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Should bike shops have womens sections?

by Carl Brewer last modified 2007-10-17 23:46
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I'm pondering .. current wisdom says 'have a womens section' in a bike shop, but I'm not sure.

How many of you have noticed that of late (maybe the last 2 years or so?) there's been a big surge in interest in LBS's (local bike shops) in the women's market.  Many LBS's are now stocking bikes designed for women (with varying philosophies behind the different designs) and many have a seperate section for womens bikes and seperate sections for women on their websites and so on.

It seems a pretty good idea.  Around 50% of the population are female, and there's no reason for women not to ride as much as men, and from my rather limited look at it, in other countries there's a far greater proportion of women cycling than there seems to be here in Melbourne. It seems like a pretty good market to try and tap into and to encourage and even maybe a bit of positive discrimination in some areas to build momentum until it's a bit more self sustaining.  I think that in the racing arena positive discrimination re use of resources etc is worthwhile - Lawrence's efforts with the women's intro to track days etc will hopefully pay off with enough women staying around to maintain a critial mass of female riders racing.

So how about bike shops?  Should there be a seperate section in a bike shop, or even, a whole seperate shop? At what point does this become patronising or even limiting? Does it at all?  I don't know, but something about it makes me a little uneasy.  Why?

If you take a look at the majority of the womens specific road and MTB bikes, they're mostly in 'girly' colours.  Pale blues, pinks ... because ALL women like pale blue and pink, right?  (and for some imaginative reason, almost every manufacturer calls their women's range 'diva', good-o ...) The big difference in roadies and MTB's is a shorter top tube, but with hybrids etc often there's also a lower top tube (which, funnily enough, is great for older riders of both genders, they're a lot easier to get on and off if your flexibility isn't what it was), there's also a significantly smaller range of roadies and MTB's in the womens designs (of course, Trek customers can get Project One bikes, but they cost a premium and are only on the high end bikes, and lag behind the current models a bit ... where's my P1 '08 Madone?! I WANT!).

That's a reflection of demand though, if there was demand, there'd be more range, and if the range was there, maybe there'd be more demand?  Chicken, meet egg ...

That's not really the issue though, at least, not what I'm writing about anyway.  Women have as much ability to ride as men, apart from at the elite racing level, there's plenty of women who can drop me in a road race, that's for sure!  We race together mostly, certainly at amateur club level there's generally no gender separation, and we ride together, so why should we not also shop together?  Why should women's bikes be banished to the 'girly section' of a shop?  Apart from the fact that WSD bikes aren't necessarily the right fit (all women are not the same shape!), sometimes a WSD bike is a better fit for a male rider (just remove the women's logo etc off it so no-one knows!).  By seperating the bikes out, perhaps that creates a barrier, and I'd rather see riders try bikes with an open mind.  Trek did this with the '08 Madone's 'performance fit', where the penny dropped that very few riders actually ride a bike that's set up for a euro pro rider, but they all want to look like it, perhaps the same can apply to shorter top tube bikes also.  I guess what I'm trying to say, in a roundabout sort of way, is that by seperating out the bikes by gender, do we limit the choices that riders of both gender then have? It may be only a mental barrier, but is that a bad thing?  What are the pros and cons of a gender-segregated bike shop?



Bah, this needs a subject.... ??

Posted by Lisa Hocking at 2007-10-22 07:50
Anything that helps to get women cycling I am all for, however different levels of females cyclists have different needs from their LBS, just like with men.
The latest blog from <a href="">Fat Cyclist</a> kind of addresses the fact that LBS's treat everyone like a newbie that has no knowledge - they need to stop doing this and I often get this when I go into a bike store and I really don't know if it is because I am a female or not, either way it really pisses me off and makes me glad I have a couple of friends who work in bike shops.

I personally really dislike the fact that the majority of WSD bikes (and a lot of clothing) come in pale pastel colours and not all females like pink!

I don't think that different sections of a shop for females is patronising, all the major department stores have womens, mens and childrens sections, but I do think that LBS staff need to realise that not all women fit a WSD bike and shouldn't refuse to sell a female a 'normal' or mens bike because it can be a better fit. Heck, if a store has a good range of women's products and they are easy to find - awesome!!

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