As a boy (and I can't be alone on this) I wondered: Why the heck is that bar so close to my sensitive testes, when girls are given ample space to catch themselves before their vacant crotch is inhabited by a hollow, yet firm, steel rod?

I couldn't figure out why whoever it was who made bicycles decided to standardize such a reproductive safety hazard.

This troubled me for years, especially when I caught wind of all those anti- (or proto-) sexist woman's rights issues that were being so fervently discussed on my dad's Rush Limbaugh radio program and in the hallways of my horid high school.

"They want equal rights? They think they're oppressed?" I hissed to myself at night whilst scrutinizing the graffitied boards of my brother's bed above me. "Well, obviously none of them have had their privates squashed by a solid metal rod every time they miscalculate the height of a sidewalk!"

I gnashed my teeth to powdery bits over that one. I never brought my well-practiced argument to any of my female friends. Not for fear of rejection. No. The girls I hung out with tended to beat me quite brutally at the instance of any slight, however unintended. They wouldn't have been interested in my petty little debate, beyond the few charlie-horses it justified.

So I was forced to live alone with this injustice, and carry it the best I was able.

Then I got a girlfriend, and had a lot of sex, and realized that sure, balls are a poor design, but at least I don't have blood pouring from me on a regular basis, don't have to worry about cramps or whether or not estrogen suppliments are the way to go.

But I never stopped wondering: why? Why that bar, right there, so close, so hard?

And then a few days ago, sucking down a twill, I saw a young lady on a bike pedal past me. She was wearing a skirt that reached down a few inches past her knees. It went up and down just a little as she pedaled by.

It's funny how matter of fact revelation can be. Bikes were made back before women wore pants and mini skirts and g-strings. The woman's bicycle is made to accompany a maiden down the road with out displaying her creamy white thighs to one and all. Simple as that. No one was attempting to threaten the world's supply of human sperm, they were just trying to uphold the dignity of the fairer sex.

jarsyl msged me this:

Re Busting balls: The sexual politics of bicycle design: Yes, the lower bar on women's bikes it to keep from playing havoc with their skirts. However your w/u fails to address why men's bikes have the bar higher. I'm no engineer, but I heard that the closer approximation of a diamond shape (at least on more traditional bikes) makes for a stronger frame. Less flexing when you pedal, therefore, more efficient biking. Same deal with fatter frames when the material is aluminum.

Thank you jarsyl !

updated 7.17.02

A traditional "lady's" bicycle (or a mixte) sacrifices the strength and rigidity of a horizontal top tube in order to make it easier for the rider to wear a skirt.

The sexual politics of this is clear - inconvenient clothing is presumed to be more important to women than having a bicycle with superior performance. This is just another example of the idea of suffering for style, or form over function, unless of course the practical advantages of wearing a skirt outweigh the practical advantages of having a stiffer, lighter bike.

As for the horizontal top tube on a "men's" bicycle, this presents no danger to the testicles as long as the bicycle is the correct size for the rider. You should always be able to straddle the top tube with both feet flat on the ground - if you can't, you need a smaller bike.

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