Why do we have gender-specific bicycles?

by Aaron C.

If you ride bicycles, whether for sport, leisure or travel, then you are probably well aware of marketing tactics that are used in the sales of bicycles, just like the sales of all other sporting goods which is creating a specific product for each gender. At one point in time, when bicycles were starting to become more popular after the world wars, women’s bicycles were very easy to identify because they featured a huge sloping top tube so a lady could saddle up on the bicycle without having her outfit get bunched up. These bikes also came in “prettier” colors than the men’s bikes (Allatt, 2018). Choosing the right bicycle may become difficult if you are worried about the stereotypes that may come with owning a certain women’s or men’s bike. There are numerous reasons that is limiting participants in cycling such as choice, but also comments made from other drivers, safety concerns, and the societal norms that may look as cycling as a children’s activity rather than a fitness activity (Emond, Tang, & Handy, 2009). This post is concerned with the marketing that happens with bicycles, which is a growing market so every possible edge or tactic is used to push product at the consumer.

In the modern era, women and men’s bicycles are built, shaped, and put together with the same parts, so essentially they are the same bicycle with the same build quality. The only real difference is the paint job and name that they give the different bikes. It is not only the bicycles but also the parts as well with women-specific seats, handlebars, grips etc. This topic speaks to me because I am an avid mountain biker, I have 3 bicycles that all range from a basic fat bike to a downhill race bike, my girlfriend just recently purchased a new bicycle. Her bicycle is identical to the men’s version with the same part-list, the only difference was a more feminine color and a higher price.It is a women’s specific all-mountain bike but the geometry is almost identical the as the men’s version except for a few odd specifications. (The bicycle was purchased second hand at a much lower retail price)

The price difference in gender-specific bicycles should not exist just like gender-specific bicycles should also not exist. The women specific prices are usually much higher than the male counterparts. Everyone prefers different geometry and the way a bicycle handles so separating bicycles based on gender is ridiculous and weakens the bicycle market rather than strengthening it. This could be one of the reasons associated with why women are less likely to ride bicycles (Allat, 2018). Just like we have learned in class, women/girls are dropping out or not participating in sport/leisure at a much higher rate than males. If you were to go on Pinkbike.com, a mountain bike newsfeed, you would find it filled with articles about males mostly with the odd (maybe 1 out of 15) articles containing female riders or races. This also shows the lack of media attention being received as well but that’s a topic for another post. The reason that gender-specific bicycles should abound, not only to help grow cycling as a sport for females, is because the consumer demographic is changing; women’s bikes might lose potential male buyers as well as the high-end-seeking female buyers because of lacking technology. Often the latest features and build designs are built on the standard mountain bicycles, then brought over a year or two after to the gender-specific frames and bicycles. I know of many people who ride “women’s” bicycles who are males, having a bicycle fit you and your body shape is all that matters, not the color or the name. A good fit is a key to comfort and performance. I dislike the women’s specific label because body shapes vary. Just because the bicycle is marketed as a woman’s bicycle does not mean it is ridden by a woman. It’s ridden by someone it fits. My mother uses my old mountain bike since it is comfortable for her. This shows how it is simply just marketing tactics used to separate bicycles into two classes.

In an age where we’re all more comfortable in our own skin and owning our own personal style, I think it might be time to hang up the preconceived notions of what men and women need or want in bicycles or any other sporting equipment for that matter; start making bikes that everyone can and will want to ride; and label them by something other than gender. Cycling needs to grow as a sport and restraining the growth because of a marketing tactic is in no way benefitting the sport or even cycling as a form of transportation.

References:

Allatt, A. (2018, January 21). What is stopping women from cycling? Retrieved March 19, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41737483

Emond, C., Tang, W., & Handy, S. (2009). Explaining gender difference in bicycling behavior. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2125), 16-25.

The Women’s Mountain Bikes Scam (Why You Should Not Buy a Womens Mountain Bike). (2016, October 18). Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.icebike.org/the-womens-mountain-bikes-scam-why-you-should-not-buy-a-womens-mountain-bike/

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