Broken Spoke: Women’s Rides

Broken Spoke: Women’s Rides


Broken Spoke: Women’s Rides


Duncan Moore


The first of a new series, Broken Spoke, looks at Women’s Rides


In a career in the bike trade that spans more than 20 years, I’ve gone from shop floor sales to shop management, been a mechanic and run my own import and retail business. Along the way I produced a cycling fanzine – Broken Spoke – that landed me the job of technical editor on Cycling Today magazine in the late ‘90s and now I’m resurrecting the name to bring my thoughts on today’s cycling scene to 


The current popularity of cycling as a pastime rather than a means of getting from A to B and feeling smug about doing so, without polluting the world, isn’t restricted to mamils, despite what the mainstream media might like you to believe. If you’re out there riding you’ll see plenty of women out riding too.
Many bicycle and component manufacturers are waking up to this fact, but the way they are reacting to it varies wildly and suggests that some have more women on staff than others.
How do you know if a manufacturer has female staff making decision on product designs, or indeed designing products for women cyclists? Simple really; the amount of pink that is present.
(Picture courtesy of Mindmatrix)

For far too many years bicycle, and especially cycling clothing, manufacturers have made the assumption that when women go shopping they want to buy pink things. Now I know from first-hand experience of going bike shopping with my partner that this is not the case. As she points out, pretty pink trinkets might be acceptable when you’re at junior school but when you’re at the age where you have a job and a home of your own pink simply doesn’t appeal.
Fortunately, the better the bike you are buying the better things get. At the cheaper end of the scale, it is not just tasteless colours that female buyers have to deal with, but more importantly frames and components that are not ergonomically designed. Simply making a frame smaller doesn’t necessarily mean it will suit female riders.
Proportionally shorter top tubes, narrower bars, slimmer handlebar grips all play a part in making a woman’s bike just that – a woman’s. Then there is the most important part – the saddle. These days it doesn’t have to look like an over-stuffed sofa, but a wider rear section to support the ischial tuberosity (sit bones) is essential and, depending on personal preference, a cut away in the nose of the saddle can make a real difference to riding comfort.
Small differences like saddle design can make a real difference and the same rules apply when it comes to cycling kit. Again, why does it need to be pink? How often do you see women wearing multiple shades of pink on a daily basis in everyday life? So why do some manufacturers expect women cyclists to have pink kit foisted upon them at every opportunity?
Like frames though, the issues women face when choosing clothing goes further than simply trying to avoid pink. A case in point – bib shorts and leggings. Now if you’re bloke reading this you probably haven’t given much thought to where the bib straps go, but for girls there’s a couple of issues to work around. I have it on very good authority that conventional bib straps, as found on men’s shorts and on badly designed women’s shorts, can become unbearable when they are rubbing over nipples. However, well design bibs either use extra wide straps that cause less friction or a single central strap that divides and then splits over the back; a bit like a pair of men’s shorts worn back to front.
The way to encourage joined up thinking in women’s bike and cycle clothing design is to vote with your money; support the brands that have taken into account the differences and leave those that don’t well alone. They’ll get the message eventually.
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