It’s being going on for longer than bicycles have existed. Back in the spotlight with Save Our Soles’ ‘Sockgate’ and Colnago’s social media department’s recent error of judgement – for which it has since apologised – despite progress, the way a minority paint a shop window for our industry is occasionally so far from ‘modern day’ attitudes it’s scary.
I’m not overly prudish, but I am concerned we’re still blowing a huge opportunity to get more people on bikes with some attitudes best consigned to the ‘50s. Despite the fact I’ve just stumbled across a pro flatland rider promoting sex toys in a disturbing, yet impressive, video I’d like to believe we’re not a bunch of lust-obsessed cavemen.
In a day and age where the music industry – to name just one – normalises a lack of respect for women, it’s easy to let your eyes glaze over when confronted with the ‘sex sells’ approach to marketing. But we’re not the music industry and (even in Vegas) there should be a basic standard if we’re ever to cast off the ‘not for girls’ image that has, from time to time, come across in cycle marketing.
But is it just marketing that is overdue a policy rethink? It’s pretty easy to buy the right fatbike for your needs no matter where you are in the world. Try doing the same if you’re a woman looking for a deep performance build offering. Only relatively recently has it become a real option if you like to shop around (at a limited number of price points compared to men’s) and that really is a little staggering.
Perhaps it's that men are spoilt for choice? With the advent of numerous sub categories in recent times it does seem some catalogues are becoming too thick to sustain.
That aside, the distribution of research and development money only just balancing out to represent half of the population should come under scrutiny. When you consider the industry has been spending so much on quirky, yet occassionally superfluous, ideas it becomes more pertinent to address this void that has been overdue improvements for so long.
It's true that in 2014 men in the UK cycled more than three times as much as females and four times the distance, but I suspect those statistics may be skewed by a healthy pool of long-term enthusiast males. There's many ways of reading into the figures, but if eyes on the ground suggest anything, it's that there are a heap more women taking to two wheels than this time five years ago. That's anecdotal, of course. But there's momentum like never before on which to drive progress. From grassroots events like Cycletta, to the perhaps less relevent, but nonetheless important, gradual reform of women's racing by the UCI, the opportunity has been evident for some time.
Women’s cycling as a segment is growing and fast, as is the willingness to spend a larger amount on kit for themselves and particularly at this time of year, cycling spouses, the kids and family too. In an age where online retail is dominating how we shop, research still shows that women are more likely than males to plan out their purchases and subsequently visit retail stores. At every level of the chain we should now be set up for such buying habits with features such as online chat, customer reviews and tailored marketing to ensure the right information is available, along with incentives to visit in store.
Things are improving and quickly, but when it comes to serious bike kit, many have yet to reach parity with the choice available to the money-spending male. There's a lot of varied opinion on ‘shrink it and pink it’ and discussion is good, but my thoughts are that it is surprising that a good portion of kit still seems to use this methodology. Each to their own, however, that's all very subjective. The women in my life, for example, haven't thus far given too much thought to colour, instead focusing largely on comfort and suitability of products - evidence that stereotyping is often inadvisable.
Despite being a male dominated industry, we’re making solid progress in recruitment and as a result, product and attitudes. Particularly eye-catching at Zyro's Recent Cycle Vision was Bell's Joyride collection, designed on the back of a survey by staffer Jessica Klodnicki of 2,000+ female outdoor enthusiasts.
If you want a job done right, you need the right people with the appropriate backing. Nine times out of ten, the finished product speaks volumes in almost every instance where this is put into practice. Such progress has to continue, for the benefit of all of us – our customers, our wives and our kids – cycling is for everyone.