Bikes, dating, and spandex: An interview

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Biking in Mpls: What’s your bike origin story?

Anthony: I had a bike in college, got it stolen, then didn’t bike for a long time. Then summer after my first year of law school one of my friends, who was also in law school at the time, he was sort of into biking. He had a fixie and a steel-frame Fuji that was really cool. I decided to borrow that bike, which he was cool about, so I borrowed it for a long time. I just noticed that getting to class and everything was just so much more efficient. And I’d also been getting ticketed and scofflawed with my car. I lived in Loring, so I had that hazard permit parking. You can just park within a certain radius, it doesn’t matter where but in this block. It is convenient, but after a certain time everyone comes home so parking becomes very scarce. The whole five-foot from a driveway thing, I was getting parking tickets all the time. The scofflaw thing is if you have four or more unpaid then they just tow it and make you pay all the tickets and then go to the impound lot.

Biking in Mpls: Oh no!

Anthony: Then there was street sweeping. So in one year of school I had my car towed four times. It was devastating.

Biking in Mpls: That’s painful, I’m so sorry.

Anthony: I started to know people at the impound lot by name. That was when I decided, I’m just gonna try this out. I left my car at my parent’s house. Eventually my brother took it to Chicago and then we sold it. I don’t own a car now. That was right around the time where I found my single speed, so I bought that and I had my own bike. The fall of my second year of law school was when I decided I was going to gear up and slowly try winter cycling. When you first start doing it, it’s a lot of layering up, not always so great and not always so warm but, you know, I made it work.

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Biking in Mpls: In your email, you mentioned that dating without a car has been hard. Do you want to tell me a little about that?

Anthony: I’ve got an array of social dating apps: Bumble, Hinge, Tinder. Each with their own utility value and degree of fruition. That’s a whole different dynamic. So let’s assume that I’ve successfully navigated to a texting situation, which probably means we’re going to meet up. At some point we probably discuss interests and I mention that I bike year-round. Sometimes if I’m not super into it I might just show up in this jazz [spandex bike clothes]. Sometimes I might try a little harder and I bring clothes so then I’m temporarily naked in a public bathroom because I’ve got to put on chinos and not spandex. So that’s a thing. Most have been pretty cool about it. A couple haven’t. They ask in a very accusational and hostile way about not having a car. I think it’s more the absence of that degree of romance of having a guy pick you up and take care of the logistics.

Biking in Mpls: It’s probably a very different gender dynamic when you tell someone you don’t have a car. I was doing online dating when I did not have a car for about nine months. Dudes would be super into it, they’d be like, “you’re such a badass.” I tend to like people who ride bikes, but that was a weird gendered dynamic of, “oh you don’t have a car, you’re so hip.” Putting me in this weird box of ‘this is who you are because I know this one minor fact about how you get around.’

Anthony: Yeah, almost fetishizing.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah, I experienced that a fair amount. I also remember being on OkCupid and people having in their profile, “I’m not going to deal with someone who doesn’t have a car.”

Anthony: Really? I could see smokers or everyone has the obligatory “not here to hook up.” But that’s aggressive. I assume you didn’t pursue anything with those guys.

Biking in Mpls: I was also like, I don’t want to own a car. I have a car now, and I want to own like a third of a car. I want to have two roommates and I want to have one shared car together. So the perspective of someone coming into a potential dating or relationship situation being like, “We must both own our own cars,” that’s a value differential that’s probably insurmountable.

Anthony: It just speaks to somebody’s ability to accomodate, understand, and empathize. The assumption is that you’re going to safely arrive at wherever you’re going to meet. You’ll do everything to can to get to a place where you’ve committed to going.

Biking in Mpls: Right. I am very happy to go pick people up. My boyfriend doesn’t have a car so if we want to go for a hike, even if it’s out of the way I’ll go pick him up. It’s a 15 minute drive, it’s not a big deal to me. He doesn’t ask to be picked up, but I’ll offer because it’s a nice thing to do. Especially if we’re going for a hike far away, does it really make sense for him to bike half an hour to my house? No. I have a friend who lives in Northeast who’s married and they share one car, so yeah if we’re driving somewhere together, of course I’m happy to give her a ride. I think it’s such a luxurious thing to have a car in the first place that I want to spread it. 

Anthony: I think that speaks to how you value your friendships too. For me I try to operate under the assumption that I’m always responsible for getting myself home. Sometimes I’ll meet up with friends who are married, friends from law school who got married and live over on Girard. I know that oftentimes at the end of the night they’ll offer to drive me home. Sometimes I politely decline because I want the exercise. But I appreciate those gestures, so sometimes even if I would prefer to bike I still accept the ride. I just want to validate their offer.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah I think it makes people feel good to be able to do something nice by giving a ride.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s a thing we allow our friends to do to help us. That’s a demonstration of care and trust.

Biking in Mpls: The whole online dating landscape is really weird, but I felt like there were some extra layers when I didn’t have a car, which it sounds like you’ve experienced too.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s not always seen as cool, or as an indicator of my ability. Yeah, as you know, sometimes it really sucks out there. But it’s determination, planning, and knowing what I need to do on my ride to stay warm. The women who’ve reacted to it poorly see it as an irresponsible kind of thing. To them, driving is clearly the better option. So they wonder if it’s a stubborn willfullness to not be a motorist.

Biking in Mpls: There’s still very clearly status associated with owning a car in America. Also there may be a fear that if you don’t have a car it’s because you have a shit ton of credit card debt and you can’t afford a car, or something like that. Those are wild inferences to go off on based on this one small fact, but I feel like those both probably contribute.

Anthony: You see people’s reactions to it early on. I appreciate the presumption that I can take care of my own shit. I will get there. You don’t have to worry about me, we don’t have to wrap up dinner early because you think it’ll be dangerous. It’s not a weird manipulative way for me to suggest, “Hey, instead of biking all the way home, could I just stay over?” I’m not going to do that. So yeah, I’ve had some interesting experiences with it.

Biking in Mpls: Do you think not having a car has changed anything else in your life, for good or for bad?

Anthony: Yeah, definitely. As far as errands go and collecting things for living, like groceries, that’s definitely changed. I have to plan. I got to the grocery store almost every day. I don’t own a gym membership since I don’t feel compelled to work out ever.

I have to plan more, very rarely do I not have a pack with some clothes. I usually have to bike with work clothes. This is the first year I’ve gotten into this jazz [spandex bike clothes]. I notice people noticing that I’m dressing inappropriately to be in public. You just have to get over it. Sometimes people will snicker or jeer. If I do some work after this and meet up at a happy hour, I’ll probably be the only one dressed inappropriately. But I just deal with it. People can look and think, “Yeah that’s really kind of graphic in that area” but I’m like “whatever, I’m warm and I biked here.”

Biking in Mpls: Do you wear spandex year round?

Anthony: Only recently have I had to migrate. My waist is a certain size and my legs have started to be wider. I can’t find a saddle that’s comfortable that doesn’t rip my pants, basically. I’ve ripped too many pants and too many shorts. Otherwise I need to [wear spandex] to preserve my other clothes. I don’t know if it’s my saddle or what.

Biking in Mpls: I’ve never really ripped pants. I don’t really wear pants, I wear skirts and dresses. Those are perfect for biking, I can wear as many thermal layers of leggings as I need under a dress and still show up to a place and look fairly appropriate.

Anthony: It’s a pleasant contrast when you see ladies out there either all geared up or looking nice, going out with friends.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah, I love seeing all the different types of clothes people wear. All these people from all these different backgrounds, riding their weird bikes and dressing how they dress. I love it.

Anthony: It’s fun, this time of year you see more of the fatties, you see people geared up.

Biking in Mpls: Is there anything else you want to tell me about biking? Anything that inspires you, or that you’re excited about?

Anthony: It’s changed my lifestyle in a lot of ways. I eat a lot more. I feel more capable and independent. My alone time is definitely on the bike. I spend a lot of time just obsessing over cleaning things. Just in the last year I’ve gotten a lot better at maintenance. So saving money on labor but being able to tinker and put a lot of love into it.

I feel like a stronger individual. I can go be involved in my friends’ lives and do social things, and then bike 13, 14, 15 miles home. The things you get to see, like some things are so picturesque in the winter. Sometimes at night I’ll turn off my lights and just go by natural light. There are so many things I want to take pictures of, and there are other times where I’m like this is just for me. Just being able to keep those memories.

I have certain periods of my life associated with playlists, since I almost exclusively bike with music. Some rides are good and some rides are bad, and some rides I’m just trying to bike off some aggression, or some rides I’m bummed about some bullshit social dating thing. Then there are super happy moments. Some of my favorite times in the spring and summer are when you get home and you’ve done a bunch of stuff but you feel almost called back out there. No biking is enough until you’re just dead. You just keep going and going. Those times are so much fun.

Biking in Mpls: Well you kind of answered this question, but what’s your favorite thing about biking?

Anthony: You find different ways of motivating yourself. For me, in my last relationship, when I was biking and hustling to go see her, in my mind and in my heart I needed to move faster because I wanted to see this person. I was going to a place where I was going to enjoy myself. She never really heard about that, and doesn’t really know. She didn’t know how much love was going on in those rides to get me to her.

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Anthony Q. Truong is a cyclist living in Minneapolis.

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