Does pink really stink?

Cathy and her trusty steed

Adding to our discussions today is Cathy Bussey, keen cyclist and author of ‘The Girl’s Guide to Life on Two Wheels‘ a female friendly cycling manual. Cathy explores whether it’s time to leave the ‘shrink it and pink it’ debate alone.

Pink cycle clothing, what’s not to love?

Pink gets a hard time. Entire campaigns have been organised against the rosy shade, and among the cycling community there is a healthy hatred of the hue.

In among the endless tirades against the ‘pinkification’ of products – the process of making products smaller and colouring them pink in order to appeal to women – you will find the following words and phrases: Patronising. Demeaning. Portraying women as ‘shallow airheads’. And so on.

In fact it’s not just pink that suffers. The entire women’s cycling industry currently hangs on a knife-edge. Don’t market your products at women and you’re ignoring them. Do market them at women and chances are, you’re going to be accused of patronising them. I feel quite sorry for the industry. It can’t win.

Isn’t it possible that (wait for it) some women like pink and some don’t? Isn’t it possible that the pink products will be bought by women who like pink, and ignored by those who don’t, who can instead choose from a rainbow of hues from a small but growing number of apparel manufacturers?

Let’s be clear, this isn’t five years ago. There is plenty of choice out there, and it’s growing all the time.

We are not limited in choice to a bright-pink Karrimor jersey from Sports Direct, or a men’s XS in steely grey.

Do we still have to get so mortally offended if we don’t like the particular shade of a jersey, jacket or even an entire bike? Do we have to throw wild accusations around about being patronised and demeaned, as if our collective sense of identity is so fragile we can’t cope with people assuming we might like a particular colour? What if we do like pink? Does that make us ‘shallow airheads’, then?

Some like it pink – but it doesn’t turn all women off, it’s all about choice

Women’s cycling suffers from enough inequality as it is, without adding pink-based infighting to the mix. The key here, surely, is choice. If you like pink, buy pink. If you don’t – then don’t!

It’s been argued by a writer in The Guardian that pinkifying women’s cycling leads to a less assertive riding style which inherently puts women at risk.

All I can say to that is – how stupid do you think women are?

Fashion is just a form of personal expression. Some of us like to look feminine and consider pink the perfect avenue. Some of us reject pink and all it conveys and consider ourselves just as feminine. And some of us couldn’t give two hoots about femininity, on and off the bike. All avenues are valid, none are superior.

It’s all about the individual, and all about choice. We can express ourselves through our clothing, through our choice of bike, even through our choice of accessories and brands. Or we can simply choose things we like and think are good, without worrying what it ‘says about us’.

The entire ‘pink’ argument is pointless, wastes everybody’s time and does women’s cycling no good.

You don’t see runners bickering among themselves on Twitter about pink products and calling each other ‘shallow airheads’ by default if they do happen to pick pink. I don’t know why it’s such a huge deal for cyclists. Particularly when we look at wider issues around women’s cycling, from the inequality at the top level to the lack of grassroots opportunities for women.

When I was writing my book The Girl’s Guide to Life on Two Wheels (yep, shameless plug) my editor suggested including a fun quiz around the theme of ‘what kind of cyclist are you?’ She liked the idea of a magazine-style Q&A that would allow cyclists to identify as part of a certain tribe – the Lycra-clad lovely, perhaps. The floaty-dress-wearing cyclista. The tough, gritty mountain biker. I can see why she thought this would work but I refused. I don’t see why we have to push female cyclists into handy boxes. Do we do the same with men? Or with runners, or triathletes?

If cyclists want to identify themselves as belonging to part of a group or sub-group, then that’s fine – but I don’t see why they should be forced into it.

Creating dichotomies around the innocent colour pink successfully pushes female cyclists into boxes in which they don’t need to reside. We can express ourselves and love our cycling in whatever colour we like. Why not leave it at that?

Read more about ‘The Girl’s Guide to Life on Two Wheels‘ on Cathy’s cycling blog and you can also follow Cathy on Twitter.

For our other posts included in the discussion, click on the titles below to read back over the articles:

Pink cycle clothing, what’s not to love?

Saddling women with pink: a response

Marketing to female cyclists: the good, the bad and the ugly

Headline image by Mooste via

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