"When I was in Junior High, my home and school were quite far away so I had to ride more than 10km to and from school everyday. You know for a Junior High Schooler, that is quite far. I have so many happy memories on the bike from that time that whenever I am on a bike I ride now I am brought back into the age when I was a teenager, and I feel I can fly, I can do anything," says Bonnie Tu, CFO of Giant Bicycles with an infectious grin.
Meeting Bonnie Tu has been on my wish list for some time. She is after all one of the most influential women in the bike industry. Often described as the Godmother of cycling, Bonnie is a founder investor of Giant Bicycles along with Chairman King Liu and is the women responsible for the creation of female specific brand, LIV.
LIV defines exactly what is needed in the world of women’s cycling. The brand caters for every type of rider from have-a-go-heroes to the world’s cycling elite. It offers everything from entry level road, mountain and commuter bikes right up to high-end offerings like the LIV Avail. All of which have been specifically designed for women, by women. “We design our bikes from the ground up. We have our engineer, our product designers, our gear designers and our retail specialists and they are all female," says Bonnie.
The idea for LIV was born out of necessity. Opting to take on the Tour of Taiwan seven years ago with King Liu, fashion conscious Bonnie went on the search for some female specific cycling gear. “I went shopping. I only found a men’s small size jersey and it looked awful," says Bonnie.
A woman of action, Bonnie decided there was just one solution to the problem – to create a women’s specific brand. “We wanted to make cycling more approachable because many women are scared to go out cycling, especially those who didn’t ride when they were younger. So I always make sure our product designers come up with bikes that give our female riders confidence to step on a bike, no matter what age. I want to give them the security and from there they can go into road racing or mountain biking," explains Bonnie.
One of the most notable things about Bonnie is not her success as a business women or her impeccable style. It is her passion for the development of women’s cycling. She believes that everybody should cycle. And also proves that it is never too late to start. She did after all, only learn how to change the gears on a road bike at the age of 57. “I learned how to do the gear shifting at the age of 57, seven years ago. I went and rode with King our Chairman in 2007. He decided to his first Taiwan Tour on the bike. I thought – ‘Wow, King is going, he will stay in a very good hotel and somebody will do good mechanic work, and somebody will carry the luggage so I thought I should go with him!"
Bonnie completed one quarter of the Tour of Taiwan, covering 900km over 15 days, her passion for cycling from days gone by reignited. “I returned to the office after the Tour of Taiwan where my colleague trained me – I learned how to change my gears and how to climb a hill," she chuckles.
“Every woman should ride a bike," insists Bonnie. “Many don’t understand the benefits of cycling. Women over 40 for example suffer from a slow-down of their circulation but cycling remedies that."
One of the most impressive things about Bonnie is the example she has set for other brands. She has not only created a brand with a wide range of women’s specific apparel and bikes, she has also gone the extra mile to ensure that the purchasing process for women is not an intimidating one: “When you go to the bike shop most of the sales boys are very intimidating to female riders. I always call that the last mile so I knew I must build a bridge for the last mile."
LIV has created a template for female specific retail space that makes the purchasing process an enjoyable one. Walking into the LIV area of a Giant store feels like walking into your favourite boutique. Bonnie states that her goal is to empower the brand’s dealers. On the LIV website you will find a list of certified dealers who offer a clean and inviting environment to shop.
It seems that LIV has all bases covered and we have to say it is really good to see this kind of commitment to the female consumer and it would not surprise us if other brands who claim they are committed to creating more comprehensive women’s specific ranges follow suit.
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