It is really about time someone stepped into the fray here to dispel all the myths swirling around men’s specific bicycle components. There are a lot of marketers out there pandering to the male cyclist and while I don’t wish to dismiss outright the particularities of riding bicycles for the coarser sex, but it’s important for these shoppers, while likely overwhelmed by the barrage of gender-specific products aimed at them, understand the full implications of simply reaching for the one offering in the shop that is labeled “for him” and to take a look at the bigger picture.
You see, though women and men are physiologically different, sometimes women and men can utilize the same bicycle component without any negative consequences in performance. It’s, though not intuitive to most consumers, quite possible for a woman and a man to share the same preference regarding brake reach and stem length, pedal size, and even crank length and type. In extreme cases, women and men can even ride the exact same bicycle without causing the male any discomfort or reduction in performance. In these cases, just grabbing the blue box at the shop and calling it good isn’t adequate for that occasional male rider not satisfied with a “dick it and darken it” approach to men’s products.
So, guys, when shopping for that particular component that will complete your bicycle and have you at hello, make sure that you are exploring all the options and not just beelining for the product with Mars symbols all over it. Actually hold the product and try it out; see if your beefy mitts are comfortable with the reach on the handlebar, for instance. Some men’s specific handlebars make it difficult for large, masculine hands to clench the brake lever in the most efficient and comfortable way possible, and a regular handlebar might do just fine for those individuals. The discerning male bike component shopper should understand that personal preference should take precedence over any flashing marketing designed to make him feel like he belongs on a bike. It’s really great that more men are riding bikes and we as an industry should encourage that and make them feel welcome when they venture into the shop. A section dedicated to male products goes a long way to encourage intimidated men who are learning their way around bike shops. But so many times the male shopper doesn’t realize he has options besides the male-oriented products.
He should not be deflated by the scant men’s specific offerings found in most bike shops; rest assured that the shops would dearly love to stock a full complement of men’s products, but the fact is that there are few men out there riding bikes and shops find it very difficult to stock a range of products just to assuage the needs of the occasional man who wanders in the door. These shops are banking on you steering straight for the scent of Axe body spray that draws you to the tiny rack of men’s specific stuff. Realize that they are desperately hoping for you to choose something from that section so they can turn some merchandise. Thank them for stocking men’s products at all – at least they are making an effort! If you ultimately decide that a women’s oriented bike component suits you better, though, don’t hesitate to turn your back on the men’s rack and buy the product that works. It’s really OK to buy a bike component that just fits YOU and not the image the industry has of you.