Beauty & the Bike

Beauty and the bike: Marketing, cycling and women

This week Adele Mitchell deviates from the usual Beauty and the bike topics, discussing the minefield that is marketing to us female cyclists.

Adele explores why the ‘Shrink It and Pink It’ strategy doesn’t work when marketing to women. Image my Monika Hoinkis via Flickr.

There was a Twitter debate last night about women’s specific cycling gear. The general consensus was that just because a bike is a pretty colour, called something feminine like ‘The Singletrack Susan’ and has a lowered top bar – presumably to allow for ease of mounting in a voluminous Edwardian skirt – it doesn’t mean we’re going to want to ride it.

We’re not dismissing women’s specific geometry of course. It’s just that women don’t all want to look the same, nor like the same things.

For instance, I don’t want to look as if I have borrowed my kit off a bloke. Baggy mountain bike shorts, I’m talking about you! Also, I’d choose to avoid purchasing a frame with the name Hooker, G-Spot, Foreplay MX or Handjob XC on the top bar. I’m not making these up by the way – they’re from the Cove range, go check them out for yourself. I will not however be surprised if we are inundated with comments from women who ride and love these bikes and are never out of baggies.

Meanwhile – call me controversial – I’m a bit of an advocate of bright pink clothing: it’s possibly the most visible colour on the leafy country lanes where I ride and – rather more superficially – I think it suits me. I wear mascara when I ride my mountain bike but believe a bike is no place for lipstick unless, of course, it’s statement vivid and you’re one of those commuters who sails through London traffic in oversize sunglasses and a bicycle print dress from Anthropologie. In which case I salute your style.

On the tricky subject of hair, I have decided that plaits work for mountain biking, with a nod to the sport’s California surfer vibe, but a ponytail is more appropriate for a road bike ride, cleverly managing to be helmet-friendly, streamlined and on-trend at the same time. The fact that I shave my legs has nothing to do with improving performance on my bike and I have to admit it annoys me a bit if my nail polish clashes with my cycling gloves.

I think it’s safe to say that not everyone feels this way.

In fact, you only have to look at the range of posts on this site to see that we’re not all interested in the same things just because we’re women and we ride a bike.

And why is that? Because – surprise, surprise – women are not all the same: for every one of us out there who likes to coordinate her socks with her gloves before nailing a Strava QOM there will be another going just as fast in whatever came to hand from her cycling ‘clean washing’ pile.

For every woman dreaming of a pink Pashley there’ll be another lusting after a new carbon 29” Santa Cruz Furtado (developed by former Olympic mountain biker Juli Furtado) and another choosing a bike because it’ll get her from A to B and is affordable. For every one wearing the entire Benefit make up range as she rides there’ll be another who hasn’t worn make up since 2002. And that’s okay.

But it’s also why it’s impossible to target all of cycling’s womanhood in one fell ‘pat on the head’ girlie marketing swoop, and it’s time for brands to start talking to us, as riders with our own individual aspirations instead.


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