Women and the Sport 2012


by Byron on Jun 06, 2012 at 10:03 AM


Photo: DBC Photography

That’s my wife Pam. I know this look. Seen it in person and it’s one of intense determination and she’s thinking, “gonna finish this f’ing race.” Props too cause we both got sick the day of Ballard, the PNW’s toughest crit. Pam raced it while I was at home in bed watching TV feeling sorry for myself. Pam and other women like her are who I ride with and have for decades. They’ve dropped me, me them, and we’ve had wheels for each other on those long, cold, wet days. I’m posting this here because of recent discussions regarding women and the bike industry.

For the related timeline, Rick Vosper wrote about the flatness of the bike industry that some say has continued for 15, 20, even 35 years. Then special to Bicycle Times, Gear Gal Jil Missal, wrote an editorial that said the industry didn’t make women a seat, bike, or cater to her/them. I got tipped to it and asked repeatedly for a reply. Then posted this rant on G+. Cyclelicious reposted it here.

See above photo of Pam again. Also look at a team like LuLulemon, the Exergy challenge or your local race scene. Not into pinning a number on your back and lining up at a sanctioned race? Well, I’m sure women are at Fondos, charity rides, and setting personal bests commuting to and from work. Also more women then I’ve ever seen at a MTB race were at Sea Otter, including this World Champ or BMX World Champ Magalie Pottier in Birmingham, England.

world champ

Jill Kintner at Sea Otter

Also see what Nona is doing who says, “pfft” to convention in marketing clothes to women.

There’s this mistaken and misplaced undercurrent of women in the industry who think they’re exiled and were slighted this one time in 2004 or something. To the contrary, Pam is racing on a bike that got fit to her and on a thin, ergo saddle. If you haven’t visited a high-end shop in the past year, do so to see the incredible progress that’s been made in women’s gear, fit, and bikes. Rachel Lambert is on a dedicated mission at Specialized. Rode with her last year. Same thing at Trek and other bike companies.

Another misconception promoted by the European “Ize” blogs is that women just ride around upright looking pretty in fancy shoes. Few, if any, I ever see doing that. Women I ride with wear their fancy shoes to parties after they trained and raced.

To make the bike and sport more accessible to women, which of course it needs do too, first got to leave the old stereotypes behind. They’re outdated and so are the people that cling to them.

The other thing I want you to know about Pam. She commutes, participates in the bike to work challenge, raises two kids, manages me, and our household. Has she come a long way, baby? Yes. Also brings home the bacon and fries it up in the pan.

Then goes for a ride and a race on the weekends.

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Great blog! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. I’ve been amazed at the number of women showing up at races, coming in the local shop wanting advice on seats and clothing, and genuinely wanting to know more about the sport and how to get involved.

Selene Yeager (Bicycling’s Fit Chick) also recently wrote about the number of women at one of our local races: http://bicycling.com/blogs/fitchick/2012/05/15/girls-girls-girls/

I particularly enjoy your last comments about Pam doing it all and riding a bike. I’m sure she appreciates the recognition and gratitude! I believe that it is key for any racer to have the support of their household!

Thanks for the comments, Kristen. Appreciated.

Counterpoint - The fact that Pam is awesome, and that other women racers, tourists, and commuters are awesome, isn’t the key to helping the industry.  (It may be key to persuading other women that they too are awesome - but that’s a bit of a different issue.)

In fact, it’s kind of a problem - the industry can only grow so far by appealing to people who are awesome.  It also needs to appeal the vast collections of people who aren’t.

The key is that americans in general participate in very little sport - many people watch more sport on TV than they particpate in themselves.  Of any sport.

So a real expansion of the industry in the US will probably relate to things like hill climbing assist, better locking schemes, and further development of seats/clothing/lights.  (Which I observe to be way better, but I’m not a woman.)

One sees more and more of this trend, but it’s still not what you find in the local bike store, even in Seattle metro, home of many great stores.

[I completely agree with the general thread about race specific stuff associated with distant places not being a particularly good way to reach the larger demographic that the industry needs to reach.]

You’re comments are right on and discussed at length on the original rant. The super awesome enthusiast are the ones who spend and, it’s not as if the bike companies haven’t tried and failed.