There are loads of reasons to pick up cycling, but the one that’s had a most profound effect on me has been ‘loosing shame’, from the numerous times I’ve fallen off the bike.
In slow traffic, some male drivers slow down, roll down the passenger window and give me a thumbs up or an approving nod or a smile. Female drivers mostly ignore me and concentrate on not running me over by giving me a wide berth in traffic ❤. Taxi drivers in my hood flash their headlights in approval as I approach. Matatu conductors hang half out of the window with a blank stare as the matatu overtakes me in traffic, I just smile and wink if I recognize the conductor from my public-transport-commuter days. The City Council parking attendants nod and say “Hey”.
There have been times I’ve been peeved by lewd sexist remarks. All from men. All of them pedestrians. Never the male cyclists. I ignore them. It’s good for your heart, to ignore them, that is. Wave back to the positive ones.
One time, a matatu driver slowed down alongside me so that his male passenger, ridding shot gun, could make a sign at me that signified giving oral sex to a woman. I 凸(¬‿¬) welcomed him to try. Promises, promises.
In Industrial Area cycling near some road-side motor garages: “Tete is tete, Madam!” (Not sure if this is positive or not)
In Nairobi West, Birongo Square cycling past the car-wash guys: “Madam si utapanuka sana?” ό,ὸ (reference to my private parts expanding from cycling)
Road-side critic in Nairobi along route number eight in Kibra: “Madam si unaharibu mambo?” ⊙_☉ (Reference to damaging my private parts)
A pedestrian in Industrial Area: “Madam si umeiva?” (positive: Referring to my being with it.)
A pedestrian on Ngong Road: “Madam si unipee lift” (Jokingly requesting a lift on the rear carrier)
A pedestrian crossing between cars: “Yeah Baby! Uko poa!” (“Yeah Baby, you’re alright!”)
A male pedestrian’s approval on Uhuru Highway: “Eeh Madam” (Yes, Madam”).
Others make cat calls and kissing sounds or blow me a kiss.
The positive comments mostly outweigh the negative ones. I guess there is a genuine thrill they get seeing me cycle.
The comments directed at my ✿ lady bits ✿ are somewhat troubling to me. I find they are morbidly at home in the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) debate. There is a strange obsession with womens’ sexuality, in most African cultures, that is very misplaced. Now, I find it linked to female cycling. This blog sums it up nicely.
FGM is about curtailing, inhibiting, preventing and controlling women’s expression. Riding a bicycle for me is about freedom, confidence and movement. It’s an antithesis to FGM, to me.
Riding a bicycle in many African cultures is seen as a male activity. No eyebrows raised at a man cycling. Women are rarely encouraged to take up cycling. Fewer try to, save for those in some urban areas where the gender bias on many levels is narrower, only slightly. Even fewer women own a bicycle.
I find the ease with which my privates are up for commentary by total strangers, quite frankly, annoying. It reminds me why there were few male voices in the anti-FGM movement despite it’s obviously retrogressiveness, even with all these road-side motor mouths. Without the external parts of my lady parts, as happens in infibulation, none of the lady saddles ever designed would make riding comfortable.
Even with all the nonsensical comments by road-side obstetricians, on-line articles on cycling saddles raise issues with cycling discomfort and temporary troubles for men, that can turn permanent. The discussions about female saddles mainly point to mere discomfort that can be resolved with adjustments to seat post height and and saddle angle.
A quick search shows that the on-line articles on women’s seats are more than those on men’s. Not to be confused with the issue of ergonomics and design for comfort, the larger debate on women’s seats is mainly driven by aesthetics and the importance given to providing a wider variety, in different colors. Some of which are exorbitantly priced and come in vagina colours – pink and red. Others in white with blue or pink highlights. Of course there are ergonomics concerns in women’s saddle discussion, just not related to adverse health implications.
A quick google search revealed as follows:
“Men’s Cycling Saddles” – 1,210,000 hits
“Women’s Cycling Saddles” – 1,380,000 hits
To some extent, the Kenyan road-side gynaecologists are both right and wrong.
Perhaps what these crude, rude critics mean is the fact that cycling results in a rush of endorphins (feel-good-chemicals), and a higher sex-drive. That comes with any good work out, as with cycling. It is something they cannot reconcile with.
The painful truth is, when you start cycling, there will be slight discomfort, not only in the region of your privates, but your gluts and thighs too. This goes for both male and female cyclist beginners. Like any form of exercise, the new positions, new use of muscles and the resulting pressure WILL cause some pain.
The discomfort for women is not permanent, no matter what you have heard or read, and can be remedied…
There are adjustments to your seat and handle bars that you need to make. These adjustments are peculiar to your physical build – mainly your height. If you cycle regularly and the discomfort subsides then returns it means that the correct adjustments to your seat were altered.
I learnt from my cycle buddy FR that the seat should be higher than the handle bars to make the most efficient use of your energy. The top of the seat, however, should reach mid hip when standing next to the bike. This advise works, but may actually be harmful to your nether regions.
If you can afford it, when cycling long distances, wear the proper cycling kit – the pants or shorts with a padded crotch. You could also get a proper, ergonomically designed racing saddle. These are available second-hand, as good as new. Your regular workout or work clothes will do just fine.
Saddles for women have a wider groove or centre cut-out than those for men, to accommodate a wider pelvic girth. The heavier you are the longer the discomfort takes to wear off. I will get a nose-less saddle for women one of these days. This buyer’s guide is useful when making choises.
You and your hand tonight Ma!
Like all muscle aches, a massage in the shower between cycle trips helps.
Yes, a massage, stop looking at the screen like that. Acting all coy, as if you don’t know how to do it. There are muscles there too. And every bit of muscle plays a big role in your cycling comfort.
So when the aches begin, use your head, ermm… your hand. Just as you would for other aching muscles.
Happy Nairobi Cycling!!! ❤ Nairobi! ❤ Cycling!
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
– Susan B. Anthony
About Susan B. Anthony: http://susanbanthonyhouse.org/her-story/biography.php
My cycle buddy AG shared these tips with me:
“Beginner technique: How to set up your mountain bike”: http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/article/beginner-technique-how-to-set-up-your-mountain-bike-22707
“Beginner’s guide to mountain biking”:
Something on male cycling and sexual health:
“A Delicate Matter” http://www.livestrong.com/article/130600-cycling-male-fertility/
Something on female cycling and sexual health:
“CYCLING & MALE FERTILITY” http://www.womenscycling.ca/newsletter-august-september-06.htm#delicate
“The Agony of de Vagina” http://www.womenscycling.ca/newsletter-august-september-06.htm#agony
” Cycling May Diminish Sexual Pleasure in Women, Lead to Numbness of the Genitalia” http://medicaldaily.com/news/20120515/9894/relationship-exercise-cycling-bicycle-women.htm