Swift Industries’ Tough & Tender Project is an annual literary project to celebrate women’s experience of the bicycle. Cycling is a male dominated activity and industry, and it’s our experience as women and female-bodied individuals that cycling empowers and inspires us in ways which are not portrayed by mainstream bicycle culture. It’s time for something different! Swift Industries and Bicycle Times received over eighty contributions this year. Read on to enjoy some of the stories we received…

The rain gets really loud, really suddenly.  It takes me a moment to realize it’s hail.  Giddy laughter bubbles out of me unexpectedly as tiny hailstones popcorn off the ground, the fire pit, the tent.  Somehow the sun is still out and making the tops of the mountains glow golden.

It is day nine of a ten-day bike trip through the Canadian Rockies with my partner Kevin.  The hail shifts quickly back to rain, but my grin sticks from ear to ear.  The fire I built is going strong, the rainfly keeps the tent dry, golden light still illuminates the mountain tops above our heads AND… I made it up Roger’s Pass today!

Early this morning I began the climb loaded down with fifty pounds of luggage and an imagination full of ways to falter on the biggest pass of our trip.  The first half of the day rode slowly.  My odometer never crept past 4 mph.  Campers and trucks growled by us.  It was grueling, but as I found my rhythm it got easier to stick with it.

I have some practice sticking with it while biking.  At seven I got a 5-speed Schwinn.  It was purple and it was beautiful.  Our family of four set off down the Elroy Sparta Bike Trail on three bikes with Mom pulling my little brother, Craig, in the trailer.  Several miles in my mom said it was time to hop in the trailer with Craig.  We would lock up my bike and retrieve it on the way back.  I wasn’t willing to part with my bike.  She explained it was a 32 mile out-and-back trail and there wouldn’t be another option to lock it up.  I couldn’t be convinced and I trucked on for a happy 32 miles.  I had the determination of a seven-year old who had not yet been told there was anything she couldn’t do.

In the years since, I have picked up a lot more “can’ts” and “not sures” but today, at the toe of Roger’s Pass, I found that audacious, invincible seven-year-old somewhere inside.   Halfway up (at least I hoped I was halfway up) I emerged from a long tunnel.  Squinting in the bright sun, I stopped to catch my breath, dropping my head onto my bars.  There was construction and Kevin was ahead waiting near the flagger for me.  He told me later the construction worker pointed back at me and said “Hey man, I bet she’s hating you right now”.  Kevin just grinned and told him the truth, “This was all her idea”.

And it was a great idea.  I made it.  And I’m standing here, joyful in the rain, making my dinner on the campfire and relishing the strength and flexibility I feel in my body after a full day of movement.And like all things – even Rocky Mountain passes – the rain passed more quickly than you ever thought it would and a low fog came into the campground and draped itself magically in the fir trees just before the sun set.

By Erin Reschke, Sacramento CA