The Bikemommas of CycloFemme

Oakland CycloFemme 2013 (Jillian Betterly Photography).

My ovaries and I typically keep a distant relationship, but after riding with CycloFemme this weekend, I’m considering popping out a couple lil’ shredders and becoming a bikemomma myself. Presented by women’s cycling blog GirlBikeLove, the second annual CycloFemme ride is a Global Women’s Cycling Day that takes place on Mother’s Day. This year, rides were registered in 229 cities around the world, including places you might think are ladybiking unfriendly (Yida, Sudan) or just plain remote (Valdez, Alaska).

Oakland’s CycloFemme ride started on a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon at Jack London Square. About 30 women showed up on road bikes and mountain bikes, townies and Schwinn cruisers, and a couple bikemommas with three little kids between them. I rode sweep on Big Pink the Tall Bike like a motherhen strutting and proud of my flock.

We rode slow and easy towards Piedmont Avenue. The hill up to the top of Linda Ave was pretty steep and a handful of us got off and walked, while bikemomma with the trailer pedalled straight to the top. As the afternoon light turned golden, we gathered in the Oakland Rose Garden to eat chocolate shortbread cookies and raffle off a couple Chrome bike bags. At the end of the ride, a music bike greeted our arrival in Berkeley Civic Park and we danced on the fountain and drank red wine until dark.

This is not to say that a kid-friendly women-only ride was all lah-lah coming up roses and unicorns. As we were coasting down Grand Ave, I watched the five-year-old catch his wheel on the bike trailer, endo over his mini-singlespeed, and slam into the pavement. Later, in the bike lane on Lakeshore, the baby trailer itself tipped over backwards and dragged for about 20ft. I was riding my tall-bike at the back of the pack with the moms. I watched both incidents in horror. Not the gaping kind of horror, but that hollow-sickening kind of horror as I saw the kids hit the ground.

While I can only imagine those feelings amplified tenfold for the moms, their responses were swift and devastating. In one movement, Mom #1 dropped her bike, swept the five year old off the street, and had him bandaged up and his older kid sister reassured before I could say, “Are you ok?” When Mom #2 realized the SHSHHHHHH sound behind her bike wasn’t a punctured tire but a dragging baby-trailer, she stopped, tipped the trailer back upright, and exclaimed to the kid inside with a smile, “Wasn’t that a surprise!” To the rest of us, she said, “You should have seen the look on his face!” I noticed the problem was that a pin hadn’t been set on the trailer arm. This wasn’t a case of child endangerment. As I fastened the pin, I saw the kid was safely strapped and harnessed in (thank goodness!), wearing both helmet and superhero cape. Mom #2 is a safety-first bikemomma.

Ten minutes after eating shit, I saw the five year old with a big grin on his face. He had figured out how to climb the park bench onto the low wall where we had set the cookies out of his reach. He was inspecting the band-aid on his elbow, but I could tell he was eyeing the goods. When I asked him how he was feeling after his fall, he said, “I fall a lot on my bicycle.” Then he hopped off the wall and ran off with his sister.

I felt my ovaries perk up watching these mighty bikemommas at work. A couple other women had the same impressed looks on their faces as well. I realized, we bikewomen have been conditioned to expect an overprotective, hypochondriac response to doing something perceived to be risky such as cycling in the streets and to quail at the thought of any injury — nay, any RISK — coming to ourselves and to our children.

Bikemomma is the counter-response to the underestimation and overprotectiveness we bikewomen experience at every point when we declare we’re going to ride a bike. That we’re going dirty our hands fixing a flat, bike home through Oakland at night, become bike messengers, go on bike tour across Mexico. As women and as women who bike, we are constantly fighting if not for the right, then the respect, to go out there and do something greater, unexpected, to go beyond. And when we eat shit — when the baby trailer tumbles, when one of us is mugged riding home — the world shrugs and says, maybe that’s the way things are and why’d you do something so dangerous in the first place?

The fearsome, awestriking part of bikemomma is that she expects to eat shit, get up, and try again. She expects her flock — her kids and her community — to do the same. Whether or not we had a desire to birth and raise a human being ourselves, a lot of us were thinking, “If I’m gonna be a momma, I want to be a bikemomma just like her.”

After we crossed Ashby Ave in West Berkeley, Mom #2 turned off with her trailer. One of the kids followed. Mom #1 laughed to see her duckling trailing the wrong bikemomma and asked, “Where are you going?” Mom #2 replied, “We’re going out for dinner!” Mom #1 grinned and turned off as well. The five year old with a band-aid on his elbow executed a perfect U-turn across the bike boulevard and rode off yelling, “Pizzaaaaa!”

I once thought cyclocross was the pinnacle of cycling spectator sports. This shit is way better. Give me the Bikemomma Channel any day (and Romany McNamara, aka MILF of Team Jortz, crushing the competition next cyclocross season).

The little shreddette won the raffle and gave the Chrome bag to her bikemomma! Happy Momma’s Day! (Jillian Betterly Photography).
Jakkx. I want more of her in my life. (Jillian Betterly Photography)
Matching tutus. Big Pink Tall Bike. (Jillian Betterly Photography).
BOOM! Oakland CycloFemme 2013!
BOOM! Oakland CycloFemme 2013! (Photo credit: Navi Thach).


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