I had to go to a fancy cocktail party tonight. I was planning, hoping, to actually give in to my female self and wear a dress. I had the thing on my body, was wearing stockings and exposing more than the usual cleavage (those who know me will know the new dress!) but at 5:15 pm my cell phone rang… and it was my work colleague who explained that there had been a horrible accident on the motorway and driving (he had offered me a ride) was not going to be an option. However, he had an alternative: he had an extra bicycle I could ride. The event was, admittedly, not more than a few miles from me and this was a totally acceptable distance to bike and would have been a really long walk. But I had not yet ventured into the mode of feeling as though I could ride a bicycle in a skirt.
I really felt as though I had no choice here so I changed my clothes. I switched from a really lovely dress that made me oh so feminine into black satin slacks and my black velvet duster coat, a favorite impulse purchase here last autumn. I walked to my friend’s place, only a few blocks from mine, and tried the bicycle. It was good, astonishingly for a loaner it was even a girl bike, but with the “I’m 8 years old” version of brakes: no hand brakes, but move the pedals backwards to stop. I recall the precise feeling of first being able to use hand brakes, and to be able to move the pedals backwards at will. And tonight I was reverting to the pre-8 year old case, but in satin trousers and a velvet duster. The basket on the front was useful for holding my Kate Spade purse but actually made the thing unstable at slow speeds so was an addition to the challenge of riding.
I had not ever ridden a bike while wearing velvet or satin. The last (large number of) times I had been on a bike it had been for quite serious sport: I had a helmet, spandex padded shorts and gloves, and I had been riding 20 or so miles at a time with significant hills and challenges involved. I had spent quite a lot of time and money at Erik’s bike shop in the Twin Cities but this was a completely different experience.
These “transportation” bikes are much more upright than the sport kind, and they feel funny to ride if you are used to distances and bikes for sport. The basket in front, admittedly practical, makes them unstable at slow speeds. More than anything else, I lost my confidence in traffic: I did not feel good going alongside the cars and kept running up against the curb rather than run into the cars. Perhaps a bit of a logical flaw in my environmentally-sound transport rules. But then again, I was in satin and velvet and trying to follow a man in a suit on a bicycle. This was not a normal circumstance.