It’s like shoes, handbags – why wouldn’t women want a beautiful bike?
Halfords bought the Boardman brand in 2014 and as well as introducing their own brand 13 bikes with women’s models they’re also offering high end women’s bikes in the shape of the Boardman Elite range, which includes time trial bikes and disc brake road bikes from £2,599. She says initially questions were asked about the idea of adding the women’s bikes – explaining: “They [some of the team] were asking ‘will women spend that much money?’ and we [other members] were saying ‘yes, why wouldn’t they?’. Actually there are many affluent women who would like to spend money on a beautiful bike – so why wouldn’t we give them a range to choose from? It’s like shoes, handbags – why wouldn’t women want a beautiful bike?”
Boardman Performance Road Range from £499
Boardman Elite Range Launched with Women’s Bikes from £2,599
Fox doesn’t expect the Elite women’s bikes to fly off the shelves with immediate effect – she says: “I don’t expect sales to be huge – they’re very expensive bikes – but I do expect women to say ‘if I wanted to buy one, I could do, because it’s there’.”
At the listening groups with women it seemed that those riding sportives were very happy on the male Boardman bike.
Fox has sat in on a fair few listening groups run by Halfords, and she and Chris Boardman (who we discussed the issue with separately) aren’t convinced all women need to be choosing from the female specific range – Fox says: “At the listening groups with women it seemed that those riding sportives were very happy on the male Boardman bike, and had done tons of research on what they should buy.”
Asked how she justifies offering women’s bikes if not everyone believes the geometry makes a big differance outside of handlebar and saddle choice, she says: “The women’s range is there, but it comes down to personal choice – sometimes it just comes down to colour. Customers look at budget and spec, then maybe they choose just based on colour. And actually if they see a blokes bike they prefer the look of, then they change the stem or saddle.”
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With plenty of bikes on the market for women, what else does Fox think is holding women back? She says: “I think the prime reason is safety. I think women worry more about safety on the road, and feeling confident on the road, turning right and so on – that’s what we’ve heard at all the listening groups we’ve done. It’s a sort of barrier to them getting out, getting them onto tow paths and that sort of thing is such a good start.
“When I was 12, I probably had more confidence that I do now. I’m relearning now, but safety is a barrier. We need that lobbying from people like Chris (Boardman) but it needs to be carried out in the sensible, level headed way he approaches it.”
Halfords have carried out road safety workshops with children, and Fox would like to run them with adults in the future. The other barrier for women, she believes, is saddle discomfort. Fox tells the story of her own struggles, quickly resolved – saying: “The first saddle I had, I went out and I was really uncomfortable… I went back in to this little independent and said I was uncomfy, they measured my sit bones and said ‘oh, well you need this saddle’ and I’ve been fine since – it’s such an easy piece if kit to use and makes a huge difference.”
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Not all women are as confident in asking for help as Fox – she says: “I was in a Halfords store once, next to this tall lanky lad in his early 20s. A lady came in and she was looking very uncomfortable, almost shifty. She obviously wanted to speak to me, so I took her aside and she said: ‘I’ve just bought a bike from you, and I’m riding it round town and its really painful!’. So I said we’d change saddle. She was so amazed and so happy that we could do that! She didn’t want to talk to the young lad.”
“Safety and saddles are the order of the day, then?” I ask – and Fox replies: “Yes! It’s about safety and saddles! The two s’.”
We like the two s’ mantra – and we hope to see the store carrying on its work with Breeze, and doing more to address the two major barriers, as well as offering more women’s bikes and a better retail experience in the future.