The year is 2015, it was a random Monday night night ride at Lebanon Hills
Dumbass-on-a-Salsa: “Is that your Moots?”
Me: “Who else’s would it be?”
Dumbass-on-a-Salsa: “Thought maybe you borrowed it from someone.”
Me: “Would you ask a man that same question?”
Me: “I thought so.”
Dumbass-on-a-Salsa: “It’s just that you don’t see women riding such high-end bikes, that’s all.”
Me: “Hey, no worries. I get it. It’s what happens when you wrongly assume that women spend their money on shopping, pedicures and baby clothes, thus plunging our bike priority to the $500 range.”
Poor baby. He will never recover from being dropped on his head as an infant.
To be clear, I’m categorizing this asshole’s attitude as representative of a chunk the bike industry that is blatantly sexist.
No, I’m not talking about the 18-year old Scandinavian bikini models that Interbike hires for $10/hour to walk the dirt demo with trays of Tequila shots. I’m not even referring to the 2015 Interbike Sockgate Scandal. It’s been talked to death and there’s no cure for stupid.
I’m talking about how the bike industry views women as a market segment that doesn’t typically buy higher-end bikes. So they take a frame, add pastel swooshes and low-grade components, stick a $1,200 price tag on it and call it a “women-specific bike” to reflect our “special geometry” needs.
Then they influence society, and dumbasses like the dumbass at Lebanon Hills last night, that this is the reality.
The year was 1996. I was shopping for a new bike. The bike shop guy steered me to a Specialized with a pink swoosh on the top tube.
Me: “It has a pink swoosh.”
Bike Shop Guy: “It’s a women’s bike.”
Me: “Do the boys bikes come with a blue swoosh?”
Bike Shop Guy: “Ha! That’s funny. No.”
Me: “But not nearly as funny as you trying to sell me a bike with a pink swoosh.”
Bike Shop Guy: “Uh…well…women are smaller than men.”
Me: “See that guy over there? (I nod to a skinny guy about my height and size who was checking out some manly Trek’s.) If you can sell him this bike, because it’s a better fit for his smaller frame than the manly boy’s bike he’s stroking himself over—and that you’re dying to sell him because it’s more expensive and your commission will be higher—I’ll buy this piece of Taiwanese-made shit. Pink swoosh and all.”
Bike Shop Guy: “Um…”
The year was 2013 at Interbike. The Trek rep was walking me through the new line of new mountain bikes. I was bored to tears but trying to remain professional and awake. I found it interesting that the most expensive women-specific bike was $2,100. The most expensive “men’s” bike was about $10,000.
Me: “Why is that?”
Delusional Trek Rep: “We conducted focus groups and learned that women don’t spend $10,000 on bikes.”
Me: “Were these real live women who ride mountain bikes or did you just ask the Scandinavian bikini models carrying the trays of Tequila shots at the industry party last night?”
Delusional Trek Rep: “Uh…”
Shocking that attitudes haven’t changed at all since 1996!
For the record, I heard the same spiel from a Garmont rep about hiking boots at Outdoor Retailer once (“women don’t buy expensive hiking boots…”).
When you ask for specifics of just, what exactly, is a women-specific bike, they wax poetic about specially-designed frame geometry, optimal stack, reach, lower stand-over height, shorter top tubes, adjusted chainstays, bottom bracket positioning for better handling, blah, blah, blah.
Seems like an engineering marvel the way they spew it. So why is the end result of all this R&D and design time and effort a cheaper bike? If women-specific bikes are so awesome, why aren’t they selling them for $10,000?
Here’s my message to the bike industry: I’m on the side that calls bullshit. I’ve been riding mountain bikes since 1983. Fully-rigid, hardtail, full-suspension. Steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and titanium. Singlespeed and gears. I race, I ride for pleasure, I ride a lot and I live to ride.
That’s the only criteria you need for designing bikes. Passionate cyclists who like to ride. How does gender play into any of this?
You offend me with your women-specific bike scam.
I am not a market segment that merits a cheaper design with cheaper materials because I’m less-engaged. I don’t have “special geometry” needs. You just want me to think that I do and that you’re sensitive to those imagined “special geometry” needs.
Makes me piss my pants with laughter every time a bike rep tells me this and when I read your press kits.
Frame geometry? Please. Just make sure the frame is the right size in the first place. Stand over the bike and make sure there’s about two inches between the top tube and your hoo-ha. If not, try the next size down or another brand.
Optimal stack, stem reach, seat position, steerer tube height, handlebar width and height? Brake and shift levers? Hand grips? All adjustable.
This isn’t brain surgery. Body shapes vary and proper fit isn’t gender specific.
Riders will pay $1,200 for bikes and riders will pay $10,000+ for bikes. End of story.
Here’s my message to all riders: You can make any bike fit. Start with the stand-over height. Then make simple adjustments with stack, reach, top tubes, and seat positioning. My bike fits me perfect and it isn’t a women-specific bike. It’s a BIKE.
I love how REI says it.
Pay close attention to the number of times they differentiate between men and women. Pay even closer attention to how they steer women to women-specific bikes.
SPOILER ALERT: Good luck finding any mention of gender.