Tough & Tender: Big Sur

My relationship with bicycles is far less complicated than other relationships
in my life. I love my bikes. My bikes are my transportation, exercise, therapist, entertainment, fashion prop, shopping bag, and companion. I hesitate to write ‘friend’ because of the weirdness of being friends with an inanimate object, but there is some of that there too. Really, my bikes help me to be better friends with myself, because when riding the two sides of myself convene: who I am and who the world wants me to be. It is really hard to hide from myself when riding up a hill, or a mountain. Every time, regardless of what I may have thought before that moment, riding up a hill mountain is a moment of truth in my soul. And every time this gives me strength, because if I can ride my tired self up a hill mountain I can deal with whatever, or whoever, is bothering me. No one else is there to help and doing it alone reinforces trust in myself. Ever since I started riding bikes in my early 20’s I have found myself riding to figure things out. I have grown into a woman on my bike. Happy or sad, thrilled or frustrated, pushing those pedals feels good and expressive. I remember when I first got clipless pedals and learned how to stomp on my bike! Pick up the rear tire and stomp it down, just as satisfying as a foot stomp. I met the love of my life when we were both working in the bike industry, and our first date was on bikes. Both of us looking cute in our date clothes with our best fashion prop bikes: his a dirt jumper and mine a bmx cruiser.
The female customers and employees in the bike industry are amazing. To bounce between men telling me I could not do something because I am a women to seeing a woman do that same thing was frustrating but inspiring. Ultimately it was both women and men who inspired and encouraged me to start touring. On my first long bike tour I met myself and came home a different person. Before I left, male friends told me to take music along or else I would be bored, but how could I get bored when there is so much to see and think about?Of the two months on the road I spent two weeks traveling alone. I tested myself physically and mentally, and found that I can do it, what ever it is. I am able. My butt was tanned from the saddle and my skin tanned from the sun. After riding mountain ranges, being more hungry than ever before and stuck without food, riding with inches of space between big rig trucks and cliff faces, I found I am not a fragile little lady. I am a tough little lady. After riding my bike I find it impossible to take anyone seriously if they tell me I can’t do something because I am a woman.

– Erin Harris

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