Tough & Tender 5

I began taking the long distance two-wheeled travel road in a vast southern land. Say it real slow, stretch the vowels out & let the letters dissolve in your mouth; Australia. You might imagine unforgiving lengths of bitumen smacked by the sun parked above you, but Australian terrain & weather is diverse. Sure, desert shrubland sprinkles the vast majority of the landscape, but don’t forget the pockets of rainforests, beaches, rivers, green hillsides, and the Great Dividing Range which boggled colonizers upon arrival.

 

It sure ain’t bland for a girl to cycle these parts.

 

I come from a century-long line of Polish cycling enthusiasts. Before women were comfortably hiking up their skirts to saddle up onto their mobility machines, my great grandfather rode everywhere necessary – mostly because he had the unfortunate condition of one leg shorter than the other & a mile in his shoes was a struggle. While for Franciszek it was a necessity, the next three generations spent holidays cycling Europe, and even though I grew up far from the beer-bellied European cycling culture, I was hooked from the first tour.

 

Ever since that first adventure with a group of eight from Melbourne to Sydney along the coastline, my perceptions of what is possible have shifted incredibly. Maps seem to have shrunk; no number of kilometres is too far, no gradient intimidates. Soon after, I started planning a winter tour from Melbourne to Adelaide through the desert, and a year later found myself flying past sugarcane fields and rainforest in north Queensland.

 

The difficulty of climbing a six kilometre uphill winding road gets you so high & makes your legs tremble so hard you think your bowels might actually fail you. But the joy of being at the bottom of a valley with gorges surrounding you is worth the pain. Renegade camping on beaches you’re not sure are potentially crocodile-inhabited becomes exciting, rather than terrifying.

 

 

It is the most empowering thing to be free of the clutter of material things – stuffed in your panniers you have only what you need. The baggage of sedentary life is left in the trail of a journey where all that matters is the immediate surroundings before you.

 

You get to choose, along with your group or companion, where you go, how far, and at what pace, deathly fast or slow snail, every pedal of the way. Sometimes mansplainers derail the speed of your trip; men who see two women riding together feel a need to protect the girls, and an overbearing rant at them ensues, but these are fleeting moments.

 

I can’t say any other style of travel satisifies me as much as travel by bike. No other way allows you to be so in tune with your body, the weather, the five senses, and the environment. It’s direct, it’s involved, it’s simple; nothing beats simple flesh and bone on steel frame, smashing it through the countryside.

 

by Ania Anderst, 23. Somewhere on the road, Australia

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Swift Industries’ Tough & Tender Project is an annual LITERARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT TO CELEBRATE WOMEN’S EXPERIENCE OF THE BICYCLE because Women’s experience of cycling is not celebrated enough in bicycle communities. Cycling is a male dominated activity and industry, and it’s our experience as women and female-bodied individuals that cycling empowers and inspires us in ways which are not portrayed by mainstream bicycle culture. It’s time for something different!

by Ania Anderst, 23. Somewhere on the road, Australia

_____________________________________________________________________

Swift Industries’ Tough & Tender Project is an annual  LITERARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT TO CELEBRATE WOMEN’S EXPERIENCE OF THE BICYCLE because Women’s experience of cycling is not celebrated enough in bicycle communities. Cycling is a male dominated activity and industry, and it’s our experience as women and female bodied individuals that cycling empowers and inspires us in ways which are not portrayed by mainstream bicycle culture. It’s time for something different!

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