Today I had the privilege of joining the Kunitachi Giant Store girls’ morning practice. Tired of getting dragged around by boys who always wanted to ride courses that were too steep, or who wouldn’t wait for them, they decided to organize a special practice. Compared to what I usually put my body through, it was a walk in the park. We did a 25 km loop around Saiyama lake, which is a lovely shaded, winding, slightly rolling bike course. It took about an hour and a half, so slower than I usually ride, but still enough to get a sweat going.

Part way through the shop owner had to take off for some work that he forgot about, and so the last 40 minutes or so was just us girls. That was when I finally got to see their true colors. Far from having no desire to ride, they mostly just felt overwhelmed. No matter how hard they tried, it was never enough for the boys — a girl just can’t keep up, and it’s unfair for a boy to expect them to.

I felt like I had finally found people who could understand me. We were all struggling against the same obstacles, and like so much else in the world we were made to feel like we were lacking because the bar, and all the rules, were set by boys, for boys.

On the way home it dawned on me, the solution to all of our problems. The boys make the girls feel bad about themselves because they don’t give us any credit for trying despite an extremely unfair disadvantage. The girls in turn wear the boys out because they are reluctant to subject themselves to more machismo. I, however, am both male and female and I can speak both languages. I can tolerate the boys’ crazy training concepts, learn from them, and make my own body stronger. I can then give what I learn to the girls in a way that I know will preserve their desire to ride, and maybe even grow it. The shop wins because it gets staff that know more and care more about bikes. The girls win because they get to practice without the pressure and abuse. And I win because I get to say that someone has to train me (Thunder, I’m 100% talking about you, here!), and I get to get faster while at the same time finally having people to ride with.

And I get to be team captain! Duh.

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