When I was writing my book The Girls’ Guide to Life on Two Wheels, my editor asked me to include a ‘what kind of cyclist are you’ quiz at the front.
It was meant to be a bit of fun, in the style of those endless quizzes you get in women’s magazines and now all over Facebook. How Good Are You In Bed, What’s Your Perfect Bra, What Kind Of McDonald’s Meal Are You? That kind of thing.
I said no to the quiz and said I felt female cyclists were pushed into boxes quite enough already. Also cycling was evolving all the time and that creating a series of categories – Racy Roadie? Minxy MTB-er? Foxy Fixie? Ballsy BMX-er? – would quickly sound dated.
But actually the real reason was that I was a bit embarrassed about the category I myself fall into.
I descend anything greater than a 4% gradient with my brakes clamped on so tight that I wore out a pair of back pads in just three rides
I’ve tried being a Racy Roadie, and I’ve flirted with being a Minxy MTB-er, and for a while I was a Chic Cyclista, aboard a pink Pashley Poppy with co-ordinating panniers and pretending that I wasn’t struggling up hills with the vast range of three whole gears available to me. I even had a go at being a Track, er, well, whatever flirtily feminine word begins with T.
And don’t get me wrong, I loved all of those styles of cycling.
But the one to which I return again and again, my homeland, my two-wheeled equivalent of a comfy armchair and a cup of tea, is far less glamorous.
You see I do ride a mountain bike but I’m not cool and fearless enough to tear up trails. I don’t wear baggy shorts, and I can’t use the word gnarly because I am an almost thirty-five year old mother of two with hair that could never be described as ‘beachy’.
from time to time I pretend my bike is a horse
In fact I’m pretty slow, I descend anything greater than a 4% gradient with my brakes clamped on so tight that I wore out a pair of back pads in just three rides, and my front and rear wheel have never once left the ground at the same time.
I’m a potterer.
My husband hates that word. Whenever I talk about ‘pottering around the house’ he reminds me that I am not sixty-seven, no matter what our younger daughter may enjoy telling people.
But that’s exactly what I do, in the house and on my bike. I potter. I go at a snail’s pace, I stop far more than is strictly necessary to take photos (even some that aren’t selfies!), I attempt to identify the birds I see and hear chirping in the woodland canopy above, and from time to time I pretend my bike is a horse.
It makes me so very, very happy.
That’s my category. Put me in the Pottering Princess box. Except without the Princess bit. It might not make it into a fun and sassy quiz, but it’s the right box for me.
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