It’s almost Valentine’s Day, the time of year that causes heightened emotions. If you’re coupled and you both dig it, it can be terribly romantic. If you’re coupled and one of you doesn’t—ranting, say, that Valentine’s Day is a bourgeois holiday utilized by businesses to simply sell more stuff—then it’s a headache that probably leads to a stiff drink for both of you.
If you’re single and care about the holiday, Valentine’s Day is depressing, further evidence that you are missing that vital link—someone else—and there are long winter days ahead. But if you’re single and have a bike like me, then there’s bike love, a most pure and enduring infatuation!
Bikes and women make a fascinating love story. The bicycle, probably more than any other machine in history, left women a huge legacy.
Here’s the history, in brief: When cycling became popular in the 1890s, the height of the Victorian era, women were considered frail things that should only aspire to becoming wives. Limited by rigid constructions, as well as literally bound in corsets, women were rarely allowed to move freely, particularly in the public sphere.
Enter the bicycle, which literally gave the population at large the chance to move into new spaces, far and wide. For women, bicycles meant incredible mobility. It gave them the opportunity to become autonomous, no longer in need of chaperones who guarded their every move, and they also quickly ditched their corsets—not an easy thing to wear whilst trying to bike and breathe. Cycling lead to healthy, rosy-cheeked ladies with a penchant for steering their own direction and as they pooled together, they caused a monumental societal shift. They kept pushing for more rights, and eventually got women the right to vote.
Some early grrl cyclists:
Which is why Susan B. Anthony, the American women’s rights advocate, said the bicycle had “done more to emancipate women then anything else in the world.”
Well, I definitely feel emancipated by my bike. If the definition of love is an unconditional state of being, an essence that facilitates a relationship and that allows a person to care for and identify with something deeply, then I’ve got bike love bad. My bike love is a feeling, an action, a commitment over time; it is something that always grows and perseveres.