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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Midstokke: Riding bicycles with the other side

By Ammi Midstokke The Spokesman-Review

As the nation is up in arms about the gender revolution, it seems fitting for me to put in my application for some gender-blending adjustments when it comes to the binary of bicycling.

Let me start with a transparent opinion: Riding bikes with boys is dumb.

Before we freak out about all the ways that statement is not politically correct (or even evidence-based or fair), I’ll amend it to a more representative and factual statement: I am really struggling to have fun while riding bikes with boys. And I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, I suspect that the gender gap in cycling numbers is largely the direct result of testosterone-fueled lexicons that include words like “smash,” “shred” and “crush.”

For years now, I have wondered why many of my paired friends are not aligned in their sports of choice. An inordinate number of wives refuse to bike with their husbands, or to bike at all. Sometimes they even tell me they “hate it.” I couldn’t believe they were speaking about biking in such harsh terms, so I had to assume they meant they hate watching their husbands ride bikes.

I understand – my husband hates watching me ride bikes, too, but I think it has to do with all the MRI bills.

To better understand this phenomena, I decided to go biking with their husbands.

It began with a text exchange of disorganized attempts to schedule a ride using only emojis, incomplete sentences, and middle-aged hipster jargon. Once our bikes convened at the agreed upon parking lot, there was a lengthy description of where we’d go: Owl to Pinecone to Grandmas to Downward Dog to Zen to Green Heart to Momentum to (insert randomly generated term here) – as if I would actually remember that combination of words. I nodded and tried to keep up so I wouldn’t get lost on a map that looks like a board game.

The first thing I observed is during the boy ride, the boys took a 50-foot lead. We rode the same pace, just with a gap between us. Which was fine because they weren’t saying anything interesting anyway.

When I ride with girls, we ride within earshot so we can have conversations. Otherwise, we’d just ride alone. We don’t need bear bells because the creatures of the woods hear us hashing out the problems of the planet from miles away. We commiserate and cheer our collaborative way up and down hillsides and around corners like a flock of bright birds, thanks to all the companies making fantastic women’s biking gear these days.

The boys I was riding with are intelligent people with whom I genuinely enjoy having conversations. But once they get on bikes, they seem overcome with “bike brain” and limited to conversation about bike parts, specific rocks or roots on the trail, packed berms, loose berms, sick berms, berms to smash, crush or shred, and how many pounds of pressure are in a rear shock today versus the other day when they smashed that one berm after that one rock (all boys nod knowing exactly what being discussed) and landed a little bouncy.

I caught a little more of this gripping detail when we stopped so they could eat something called a “Pocket Burrito.” They are heated by thigh sweat and friction during the ride to accommodate a luke warm, soggy-salty somewhat edible tube of dough and beans. I suppose I’m not one to judge considering I’ll eat melted chocolate out of my center console, ripened by neglect and months of a melt-solidify cycle and the hint of some nearby hand sanitizer.

“All you guys talk about is bike stuff,” I complained while trying to swallow a hunk of dark chocolate to demonstrate my sophistication, even if I could not tell them how many pounds of pressure were in my tires or shocks.

“Only because you’re here,” they said.

I suppose riding with their wives’ friend is kind of like having a mole in the department. Before taking off, they assured me they solve all the problems of the world and their marriages when they’re on boy rides and out of earshot. You know, all the problems of the world as they see them.

Imagine then the unstoppable power of communicative co-ed or all-ed rides! What if we mingled with the other side and learned from their perspective? What if they slowed down enough to hear us? It would be as if … as if we were all in this ride together or something.

I recognize the inherent risks of having greater understanding, empathy and acceptance. We’d probably have to start collaborating on real problems like climate change and poverty instead of pronouns and literature. As far as I can tell, life is one big group ride. Maybe we could match cadence for a bit so we can hear each other talk.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at