Getting back in the saddle.

Today I rode my bike all the way home from work for the first time in a very long time.

For the past 1.5 years I’ve been having serious health problems and have been unable to ride my bike very often at all. I don’t want to get into specifics since I’m trying to keep this blog anonym-ish — things are a lot better now but I am spending a ton of money on preventative healthcare, still, to manage some of this stuff.

my stylin' wristband to keep my I.V. in place

my stylin’ wristband to keep my I.V. in place

I had to stop medically transitioning, mostly for health reasons but also some personal reasons, and that has also been very difficult for me psychologically.


I have also been having a lot of personal relationship problems, with both family and romantic relationships.


I also started an intensive grad school program in the healthcare field, which makes not being on testosterone a lot worse, and also makes me way more crunched for time — so I’ve been taking public transit A LOT, and studying on the bus. That feels necessary even though I am bummed about not riding as much.


In summary: it’s been a rough time since I was last here. I miss riding my bike and I want to get back into it, even if it’s only three days a week because the rest of the time I’m in school.


I still have my awesome bike shop job, and I’m so happy to at least work with people who not only encourage biking but just see it as totally normal that you would bike everywhere. It’s just a thing people do. That seems like the most encouraging thing.


I’m also really excited about my grad school program and future career, even though it is really difficult actually getting through it right now.


So, yeah: I rode home today. I was worried that my tires were low but then I realized that actually it’s just that my muscles are so completely out of shape it is difficult to ride. I am starting from scratch. But at least I know what I’m going for, and I know how awesome it is to feel like I can go anywhere, and all I need is my bike.


Anyway, I’ll see you on the road!

It’s official: I am a bike nut.

Or maybe just a nut.

I meant to post here in March, to celebrate my one year anniversary of taking testosterone as part of my medical transition. I also meant to post here in May, to celebrate my one year anniversary of commuting to work by bicycle. (I have not made it every single day, but probably more than 90% of the time.)

But instead I’m posting here because I took my partner’s bike into the shop where I work. It had a mysterious problem so I took it in on the bus. After a couple of mechanics had fixed the bike, and I was clocked out, I decided to take it for a test ride. I intended to just ride it back to the bus stop, because this bike is too big for me, plus it was raining and there were occasional flashes of lightening. Oh yeah, and I didn’t have my helmet. Or lights.

This bike rules. It’s faster, smoother, more responsive, and better in just about every way when compared to my trusty old mountain bike. I had so much fun riding it to the bus stop I decided to ride it to the next bus stop. And the next. And ultimately I figured, ah, screw it — I’ll just ride it all the way home! Sure, I can’t reach the shifters too well, but it’s not that far to ride, and this is just so much fun.

I didn’t go very fast, ’cause, again, it was raining and I had no lights or helmet. But I laughed out loud for the sheer joy of riding this bicycle. Then I laughed some more because I was being crazy.

I considered whether, if I were to have an accident during this ill-advised ride, it would be ironic. No, I decided: ironic is when you never wear a helmet, and then on your one helmet-wearing ride you’re hit by a car. That would be ironic. Taking a foolhardy trip without the proper equipment and getting hurt just makes sense.

Fortunately, I was fine. I rode home smiling as fat, warm drops of this summer thunderstorm soaked me to the skin. And I hate getting wet in the rain, hate it. I was smiling because I was riding a wonderful bike, and it was fun! I thought: this definitely makes me a bike nut. It is official.

Ironically, the problem with the bike recurred just as I was about to turn onto my street. I sheepishly brought the bike back into the shop. But this time I also brought my helmet.

“You’re getting to be real hardcore, huh?”


Today I rode my bike to work, because 1. it was sunny! 2. I am broke, and the bus costs money. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed being back in the saddle. Plus, I got the perk of parking my bike on top of a snow bank and looking “hardcore.”


Yesterday morning I had the most bizarre experience with a driver. Bizarre in a GOOD way. I was riding north on Washington from Roslindale Square toward Forest Hills Station. The bike lane ends at the light at Ukraine, so I generally move left into the car lane to avoid right turning cars and cars going straight ahead that will zoom full speed ahead when the light is green, and try to push me off the road if I’m not taking the lane.

There was a lot of car traffic, so I signaled left in advance and a car let me in. That was odd enough, but it does happen sometimes. I got into the lane, and the car that let me in pulled over to my right, half in the bike lane and half in the car lane.

The driver’s window was open, and this man in a yellow fleece said, “Excuse me. Why did you signal left when you could go straight ahead in the bike lane?”

“The bike lane ends here,” I explained. “So I move left so no one runs me over.”

“Ah,” he said, clearly needing time to think about this. With a thoughtful expression on his face, he rolled away and made a right turn onto Ukraine.

How funny is that! I can’t believe this guy was so polite! I hope he tells people, “Yeah, sometimes those bikers do things that actually make sense even though you can’t think of why the hell they would do that. If you ask them it actually does make sense. I asked one!”


I have a friend who is a triathlete. But he’s different from other triathletes I know, because I knew him when he was completely non-athletic. He was a geek who did not play sports or participate in any active activity. Hell, I was a more active geek than this guy, and all I did was karate.

Then he moved to another city, without a car, and started riding a bike. Then he started running. He’d always liked swimming, and now he decided to try swimming farther. He pushed himself. He ran a marathon. Then he did a triathlon. He now identifies (tentatively) as a (terrible) athlete. His goal is to complete marathons and triathlons, not win them, but he’s still happy to push himself.

I’ve never understood this mindset before, but now I’m starting to understand it. I’m beginning to enjoy pushing myself more, like I did with getting up the hill to where I live. I don’t know if it’s because of the testosterone – not directly, but maybe I just feel more at home in my body because there’s now more testosterone in it? Or maybe it’s a placebo effect that I should feel more at home in my body because there’s now more testosterone in it? Maybe it’s because of getting into cycling, and there are more measurable goals in cycling, so you don’t have to focus on your body when you’re doing it?

I mean, I don’t think: I’ll push myself to go faster, or more miles. I think: I’d really like to bike to THIS location now, even though it’s farther than I’ve gone before. Or I think: I want to get up this damn hill! Just one more street . . . just one more block . . .

That seems like a more motivating push to me than, Just one more set of reps, or something like that. It was the same thing with karate: if I was working hard, there was a reason for it. I was trying to perfect something. I had goals that were not directly related to being faster or stronger.

I’ve always had a somewhat competitive nature, but I’ve also long felt that competitive sports were a stupid waste of time and energy. At least with biking, I can use that competitive streak for good and not stupidity.


I was driving a car on the highway recently. We were going quite a ways and the car had cruise control, so I was using it. At some point, I got stuck in another car’s blind spot for a bit longer than I was comfortable with, so I eased my foot down on the gas and slowly pulled ahead of the other car before settling back into the same speed. I know it was exactly the same speed, because the car was on cruise control.

Well, the driver of this car seemed to take my movement ahead as some kind of one-upmanship, because just as I finished pulling ahead, he (or she) suddenly gunned it and zoomed far past me.

This was annoying. I wasn’t trying to one-up the other driver, just stay in cruise control but out of his or her blind spot. Sheesh!

I wonder if cyclists think the same way as this driver. Probably some of them do, so in a way it’s nice to be the slowest-moving thing on two wheels.

People don’t believe I can be so slow, but it is true. I was once passed going up a hill by a tall guy riding a BMX. He was very polite about it, too – he said, “On your left,” gave me room, and so on – and then he went on up the hill, as I watched him in complete astonishment. His silhouette looked like a dancing ogre as he bobbed up and down on this ridiculously tiny bike. Another time, a woman with a baby seat and a trailer on her bike (both occupied by small children) was riding behind me, and it was clear that I was slowing her down, so I moved over to let her pass me. She did, and then she biked away and left me in the dust!

Even when I am tempted to pass someone on the bike path, I usually don’t, in order to avoid the embarrassment I’ll feel when I can’t stay ahead of the cyclist I went to all this trouble to pass. I have only passed people about three times.

“Passing” has much different connotations in transgender circles. “Passing” usually means to be seen as your target gender: the gender you have internally, but which you were not assigned at birth. Some people dislike the term “passing,” because it might imply that you are not truly this target gender but are merely “passing for” it. Others find it offensive because it makes gender attribution – whatever gender others attribute to you – into a grade of “passing” or “failing,” implying that those who can’t convince others of their internal gender are therefore failing at having that gender at all, and their internal gender doesn’t matter.

I don’t have an issue with the term “passing,” but it’s often easier to say “perceived as [whatever]” in general company, just because no one is offended by that. With my friends I can say, “I know I don’t pass and it sucks.” It’s shorthand. They know I mean that I am perceived as female, and that is not how I feel.

These two senses of passing collide for me when I actually do need to pass someone on my bike. (By “someone” I clearly mean “pedestrians who are sharing a multi-use path,” since I’m too slow to pass other cyclists.) I’m usually embarrassed to call out, “On your left,” or “Bicycle,” or anything, really. My voice is still so high. I hate speaking up in general because my voice sounds like a woman’s voice. On a path, I hate that by speaking up I’ll be exposing myself as the wrong gender to complete strangers. Repeatedly.

Conclusion: I need a bell. My ideal bell would be a speaker that says, “ON YOUR LEFT!” for me.

As I keep biking and keep taking testosterone, I look forward to passing in both senses.

I would especially love to pass cyclists who run red lights. But maybe I need a different bike for that. Or maybe I need to train in some concentrated way to get faster. I don’t push myself much. But that’s another post.

Sick – but I made it up that hill anyway.

I’ve been sick with a cold for over a week now. I started getting sick last Wednesday. By that night I was feverish and dizzy. Dizzy is a weird symptom, right? I don’t usually get dizzy. I started freaking out about how I could not be sick because I had to go to work, I just started this job, bla bla bla. I slept for 14 hours that night which mostly fended it off. No longer dizzy, but still feeling like crap, I figured the only way to drag myself to work was to take the bus, where I could sleep while in transit. So I did that. I figured maybe by Monday I’d be up for doing part of my bicycle commute again.

Sunday night, the car broke down as I was driving it. My boyfriend usually drives to work. Now he needed the T pass. We can only afford one T pass. So it looked like I was bicycling to work on Monday.

Not only did I manage to do my whole random 12 mile route, I finally made it up the hill! Many thanks to the gears on my bicycle for helping me and my legs.

I’m sorry, too, that I haven’t done anything for Bike Week because I’ve been sick. I slept in on Sunday. Tomorrow morning there’s that thing at City Hall plaza, but I don’t feel up to waking early to get over there. It’s just bad luck, I guess, that I’m sick specifically for Bike Week!

Today I woke up unable to decide if I’m starting to feel better or if I’m just becoming accustomed to having a chronic cold. It was a short, one-job day today so we’ll see how I do tomorrow . . . but I tried the hill again just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. I huffed, and I puffed, and I made it. Again.

As I pedaled to the “summit” (It actually levels off a bit at my street and then keeps going up) a little girl on a scooter stood there staring at me. I gave her a big grin and said, “Phew!”

I then turned down my street. The girl scootered behind me at a distance and then loitered outside of my house as I maneuvered the bicycle inside, watching me and then making conversation with kids passing by in a way that seemed like a pretext for getting them to stop and stand there so she could keep standing there without looking odd. I wondered what she wanted, but I felt awkward trying to talk to her.

I guess I figure that when I’m actually seen as male by most people it would probably look strange to strike up conversations with elementary-school-aged little girls unless it’s in very specific, overtly appropriate contexts. Maybe I’m just being paranoid but I know this is the sort of stuff I need to figure out. And yeah obviously I’m not a psycho or a predator, and it’s terrible that all men who show a normal interest in children are viewed with suspicion . . . but since that is the case I don’t want to keep doing the “wrong” thing and then have some kind of slap-in-the-face moment later on down the road.

First Week Recap

Hopefully I’ll get the hang of this two-jobs thing and be able to make time to update more than once a week, but here are some thoughts from my first week biking to work:

+ Tuesday: Ow ow ow. Why do I have bones in my butt. WHY. Maybe I should’ve eased into this bike commuting thing a bit more?!

+ Highlight: awkwardly passing another cyclist at the Jackson Square intersection because a car was sticking into the crosswalk. We both weaved a bit and managed to avoid bumping into each other. “Sorry,” she said with a smile. “It’s okay,” I responded. She obviously hadn’t done anything wrong, it was just awkward and we were pleasant about it.

+ I don’t care if you’re so talented that you can ride your bike with no hands while texting (true story) — if you don’t have a helmet on, I’m assuming you’re an idiot. On some level, yeah, you must be an idiot.

+ Wish I had a bell. Wish people used bells more. I get it, you feel like you’re “in control” (especially when you’re not going very fast down a path) but the pedestrians you’re passing could do anything. I almost hit another cyclist because I passed a group of pedestrians to their left and then was moving slowly back to the right side of the path when someone blew past me. A ringing bell would’ve been great at that moment. And I was moving gradually, so this person probably noticed before reaching me that I was moving to the right. Maybe they just figured I was going so slowly that it would not be a problem? My reaction: yikes.

+ A guy passed me in a bike lane, calf muscles like steel cables. Maybe that’ll be me someday.

+ I still can’t make it all the way up my hill. On Friday, three driveways before my street, I stood up to try making it just that much farther and still couldn’t manage. This hill is really steep and big. My favorite story about it is when, not long after moving into my current place, some friends were driving me home at night. We crept up this hill and I said, “Wow, this hill is awful! I’m glad I don’t live on this hill.” Right then we turned onto my street. “Oh.” My friends busted out laughing. Apparently I did live on that hill, I’d just never taken that street up this hill before. Now if I can say that kind of thing in a car, imagine how bad it must be on a bike.

+ I’m not doing this for speed, but I am hoping for some health benefit, so . . . maybe I should work on my diet a little. Eating a slice of pizza, a snickers bar, a cup of coffee and a pancake as a day’s worth of food is not exactly helping my health. Just looking at that list makes me feel gross.

+ I registered for the Mass Commuter Challenge. I think it’s pretty silly but hey — a chance to win bike gear? Sounds good.

+ I added up my commuting miles when I registered: 12 miles round trip. A baby commute! Not too shabby for a beginner, though.

Scouting the commute

Today I woke up at the normal time and rode my bike to work. It only took 15 minutes (which is actually how long Google Bicycling directions claimed it would take, although they wanted me to go the wrong way up a couple one-way streets so . . . that is not how I got there). It was mostly downhill or flat.

I left work early because I’m about to start a new second job, three days a week, and wanted to see how long it would take me to get from Job A to Job B.

At first I wasn’t sure how to get to the Southwest Corridor. That took a few minutes. But with the wind at my back, it only took me 20 minutes to arrive at my destination. It was damn impressive. Not that I’m so fast — I am super slow and riding a dumb, heavy mountain bike.  I am impressed with cycling itself: on a bike, this trip took half as long as it would on the T. It was like driving with no traffic. Amazing.

Usually I ride the bus. The difference in how liberated I feel commuting by bike is astounding. On my way home I thought about how that must be why anarchists are so into bicycles. First, you have the feeling of independence and individualism from riding independent of so many restrictions (bus schedules, gas stations). This is also a trait that is supposed to be manly. Rar, rugged individualism. Why have I never been into that?

Oh yeah, because I don’t actually believe any human being can survive without a community. It’s not natural and it’s pretty stupid to try it. Hence the other reason I’d guess anarchists are so into bicycles: it takes a whole community to support bicycles. There are people who make bikes, people who fix bikes, people who advocate for bicycle infrastructure, and all kinds of people who ride bikes.

There’s also the part of the picture where bicycles are a human-scale technology. I don’t have the time or inclination to learn everything about fixing a car, and most people can’t do this anymore even if they want to, because so much of cars these days is computerized. There’s too much specialty knowledge that goes into a car for most people who drive cars to know much about how to work with them beyond filling the gas tank, changing the tire, changing the oil, and maybe using jumper cables.

With bicycles, you can learn a lot more about them. And if you can patch your tube, change a tire, tighten a few things, and oil your chain? It just adds to the feeling of independence from being on a bike in the first place. You know that if you get a flat you’re not stuck or done for . . . the way you might be if your bus or car breaks down en route.

Not that no one ever gets stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a busted bike, but arming yourself with the knowledge and equipment to prevent that from happening seems a lot more doable than it does with a car.

Lowlight of my trip today: This cyclist (a white guy in a puke-orange rain jacket) sneezed to his left as he passed me going south on the Southwest Corridor. We were riding into a strong head wind. Um, yeah. I’m just glad his snot landed on my arm instead of flying into my face.

Why becoming a bike dude?

In May 2009 I started working in a bike shop. I can’t fix bikes, I don’t know much about bikes at all, but I’ve always had a thing for bikes anyway.

Fortunately for all involved, my job is mainly doing paperwork in the back office. And also some marketing. And also some retail. At some point soon after I started, my boss said to me, “You need to become more of a bike dude.”

Here I am, almost a year later, and I’m still working at the bike shop tackling mountains of paperwork. I’m also embarking on a journey to medically transition from female to male. Though I’ve been out as transgender since I started working here, the medical transition thing is new.  In March, I started taking testosterone in order to masculinize my body. My doctor kept telling me, “This is a great time to pick up healthier habits!”

I reckon she’s right. And I figured that putting these two trips together — becoming more of a bicyclist and becoming more of a dude — would make an all right blog.

Plus if I write about this biking business I’m more likely to do it.