After we ran our piece on women and the bike industry, we had a great conversation with the women at Specialized that run the women’s product divisions. It was such a great conversation that we asked them to contribute their thoughts to Bike Hugger. What follows is the first of two pieces from the women that create the products for women at Specialized. This first piece is from Rachel Lambert, Women’s Product Marketing Manager.
Since BikeHugger’s recent blog, Women as Outcasts in Cycling Industry, I have been anxiously awaiting each new post and comment that has been added to the discussion. I can’t imagine a more relevant topic to address or a better opportunity to truly gauge the concerns, interests, and issues that women face in cycling. I am an industry veteran of 8 years who to this day gets uncomfortable walking into a shop I have never been to. I have had my fair share of being blown off or walking through a shop like I was invisible.
I have also had many positive experiences and witnessed LBS who go out of their way to draw women into their store and make them comfortable once they are there (If you need proof, just check out Bicycles Plus in Folsom, CA who hosts annual women’s events that draw 1,000 women in one night on top of group rides and well stocked inventory).
I also understand the frustrations of trying to find products to fit my needs only to be discouraged and walk away empty handed. Even as recent as 5 years ago when I was working in my LBS in Washington state, most companies were only making one or two token women’s bike models that inevitably were feminine in color and in a low to mid range in components. The legacy and bad impression that this established has to been VERY hard for the industry to rebound from.
I have worked at Specialized for 4 years now in product development working to change these stereotypes and change the direction the products are going. I am lucky enough to follow in the footsteps of a woman whose principles about product development were clear. Focus first on the riders needs. This principle has meant everything to what we have done at Specialized in design. We do not start with a men’s frame and then modify it to be different. We do not take a men’s geometry and cut a few cm off the top tube and call it a day.
We build our bikes from the ground up based on what the rider needs. When designing a race bike (Amira) we talked to female racers and asked them what they wanted. Stiff, Light and Efficient were what we heard, so we investigated oversized BB, chain stays and down tubes along with tapered head tubes to build in stiffness. We then use field testers from around the world to test the products in race situations to determine if we have hit the right targets for them as riders in weight and stiffness. If we haven’t, we revise.
Geometry is another topic that seems to have sparked a lot of concern and interest and I think it is a fantastic topic to open up to discussion and shed some transparency on. At Specialized, we build our geometries by using the incredible resource we have with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and our BG Fit lab in house and we determine what is the right geo by fitting women of different heights and proportions (we know that there is NO universal proportionality in leg length to torso length, but we do know that on average women have a lower center of gravity, lower weight distribution, lower average weight, and a slightly shorter reach which is wingspan and torso combined).
We also factor in that women want to have vastly different experiences on a bike. Some want to race, some want to ride 200 miles in one day and others want to do their first triathlon. In short, we start with women on bikes in a fit lab and women’s riding feedback to determine geo, not by looking at a men’s geo chart and making adjustments. Also, it isn’t just about the geo, we investigate tube diameters, carbon lay ups and suspension tune that works best for women and apply them to our designs. Sometimes these end up vastly different than the equivalent male model and we offer them because they provide a better riding bike for women. And then of course there is the contact points, BG women’s saddles, handlebars, grips, etc.
Another principle that my predecessor passed on to me is to offer as many options as possible. This means options in different categories of bikes as well as different levels. We have pushed to introduce women’s S-Works products (the highest spec level offered) in as many categories as possible including shoes, road bikes and mountain bikes.
By no means do we feel that the job is done or that we are done learning and applying our knowledge. That is another reason this blog has us so intrigued. One thing we strive to do is keep our ears open to what women are asking for. Let us know what has worked from us and what hasn’t. Also, please let us know what questions you might have about our approach to women’s products or any technical information that we have not communicated well. In short, this has been a great opportunity for us to hear from you and to communicate exactly what it is we are doing and what we are about. Please contact us with any questions concerns or comments. Thanks!
Rachael Lambert - Specialized Women’s Product and Marketing Manager Amy Shreve - Specialized Women’s Product and Marketing Specialist http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCWomenLander.jsp http://www.facebook.com/specializedwmn http://twitter.com/specializedwmn