Type “girls on bikes” into Google Image Search. Seriously, pick up your iPhone and do it right now—just keep in mind it’s NSFW unless you’re employed at SLUG, #myjobisbetterthanyours (Editor’s note: The SLUG office does not condone the use of pornography during office hours—unless it’s vintage). For those of you who don’t give a fuck or who own ironic flip phones, basically what pops up is a page of butts and bikinis (Oh, NOW you’ll search, huh?). Most of the thonged m-asses are straddling bullet bikes, but there’s a tattle of tits and cheeks resting on top tubes and Brooks saddles. How this aesthetic crossed over from car and motorcycle culture into cycling is beyond me, but I imagine it was a product of the ‘80s: a time that will forever be remembered as the decade that the fashion industry managed to pull an “Emperor’s New Clothes” hoax on the whole of Western society, and will inevitably lead to a “There’s something I’ve gotta tell you” talk before we get intimate with our alien neighbors. Seriously, the ‘80s could result in our world’s destruction—depending on how well E.T. takes “stirrup leggings” and “shoulder pads.”
Obviously, as a feminist, I have issues with objectifying women for capitalist gain, but I’m more offended by these images as a cyclist. I completely understand the marketing logic behind photos of half-naked women sucking the tail pipes of lifted trucks and gyrating to a revving engines between their legs. In my experience, the guys who buy those types of vehicles are dealing with some daddy issues, if you know what I mean, and having a motorcycle or a big truck gives them the boost they need to feel like “real men”—the kind of guys that sexy ladies supposedly want to fuck. (For the record, nothing does it for me more than a man who knows how to spell and can fix my wireless connection—someone’s gotta fuck the Peter Parkers of this world.) I’ve always thought cycling was more enlightened than “sex sells” marketing ploys and misogynist fumbles at “art,” though. Sure, there are plenty of men with manhood qualms, riding bicycles, to whom that type of imagery might appeal, but most of the guys I know pedaling in the bike lane are getting “faggot” calls thrown at them from those “real men,” and are hardly fazed by it. For many of them, riding a bicycle is long-lasting, genuine empowerment that doesn’t necessitate fake boobs and bleached hair to validate their manhood.
Cycling has helped immensely with all of my insecurities—I was swayed into the bike community after a particularly self-deprecating relationship failed—but I never thought that it might do the same for men as it does for me until one of my guy friends recently expressed how he felt like such a badass after riding through this particularly nasty winter. I could totally relate. Even though I admittedly spent most of this winter driving my mom’s station wagon (it’s not even a Subaru), I still brag about the three consecutive winters I rode through Utah blizzards, strapped into Velo City pedals and hunched over my handlebars, bawling into the space heater as my extremities thawed once home. You don’t see any motorcycle heroes on the road during inclement weather—they’re at home getting nagged by their silicone girlfriends.
BTW, just because you have tattoos, big boobs and/or are a size two, ladies, does not mean that modeling should be your go-to career choice. I’m guilty of Instawhoring every once in a while (though most of my objectification is of food, #fbg4lyfe), but if I see photos of you in lingerie, next to a bike you can’t ride, be prepared for a sprints challenge. I’ll sic Ali K. on you, and then maybe you and your photographer boyfriend will feel silly enough to pedal away instead of perpetuating these tasteless stereotypes of women and marring both yourself and the cycling community. Is it too much to ask to type “girls on bikes” into Google and actually see a girl RIDING a bike from an angle that doesn’t focus on her butt crease? Hey, Peter, help me figure out Google Analytics so we can rig a page full of Jessica Gilmores fucking killing it in an alleycat—I’ll make it worth your while.