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I love cycling. I'm passionate about it. But not in a spandex-body-suit-and-bullet-shaped-helmet sort of way. I'm passionate about it as a regular old form of transportation. One that predates the car (and was only beaten by the train by 13 years). I love biking to work. I love biking in the rain. Even *gasp* in the snow. So, since June was Bike Month, here are some books about bikes.

 

a 19th century drawing of a man on a primitive bicycleBut first, here is my favourite fact about bicycles: they contributed to the Women's Rights Movement, and the Feminist Movement in general. The bike was invented in 1817 by German inventor Karl von Drais because two years prior a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world caused massive crop failures across the world, and his horses died (this is, by the way, my second favourite fact about bicycles). Horseless and with places to be, Karl invented a proto-bike that he could power himself to get from place to place. And his invention might have been forgotten, except that by the end of the century they were adopted by women as a method of escape and self-expression.

 

The Victorian era was not great for giving a lot of liberties to women, but with a bike they could peddle about town, through the park, to tea on their own *gasp*! This, you might expect, caused a stir in society. Not just because women were riding amok, but also because the act of peddling meant that their legs might be seen by random passers-by *gasp*. So, to cover their legs while biking, women began wearing that most corrupting and sinister of garments: pants.

 

an ancient greek vase depicting five Amazons wearing leather and battling with shields and spearsMy favourite fact about pants, by the way, is that they had been invented about 3000 earlier by women. The Scythians were a horse-driven nomadic people living on the steppes north of the Black Sea, and were known for being completely gender neutral in their politics. Women were equal to men, went to war, ruled their society. But riding a horse can get a bit... chaffy, so the fierce warrior women of Scythia invented pants as a solution. These pant-wearing Scythians were so morally offensive and secretly alluring to the Greeks that they entered their myths as the Amazons, and that is my favourite fact about the Scythians.

 

What was I talking about... right, bicycles! So, Victorian women are now wearing pants and riding about town and start to get a sense that they like this "being able to wear what they want, do what they want, and go where they want" thing, and it added more fire to the growing movement towards female equality. Pants went on to play a powerful role in the Feminist movement. Pockets, however, were not integral to either gender equality or riding bikes, and so the struggle continues. 

 

little pig, the bicycle and the moon by pierrette dube / a drawing of an enthusiastic pig riding a bike under a crescent moon while two chickens watch in amazement. If you would like to read more about the places where bicycles and feminists cross paths, I suggest Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories edited by Elly Blue. If you are interested in the adventures of a girl called Bicycle, I recommend Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss. Switching gears (see what I did there?), there is Na'ar ha-ofanayim / Bicycle boy by Eli Amir. And at an entirely different speed (eh eh) there is Little Pig, the Bicycle, and the Moon by Pierrette Dube.

 

Recommendations continue with the likes of Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella. Add to that Bicycle by Adonia Lugo, and Splendid Book of the Bicycle by Daniel Tatarsky, and Tour de Oz: The Extraordinary Story of the First Bicycle Race Around Australia by Brett Harris.
 
chain breaker bike book by shelly lynn jackson / a drawing of a bike in disrepair, in purpleIf you want to know how your bicycle works, give Chainbreaker bike book : a rough guide to bicycle maintenance by Shelly Lynn Jackson a gander. And if you'd rather just colour some bicycles, there is the Classic Bicycle Coloring Book by Taliah Lempert.

 

Bicycles are wonderful. During the pandemic, there has been a bike shortage because no one was at work and everyone remembered how wonderful it is to take a ride and feel the wind on your neck. And with electric bikes (which provide a slightly powered assist) and a vast array of cargo bikes, they are splendid replacements for the car in a time when fewer cars on the road is more and more climatically important. And bikes are considerably cheaper. And they run on hamburgers. Or carrots. Anything really. Cheese.

 

So, what are the lessons here? One, pants lead to revolution. Two, pants make you more attractive to repressed ancient Greeks. Three, bicycles are better than dead horses and living cars. But not living cars like in the movie Cars. Are there bikes in the Cars movies? Are they all cyclops? Or the skeletons of motorcycles? I've started to think too much about this; better end things before it gets weird. 

 

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Fictionally Yours,

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