Susa & Her Pink Cycling Tights
OR: Susa, what are you up to these days?
SB: I'm from Oregon, living in Portland. I like to ride my bike, sing in choir, and drink tea.
OR: Tell us about your bike.
SB: I ride an old Fuji road bike. She's tiny, and she weighs a ton, and I love her to death. She is my primary mode of transportation! I ride her to work and around town. We play. We go on trips. She keeps me grounded. She keeps me outside.
OR: What is your bicycle commute like?
SB: My work commute is pretty gentle, about 2.5 miles each way. There's a little hill, so it's just enough to ensure I move my body every day. I also bike to the grocery, ultimate frisbee, friends' houses, anywhere and everywhere. I live pretty centrally so it's not a chore. I have longer commutes a few times a week, to choir rehearsals downtown and my weekly DnD group. Those are usually 7-10 miles round trip.
OR: What excites you about bike culture in Portland, Oregon?
OR: What is something that would improve your experience as a daily commuter?
SB: The weather last winter was hell on the roads, and we had some absolutely terrifying potholes. They are gradually getting fixed but I still go by enough on my commute that I always have to pay attention to avoid a flat.
OR: What scares you when you're riding?
SB: While riding my bicycle, I am almost exclusively scared of people not seeing me while they are driving. Even in a city as bike friendly as Portland, I experience daily situations where someone turns or pulls out in front of me without looking, and there's nothing I can do except be very cautious.
OR: What helps you feel comfortable on the road?
SB: Lights and my high visibility jacket! It may seem like a "duh" thing to say but seriously, I feel so uncomfortable biking in a dark jacket or when I have forgotten my lights. So uncomfortable.
OR: What activity, besides bicycling, helps you be a better cyclist?
SB: I think that being a pedestrian has actually made me a better cyclist, because I get to interact with other cyclists as a pedestrian and observe their behaviors, as well as observing drivers from a "safe" distance. I can observe the interactions and see where folks make good decisions and bad decisions interacting with other people on the road, and I don't have my guard up like I do while biking.
I also play ultimate and boulder! I like to think of it as the ultimate trifecta of activities, cuz I get a little bit of all the conditioning. Cardio and strength; legs, more legs, arms, shoulders, back, and so much core! I also sing in the Portland Symphonic Choir... and I bike to rehearsals ;)
I think all the activities play together to keep me fit. And that core strength definitely helps with cycling. And the cycling helps with core strength! It's a great cycle; the stronger I get doing any activity, the more it supports all the activities!
OR: What's the name of your Ultimate Frisbee team?
SB: We're the Diva Cup Dragons... Portland's premiere menstrual-themed women's Ultimate team.
OR: What's one of your favorite cycling memories?
SB: A weekend last summer when we went cycling east of Eugene, OR. We spent two days on Aufderheide Scenic Highway, which was all elevation gain and stunning views, and then rode McKenzie Pass on our last day. Best roller coaster I've ever been on. Totally phenomenal. All climbing and I absolutely love climbing. And then on the southern end you ride along the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River, which has an absurd name but it the most beautiful river I have ever seen.
That was the trip I learned to always pack your own tools; I thought my partner had tire irons but he'd forgotten them. We got my flat off with my multitool and a bottle opener! Worked great. The last day of that trip we out-and-backed Mackenzie pass and those views are amazing. Heading up was brutal on our 3rd-day-legs but you can't beat 20+ miles of coasting back down.
OR: Wow, girlfriend! What other bike travels have you done?
SB: The first time I toured we rode from my house in Portland to McCredie Hotsprings outside of Oakridge. That trip took 3 days. I've also biked from Portland to the Oregon coast via Nestucca River Road, which is a phenomenal ride. But my favorite was Aufderheide.
OR: Which is better: riding in a group or riding alone?
SB: I actually really like riding alone, at least on my commute. I like to keep my own pace. It's more work riding as a group, communicating turns, timing through intersections, meeting everyone's riding needs. I do enjoy group rides occasionally but I like the efficiency of riding solo. That being said, I am a very social person, and I love the personal time I get with my friends biking together. I do a lot of big group social activities, like Ultimate. It often happens after a practice or party that I will join up with someone riding my way, and I have come to cherish those opportunities for one-on-one interaction.
And when I tour I like to have a buddy. I have had some wonderful bonding experiences while touring. It was actually a bike tour that sparked the relationship I have now with my partner. You have so much time to talk while riding, and you share so much effort and energy and focus. You share that common goal.
OR: In light of the recent "Me Too" movement on social media, I want to ask: have you ever been sexually harassed while riding a bicycle?
SB: I have definitely been catcalled and whistled at while biking, thankfully nothing more extreme.
OR: Do you feel like biking makes you more vulnerable to this harassment?
SB: I feel like biking makes me situationally more vulnerable to catcalling; I notice I almost exclusively get harassed when I am wearing a particular pair of neon pink tights, which I wear while biking to be more visible. And then of course I'm sticking my butt out in these pink tights when I pedal. So I feel like the actions I take while biking are highlighting a particular aspect that is vulnerable to catcalling. But when I don't bike commute I often walk, and I get catcalled walking around in jeans too. Honestly, I feel more vulnerable on foot; on my bike, I feel like I could flee if needed.
OR: Men far outnumber women when it comes to bicycle riders in the United States. This isn't true in other countries, such as Amsterdam and Germany. Why do you think there are fewer women riding bicycles here?
SB: I really don't know. I would hazard a guess that bike infrastructure plays a role. I know that there are much better infrastructures in some other countries that make bike commuting more accessible and less scary. I am lucky living in Portland where our infrastructure is quite good (and I see tons of women bike commuting here!)
OR: What advice would you offer to a woman who wants to bike more, but is afraid to do so?
SB: Get out and do it, girl! I suppose it depends on what aspect of biking makes someone uncomfortable, but I was nervous about biking for years until I began commuting. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be! Learning more about my bike also made me a more confident cyclist; knowing how things worked and most importantly knowing that I could fix things if they weren't working. I'm no mechanic, but learning the basics like how to fix a flat, adjust my brakes, and adjust my derailleur gave me a lot of confidence.
OR: Any future adventures you're excited about?
SB: I'm looking forward to travels in Mexico this spring! It's a half-unplanned, 3-month evasion of the winter. Our general idea is traveling around the southern states and being in the sun! I recently learned to surf on a visit to Hawaii and I am really excited to get better at that! I'm also looking forward to improving my (very rudimentary) Spanish. I hope we can rent some bikes as well as that's my favorite way to experience the countryside.