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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Gender Identity and Participation in Rural Community Based Leisure

By Tamsin F.

Think back to the prominent leisure activities individuals engaged in within your home community. If you lived in a rural setting, it is likely that the choices that were available in terms of leisure activities were a lot more limited than what would be offered in an urban setting. Within those choices, you could probably identify certain activities that were deemed more suitable for you to participate in than other activities, based on a few key factors.

In my rural hometown, population 2,327, not only were certain activities gendered, but they were also socially classed (Statistics Canada, 2017). If an individual was from a more affluent family, it was almost a given that they would participate in hockey and/or dance, beginning from a young age. It was in these two activities that peer groups were formed, and individuals gained their sense of identity within the community. In terms of gender, hockey was played majorly by males or ‘tom-girls’, and dance was dominated by female participants. As individuals grew older, there were some shared activities between genders, but team sports were always segregated by gender. If a child’s family could afford the time and extra costs of accessing the recreation services in the urban center a half hour drive away, they had increased exposure to more diverse leisure experiences; in the types of activities participated in, and the increased range of participants. This leisure privilege, however, made an individual stand out over their rural peers who did not have the same opportunities. Within the rural community, there was limited flexibility on what was available for individuals who did not fit in the traditional gender identities.

The stereotypical image of a rural community being close knit is not an exaggeration. Within small communities, pressures to conform and fit in are often extreme. Rates of substance use among youth, which can increase the risk of developing mental illness, is experienced at a higher incidence within rural settings than in urban settings (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015). Fear and perceived risk of going against the gender norm and facing exclusion from the community as a consequence, is a very real concern for many individuals who reside in rural communities. This anxiety may translate to participation in leisure activities that is very limited in diversity and range. A serious outcome of this mentality is the negative impact it could have on children’s and youth’s experiences within sport and recreation activities. Exposure to physical activity opportunities that occur in a caring environment, where the athlete feels supported by their coach and teammates, is considered to be highly influential in the likelihood of the athlete’s continued participation and commitment to the sport (Fry and Gano-Overway, 2010). Thus, it is crucial that programs and community members, adjust their messaging and attitudes around available programs to attract new participants who may not fit the traditional ‘ideal’ participant identity.

While it is easy to focus on the negatives and simply state that there is a problem within rural community recreation structures, advocates for wellness can identify strengths and opportunities for growth within the challenges a community may face. Parents, teachers, and community leaders can all be active role models and facilitators of leisure programs that are welcoming to all individuals, regardless of how they identify their gender. Having mixed gender leagues can be one way to encourage fair play, respect, and cooperation among children and youth in a community. Another strategy used with positive results, is the inclusion of quality physical education programming within the school day so that children have a barrier free opportunity to increase their physical literacy skills that they can then transfer to activities beyond the classroom (Stevens-Smith, 2016). By shifting the attitudes of the youth in a rural community, sustainable changes can be experienced. Additionally, a collaborative approach by community members is a necessity in creating more inclusive and supportive recreation environments for all individuals who live within this setting.

References

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2015). Urban and rural student substance use (report at a glance). Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Urban-Rural-Student-Substance-Use-Report-at-a-Glance-2015-en.pdf.pdf

Fry, M. D., and Gano-Overway, L.A. (2010). Exploring the contribution of the caring climate to the youth sport experience. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22(3), 294-304, DOI: 10.1080/10413201003776352

Statistics Canada. (2017). Beaverlodge [population centre], alberta and manitoba [province] (table): Census profile. 2016 Census. Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.

Stevens-Smith, D. A. (2016) Physical literacy: Getting kids active for life. Strategies, 29(5), 3-9. DOI: 10.1080/08924562.2016.1205536