Because Girls Ride Bikes

Every now and then, someone will ask me if I'm still riding my bike. "Hey, you still riding your bike?" Yep, still riding.

Usually, they follow that question up with, "Oh. Even though, you're like... you know, since... you know?" And I just stare at them like they're insane.

Of course I still ride my bike. Women definitely ride bikes. And no, they're not all riding in the slow lane, taking it easy while shooting selfies. They're racing downhill at breakneck speed, charging up mountainous hills, dipping and swerving through the pack on a curvy stretch of roadway, and much more. They're riding a hell of a lot better than I can, and a hell of a lot better than most of the guys out there who don't think women ride bikes.

Besides, even if they are taking it easy and enjoying the ride instead of slogging through a sufferfest, what business is it of yours? They're riding their bikes. So, yeah, I still ride. Even though... you know...

Of course, most of the people I talk to aren't putting it that way. They're not shocked by women riders, and my being transgender isn't really the problem, either. They're just connecting with me on a level they understand. It's a bike thing; we speak bike. They're aware that I'm going through a major life change, and they want to know how I'm doing. I'm doing quite well, thank you.

Quite well, that is, until yesterday's ride. About a quarter of a mile from my apartment I slipped on some rotting leaves and got thrown to the ground.

Fortunately, I was able to roll into the fall and cushion the impact. My right wrist took most of the damage while my left leg got a nasty scrape. There's a bruise on my right knee, but both of them hurt, for some reason. Aside from my wrist, which is kinda messed up now, all of these are minor and easy to ignore. What I couldn't ignore was the searing pain shooting through my right breast.

I'm into my 5th month of hormone replacement therapy, which means breast development is definitely underway. The area just below the surface of the areola is tender to the touch on a good day, but can get achy on bad days. This was an ok day; barely noticeable. I wasn't wearing any kind of sports bra, just a compression shirt to keep some even pressure and support them on the bumps. But landing directly on my chest, putting almost my full body weight on top of it, crushing the soft, spongy tissue and the developing bud in my right breast was more pain than I could take in that moment. I looked myself over, checked for any major injuries, and then scooted myself over to the curb to cry for a few moments. It hurt that much.

I've fallen before, and it's usually not a big deal. This fall, again, was not a big deal. But I've got these new, extremely sensitive areas that I'm not used to protecting. I haven't gained the instinct to protect them, yet. And so, I paid the price. It still hurts even now, nearly 24 hours later.

I haven't been checked out by a physician, but from the conversations I've had with friends, I should be ok. Several friends assured me that they've fallen many times while developing as teenagers, and I should be able to continue developing just fine. It hurts like hell, but it's part of growing up and getting used to protecting sensitive areas.

In the meantime, it's supposed to reach the lower 70s today, and that's prime riding weather for me. I'm not going to let this stop me. Girls definitely ride bikes -- even transgender girls.
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And Makes Some Observations Regarding HRT and Athletic Performance

Lo and behold, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and it warmed up to about 70 degrees, today! Perfect for a bike ride.

I took to the usual bike path along the river, and was pleasantly surprised to see that all the snow was finally gone. Also, all of the dog shit was gone. Seriously, dog walkers, that's disgusting.

I wanted to ride the loop I did most of last year, across the Carey Ave bridge and going up Route 11 and cutting back onto the back path. The path then runs under the Market St and Pierce St bridges before terminating in a parking lot. I do a 180 and then pedal back to cross the Pierce St bridge and then onto the path on the Wilkes Barre side of the river, going under Market Street and then popping up onto River Street to head home. It's a decent run, mostly flat with a few steep inclines that aren't very long. 14.5 miles, total.

What kept from doing the full loop this time was Route 11. Last time I rode it, about 2 weeks ago, they were doing construction on one of the smaller bridges, and I'm not comfortable with cutting through that kind of traffic with sun setting and no lights. So, I cut the trip in half and called it a day. 7.8 miles in 36 minutes.

Couple of observations:

No. 1) The hormone therapy doesn't seem to have robbed any of the strength in my legs/lower body. Spironolactone is an anti-androgen -- it blocks the effects of testosterone. I can expect to lose up to 30% of my muscle mass, but most, if not all, of that is upper body. Actually, I was rapidly losing upper-body strength before I even saw any loss of mass. I don't really miss it, though. I might not be able to lift anything over 50 pounds anymore, but I can still crank the hell out of my single speed.

I'm not concerned about any of this, to be honest. I'm a casual rider, I ride to have fun and stay in shape. If I wanted to train harder and build some muscle mass on my legs, I probably could. One of my good friends is a pro rider, a cis female who makes no excuses and leaves most cis males in the dust. I figure, she's my inspiration. That and the fact that I seem to still have a decent bit of stamina, despite being out of shape. Give it a few weeks, and I'll be right back where I was last year, I'm sure.

No. 2) People still haven't figured out how to not stand in the middle of the bike/walking path like a bunch of doltish cows. They just stare at you like a dumb ass as you roll right up and over them. Idiots.

No. 3) Seeing a dad teach his son how to pitch a ball was kind of cute, until the dad started bawling the kid out. "That was TERRIBLE, what's wrong with you? You have to follow through, don't let go of the ball until..." Blah blah blah. Oh, male bonding.

That kind of stuff used to roll right off my back, though. I hated baseball, soccer, football... and I made it obvious. A coach would yell at me and I'd put up with it until it was time to go home, and then not come back. It wasn't important enough to me to be verbally abused by some jerk. Besides, I could get all the verbal abuse I wanted back home; didn't need more.

No. 4) The river is pretty high. A lot of the lower lying areas were covered. At least there aren't a lot of bugs. Also, doesn't smell all that bad, yet. Give it a chance.

No. 5) I might want to think about a sports bra, soon. I'm not quite there, yet, but there was some jiggle going on; some of those bumps were a little rough, and it was not a pleasant feeling. As my bust increases in size, though, it's gonna get worse, I'm sure. In the meantime, it's nice that "boy mode" seems to be fading away. I have to wear a hat to hide my hair loss, but I can see huge differences in my face that should get more defined in the coming months.
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Dale Rides HER Bike

According to the archives, I haven't posted since April 5, 2014. In that span of time, so much has changed. This blog has been seen by THOUSANDS of people (current metrics put it at about 100 unique visitors per day). But that number has troubled me. It's not the tiny little blog that no one read or noticed like when I first started. With each passing month, as it grew and grew, I knew that eventually I would have to come clean about something that happened to me about 8 months ago, right around June - July 2014, and that's a lot of people to tell at once.

Don't worry; I wasn't in an accident or suddenly discovered the joy and freedom of rollerblading. I'm alive and well and still riding my bike (although, not so much in the dead of Winter). Instead, I had a powerful, life-altering experience. ...for the better!

Let me start at the beginning...


From a young age, I knew something about me was different, but I didn't really know what until, back when I was still in my single-digits, I came across an article in (of all places) The Weekly World News.

In between pictures 3-foot-long grasshoppers, pictures of "bat boy" and Bigfoot, I came across the news that Christine Jorgensen had died.

Christine Jorgensen was the famous "Ex-GI" who became a "Blonde Beauty" back in the 50s. It was the first time I'd ever heard of a man becoming a woman, and the very idea set my mind on fire. Reading her story began triggering waves of questions that continue to this day.

Although I have some earlier memories of gender dysphoria, from that day on, I just KNEW that some day, I was going to become a woman. (Although, technically/medically, we don't refer to it as "becoming" a woman; it's simply affirming what we feel we were born as.)
I just knew it was something I had to do.

And then life happened.


I grew up. I learned a little bit more about how the world works and feels about people like me. I realized how expensive surgery can be, and that I'd have to see a therapist if I ever wanted to start hormones -- and seeing a therapist would mean admitting that I had a "problem" that would make me different and leave me with a mark that society would judge me by for the rest of my life. It was too much to ask of teenage me, so I waited.

On into my 20s, the thoughts and feelings had settled and made me much less desperate to change myself. Or, maybe it was more that I knew how difficult it would be, and feared becoming ostracized by my friends and family. From time to time, I'd forget about it, until the occasional dream where I would be in the "correct" gender, leaving me emotionally crushed when I'd wake up and see my body as it really was.

On into my 30s, after working a miserable office job where I would babysit servers for hours on end and escape into my fantasies to pass the time, I decided I couldn't take that kind of life, any longer. In response, I moved 3000 miles away, to Seattle, WA, where I tried to find myself with a better job and new friends. I was miserable; I forced everyone out of my life. I had nothing left to lose. But, in the end, it solved nothing. I knew there was a deeper problem, but I couldn't face it. Not yet.
I moved back home, defeated. If there were ever time I wanted to kill myself, this was it. I never felt so worthless.

Eventually, after trying to kickstart a career in journalism (which burned out after 3 years) and scraping by as a dishwasher/factory worker/whatever I could find, I answered a tweet from a friend on Twitter who needed help at his computer shop. I started part-time and quickly proved myself invaluable; then things started happening and getting better.

After a year or so, I got a significant raise and realized my dreams of moving away from Hazleton were a possible reality. So, I jumped at the first opportunity and settled down in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Then I got sick, hurt my back, moved back to Hazleton for 2 months before getting back on my feet and finding a new apartment in Wilkes-Barre, ready to try again. As of late May 2014, everything was looking up and up. I couldn't be happier! Or so I thought.

Into the Present



Living on my own, away from family members, and without the need to hide from roommates, I realized I was finally in the position to live my life however I wanted. And there it was, plain as day. The very first thing I thought about doing was living as a woman.

The door kicked wide open. The feelings returned, stronger than ever. After about two weeks in the new apartment, right around my 35th birthday, I was sacked by feelings so primal and deep that I cried for an entire weekend.

I was no man. Everything I had done in my life was an overcompensation for that fact. Pushing myself beyond my limits, trying to "prove" myself to the world. I couldn't face a mirror for about a week, realizing that all this "getting into shape stuff" was me trying to find a way to make myself less ugly, more acceptable to my own eyes. Nothing worked. No matter how thin, how clean-shaven and groomed I could make myself, I only saw an ugly, balding blur of a face in the mirror. It was horrible. I looked like a man, and it went against the way I felt inside. It nearly killed me until I realized the truth of what I had always known; I am not a man. I was never a man.

My Bike, My Salvation, My True Self


All last Summer, I rode my bike as fast and as hard as I could, running scared from every dark thought in my head. 100 - 200 miles a week; sometimes more. I would ride about 10-15 miles around 6 am, then come home from work and do the same route at around 6 pm. On the weekends, I'd take off into unexplored country and get as lost as possible. Occasionally, I'd meet up with friends and go on a group ride, but I was always alone, inside my head, going over all these feelings and doubts and questions, trying to find an answer as to how I could transition and stay alive.

How could I explain it to my family, my friends and my boss? What if they rejected me? How much danger was I in if someone found out? I'd be out of a job, out of my apartment, and out of a home. God, wouldn't it just be so much easier if I got hit by a car, run over and killed? I had to stop thinking about things like that. There was so much fear to overcome.

Day by day, I found the answers I needed, out there, out on the road. I began to slow down a little. I put the energy I was spending on riding my bike into making plans for the future and working up the courage I needed to come out of the closet. I set goals for my transition and started seeing a therapist. I was a woman on a mission. The demons didn't scare me anymore. I could enjoy riding my bike at a leisurely pace, again. I could enjoy life, again. The bicycle had saved me, as it had so many times in the past. It allowed me to explore the hidden places of the world while my mind explored the hidden parts of me.

I knew what I had to do, and I accepted it. I cried, again, but these were tears of joy. I knew it would be difficult; I knew it would be scary. But if you've followed my blog up until now, you know how I respond to a challenge: I faced it head on.

I read about celebrities like Laverne Cox (although I never saw and still haven't seen Orange is the new Black), and Laura Jane Grace from the band Against Me!. I felt that the time was right; the world was ready to start accepting people like me. But could I make that change? Could I actually live in this world as a woman? I realized quickly that I would have to. It was becoming abundantly clear that I wasn't getting a choice in this. One thing we know in the transgender community is that once Pandora's Box is open, you can never close it. It was either survive and thrive, or destroy myself.

Within weeks, sensing how miserable and paranoid I was becoming, my boss asked what was wrong. Friends and family were wondering. TOTAL STRANGERS were asking me if something was wrong. It was so obvious, but I couldn't tell a soul as I delved into some kind of secretive, double-agent role: Who knows? Who doesn't know? Who can I trust? Has anyone noticed my shaved legs? Cyclists shave their legs, so it's cool. But how do I explain the makeup? Have they noticed I'm dressing more feminine? Do they know?

I knew I had to come out, and by the end of the Summer, my boss knew, my mom knew, my friends knew. And it was ok. It was totally ok. In fact, as time went on, people were more ok with it than I ever could have imagined. Instead of asking, "What's wrong?" people were telling me that I seemed much happier and open instead of being upset and reclusive, as I was for most of my life. My worst fears were put to rest, so I forged ahead.

By the end of Autumn, somewhere around the end of October, I was out, full-time. Wearing women's clothing, a wig and makeup. I bought dresses and skirts that I loved and wore them everywhere, every day. I used and preferred female pronouns, and even came out on Twitter and Facebook. No more hiding. I soon realized, I had nothing to be ashamed of. This is me, now. And, for the most part, I'm not all that concerned with changing my name. (It's a unisex name, and I've worked hard towards building it up and getting it out there. So, changing now would just be difficult and expensive.) However, I do usually just go by Dee, these days. (Get it? It's my first initial.)

So, here we are. February fading into March. 15 degrees but it feels like 2. Snow is everywhere. I've faced some of the most incredibly dark moments I've ever faced in my life and come out on the other side bursting with joy. I can finally be who I am. I'm free. I'm not just living as my true self, I'm thriving. I'm happy, for once in my life. I really, actually feel happy and contented.
Now, if only it would warm up a little. Bring on Spring, I wanna ride my bike!
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Getting Up to Speed in Cycling Season 2014

Welcome to cycling season 2014!
Although, for a lot of us, cycling season 2013 never really ended...

I never mentioned it here, but I moved to Wilkes-Barre in October and was enjoying a much shorter commute. Going to work was almost completely uphill along Route 309 into Mountain Top and would take me about 45 minutes to complete. Of course, that meant that the commute home was all downhill, taking me about 15 minutes from start to finish. It was great; I'd get a nice workout in the morning and a fun ride home.

My coldest commute was 18 degrees Fahrenheit in mid November, which still seemed warm compared to most of the days that followed, but that's not what stopped me from commuting. As the daylight got shorter and the clock got set back for daylight savings, it became treacherous to ride with the amount of traffic coming from the various on and off ramps along my route. Then came the snow and ice, the frigid temperatures... I kept riding throughout December and January, but I just couldn't keep up the commute. And then I got sick...

I was waylaid in late February by a bad flu and spent a few days in bed. Following that was a terrible, terrible back spasm that gripped my sacroiliac and made it impossible to walk for almost 2 weeks. It was so bad that I was worried I might have some serious damage and not be able to ride again, but my chiropractor checked me out and said I should be ok. It was a very scary time for me, as I shuffled along, hunched over in pain for the rest of the month. I'm still getting a lot of pain when I stretch my legs in certain positions, but I'm working on it, slowly bringing myself back to 100%

While it seems that pain may be a constant companion as I get older, I'm doing my best to get back in the saddle and get back up to speed. I didn't sign up for
30 Days of Riding this year because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to take part, but I've been hitting every day, so far -- even if it means riding on the trainer. From doing short sprints around the neighborhood to happily riding along my favorite Rails to Trails, I've been getting myself in shape for the Spencer Martin Memorial Ride in May. I'm happy to say that my friend +Michelle Hryvnak Davies will also be volunteering for traffic control, again. Can you believe it's been a whole year?

Speaking of Rails to Trails, I was really hoping to see the bridge on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails open this year. As of this writing, here's what the bridge currently looks like:


It's coming along nicely since I first saw it last year, but it's far from done. Looks like they just need to finish the deck and clean up the surrounding areas, but I'm not sure when it will be done.

Note that they added a nice fence running along the ramp up to the bridge and are fencing in the areas along the sides that run into the train tracks (tracks that are still, very much, being used. So be careful if you go exploring down there!)


I can't help but be tempted to hooft it across the small creek/marsh/whatever on the other side of the tracks and see how much farther the trail actually goes, but I'm patient enough to wait and see when it's finished. Eventually, it's supposed to run all the way to Eckley Miners' village, but that's a post for another day. At any rate, get on your bike and ride.
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while thinking about Kickstarting a $35 bell.

I happen to be in the market for a bell, which are words I never thought I'd be writing in my lifetime, but there you go. If you need proof that cyclists aren't right in the head, this is it.

I'm currently having a bike be rebuilt piece by piece. I found a vintage (circa 1980) Raleigh Reliant that I thought was nice, but wanted to make a little extra special. In other words, I had the original, working parts stripped off and replaced with modern components. Sacrilege? Yeah, a little. Let's just say, I had some other ideas about the bike than its original intent and made some tough choices. Choices like converting it to single-speed, upgrading to 700c wheels and outfitting it with some thicker tires that will chew through gravel rather than the other way around. I wanted an urban cruiser that wouldn't mind going off-road for a bit, and if I can do that with a snazzy-looking, vintage frame, why not?

I'm pretty excited about this bike! As such, I want to make it even extra special-er. More special. Special+. And so, I'm in the market for a bell.

You might think that you could just go to Walmart or your local bike shop and buy a bell, and you'd be absolutely correct. They do that; they sell bike bells. They usually have them in stock right where you can see them, and you can probably just go there and buy one right now, depending on when you're reading this. It's not like you're buying a controlled substance and need to meet a strange guy somewhere, or show some photo ID or ask the person behind the counter for something unusual as a password so that he'll know you're on the level before he shows you his secret stash. You just go to the store and buy one. Bells aren't even rare, they're pretty much everywhere. But, you know... We need things that are hand-crafted and special. And we all know that hand-made things are better than mass-produced things because, I don't know. They just are. And that's how you end up with
a $35 bike bell on Kickstarter.

The really sad part is, I want that bell. Not a "want" like a hungered, passionate desire that keeps me up at night, but more like a, "Can I find something similar on Amazon that doesn't cost as much?" and then I do a few searches kind of "want." That sort of "want."

Why do I want this bell? I just like the way the hammer/trigger thing works. I like how you can aim the bell forward instead of straight up. Makes it more "aero." But I don't want to spend $35 on a bell, so let's see if I can find something cheaper. Here are some bells on Amazon that aren't as expensive:

Mirrycle Incredibell XL BLK Bicycle Bell (Black)


Black, polished mirror finish. Sexy.
The Mirrycle, which is spelled like that on purpose, I guess, seems kind of big and garish, but I'm sure it's pretty loud. I don't know what it sounds like, but I'm guessing it sounds like a bell. I bet it goes "Ding!" which is great for telling people to get the hell out of the way without yelling, "HEY! GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!"

You can most likely mount the bell so that it stands upright or aims forward, but it's probably harder to pull the hammer back if it's not upright. On the other hand, the soundwaves seem like they'll travel horizontally and alert people to your presence in a wider range instead of vertically, which would only benefit airplanes and passing satellites. Oh, wait... that's silly. Sound doesn't travel in space. Sorry, folks aboard the International Space Station! I guess my bike will just have to run straight into you...

PRICE: $8.80. You save $26.20!

Skye Supply Swell Bell - Cow "Moooove"

Not actually a cow bell, just a bell with a picture of a cow on it. What's up with that?
Here's an awesome bell because it has a cow on it that says, "MOOOOVE!!" with two exclamation points, so you know it's super serious about getting people out of the way. It also says, "COW BELL," but it's not a cow bell, it's just a bell with a picture of a cow on it. Crazy.

You can mount this one in any way you like, but I don't think it will make a "MOOO" sound no matter where or how you mount it. It probably just goes "ding," which seems like a missed opportunity, to me. Come to think of it, maybe they should have shaped it like a cow bell. That would have been awesome.

PRICE: Only $6.75. That's a savings of $28.25!

Electra Compass Bell

Not electrical, in any way. Also available in silver. Also: compass.
Remember that Murmur MirrorMirro Myrrh-cycle bell from a few moments ago? Well this has a very similar design, but it's also got a compass on it! So, the next time you're in the woods, you can see if there's any truth to that old wives' tale that moss only grows on the North side of a tree. Or was it South? Or West? Or maybe it was "Moss doesn't grow on a moving Fat Bike?" What was I talking about?

You can mount this one to round things. Maybe you could wear it like a ring! Or, mount it to other body parts -- I'll let you use your imagination here -- just be very careful about where you mount it and read all of the instructions. Also: compass.

PRICE: $7.58 It's more expensive than the Cow Bell, but less than the Mr.MicrophoneMryrrrcycle Bell. Plus, it pulls double-duty as a compass, making it a two-fer! You save: $27.42

So, there you have it. Bells don't have to be expensive. In fact, at a total of $23.13, you could buy all three of these bells for less than the price of the Kickstarter bell. Hopefully, I saved someone some money and embarrassment today.
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For One Whole Year

It's hard to believe, but this blog is 1 year old. 1 whole year of documenting my journey from a guy who used to occasionally ride his bike maybe once or twice a month to a guy who rides almost every day. Well, almost every day...

A year ago, after a summer of eating healthy and losing about 30 pounds, I wanted to accentuate that diet with exercise. I had been walking along the Rails-to-Trails with a friend about once a week and racking up plenty of miles, but walking just wasn't holding my interest. I wanted to go faster, and farther. So, I pulled my bike out of storage and started doing about 10 miles a day.

Before long, I was adding a few more miles a day, but never venturing too far out of the neighborhood. I decided to challenge myself, to see just how far I could go. I felt the way most runners and joggers do after they start really developing a habit and improving themselves. I wanted to enter a race, or at least an organized ride. I felt like it was something I had to do.

The first thing I did was to hit Google and look for events that were happening close by. One of the first events I stumbled on was the Flaming Foliage Festival that was taking place right here, in Hazleton. I had never even heard of this event before, and here it was in my own back yard. It seemed like fate. So, I set a goal to get myself in shape for the event with the goal of being able to ride 50k -- about 31 miles.

I began by learning as much as I could about sports nutrition and plotting longer and longer courses for myself. I'd ride about 2 or 3 times a week, setting a new goal each time went out. I hit a few snags and learned a few painful lessons, but I eventually made my goal. I rode the half metric century course in the Flaming Foliage Festival in October and had a great time. I even met a few new friends. All in all, it was a huge success. As I look back now, has it really been a year? Time really does fly when you're having fun.

My life has changed in a variety of ways since those days. I started a new job, bought the bike of my dreams, kept the weight off and even met several other goals. I even managed to bike all the way to Pittsburgh! I mean, that was just a crazy idea I almost never meant to keep until it occurred to me -- only a few weeks prior -- that I could really, actually do it. And now I'm looking at the achievement from the other end and wondering how I did it; I still can't believe it.

1 year of biking and blogging. How far will I go over the next year?
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On A Cold Morning, Chasing His Shadow.

This morning's commute to work was a chilly one -- 52 degrees Fahrenheit at 7 a.m. However, it was still warmer than the 49 degrees I had to trek out in, last week. What's up, Summer?

We had a very late spring and now it feels like summer is pretty much over and done. We still have August ahead of us! Don't be like that, Summer.

As you can tell, I like to turn up the heat a bit. I didn't even mind the heat wave we had a few weeks ago; I just kept on riding my bike and loving every minute of it. Can we have that back, please?

At any rate, here's me, chasing my shadow with the sun at my back.
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