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October 1, 2012

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Selling Cycling

Your observations are solid, and go way beyond women. The points you make apply to cycling in general. The emphasis on racing/competion, technical clothing, high-end bikes and gear -- the industry's entire marketing dynamic -- not only ignores, put actively puts off many people. Biking should be easy, accessible, and above all fun. Cycle companies and shops generally make it appear demanding, expensive, and challenging. That may not be problem for the companies involved -- I don't understand the industry's financial dynamics particularly well - but it leaves out a wide range of potential cyclists. I write not as a woman, but as a 62-year-old man, who shares your concerns. After all, if you're not having fun on a bike, you're doing it wrong.

William Lowe 280 days ago

bikes made for women

I'm surprised the article doesn't mention Terry Bikes - engineered by a woman for women. I've owned one for 12 years and love it. It's light and strong and it fits my small frame. Terry catalogues feature fit women, and offer clothes you can cycle and walk around in. My other inspiration: Parisian women who cycle to work in heels, scarves and skirts!

Karen Kane more than 1 year ago

Cycling and women

I knew I could be a good cyclist. I had been a runner for years and knew my strong suit. Cycling was perfect for me but finding a cycling shop that would take me serious was almost impossible. I was treated like a second class citizen. "We are a serious shop." Finally I found a bike on my own. Travelled a hundred miles to get it and had to take it into the local shop to get it adjusted. And suddenly with my super nice bike in front of me they were willing to help. That being said they still treated me like it was a cute hobby. It wasn't until I finished in front of a couple of their team members in a local triathlon that they started treating me well. That should not be the case. Women can be athlete. Women can enjoy cycling. But they don't want to be talked down to. They don't want to be treated like second class citizens.

Ann more than 1 year ago

One Woman at a Time

Thanks for the last paragraph recognizing that real life, in-person roll models trump blogs and advertising every time. In Minneapolis, the organization Grease Rag is providing that for WTF (women, trans, and femme) cyclists. They have helped me feel more comfortable with my bike and meet other women who ride, which has made me a more confident and committed cyclist. They have been my role models for winter biking, which led to the purchase of some serious studded tires, waterproof panniers, and parts that are not women specific. The advertising for said products was universally terrible - I considered boycotting Ortlieb because I didn't see any women on their website. But I ended up spending the money anyway, because the products fit my new lifestyle that had been established with the help of new friends, not because of advertising.

The bottom line is that bike shops and brands should invest in women's rides, races, and shop nights, create a supportive, welcoming environment, and watch their female clientele grow.

Stephanie more than 2 years ago

Cycle chic: dress however you want!

Great article! I turned urban bike commuter (in hilly San Francisco) a few years ago and I ride all the time in all kinds of clothes, including heels, skirts and dresses. I also blog about it in hopes of encouraging other women. http://blog.sfgate.com/bicycle/2012/07/06/cycle-chic-dress-for-the-destination/

Amy Harcourt more than 2 years ago

Market it as safe and family-friendly

Loved the examples of ads that don't speak to women!
If biking is seen as safe and something for families, more women will bike ... and hopefully let their kids once again bike to school too and all that means for fighting obesity, etc. Think about the image and language that you see in anti-bike comments: Lance Armstrong wanna-bes. Where are the rest of us? Bike companies and their retailers can do a lot at the local level to help get the bike lanes, trails that so many people want (not everyone is ready to just take the lane) and help teach bike safety skills, in or out of school.
And we all need to speak up too. If you don't ask for bike lanes, etc, you won't get them. Traffic engineers generally think about car traffic, not the bikes.

Silvia more than 2 years ago

Women-centric products

I completely agree with Erik W. And personally, as a woman, I feel like I'm being "duped" when I see major brands label a bike as "women specific." Bikes are size-specific, not gender-specific. I've had both, ride quite a bit (road - 3K/year), and have seen zero difference between the models.

What I DO think should gender-specific are jerseys. Who do the jersey mfr's use as fitting models? I'm a size 6, but can't fit into a women's large without cutting off my circulation or having it be so short that it looks like a wanna-be belly shirt. I have to buy men's small jerseys, then have the sleeves narrowed. Furthermore, I don't always want to look like I'm in a tampon commercial - flowery pastels just don't cut it for me, and I am not the only one. I like bright colors that can be easily seen by cars and peds.

Bottom line is that I don't want bike brands pandering to me - I want them to recognize my needs. Like the author said, they need to speak to us!

Ann J. more than 2 years ago

"Women's" bike models

I think there is an interesting, if counterintuitive, correlation between the success of bike manufacturers with women and their abandoning the practice of blatantly labeling and marketing models as "Women's" bikes. Public is a prime example of a company making significant inroads with women in part, I would argue, because they've stopped telling women "hey these are the only bikes we make for you." The same goes for many other European-stye bike manufacturers. You choose a frame style, not a gender. Felt, though, seems to be the primary exception to this observation, succeeding at marketing to women while still only offering a small fraction of their bikes as "women's" options and labeling most of the rest as "Men's." This move toward gender neutral labeling and marketing helps emphasis bikes as transportation devices -- what car models are explicitly labeled for men or women -- rather than sports equipment, which will inherently level the playing field.

Erik W more than 2 years ago