There’s a little dog you might see as she makes the rounds on the Internet. Her name is Xiao Sa, (“Little Sa”), and she gripped the imagination of some of the Chinese public when she adopted a group of touring cyclists and followed them 1,100 miles – up nearly a dozen mountain peaks – on a biking trek from Sichuan to Lhasa, Tibet.
Now, the story of Xiao Sa is not seemingly about biking, but I wrote about it anyway at TreeHugger, because it’s the type of thing that can go viral, which is good for page views, and, well…because it actually is about biking.
For if a group of car tourists threw Xiao Sa a bone, she licked their ankles adoringly and jumped into their sedan…that’s no story. No photo opportunity, no You Tube videos, no micro-blog, no attention.
But because Xiao Sa’s adoptive family was a group of people riding bikes a long way, and because this dog has extreme staying power and some sturdy legs, the world gets treated to a good-news, happy-ending dog tale. (One of the bike touring team adopted Xiao Sa, formerly a street dog, at the end of the trip.)
Xiao Sa found her tribe – and suddenly scaling mountains wasn’t a big deal.
That’s the point I try to press home in my newly-released handbook for women cyclists, Women on Wheels. It’s all about finding your tribe.
We have let car culture isolate and divide us – stretching the ideal of individualism to a pretty fat, lonely, and out-of-shape extreme. Getting back on a bike, for the pleasure of the ride, the effective short-hop transportation, and the substantial health benefits, tends to restore a little of the happy and the human in us.
And then we start to want to spread the joy. That’s what I mean by finding your bike tribe – someone to ride with, to share the ups and downs with.
Transportation might have used to be about individualism – the car commercials always make it seem like you’ll be the only one on the road – but now it’s about accommodation.
With some bumps, and some need for etiquette and sharing, the bike is the perfect vehicle for that accommodation – it’s efficient, cheap, and CO2-free (after the lifecycle load, which takes about 4 months to ride off).
Xiao Sa was great at running up hills, and kept up with her pack. But even she couldn’t have made it without accommodation – her human teammates built her a wire enclosure so that she could enjoy the 70 kph mountain downhills, instead of falling behind.
If Xiao Sa can run up mountain peaks, we can surely ride our bikes to the corner store and leave the car at home today.