Dear Cycling Industry,
I am a female cyclist. And you don’t get me.
Since your inception, there was one gender of rider that captured your attention: men. Why? Because men were your customers; men kept the lights on. So it only made sense that you targeted your marketing towards them – you focused on creating a faster, better, stronger depiction of cycling.
I get that, and I do not fault you for it. A healthy cycling industry is good for all riders, and nobody will argue against that point.
But then, you discovered that women also rode bikes. Not many, but enough to draw your attention – you saw an untapped market. And that’s where the challenges began. How did you entice more women to the sport of cycling?
So you did some market research to discover why women chose sports other than cycling, and wound up with decisive results: Women found cycling to be intimidating. Women went into bike shops only to be ignored by shop staff. Women couldn’t find equipment or apparel that fit them properly.
All barriers which could easily be overcome.
Instead of cycling being intimidating, you made it approachable with no drop Ladies rides where everyone stayed together regardless of ability. You trained bike shop staff on how to help women customers as readily as men. You even developed products that specifically fit women.
But you also needed to get the gospel of Cycling out to the female masses via marketing. And how did you market to women? The same way you marketed to men: you created a Female Cyclist Archetype, based on your previous research.
She rides because she likes to socialize with her friends. She finds that her goals are centered around fitness rather than competition. She tends to buy bikes based on color rather than technical features. She becomes overwhelmed in bike shops. She is easily intimidated by the sport.
And it worked, as women’s cycling has grown exponentially.
In turning your attention towards the new woman rider, and in creating an archetype of what she is and what she aspires to be, you lost sight of the woman who already rode in the first place. Her stories and her experiences have been drowned out.
Her experiences are about suffering on climbs and throwing down on the group rides. She doesn’t care about getting dropped, and she certainly doesn’t care about dropping people. She opens a magazine to read about the epic, difficult ride that joined together women of varying abilities, who all banded together in companionship to come across the finish line as a whole group, and she doesn’t see herself. She feels she must be missing something, and she doesn’t know why.
I love the fact that more women have entered the sport because they find it welcoming. I love the fact that I can walk into a shop and be treated with legitimacy as a customer. And I love love love that there are nice bikes I can ride which don’t require a 50mm downhill stem. So now that those barriers have been broken down, it’s time to expand your definition of what women’s cycling is today and what it can be in the future.
Some women do ride for friendship and companionship. Some women do find bike shops and group rides intimidating. That is their truth and completely valid. But some women don’t, and they also have a point of view and experience that is unique to that of their peers.
Please cycling industry, do not let the wonderful, colorful world of women’s cycling be diluted down to one oft repeated story or archetype. In doing so, you forget about those of us who caught your attention in the first place.
A Female Cyclist