Men and women have been living side by side for about 200,000 years, so it would be reasonable to think we've really figured each other out. Of course, one might also think the world is flat and surrounded by winged sea monsters and be equally mistaken. Nevertheless, here is a starter list to help male cyclists navigate the sometimes murky waters of riding with their female counterparts.
This is not our first rodeo.1 of 8
Somehow over the last number of years, the common narrative might lead one to believe that women have only recently discovered the joy of riding a bike. This is not only untrue, it also tends to create a misconception that all women are new and inexperienced. Women are not even remotely new to cycling. At the end of the 19th century, we ditched our corsets and straddled our bikes faster than you can say "handlebar mustache." From the earliest days of its invention, we embraced the freedom the bicycle offered—freedom to go where we pleased without being chauffeured or chaperoned, freedom (at least temporarily) from domestic servitude, and freedom from 25 pounds of skirt. While some Victorian fussbudgets may have considered us scandalous and vulgar, we were actually what would now be considered early adopters.
I can change my own flat (but thank you for offering to help).2 of 8
One of the first rules of riding is being self-sufficient. In addition to carrying your own snacks, being self-sufficient also means having the tools required to change a flat tire and the skills to actually do it. After practicing in my basement over the course of a winter, I was dying to get a flat just to show off my proficiency in fixing it myself. And by "proficient" I mean I could do it in under an hour without bursting into tears. When the blessed moment finally happened, I had barely dismounted when the guys I was riding with jumped into action like they were performing a life-saving heart transplant on my Trek. I stood by helplessly as they deftly removed the offending wheel and deployed enough levers and pumps to change 50 tires. It took less than an hour and nobody cried. While I appreciated the help and the gesture, it made me feel more damsel in distress than road warrior.
Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I must always ride with other women.3 of 8
Don't get me wrong, I love women. I love being with them, and I love riding with them. However, this is not the 1950s (at least in most places) and gone (mostly) are the days where women are expected to scurry off to do the dinner dishes while the menfolk retire to the sitting room to drink scotch and smoke cigars. I will be the first to celebrate our differences (because diamonds), but in cycling circles you will find men and women have far more in common than not (because scotch and cigars). At the risk of grossly oversimplifying things, let's just say that people should not be categorized by whether they stand or sit to pee. In a situation with various pace groups, allow people to seed themselves and pee however they see fit.
We are friends, but...4 of 8
As much as we appreciate riding with our dude riding buddies, we appreciate being showered with your copious bodily fluids a little less. Snot rockets, sweat and spit are all perfectly natural and part of your fabulous man-self, but unless we are related or intimate, that kind of closeness is just a little too close. Please—and this goes for lady riders, too—PLEASE save the expulsion of your excess fluids until such a time that they will not land, unceremoniously, on the face (or God forbid in the mouth) of the poor sucker behind you. Sometimes you try to be discreet, sometimes not so much—either way we notice, because there is one universal truth about women, which you have undoubtedly learned from your mother, sister, girlfriend or wife, and it's that we notice everything.
Don't assume a woman is slow because she is a woman.5 of 8
There is a famously fast road ride that happens every Saturday morning in Tucson, Arizona, called the Shootout. One morning, a woman nobody knew turned up to ride. Without any prompting whatsoever, the fellow beside her was kind enough to point out that there was a slower group that left after the fast group was on its way. What this helpful fellow didn't know was that the woman he was speaking to was Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, who politely thanked him and proceeded to kick his patronizing butt. OK, I made the last part up, but I'd be pretty tickled if that's how it played out.
Peeing is hard.6 of 8
There is a saying here on the Canadian prairies that you can watch your dog run away for three days. Out on a ride, finding a private place for a nature break can be a challenge to say the least. In places like the Arizona desert, conditions can be equally barren, and somewhat more...prickly. If there is anything I envy men for, it is their ability to easily and discreetly relieve themselves wherever they damn well please. I've done gran fondos with men with bladders like 80-year-old women—stopping every 20 minutes to relieve themselves with an almost imperceptible decrease in velocity. Wrap a woman in bib shorts, jersey, gilet and cycling shoes, send her into a marshy ditch in the middle of nowhere and you have something between burlesque, stand-up comedy and Cirque du Soleil—but with more poison ivy. Sorry for the wait, but seriously dudes: Peeing is hard.
You are a feminist.7 of 8
OK, you've probably never burned your bra in protest, but the fact that you are even reading this article proves it. According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, feminism is defined as "the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes." You support this theory just by riding with us as equals in this small microcosm of society. In a world and a sport where we are still far from equal, it is how the grassroots communities conduct themselves that start to make a difference. It's the outrage about the homegrown pro who earns barely a fraction of her male equivalent. It's the encouragement of the teenage girl who gets teased for being strong. It's welcoming the slow, out-of-shape mother of three who hasn't done anything for her own health and fitness since she was in college. These small things—they make a difference. And although we may not let on, we do notice. We are women, after all.