Holigay Gift Guide: For Dykes Who Love Their Bikes

From the moment I got the training wheels off my Strawberry Shortcake bicycle in kindergarten to the starter mountain bike I got for high school graduation to the first bike I bought with my very own money, nothing has ever made me feel as free as cycling. In my childhood neighborhoods, in the foothills of my beloved North Georgia Mountains, on these frazzled streets in New York City. No matter where I am in the world, the feel of the wind in my face and the rhythm of my legs pedaling are bliss.


Clothing

The truth is the only thing you actually need to start cycling is a bike and a helmet (for real, buddy, wear a helmet ) — but bike-specific clothes are fun, and I find that saving up for good quality stuff makes the experience more enjoyable for me and it also means my clothes last a lot longer. I think of cycling gear is an essential investment in my physical and mental health.

REI recently sent me some really rad pieces from their Extended Sizes line and I couldn’t be happier with them. There’s a stigma around women and non-binary folks’ bodies in all outdoor activities, and cycling is no exception. But I felt as comfortable in these clothes as I do in my own 41-year-old tender butch body.

I run hot always, so unless it dips down into the teens, you’re going to catch me in cycling shorts, like these Club Ride Eden’s with a removable liner and several pockets. But up north, tights are a must at least in the coldest months. My PEARL iZUMi Pursuit Thermal Bike Tights are warm enough I never need another layer over them. Up top’s a different story, and depending on the weather and the length of your ride, you’re going to be shedding or adding layers outside the golden days of late spring, summer, and early fall. A midweight base, a thermal jersey, and a jacket to break the wind gets me through winter of cycling every day, even in the “greatest snow on earth” in Salt Lake City. Whatever else you decide for the cold weather, do not skimp on the Balaclava. Keeping your ears and the front of your face covered will make all the difference in the world.


Tech & Gadgets

You could always pay someone at your local shop tune and clean up your bike, and even swing by to top off the air in your tires, but I find the process of keeping my bike in shape super empowering and relaxing. A good floor pump will last you a decade and a good multi-tool will allow you you to do 85% of bike adjustments and minor fixes yourself. Keep your chain and drivetrain clean and that’ll pretty much take care of your bike outside of occasional derailleur or break adjustments. You can definitely use your iPhone to track your ride, but there is something so satisfying about watching your stats roll out right in front of you, and if you’re heading to unfamiliar terrain — especially off-road — the map is an excellent help. Bike lights and a really solid lock are a must in the city in all weather and seasons, and, for me, so is a gel saddle designed with a vagina-having rider in mind.


Supplies & Accessories

Whether you’re heading out on an endurance ride and need a pack for hydration and to hold your snacks/camera/books, etc.; or you’re heading to a work meeting or gal pal meet-up and need a place to store a change of clothes and your D&D dice, either or both of these backpacks are a great fit. Hydration packs are super helpful in the summer or on those rides where you’re just out wandering.


Books

Some days the weather’s just not good enough for riding. On those days, why not pick up some repair advice and practical riding tips from the pros? The more you know and the more you can help other queer folks know about taking care of their own bodies and bikes and gears, the better we’ll all be — on the holigays, and every day!

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 925 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. Heather! You’ve ridden in the Greatest Snow On Earth!
    ME TOO
    Although I haven’t been riding much at all since I got hit by a car for the third time back in 2016. :(

    I used to ride up the mountain every day for work. Man, I really miss doing that.

  2. Thanks for this, Heather! Great fodder for my wishlist.

    I unknowingly biked over a patch of ice last week while turning, and my bike went out from under me. Any tips from the winter bikers out there? I have not done much winter biking before.

    • If you can get fatter tires on your bike, do it. Leaving them a little bit soft can help as well. Mostly it comes down to balance, if you can make a correction when you start to slip without over steering. Also try to maintain a safe speed – too fast and you’ll wipe out, but a little momentum can keep you upright and moving in the right direction.

    • Have very low muscle tone if you do fall. The more you let go, the less likely you are to break any bones. (Also works if you are drunk – the rag doll effect.)

      I know this because I am very clumsy and fall a lot.

    • If your winter involves a lot of snow/ice covered surfaces, you may want to look into studded tires. Otherwise, agree with the other comments for fatter/softer tires, and slower speeds where there’s potential for ice. And beware of a dusting of snow covering ice beneath – wiped out myself that way.

  3. So I’m Dutch, cycling is kind of the norm for a lot of us. We have more bikes than people. (17 million vs 23 million) We also have an increasing number of bicycle “highways” (fast-routes).

    But last year I had an ever increasing issue with high tension in my pelvic floor muscles, riding my bike started to hurt more and more. So I did two things that really helped: physiotherapy and a new saddle.

    The saddle makes life so much better. It’s wider, so it supports my weight much better. I could instantly ride for 20 minutes without pain when before it was 5. (Physiotherapy did the rest.)

    So if you have pain, or if you have a larger body – look at wider saddles! Makes all the difference in the world.

  4. As a Chanukkah gift to myself, I went to a local shop & bought a new wheelset(semi-custom build) to have something good that will last me & not require frequent trueing. Sadly didn’t have a chance to test them out yet.

    If anyone wants a classic looking seat I a few months ago got a like-new Brooks seat off eBay for a good price. It’s the C15 in a women’s model as women marketed seats run a bit wider than seats marketed as men. Even mountain bike heavy sites are like if you find a seat narrow get the women’s marketed one for more comfort. Really should just call it narrow, medium, & wide instead of gendering it.

    In a related note if anyone likes riding dirt paths, gravel, forest trails, or in the mountains; over the summer reading a review of the bike I built & found the reviewer/owner is part of WTF bike explorers. WTF stands for women, trans, and femme bikers. It seems really queer & starting 2020 will have a podcast coming out & they have stickers & water bottles that say, Shred The Patriarchy. I http://wtfbikexplorers.com/

    Also a good site for gear lusting. https://theradavist.com/2019/11/wtf-bikexplorers-new-2020-projects-including-gravel-time-with-and-without-podcast/

  5. The stereotype about queer ladies working at bike shops, does it still exist? Well, I’m a queer lady who works at a bike shop and there are a lot more like me, so if anybody nI always recommend asking folks who work at a bike shop for help with almost all topics. The old brigade of drunk old men are nearly all gone from bike culture, and speaking for myself, I try to make sure I help out everyone who isn’t a straight white man first!

  6. I love this!!! I’m currently on the lookout for waterproof rain pants. I live in the Bay Area where winter means moderate temps and (hopefully) plenty of rain, so I don’t need anything insulated but would love something relatively sleek (the ones I currently have are baggy and need cinching in at the ankles every time I ride!). Anyone got any favorites?

  7. Love the bike content!

    But can’t bring myself to spend $80 on lights when they frequently get lost or jacked. Any recs for reliable, bright lights that can be firmly affixed and removed/are not a target for theft?

    I went with some quick removable ones with a rubber strap so I could pop them on and off rather than leave attached, but the strap stretches out and the front light has fallen off a few times.

    • Generator lights–the kind where they’re powered by the motion of your front wheel, inside the hub.

      It’s a investment to start with–you have to get a wheel built around the generator hub, plus the headlight and taillight and the labor cost of getting it installed. IIRC it was around $250 total on mine.

      But I never take my lights off my bicycle, I never worry about battery power, I never worry about turning them on. The front wheel turns and voila: lights, both front and back. It doesn’t create any noticeable resistance. And they stay lit for a while even after I’ve stopped. I had generator lights installed on the bicycle I ride the most in 2012. I ride my bicycle almost everywhere year-round, and it’s been worth every single penny. I’d’ve spent at least that much on replacing lost/broken lights and batteries by now, even using rechargeables.

      Theoretically someone could steal the lights, but they’d have to have a screwdriver and wire cutters, and what would even be the point?! They’re useless without the rest of the set-up. I live in a city with a fairly high rate of bicycle theft and (knock on wood) it hasn’t happened. (The front wheel is more of a theft risk tbh, but I always put my u-lock through my frame and front wheel when I lock up.

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