Is the Bike Industry Finally Including Women?

Strategies and approaches to reach women are necessarily different than those to reach men.

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Photo courtesy of Proof NYC

Photo courtesy of Proof

The 4th Annual National Forum on Women and Bicycling was recently held in Washington, DC, on March 10, 2015 as a prelude to the 15th Annual National Bike Summit.

A morning industry panel, “The Future of the Women’s Market,” was moderated by Giant USA‘s GM Elysa Walk and included Lauren Smith of Specialized, Jody Koch of SRAM, and Maria Boustead of Po Campo. Walk, Smith, Koch, and Boustead shared their brand’s perspectives on what the industry is doing today to provide products for and marketing to the underserved women’s market.

Walk described Giant’s efforts to reach women that included the launching of Liv – a stand-alone women’s cycling brand – and a number of initiatives such as ride camps, PR recognition, and ambassador programs all aimed at involving more women in the cycling industry. Koch, taking a different approach, said that SRAM doesn’t make women-specific products, but instead designs products that can size-adjust to be suitable for women.

Each brand representative shared a similar story of women responding differently to marketing efforts than men and addressed that strategies and approaches to reach more women are necessarily different. Smith described differences in the way marketing efforts reach women than men, noting that women are more likely to hear about brands or events by word of mouth, and tend to respond well to personal stories. Boustead detailed Po Campo’s efforts to target the women’s market, such as following the Women Bike campaign launched by the League of American Bicyclists, and aiming to build a sense of community through their products, events and campaigns.

Ambassador programs; fun, social, and inclusive non-competitive events; and social media were described by all four representatives as common strategies used to engage more women in bicycling.

The panel concluded with advice on what a bike shop could do to attract and maintain more women customers. Boustead offered the following tips for retailers:

1. Focus on merchandising and provide an experience that will encourage people to browse and linger.

2. Hiring women to work in your store is better, but in case you have a hard time encouraging women talent at the very least coach your sales associates to listen more than talk.

3. Plan educational and social events, including clinics and workshops, but ensure the experience is approachable and fun.

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  • Louise

    Another way to cater a little more to women riders, especially older ones such as myself, would be to have racks that are inclusive of a women’s step through frame configuration. An example is the “show off” wall mounted rack shown in your mother’s day article in this issue. That display is lovely, but my bike won’t fit it, as it’s step through frame. So I guess I won’t be getting that mother’s day gift! And I bet there are many moms out there who would agree.

  • Jame

    I don’t think the bike industry does a good job of marketing to all of the different types of female cyclists out there.

    I am an “everyday cyclist.” I’d love to find more bike gear aiming at people who like clean lines and classic american style. When I see a rack bag for women it is either paisley or floral. Or there are lots of utilitarian black items. Where is the bike gear aimed at ladies who want their bike to match their personal style and their lifestyle?

    Can we get stylish bike gear that suits Michelle Obama?

    I’ll chime in another vote for a broader range of sizes for the “cycling specific clothing.” I am not looking for the “sports” clothes right now, but occasionally I’ll see something aimed at commuters and see they don’t bother with making my size. I just ignore all of these things, because the odds of having a size 16 item is 2%. Or finding a shirt that accommodates bustier women.

    Also, advertising, like in all mainstream stuff isn’t particularly inclusive or diverse.

    As it stands now, it seems like I should hope bike stuff shows up in a fashion magazine.

  • Chrisppp

    Another “realistic size, please” person. I’m a 62 year old grandmother who bike commutes to work, does local errands by bike, and rides for the sheer pleasure of it. I ride between 25 and 100 miles a week during the non-winter seasons. I also wear a size 20 pants and a 14-16 top. Unfortunately, that means absolutely nothing in today’s clothing world…I have a friend who is shaped very much like me and she wears a size 12 jean! Uh, no. I’m 5’2″ and weigh over 175…how about some bike riding clothes for that shape, please? Recognize that not everyone who rides is a spandex wearing 20something!

  • Nina Sabghir

    There is a real need for bikes built to fit petite women. If you are under five feet tall there is very little out there. This is especially true for mid to higher end bikes. Just because I’m 4’10” does not mean I’m not a serious rider.

  • Nat

    Another thing that prevents many women today (imo) is that for some reason, many of the companies that do make clothing for women seem woefully out of touch with the actual size ranges that women come in. One such example shown in a momemtum mag newsletter, indicated that an X-lg t-shirt for a women would fit someone who wears a size 12-14. Last time I checked , that was not an extra large, but was considered the average size for north american women, which should have put it in the medium range. If one of the most excellent reasons to ride a bike is to help maintain one’s health, it would be nice to see companies actually recognize that we come in large variety of sizes, and that women who wear something larger than a size 14 would also like cycling appropriate clothing.

    • Jane

      I agree completely with Nat here. I ride almost every day (bike commute, bike for grocery shopping for a family of 5, lead a kid’s bike club every week, etc), but I’m a plus size rider. Thankfully, I am tall enough that I can often buy men’s cycle clothing, but it would be nice to be able to buy things specific to women.

  • Renée Moore

    I believe the bike industry is definitely getting better as more women enter the industry with women specific products. Its nice to see women thinking of products for women and how women live, bike and use products. I enjoyed this year’s National Forum on Women and Bicycling and buying products that fit my lifestyle. I hope that more bike shops begin to carry women’s products because it can only help boost their business.

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