Most LGBTQ+ adventurers I’ve talked to say the single biggest issue they face in the outdoors is safety. It’s on everyone’s mind. Can I go on this trip safely? Will I feel welcome? Will I face discrimination? These are all unknowns for LGBTQ+ people wanting to load up their bikes and hit the road.
Despite the unknown answers to these questions, there are things that can be done to help cyclists who are part of the LGBTQ+ community feel safer and at ease so that they can enjoy their outdoor adventures to the fullest.
A good trip planner always starts with research. It’s no different for LGBTQ+ cyclists who have safety on their minds when looking at their bikes and itching for their next adventure.
Start by researching your route. Is it in a queer-friendly state or town? What places and pit stops along the way are LGBTQ+ friendly? Are there any places to avoid? You can often find good information on this through forums and social media.
Plan out the places you’ll stop ahead of time and make sure you feel good about them. Being aware of your surroundings in this way can help you avoid any potentially problematic areas and help put your mind at rest.
The basics of outdoor adventure and bike trips apply here in a big way. First of all, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. This is good practice whether you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community or not.
Secondly, carry a phone, GPS device, or some other way to communicate with the outside world. If you get into any trouble, knowing that help is a phone call away can be a comfort for both you and your loved ones. I love to get out into nature to unplug and get away from technology, but bringing along your phone or satellite messaging device for safety really is a good idea.
Finally, you’ll want to have at least basic bike mechanic skills, especially if you’re going out on an overnight trip or cycling in a rural location. Knowing how to fix a flat and adjust your brakes can be essential. Unfortunately, you don’t know whether you can rely on the kindness of strangers to help you if you get into a jam, especially depending on how you present.
Having a plan is especially important if you’re traveling with a partner or a group. It’s good to be on the same page about whether or not you’ll disclose your relationship, be out and proud, etc.
Remember that it’s okay to prioritize your own comfort. If being out on the trail and hanging a pride flag feels best to you, that’s great! It’s also okay if you feel better closeting yourself in certain situations.
There’s no wrong way to exist or interact as an LGBTQ+ cyclist on the road. It’s absolutely up to you when, where, and whether you disclose your sexuality, gender identity, relationship, or any other thing about you. Your safety and comfort is the most important thing.
Lots of LGBTQ+ adventurers I know feel safer when traveling in groups. Group rides and trips can ease the fear of some safety concerns facing the queer community in the outdoors. You might consider seeking out queer cycling groups and meetups to tap into that community. A quick Google search for “queer cycling groups” yields many results.
There are so many inspiring LGBTQ+ people doing amazing things in the outdoors, and sometimes you just need to be surrounded by that community to feel safe and welcome doing the activities you love. That being said, if solo adventure is your thing, then the aforementioned tips should go a long way in alleviating any anxiety you may have.
It’s a tragedy that LGBTQ+ people have to think about our safety at all in the outdoors, as so many of us go outside to escape the stresses of daily life. However, the outdoors belongs to everyone, and the more we demand space, the more things will change for the better.