women to ignore the areas in which they are exploited or discriminated against; it may even lead them to imagine that no women are oppressed"-- bell hooks

The above quote was accidentally left on my Facebook page when I posted on my last ride. My old friend Rene apologized and put the quote where she had intended to put it originally. Still, I found it as an inspiration for writing a little something about gendering the bicycle.

As a man I write from a male point of view, but I guess one of the most valuable contributions provided by contemporary feminist theory is to acknowledge the subject's experience as a factor in perceiving and writing about the object. What that means is that it is necessary to examine and locate our own subjectivities rooted in our own experience to better understand how that influences the way we experience others. This is an extremely valuable tool to learn if "one" is going to write about the "other".

In Taiwan it is often the case were a foreigner shows up and starts making grand proclamations about society and culture and sounds like an ass. That is not to say "foreigners" are not allowed to develop opinions on Taiwan. I can't tell you how often I have been told that I could not have an opinion on Taiwanese matters because I am not from Taiwan. That is silly. Some of the best books on Taiwan were written by non-Taiwanese... because they do not hold a paradigm altering political stake in Taiwan. What it means is than our perceptions are shaped by who we are and who we have become, and therefore it influences our points of view and the frames through which we view ourselves and others. Furthermore, by acknowledging and making oneself aware of these frames we are then free to engage the object with our own subjectivities on display.

Where am I going with all this?

Despite the fact that many riders are teased about their tight pants, the bicycle industry, like many other sporting industries, is a "phallocentric" industry with the bulk of development, equipment and advertising dollars focused on promoting cycling from a male point of view. In my own writing I have commented on the Paris-Roubaix and being "macho" and "masculine", and I am not afraid of those terms. Men are men and should not be afraid of being masculine. There is also a Paris-Roubaix women's race as is there a Tour de France women's race and many many more. These competitions are just as difficult as the men's races, but are often quietly held once the fanfare has subsided from the men's competition-- a mere footnote. Still, they are very true to being feminine.

With the lack of available financing and sponsorship, it is no wonder the women's market is only a niche market. Women are more likely to be discouraged from putting a leg over a bicycle, let alone become good at it. There is far less reinforcement at every level to encourage women to ride. I have even seen male behavior discourage women from riding. On some of the forums I visit there are very few women who participate because so much of the conversation is phrased by men for men. I don't think men quite understand how pushy and intimidating we can appear to women as we clash over egos or are simply used to getting by with only the male perspective.

In cycling there are fewer women on bikes for young girls to identify with and the only cycling niche that seems to have female stars who can compete for a little attention from the men's race is in cyclocross, where Amy Dombrosky, Moureen Bruno Roy and Meredith Miller can win sizable endorsements and headlines. The opportunities do not come knocking.

With such a heavy emphasis on men's cycling, there is also much less support for women specific bicycles.

Folks, I hate to break the news to you all, but men and women are different. Seriously. The female physique is simply structured different than a man's. Women typically have smaller hands and shorter arms than a man. A woman may have longer legs, wider sit-bones and wider hip-sockets. Women also have boobs and that can lead to more weight up top that may pull the rider into the handlebars raising the potential for arm or wrist pain. All these considerations change how a bike should be properly set up for a comfortable fit. A men's bike may not account for these differences.

I tried to get my sister-in-law on a road bike, but she was too short for any of the available models or if the bike could be fit with 650c wheels the top tube would be too long. She gave up looking.

While many companies sell women specific designs, the options are limited to only a few models. Most shops try to fit women on hybrids and mountain bikes. There are a few companies out there that primarily focus on making a great road bike specifically for women. Luna cycles is one of the leaders in making custom WSDs.

In Taiwan, Fuji bikes has a range of good road bikes for women, while Giant and Merida do, but most of their line-up is for men. The best components will usually be found on a men's model.

Another company in Taiwan that offers some WSD is Primavera Cycles in Taichung. Primavera is owned by Sabinna Den, who also writes the fantastic Satin Cesena Cycling blog. Sabinna's company has designed and produced a set of WSD named after the owner.

My builder at T-Mosaic is will start producing his own brand of steel road bikes for women at in a month or two. Stay tuned!

Here is a link to a great article on bikes for women.

Terry Cycles has a great podcast on cycling and Georgina Terry happens to be a woman and offers her perspectives and the perspectives of guest speakers.

As a man I like to see women out being athletic and participating in sports. I would also like to see more women get into cycling to help the sport grow. I think a greater female perspective or interpretation on the sport is necessary to keep cycling a fun and dynamic activity without having to emulate the men. I do not think the full potential of women's cycling has even scratched the surface of possibility and I hope the industry is paying attention.

"The bicycle will accomplish more for women's sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged." ~Author Unknown, from Demerarest's Family Magazine, 1895