I like to communicate. Even go so far as to love it, I got my college degree in communications and minors in mass communications, psychology, and religious studies. The last three were happy accidents. Growing up words were my friends, certainly not people. I read countless books, so moving forward with my education it made sense to keep reading and then writing. Learning to write in college gave me an analytical and observant eye. I didn’t just read or look at words, I scoured them, picked them over, and understood them from a trained view. My academic values are still there and it has been years since I’ve taken any communications classes, but in moving forward with life, I am still right along side those books. When I read the news, my Instagram feed, Facebook, newsletters, ads from your local bike shop, heck, from my local bike shop, when I read those words they move me, just like the books of high-school and papers from college. What’s new now is that there isn’t an academic shield in place for me to qualify the purpose of words and pictures. Is this supposed to help me? Make me happy? Feel compelled? Do I respond to this ad? Are they expecting a certain answer?
But wait, look at me! Am I an ad? What do I represent? What makes me Andrea, critically thinking.
I’ve just now accepted that I am a Salsa sponsored athlete. That I am in fact, an ultra endurance cyclist. Look at me.
Being a cyclist is how I want to introduce myself. So you know, I identify as she/her, more recently people have been seeing me as sir/him. Sure, fair enough, I cut all my hair off. (it’s still blue). But what was more alarming than those interactions, was how I got to the point of even being able to identify as she/her. It happened at the WTF Bike Explorers Summit when someone asked, “what are your pronouns?” I balked, confused and embarrassed because I knew what pronouns were, but my own? I own these?
ok. I asked, “Like she/her?” Because I’ve never had this conversation before.
Even if I am correcting my gender from male to female, I’d still never analyzed my own gender. My Mother is who taught me my femaleness, and while I am very similar to her, I haven’t had her experiences and am actually a different female than her. And actually different than all of you. If you have read this far there are things about us that we both appreciate, and I’m glad to have you in my life.
So wait, Andrea is an ultra endurance cyclist, a white female person identifying as she/her, and is really stumped about where she fits in. Actually being at the WTF BikeExplorers Summit did not leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling of camaraderie and understanding. It left me more confused, it was a first time experience for me, and while the event missed my own expectations they can’t please everyone, that isn’t the point.
That isn’t the point, pleasing everyone. You have to be uncomfortable, really! More often than not, especially if you are going to identify yourself as a weirdo in a weird world. Going bike camping or fat biking or gravel biking or 24 hour MTB racing brings out the best people, the ones who are supposed to challenge you. That is what the WTF Summit did for me, challenged me, and I turned out better for it. More open to expressing my position as a strong female ultra endurance cyclist.
Now I get to talk about y’all and why if you skip the former half of this, read the second half.
In the past I have lead countless women’s-only cycling events, set in my workplace, World of Bikes, typically free, with groups of 1-30 women. Flat clinics, maintenance clinics, rides, and events. I am proud of those, but I have started to see an opportunity through the Monday Night Gravel rides to reach out to those who aren’t like me. The men of my cycling community.
Being a strong female role model I can reach out to other females. That is where I feel safest and most welcome. While I may have been confused at the WTF Summit I did feel safe, safe to be the quiet kid in the corner like I usually am.
Spending time in front of women has given me the confidence to reach out beyond y’all, thank you for listening to me, asking for more, and for the helping create the space to do it.
The reaching began with the Monday Night Gravel ride I lead and have been for the past 2 years. It seems just as many women show up as would to a ladies only event, and they slay, everyone does. It’s a hard ride, but it’s a no-drop ride.
ALL I CARE ABOUT IS NO DROP. NOT LADIES. NOT MANS. NOT KIDS. not dogs. not cats. not carbon. not steel. I don’t care.
All I care about is paying attention to yourself and what’s around you. How you affect what’s around you. Isn’t it nice to have a community. Remember those people that have things about them that we appreciate.
Community : a unified body of individuals, a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society, a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered throughout a larger society, a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests, a group linked by a common policy, a social state or condition.
This is about you. You big unified body of individuals, you.
Not the guy over there who looks like you, or the lady over there that is stronger than you, or the friends you came here to beat.
It’s not about your Garmin, your bike, your clothes. Follow that link to read my rant about just getting started.
Your community doesn’t care about those things, they care about you. And if they do judge you based on those things I would sure hope they notice we just want to know who you are and why you want to be here too.
So what can you do when you show up to represent your community in the gravel world. How can you be the best individual for your cycling community. This is my personal take on what has worked best professionally. I have piles of experience in not pissing people off, taking the high-road so I don’t hurt feelings, and understanding how I can work my way into a place that doesn’t necessarily understand why I am there.
- Fun. Fun. Fun.
The cycling community is my family. They have expectations for me, which is mostly to ride my bike, and I try my best to show up. And like some of you, I don’t always like my family. But alas,
they are The Gravel Scouts.
We ride no-drop rides, hang out at monthly support meetings, travel together on bikes and in car to events, we count on each other. Scouts have goals and they meet them because they work hard. Too hard some would say. But we aren’t worried about what they say and we look forward to each other criticisms, because we want to ride with the best.
Leading up to Landrun I will be spending my time unpacking these thoughts. I am leading the group ride at Landrun and you better bet it will be no-drop as fuck. Don’t even think about getting in front of me, I am leading the ride, there will be a sweeper, and if you’ve never experienced a true no-drop group ride, get ready to get comfortable being a little uncomfortable, you won’t know what you’re doing at anyways.
This no-drop ride isn’t for you, by the way, it’s for the people around you*. Be a part of a community that wants to ride with people that don’t look like you, challenge you, and help you understand what makes you, YOU!
oh yea, and so we don’t forget about me. I am an ultra endurance cyclist. A white, female who identifies as she/her as of recently. I am grumpy, stubborn, impatient, optimistic, usually frowning, quiet, introverted, reader of books, analyzer of communications, prefer hills to headwinds, gravel over pavement, single-speed most days, CAT MOM (shoutout to Blanche for being my first own pet), left-handed, World of Bikes communications liaison, school bus driver, TranIowa finisher, Tour Divide finisher, and currently going for the Iowa City Fire Department as a firefighter. The test is on March 30th, yes there will still be a ladies only camp-out because I sleep at night just like you.
*(the event you signed up for is for you. you. and more you. bring your best you to that start line and get ready for a long ass day sitting, pushing, grinding, laughing, crying, hating, loving, and questioning yourself.)