Back in high school, when we were busy making fun of our English teacher’s strange fascination with sexuality in Death in Venice, I was pretty sure that that particular brand of repression would never be me. And for the haze of bicycles, booze, boys, retail, and the occasional feminist tract that was my twenties, it definitely wasn’t. But fast forward about ten years and swing on down to Austin (recently rated the horniest city in the US) and, with my partying years (mostly) behind me, here I am just another overworked, undersexed, highly caffeinated grad student who spends a disproportionate amount of time reading, writing, and thinking about representations of sex and sexuality. And bicycles. Did I mention the bicycles?
Austin is a great bike city. Just in the three years I’ve lived here, we’ve added hundreds of miles of bike lanes, paved miles of new paths, and added on-street bike parking all over the city. It’s gorgeous and sunny for the vast majority of the year. We have a long history of bike-friendliness, too: the oldest bike lanes in the city date back to the 1970s, our first Critical Mass rides were in 1994, just a couple of years after the movement started in San Francisco, and the Yellow Bike Project has been going strong since 1997. We have Lance. We have social rides, bike polo, bike artists, and nearly fifty bike shops.
And, most importantly, we have a shit ton of cyclists.
In the early mornings, swarms of spandex-clad riders pedal through the streets, angry bee sounds marking their trim, fit passage to the country roads to the south. A few hours later, UT’s five thousand bike commuters compete with rush hour traffic on their way to class and work. By mid-afternoon, the guy with the hot gear ratio (seriously, it must be 53-13!) is holding court at the coffeeshop where he works and where I sit grading papers or reading. And on hot summer nights, hundreds of pedicabbers troll the streets for fares, sweat pouring down their chests, their massive thighs straining against the fabri-
Oh. Right. Sorry. It’s just that, well… bicycles. The grad student in me might be overworked and undersexed, but god damn if the cyclist in me isn’t psyched every single day to be living in a city with such a thriving bike culture and so many bicycling bodies.
Is there anything hotter than the bicycling body?
I can’t imagine being attracted to someone who doesn’t ride at least as much as I do. This is partly because after so many years of being car-free, I don’t like riding in cars, I don’t like having to wait at the top of every hill for some dude who purportedly “likes bikes,” and I especially don’t like having to defend my choice to ride three miles rather than stuff my pride into a hermetically-sealed, gas-guzzling steel bubble every time we go somewhere. But the deeper reason I love being with other bike riders is that with fellow cyclists, I don’t get the uncomfortable asymmetry of a man who doesn’t ride complimenting me on my body which “must be because you bike.” Fuck you, dude. Did you notice that I said the bicycling body, not the bicyclist’s body, or were you too busy staring at my ass? I know bicycling means different things to different people, but to me it means a process, a way of living in the world, and an appreciation for – and dedication to – the incredible power, adaptability, and self-sufficiency of the human body, regardless of gender. And even though there are more of us than there were when I started riding, my inner idealist likes to think that fellow cyclists, especially us old-school folks, still understand that being a bike in a car’s world is more than a little like being a woman in a man’s world.
The thighs aren’t half bad, either.