Monday, November 16, 2009

My Spacing Article About the Sex Appeal of Women on Bikes

This article appeared in the Summer-Fall 2009 issue of Spacing. The photos did not.

The Bi(ke) Curious
Two-wheeled sex machine

Ryan Bigge

In the summer, if you are both observant and fortunate, you will spot a woman on a bicycle wearing heels. The point of her shoe will suspend in mid-air as her legs trace precise circles. If she is wearing a sundress, even better.

A woman pedaling a bike is alluring – wind in her hair, smooth, carefree grace, firm calf muscles. But is this because attractive women ride bicycles? Or does the very act of bicycling bestow a seductive aura upon a woman? This might seem a trivial question, but trying to locate the erotic frisson of bicycling is not straightforward.

Take the recent World Naked Bike Ride, held in early June, which offers plenty of evidence that pedaling can be utterly unerotic. Hollywood, meanwhile, treats a man on a bicycle as a punchline, at least in films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Ditto the TV show Arrested Development.

And yet a “not” can be turned into a “hot” through proximity to cranks and gears. In an October 2008 Toronto Life article, Richard Poplack discovered that infamous bike hoarder Igor Kenk “had a string of lovers over the years, most of whom lived nearby and were seduced by his combustive mixture of charm and profanity, his masculine unpredictability and un-Toronto-ness. One neighbour told me, ‘There were always beautiful girls talking to Igor, getting their bikes fixed for hours.’”

Three years ago, some Portland, Oregon perverts decided to push the erotic logic of cycling to its ultimate conclusion and create a Bike Porn film festival (link). The festival showcases user-submitted sex-positive short films that make the cycling fetish explicit (as does the Peaches video “Lovertits,” featuring Feist and another girl making out with and on their bikes).

Meanwhile, photoshoots with bicycles are becoming more frequent on alt pin-up websites like SuicideGirls and DeviantNation. There is also a Toronto girl bike gang called The Deadly Nightshades (link) who, unlike the suicides and the deviants, produce photographs that are captivating and safe for workplace viewing.

Whether bike porn and cheesecake pin-ups are empowering or the same old objectification is not an easy question to answer. More importantly, it might be the wrong question to ask. In his May 31 New York Times Book Review of Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities, musician and artist David Byrne (himself an avid urban cyclist since the late 1970s) argues that more high heels on pedals could help reduce our carbon footprint.

“I can ride till my legs are sore and it won’t make riding any cooler,” he notes. “But when attractive women are seen sitting upright going about their city business on bikes day and night, the crowds will surely follow.”