Sunday, July 26, 2015

My 'Women Specific' Problem

Hide your children, hide your pets, because this is going to be a rant.


No, but let's be serious: I'm a woman. And most 'women's specific' shit doesn't fit. So... Does this mean I'm an alien? Am I an anomaly? Does this make me less of a woman?

I got a call from a woman today asking me why we don't carry women's specific road bike frames. I'm sorry, but do women ride road bikes differently than men? Last time I checked, those 'male-specific' frames fit my needs perfectly. Call me crazy, but those frames also work for thousands of female professional road cyclists, too.

My point? There is no such thing as a bike made for women. There are small accessories, there are pink accessories, but those are aftermarket additions that could be put on for any rider with certain needs. For example: a saddle with a certain amount of padding may fit a pelvis of a certain angle that has sensitive tissue, but a women's saddle it does not make. I've sold lots of 'women's saddles' (with horrendous names like the 'Diva') to embarrassed men who simply found them more comfortable. I also happen to have a best friend who is 5'3"... And male. And he loves small bikes. But does that mean he needs a women's specific bike? Hell no! He needs a small bike. Does that make him any less of a man, a human or a rider? Uhhhh, no.

I know that lots of marketing brains have put together this ideal of what a female (or male) rider might be, but let me tell you something: we are not amalgamations of someone else's 'ideal'. We are us. We are individuals with individual needs that don't discriminate according to gender. Not all women need small grips. Not all men need 500 lb titanium coil springs. And women most certainly do not need different frame geometry. Some humans need lower top tubes. GREAT! We can accommodate you. Oh, you have a shorter torso? Tighter hip flexors and limited flexibility? Long arms? Wider hips, a prosthetic leg, a sensitive bottom? Awesome! We have many bikes that will fit that particular need or that can be adjusted to be the best bike for you. But what we don't have is a women's bike. We have men's bikes with smaller grips, different saddles and 'female friendly colors' (whatever the fuck THAT means; I like black. I like purple. I really like black.), but we do not have a bike that is going to fit everyone of one gender. Guess what else we don't have? Gay bikes. We don't have bikes for black people, either. We have bikes for people. People of any gender, any size, any age. We have accessories for people. We even carry a wide selection of special items for special people that we keep in a bin in the back marked 'special'. But your gender and genitals doesn't dictate what bike you need, and it CERTAINLY doesn't dictate the bike I'll ride.

I don't want your female-specific bike. I don't need it. Why? Because my identity doesn't exist solely around having a vagina. I don't ride like a girl. I ride like me. I need me-specific bike parts, and that means that they're generally expensive, tough and black. For someone else, that could mean light, cheap and shaped like an elephant. I DON'T KNOW. And guess what? Neither do bike companies. And so telling someone that they need a 'women's specific frame' or 'women's specific tires' is just bullshit. I'm sorry, but that's what it is. B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T. Does a pink bike ride more gently than blue bike? Not when you ram it into a tree or attempt to play chicken with a fleet of semi trucks. Does the road ride differently for women than it does for men? Are my pedals female-specific? Do they reflect the magnetic power of my vagina?! No? Oh. Well then. I need some girl pedals.

If we want to make lasting, sustainable change inside of the bike industry, we need to stop pretending that there is a defining line that separates these false categories we've thrown each other into. We have to stop creating room for shit that doesn't matter in areas that are irrelevant. Women on bikes matters. More women on bikes matters. But that's not what we're creating. Instead of building a culture of inclusion and equality and addressing the matters that really DO affect our sport (like equal payout, misogyny, sponsorship, participant numbers, spectator attendance), we're building an entire world around something that simply does not matter. There are smaller grips. There are shorter cranks. There are softer saddles. There are pink helmets and blue trails and red lights and fiercely powerful riders of ALL genders. But there is no such thing as a women's specific bike.

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