A couple weeks ago, I was cycling down Queen Street in Toronto when I was serendipitously swept up in a mass ride celebrating Bike Month. It was fun to be taking over the street with this two-wheeled mob, but I have to admit I also felt a little dorky as chic shoppers gazed at us from the sidewalk, bewildered. I imagined approaching one of them at a bar.
"So, do you come here often?" I'd ask, shuffling my hair, trying to remove the strange sculptures created by my helmet.
"Maybe. What car do you drive?"
I'd explain that I came on a bike, and then I'd get the blow-off.
But then I looked around at all the spirited cyclists surrounding me, and my mind changed gears. It hit me that biking is, in fact, a far sexier way to get around than by car. Think about it: Dudes on bikes have advanced cardiovascular endurance, can expertly handle delicate moving parts, and have the ability to ride far more of the city's curves.
Now, before all you suburbanite commuters and car enthusiasts toss the newspaper aside or punch your computer, let me say this: I am one of you, too. I grew up in the 'burbs and I loved my dad's 1977 Jeep Cherokee almost as much as my dog Sadie. I still love hitting the open road in a rental car for long trips. But on a day-to-day basis, if a guy can cycle to where he needs to go, he'll simply be a hotter prospect than that guy in the Ferrari.
To get an, ahem, unbiased opinion from a woman, I talked to Amy Walker, one of the founders of Momentum, a Vancouver-based magazine for "self-propelled people." She agreed with me, though she began with a more relationship-oriented, poetic explanation.
"When you go on a date with someone in a car, you're tied together and only one person is driving, so it's a dominant and passive relationship," she said. "When you're both on a bike, you're both in control. You're two people who have free will and are governing themselves but choosing to ride together. I really like that metaphor."
Ms. Walker added that guys who bike have also found a way to kill three birds with one stone, and thus attractively maximize their time: "They ride to get to their job, they're being environmentally responsible and … they also end up having a beautiful ass," she informed me.
This last point - the well-defined behind - was mentioned by each of the half-dozen women I spoke to. (Strangely, nobody mentioned the sex appeal of the amazingly well-shaped ankle muscle of a driver's clutch foot.)
Tovi Heilbronn, a road racer and head of online sales for Toronto bike shop La Bicicletta, humbly admitted - only when directly questioned, of course - that he has more than once been complimented on his rock-solid seat cushion.
"When girls see you in your whole racing get-up, your spandex team racing kit, well, I've had compliments that it's attractive," he said. (He admitted, however, that some women have been thrown off by his shaved legs.)
Mr. Heilbronn also gave me his take on the comparison with drivers: "Think about it for a second. This guy has basically thrown tons of money into this object that is depreciating by the minute, it's terrible for the environment, and he doesn't have to be in shape to get around. What's so cool about that?"
The last thing I want to do, though, is incite more divisiveness. There can be friendship between the two- and four-wheeled families. In fact, on occasion, people from across the car-bike divide fall in love and get married.
Picture my friend Melissa, wearing her shades as she accelerates through the city, the top of her bright red Audi convertible down, her brunette hair flowing in the wind. She arrives to meet Pat for a first date. Lightly perspiring, Pat enters with bike helmet in hand, adjusting his beautiful mane of blond hair.
"I found it a little nerdy," Melissa admitted. "I had been living in L.A. and it was a bit of a culture shock coming to Toronto and everyone is on their bike, even in their 30s and 40s."
But Melissa says she came to love this aspect of Pat's personality. "He really genuinely cares about the city and he genuinely cares about doing good things about the environment," she said. "He's not just saying it - he really does mean it. Also, it helps him stay in shape and it helps his stress load a lot."
But these star-crossed lovers haven't always had it easy over the years they've been dating.
"Everyone in Pat's circle cycles, so sometimes I feel a bit shy that I have a nice car," Melissa told me. "We went to a party the other day and there were about 30 bikes locked up on the fence. We parked a block away."
For Pat's part, he respects Melissa's choice to get around by car. "I'm a proud cyclist, but not a get-on-the-soapbox cyclist," he says.
"Her car is a testament to 16 years of success with a company, a reward for services," Pat said, turning around the old stereotype of a woman getting turned on by a man's status symbol.
The two will be married next year. (How they'll get to the wedding is still to be decided.)
Let me backpedal a little bit more.
Certainly there's a time and a place for getting behind the wheel - those with long commutes or lots of kids couldn't do without cars. I'm just saying, if you want to optimize your sexiness factor - mental, political, and physical - it might be time to acquire a two-wheeled steel beast. (You suburbanites have even more hotness to gain, given the great distances you have to cover on errands.)
And the next time you're dissed by some girl at the bar, I can guarantee she'll regret it as she watches you walking away.
Micah Toub's memoir, Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks, will be published in the fall of 2010.