By Catten Ely

Being a girl on a bike has its ups and downs. The assumption, the judgments, and the snubs are usually offset by the friendly thumbs ups and community acceptance.

Things happen to us that don’t happen to guys.

On a long trip last year, several travelers asked me where I was headed.

“Idaho,” I said. They looked at my Minnesota plate.

“Aren’t you afraid to ride alone?” they asked. Not “Where in Idaho?” or “How long have you been riding?” or any other innocuous questions they could have asked, but aren’t you afraid?

Sometimes they ask where my husband is.

I never know what to say to these questions. Chances are, they’re just curious. But one might have nefarious intentions, and I have to consider that.  

A few years ago, I had serious chain trouble near Blanding, Utah. I limped into town, found an Ace Hardware, and dug in to figure out what the problem was. Eventually, I noticed hushed voices behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of men and boys about 15 feet behind me, respectfully drinking Cokes and assessing my mechanical skills.

I was relieved to be able to ride away.   

I borrowed my riding buddy’s Aprilia RSV Mille yesterday. It’s big and yellow and loud. It’s tremendous fun to ride, and very different from my everyday dual sport. I took the bike to the place I get my nails done and parked in front. I watched three guys admiring the bike but I didn’t want to deal with questions and I had to get back to work, so I waited until they left. Then I tucked my hair up inside my helmet, donned my armor, and rolled out.

While I was waiting to pull out onto the highway, one of those guys pulled up next to me on his own bike.

“Dude! That’s the sweetest ride I’ve ever seen!” he said enthusiastically.

I turned to him, flipped up my visor, and said, “Thanks!”

His eyes got big. “Holy %#*&! Oh my god!” Pause. “Are you married?”

Last fall, I was riding home and nailed a perfect no-foot-down stop at a light that was just changing. I’ve been practicing this and was pretty pleased with myself.

A block later, I was still patting myself on the back when the black cruiser behind me pulled into the lane next to me at a red light.

“Not bad for a girl,” the rider shouted.

“I’m sorry, what?” I shouted back.

“I said not bad for a girl. That stop.”

Feeling unusually cocky, I said, “Thanks. I bet I can outride you anytime.”

“I don’t think so!” He yelled. The light on the cross street turned yellow and he revved his engine. This was about to get interesting.

He tore away from the light all decibels and testosterone, took the next right so wide (no brake lights) he almost hit a sedan waiting at the light, and I distinctly heard metal on pavement — probably a floorboard.

He leveled it out and I suspected that he thought he was magnificently awesome. Until that unmarked squad he almost hit did a U turn.

So yeah, I felt kinda smug. For a girl.


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