Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fender Haters and the Sexology of Bike Parts, BBB Archive 1/29/06

January 29, 2006--Nyack Journal, New York: Sunday: It rained here, after being cloudy for most of the morning. The skies portended rain, as I rode up from the George Washington Bridge to Nyack, NY, most of the way alone. At the Runcible Spoon,, a bike-friendly eatery, I sat down with my friends from Israel and we discussed vacations. We talked so long I realized I had been abandoned by my friend Steve Klein, who likely had given me up for dead as I yapped the time away inside.
As I was leaving the Spoon, I saw a nice-looking, tall woman with angular bone structure, chatting with her cycling, possibly racing, buddies before taking off. They were discussing where they were going to ride, likely northbound or towards Tweed, before they headed back to the city. She had an interesting-looking bike, similar to some I had seen at Cadence Bike Shop in Philly last weekend, and I was curious about it.
So I introduced myself, and asked her how she liked the bike. She told me it was a Cyfac, and that it was great, and that she really liked the ride. The bike was painted in an iridescent aqua, also angular, with top and down tubes strangely indented, but with clean lines nevertheless. It was made of carbon fiber, and she said she had had a hard time finding a Cyfac dealer in the New York area.

According to Cadence’s website,, about 1,800 Cyfac frames are handmade in La Fuye, France, every year compared to the 15,000 or more made by comparable high-end frame builders like Pinarello and Colnago, and Cadence says they are the number one dealer of the frame in the United States.

Back to the racing women: The Cyfac rider and her companions were kind of standoffish, as female racers here tend to be, with one member of the party sitting on her bike with one leg up on the bike stand in what appeared to be a dominant position. It was reminiscent of the way that so many amateur racers comport themselves among the rest of the population. Read, a tad superior. Maybe being faster makes one feel this way, and wearing nice, colorful uniforms bearing brand names you have never heard of and riding expensive bikes accentuates that feeling, but the way it comes off is not socially approachable. Needless to say, I didn’t take offense, though I know from experience that not everyone is similarly open-minded.

Anyway, as she was leaving in the opposite direction, likely intended in a nice way she said to me, "I hope you're not going to need that fender," referring to my very light, removable grey plastic
Headland Backslide Seatpost Fender that I had attached over my back wheel that cost me $17 at the Piermont Bicycle Connection.

It sounded perhaps like she thought—and maybe I am reading into this—that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Well, as it turns out, I did need it, as it started to rain in droves on my way home.
And since she and her cohorts were headed up to Tweed, there is no doubt
they hit more rain than I did. So they could have used my fender, all three of them.

But what struck me was this was the second time in a week that my decision to use a fender was questioned by a serious female rider. So I started to ask myself, so what is it with women and fenders, and why do they hate my fender so much?

Last weekend when I was riding in Philadelphia, I recall hearing (as if I was out of earshot, but I wasn't), a female racer remarking about my fender, and later my male friend suggested the next day ever so gently that I should take it off before leaving for the Sunday ride, and never mentioned once that it was a source of girl-racer embarrassment. You see, it does rain and snow less in Philadelphia, and there was no melting ice or snow on the ground there last weekend, as there is here in the northeast, which I learned after day one.

But it really got me to thinking that there was a difference between men and women when it came to fenders. In fact, the men I run into absolutely marvel at my *fender* and always ask me where I got it.

I wonder if *the fender* is really an indicator of how much someone has been looking at your butt, and if it was a woman, she is suitably irritated or contemptuous enough to focus on the *ridiculousness* of your *fender*. Perhaps your butt looks very round, or even too round for their taste. This of course depends on whether your posterior is to be admired or ridiculed.

Or perhaps women are somehow secretly threatened by the extended length of a fender as if it were the female counterpart to a male’s foremost equipment, but only in the female vernacular.

Or maybe I thought, it is just that women are really so focused on their weight, that every extra little ounce they perceive as a negative impact on our ability to climb and keep up?

It is true that my muscle-weight ratio is suffering after a winter of rain and snow, interspersed by many trips to the refrigerator. But this was uttered as if there is something really lacking in my judgment, perhaps because I should really be worrying about how competitive I am on a training ride. What, three ounces?

Or is it perhaps, that a fender is one more step in the direction of male-geek parts fixation, and women really can't get into that. Geek-fixation is a foreign land for us, so one more unknown part entering into the cycling consciousness –and thus on the list of * required parts in order to be cool racer *—that they have a temporary brain rejection of said part as an illogical addition to the list. Men on the other hand eat that stuff up, and run out to the store to buy one—or two-- for themselves.

Whatever the reason, I can tell you this, that fender saved my butt from getting soaking wet like baby-diapers, and from getting black oil-tire riffraff stains all the way up the back of my favorite jerseys which I spent a fortune on, and which would then have been ruined forever-more.

After all, it’s all about looking good, isn’t it?

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