Tales from the sexier side of biking.
Whether you're a local fixture on your Bianchi or a casual weekend enthusiast, there's no denying bike culture is a real and vibrant scene, filled with toned quads and puns about riding. Here are three stories about the sexier side of that scene.
U-Lock Cock Block
We pull up outside the bar — it’s packed, the bike racks are full. We wheel over to a stop sign. I pull my lock out of my bag.
“Can you lock to me?” he says, placing his bike next to mine.
I pause for a moment that is way too long. I stare down at my hefty, beat-up lock. Now would be the time to have that awkward conversation. The one that starts with a coward’s lilt, “Oh, hey, so. I’m planning to leave with someone else?” But I don’t.
“Yeah!” I say, sliding my Kryptonite around his frame. “Yeah. Of course. I might ditch out early or something, though.”
This guy is cute, that’s not up for debate. Dark hair, a week’s worth of stubble. He’s smart, he’s sincere. He’s a writer and carpenter. Swoon. We kissed on New Years, in my scarce minutes between midnight toast and onset of vomiting. If this were a movie, we would soon have a cute misunderstanding, then we would fall in love, then live monogamously ever after.
Instead, we walk into the bar and I lose him immediately. There’s an art show going on and the place is busy, busy. The other guy is there and I find him. We laugh and buy drinks and don’t talk about leaving together but I know that we will.
Because we’re too awkward to be direct, we all grope for symbols. The writer guy and I are locked together, we kissed first, we rode here together — at a point that’s far too soon for me, these silent clues decode the phrase “fidelity.” The price of independence is honest conversation. Ugh. The dread!
Some peoples’ parents instill in them a belief that they must be skinny enough and charming enough to attract a stable mate. My parents encouraged the opposite, spooking me into me a running mental mantra: “Don’t let some loser drag you down.” Don’t hitch your bicycle to anyone’s star, because you’ll get dragged into his life, where you will sit on the sidelines doomed to a lifetime of housewifery and stifled orgasms. Never! I’ve dated a guy who huffed glue; a guy who tried to seduce me by reading aloud from The Fountainhead; a guy whose nickname was Slim Jim; a guy whose bed was a literal pile of clothes. That’s all fine.
The only red flag I care about is a failure to appreciate and respect my excessive independence. And by “red flag” I mean, “I will silently bristle at small presumptions and cute attempts at coupleishness, never bring it up, then flee the relationship.”
At the bar, all this fretting feels absurd. I’m making too much out of it, I tell myself over and over. I’m in awe of how easy off-the-cuff codependence is for most people. Biking is for the independent at heart; there is a specific thrill to being self-propelled. But I know there’s also a pleasure to locking up with someone. It’s nice to assume I’d like to leave with him. Another person might call that “being sweet.” But to me, a kind, quiet suggestion to lock together and leave together rings alarm bells of potential u-lock cock block.
We have finished our drinks and talked to everyone we know.
“What’s next?” he asks.
“Come over,” I say.
“Great,” he says.
“Hang on,” I say, and run off to track down my lock-mate. No big deal, he says, he is heading out, too. Just in the opposite direction. Totally no big deal. No need to talk about it, really.
Critical Mass Busts Catholic Ass
When R. and I met, I had just moved to St. Louis and had discovered that I could get around faster by bike than by bus. An unusually shy and socially inexperienced twenty-seven-year-old, I had a vague feeling that I wanted to get involved in something radical, and a definite feeling that I needed to get out and meet people. When I saw a flyer for Critical Mass I knew I had to go, no matter how nervous and nauseous I felt about it.
I didn’t notice R. on that first ride, although he claims he introduced himself to every unattached female. Eventually I began to distinguish him from the other forty-something professional guys by his self-deprecating humor. I kept to myself at first, but I loved being part of the freewheeling group and soon started connecting with people. He and I became part of a core group that met to plan Critical Mass, went out after Critical Mass, and started riding socially on days other than last Fridays.
R. had just left a miserable marriage and a house in the suburbs for a studio apartment in a walkable neighborhood. He was 70 pounds overweight and planned to ride his bike in city parks for exercise. He had so much fun riding his bike to the park the first time that he started riding everywhere he went and lost the weight in a few months.
I was recently married, to a guy who didn’t own a bicycle. A strange thing had happened after our wedding — he lost all interest in sex. Some Catholic switch had turned on in his brain, telling him that wives were for worshipping; only sluts were for screwing.
That was his story, but I think he also felt threatened by my newfound independence. Biking had sparked my confidence, and it became a source of contention between us. He wanted to spend weekend nights in front of the VCR; I wanted to go out riding with my new friends. He wanted to go for Sunday drives, which I used to enjoy. But now I couldn’t stand sitting passively in the passenger seat, watching the scenery flying by, and I started going on group rides in the Illinois countryside on Sundays instead. He told me my friends were nuts (fair enough) and that I was “living on another planet” if I thought a bicycle was a viable means of transportation.
I tried to get him to buy a bike. We first went to a non-profit shop that taught city kids how to build and fix used bikes. He waited impatiently while an elderly volunteer with shaking hands tried to change a tube on a $100 bike that looked like it might be a good fit, then walked out without test riding anything. Next we went to a real bike shop and he tried out a $500 Specialized. When I watched him riding it, he looked happy and free, and I loved him, but when we drove home without the bike (“too expensive,” he said), I felt it was the beginning of the end. In this country, biking is a radical act, and just as he couldn’t break out of his Catholic conditioning — he couldn’t free his mind enough to get on a bike.
But my worldview had changed for good. R. started looking more and more interesting to me.
I hadn’t gone to my high school prom, but I went to Critical Mass Prom and wore a strapless sequined dress and fishnet stockings, a big departure from my usual style. Critical Mass had taught me the freedom to create crazy fun, and biking had given me muscles and the confidence to show them off.
Being able to assert my sexuality had the benefit of attracting R.’s attention. I watched him in my rearview mirror checking me out on the ride. Later I told him to ride in front of me so I could admire his calves; he complied.
I wasn’t the only one who was using a bicycle to break out of her shell — there was Sunita, who claimed to be nineteen but wouldn’t show anyone her passport. She seemed to be on a quest to screw every bike messenger, racer, and mechanic in town, the older the better. Quasi-homeless, she was sleeping on R.’s couch while he slept on the floor. (Without seeing the passport, he was keeping his hands off.)
One night, at the South City Diner after a ride, I had egg on my face and R. licked it off. Classy, I know, but we were both new at this game and acting like teenagers. We left together. Stopped by a train at a railroad crossing, we debated getting a hotel room. The stalled train gave us too much time to think and we just said good night.
But R. soon explained to Sunita that she needed to vacate the couch, and he and I started making good use of it. He would escort me home at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 6 a.m., and then I just moved in until I found my own tiny apartment a block away. Five years later, we drove to Portland, sold the car, and settled down on that “other planet” where biking was normal.
— Lisa S.
There’s a First Time For Everything
“Hey! I rode my bike to work today too.”
The charming man behind the counter at the coffee shop had never talked to me like that before. He must have seen me ride up that day.
He showed me his fingerless leather gloves that looked more suited to getting into a fistfight than riding a bicycle.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Talk to me when you ride a real bicycle.”
He surprised me, saying, “Oh, I ride a Cannondale mountain bike. What did you think I meant, that I ride a motorcycle?”
I was stunned. I had literally thought I was the only bike commuter in Cleveland in the 1990s. And here was another one standing in front of me.
“Hey, we should hang out sometime,” he continued. “Wanna come over for a beer tonight?”
That day contained many firsts for me. I was eighteen years old. He was twenty-six. Nobody had ever previously found it attractive that I rode a bike — quite the opposite, actually. While I more or less knew I was interested in it, I had never had queer sex before. In line at the coffee shop, though, I explained the whole thing away to be nothing. He was probably just being friendly to the other cyclist. He was too old to be coming on to me. He was too hot to be interested in me.
But when I rode over to his house later, he brought my bike inside and handed me a beer even though he wasn’t drinking. His apartment was small, so we sat in his bedroom. He quickly took an overt approach to his quest that night. Pretty soon I had the entirely new experience of kissing an unshaven man. And before long, we were disrobing. He was uncircumcized. That was another first. He didn’t last very long. I just wanted to keep on going all night and sleep curled up next to him in his bed. But he politely asked me to go home less than an hour after he came. He barely even walked me to my bike.
He ignored me when I saw him at his work for the next few weeks. But I went on to date two of his co-workers, so perhaps I got the last laugh.
This incident was formative for me in understanding seduction, my own homosexuality, social cues, and personal responsibility. If I had been older and more experienced I’d have realized that while the guy was hot, he had little game or savvy. He was a selfish creep with a nice smile.
But what are first times for if not regret, awkward moments, and memories that make you want to bury your face in your palm as you recall the details.
You know what, though? I still think bikes are hot. And while they don’t involve my personal sexuality quite so much anymore, I’m glad I learned that I can appreciate a good-looking cyclist across the way…without having to sleep with them. And that’s an important part of growing up.
— Beau Gheale
These stories originally appeared in Taking the Lane #7: Bikesexuality.
Feature image by Matt Queen