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Kat Marriner : January 21st, 2011

If the masses only knew

Recently I was invited to a “Women on Bikes” meet-up … a salon of sorts where we batted around the question of “what do women want”. We were there to share our bikerly stories and share ideas—maybe someone in that room can run with it and make things happen in our city. Or perhaps as a community of women on bikes we can help a sea change. I came home and posted a similar query on Facebook, asking what will it take to get more women to ride bikes?

A great question with dozens of answers in person and on FB, but then Don Draper (Mad Men marketing genius for you non-TV watchers) crooned in my ear and I turned that question around. I know lots of reasons to not ride a bike—we all do—but what is the deep, underlying hook that keeps those of us who do ride bikes riding them in the face of all the challenges? What do we know that the rest of the world doesn’t know?

So with the tinkling of ice in my glass and Don Draper’s smooth baritone lulling me to explore my own motivations for tackling traffic, bad weather, aggressive drivers, time crunch, culture, and snobbish cyclists who want to impress themselves by racing me up the hill (yep, the vibe on the street, and in the bike shop, is a deterrent), I came up with my three hooks that keep me pedaling.

One. I wish it were the greening of the planet, but it’s not my great motivator.  When I owned a car, I bike-commuted to school and work because parking and gas was expensive. I did it to save money when I really wasn’t making very much. Years later with a higher income, I don’t own a car, but every time I do the math and realize how much money I would need to spend on car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, I decide I don’t need a car. And it’s not just the money that I can spend on other things like going to Portugal for three months; it’s actually the time I would need to spend working to make that extra money too.

Two. Riding a bike or walking most places is an automatic workout. I love that every time I go somewhere, it’s not time spent in a gym pedaling, or worse, trying to lose weight. It’s a twofer – a two for one bonus of getting somewhere I was already going and getting a workout at the same time.

Three. I think it’s a little bit cool. Riding a bike is my small rebellion from normalcy. It’s freedom. It’s empowering. I actually think I’m lucky that I’m a woman who rides a bike. I like the looks of admiration and the thumbs-up encouragement I get. I get that on trips, but I also get that just riding around town. When it happens it’s really fun, and no one ever thought I was cool just because I was driving a car.

These are my three reasons. What are yours? What is the marketing genius that will sell riding a bike, if the masses only knew?

2 comments to If the masses only knew

  • Bruce Tiebout

    Another great post as always Kat. My favorite reason for riding is stress relief/relaxation. Some of my best rides are the morning after a bad evening/week of frustration &/or anger. A good ride “burns” that off. I don’t know if it’s just the physical exertion, the pleasure of riding, or what. Although, when I ride my recumbent tricycle with the mp3 player, motorcycle amplifier, and outdoor speakers, it’s also the music.

    Of course, those are mostly solo rides. The best reason for riding – is group rides wherein you can have endless conversations around the same subjects: dogs, drivers, great/scenic places to ride. It’s the comradery.

  • Kat Marriner

    Thanks Bruce! And you reminded me how much I used to need my bike ride home from work to shed the stress of the day. Now I just shuffle to and from my desk in my slippers, but a few years ago I faced a “10-minute hill” that erased all thoughts of the day. -k.

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