“THAT WOULD BE WAY BETTER IF YOU…”
I never really understood the patronising nature of mansplaining until I was forced to present in a manner starkly different from what I am used to. As someone who wore lycra and appeared as though they could ride reasonably briskly, being pregnant was a real game changer for cycling.
A limited wardrobe, a totally different bike set-up (can anyone say +30-degree stem?) and much more puffing for much fewer watts was an experience on the other side of the bunting. For those who didn’t know me, I was seen a newbie and put in the ‘requires advice’ box, after all, it’s nice to give well-meaning advice to newer riders in the sport, right?
The problem is, I wasn’t a newer rider, and I didn’t really appreciate advice about my gearing, line choice or bike setup on my local trails.
Out with a friend riding, bump still not too evident (mostly just interpreted as a love of pies at that stage), I was climbing up some switchbacks. The fact that there were corners and they were going in a slightly uphill manner was the entire crux of the difficulty of the singletrack, yet when we popped out onto the fireroad and there were a group of weekend warrior type blokes at the top (not that there is anything wrong with that) I took a second to pause before pedalling off because, you know, pregnant!
The warriors had oodles of advice for me, despite only seeing me ride the last 25 metres of the trail. In the three of four sentences they got out, they gave me so much advice they could have worked at the LBS*.
“Great work ladies, it’s a tough climb, you can do it!” they yelled with enthusiasm, despite me being a seasoned cyclist. “Pick an easy gear and look ahead!”.
Being younger and perhaps more involved with my own ego at the time, I harrumphed off with a salty brow, and took myself and my pie-gut further along the trail, out of sight.
I pass as an experienced cyclist most of the time now, and even those times where people take me as a commuter at best, it doesn’t really bother me if people think I am new if I am trundling along the bike path in my jeans and jandals. Age and wisdom and all that; I am pretty happy that I know what I am doing so a polite eyebrow raise and silent nod usually does the trick.
But for some women, the mansplaining will never stop. Particularly ludicrous instances of cyclingbased mansplaining are present even at the highest level of the sport, when Annemiek VanVleuten was mansplained after her crash in the Rio Olympic Road race…being told that she forgot the ‘first rule of cycling…to hold your bike steady regardless of the speed”. Yeah thanks, I am sure Annemiek–World Champion and Olympian–really took sage advice from a weekend warrior on board (insert eyeroll).
More local instances of mansplaining, or assumptions based on gender, have included an instance where a local rider, very experienced but existing outside the normative bike shop user (MAMIL or young tip rat), presented to a bike shop to drop a fat wad of cash on a boutique rig. Despite her stating she wanted a high end, full suspension mountain bike, the sales bro repeatedly told her all she needed was a midrange hybrid, $1000 max. Maybe it’s just me, but I simply cannot imagine sales staff down-selling from a potential $5k sale to a hybrid that tops out at a grand because that’s ‘all they need’. Not only is this crap from a gender standpoint, it’s a pretty stupid way to run your business.
So what do we do about mansplaining, this thing that serves to reinforce gender imbalances? Let me do some womansplainin’ and give two easy to remember tips about offering advice:
Is the person asking for advice? If yes, give advice.
Is the person not asking for advice? Just hold it in, especially if it’s someone you don’t know and you’re giving unsolicited advice to!#
Women, or other victims of mansplaining, remember to feel confident and call that shit out if you need it; there is nothing wrong with ‘thanks, I’ve got this!’.
There you go, such basic rules for good quality exchanges! Happy riding!
*Local bike shop
#In the case that there is a serious safety issue, go ahead, but be polite about it.