Ed. Note: Path Less Pedaled x Bicycle Times is a video series by Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled. Stay tuned to the Bicycle Times website for more of this regular collaborative content.
Laura of Path Less Pedaled stops in Gladys Bikes, a female-owned, women-focused shop in Portland. She chats with owner Leah Benson about what makes this shop unique and what it was like to start a bike shop.Tweet Print
CycloFemme is a grassroots organization of women on bikes, created in 2012 by Sarai Snyder of Girl Bike Love, and Tanya Quick and Jenn Cash of Language Dept. The socially-driven, volunteer-based community works to empower women and girls through cycling in order to create social change.
CycloFemme hosts an annual ride, which takes place on Mother’s Day weekend. Rides take place all over the world and anyone can lead one—just create a ride event, sign up and register your ride online.
This year, CycloFemme is partnering with World Bicycle Relief with their driving theme “Empower the Girl. Ignite the Woman.” CycloFemme riders are encouraged to fundraise for the organization, though it’s not a requirement to participate. All funds raised by CycloFemme riders will be matched 1-to-1 for a donation to World Bicycle Relief that will be used specifically to provide bicycles to schoolgirls.
Founded in 2005, World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people through the power of bicycles. World Bicycle Relief accomplishes its mission by distributing specially designed, high-quality bicycles through philanthropic and social enterprise programs. These purpose-designed bicycles are built to withstand the challenging terrain and conditions in rural, developing areas. Entrepreneurs use the bicycles to increase productivity and profits. Students attend class more regularly and improve their academic performances. And health care workers visit more patients in less time, providing better, more consistent care.
World Bicycle Relief also promotes local economies and long-term sustainability by assembling bicycles locally and training field mechanics to service the bicycles. To date, World Bicycle Relief has delivered over 350,000 bicycles and trained over 1,200 field mechanics in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
“Partnering with World Bicycle relief is the next step in growing CycloFemme. Those who choose to participate in the fundraising component will see tangible results from their efforts,” said Sarai Snyder, Co-Founder of CycloFemme. “In addition to riding together in solidarity, by empowering a girl with the opportunity that a bicycle brings, we ignite in ourselves and one another a special shared feeling. That feeling of riding a bike for the first time, pedaling toward something, with power and strength that suddenly becomes limitless.”
World Bicycle Relief and CycloFemme share the belief that bicycles provide independence, self-empowerment, and joy. They also believe that bicycling creates community and momentum—two forces that lead to positive personal and social change. Historically, the bicycle has been a large scale empowerment tool all over the world.
CycloFemme riders will experience how good shared momentum feels as rides and celebrations occur worldwide May 13-14. All are encouraged to participate, either planning and leading a ride or join in. CycloFemme is open to all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, ability, or bicycle preference.Tweet Print
Photos by Jesse Lash
When I spoke to Ayesha McGowan, she was in the car making the 2-hour commute to her part time job as a preschool music teacher. “I like to take calls while I’m driving,” she’d told me when I called her to set up the interview. “It helps keep me awake.”
This spunky lady is an expert at multi-tasking and planning, making use of every minute in her day. She’s a tireless planner. “I even plan my downtime,” she laughs. But apparently something she is doing is working, because Ayesha is on track to become the first ever professional female African-American road cyclist after racing for only 3 years, while also acting as an advocate for minority groups in cycling and putting effort towards a number of different projects and volunteer work.
Ayesha moved to California last year for better outdoor year-round training opportunities, but she’s originally from the East Coast. She grew up in New Jersey, moved to Boston to study music at Berklee, and starting riding bikes because the public transportation system in the city wasn’t great. “I’m the type of person who wants to find the most efficient way to do everything,” Ayesha says. So she grabbed an old bike from her parents house that still had a baby carrier attached, got it fixed up, and started commuting to class on it.
Soon after, she got involved in her local bike shop, learned about bike mechanics and advocacy, and became a bike messenger for a short period of time. After school, she moved to New York City, where she found it hard to make friends, until she got involved with a number of different cycling groups, including We Bike NYC, an organization dedicated to empowerment of women through bicycles, and InTandem, a program that helps get people with disabilities on bikes.
The community of people she found through these groups encouraged her to stick with riding, and helped with her fear of trying new things, such as racing. “The hardest part of trying something new is being vulnerable,” she says. “I like having someone to try it with.”
Ayesha took a track racing clinic while living in New York, and thus began her journey as a competitive cyclist. She started out with alleycats, but soon realized she wasn’t as aggressive in traffic and city riding as those races demanded. She then enrolled in criterium races, took a few more classes and learned the ropes, and had a great first season in 2014.
As she continued to upgrade in rank and class, she realized something. There weren’t any other African-American women in professional cycling. “Representation is important,” says Ayesha. “If I’d seen another black person in cycling when I was a kid, maybe I would have been inspired to get into it sooner.”
That’s when she made it her goal to be the first. And not because she just wants to be first, but because she wants to inspire other people to overcome obstacles and odds stacked against them. Her mission is so much bigger than cycling. It’s about inclusivity, chasing dreams, and realizing potential. It’s about getting black people, or any other underrepresented group, to realize that they too can reach their goals.
This year, Ayesha is racing at Cat 2 level. She has the opportunity to compete in pro races, and she’s at a level where she could be recruited at any minute. This is her time. “I’ve made a big noise about what I’m trying to do,” she says. “It’s up to them to decide whether or not I’m worth it.”
Currently, she rides 16-20 hours per week, goes to the gym at least twice a week, and practices yoga. In addition to riding and training, she also juggles her part-time job as a teacher, producing a podcast called Fix It Black Jesus, work for non-profits like InTandem, writing for her blog, and getting other people feeling empowered and stoked on cycling through projects such as her virtual ride series, called “Do Better Together.”
I asked Ayesha what some of her favorite and most rewarding moments have been in her journey as a cyclist. “I love planting the seed in people,” she says. Like last spring, when she convinced her 80-year-old grandmother to ride a tandem with her around Atlanta. Or, when she gets messages from other black cyclists and people of color going after their dreams.
“Don’t just talk about it,” Ayesha urges. “Write it down, make a plan, and do it. You’re totally capable.”
“Nobody reads anymore” goes the saying. Maybe that’s why podcasts are on the rise: one-third of Americans listened to one last year (according to the Pew Research Center). But search for cycling podcasts and you won’t find more than a handful.
One of them is Roam Rydes—a women’s cycling podcast created and produced by Ash Bocast, Liv Cycling’s west coast event specialist and demo driver. The show, which started out as simply a hobby, is up to about 3,000 listeners per episode. Bocast, who hunkers down in a hotel room and puts in about an hour of work per minute of each 30-minute episode, thinks she just might be onto something.
“I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to listen to and I figured there has to be other women out there also looking for women cycling content that, to be blunt, isn’t crap,” said Bocast. “I realized I had the desire and the skillset to do it myself and a unique position with job flexibility.”
Roam Rydes focuses largely on everyday women. Bocast started out trying to do a #vanlife podcast, but that market was already saturated. She realized she was meeting “rad ladies” on a regular basis through her nomadic job and decided to share their bike-related stories on a broader scale. The most important thing to Bocast is being able to provide inspiration that is relatable, which means famous cyclists or bike industry women might not get top billing.
“Sure, Jill Kintner is an amazing rider, but reading about her doesn’t necessarily make me feel more confident about getting out on a trail,” said Bocast. “We need a collective effort across the board to help women feel they belong. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the color of your skin, your size or how broken you are, there’s a place for you on the trail. It might not be at an enduro race, but there’s a Sunday ride we’re going on and you can come, too, kind of thing … Biking is fun. Women need to hear that message over and over until they believe it.”
Still, one of Bocast’s most memorable interviews was with Leigh Donovan, the most decorated female pro mountain biker in U.S. history. The story is titled “Choose Bikes” and “the stoke level is at eleven for this episode.”
“[Donovan] has this amazingly gregarious and welcoming personality that I wanted to showcase—basically show that women can be both successful and wonderful in the bike world,” said Bocast. “I sat down and asked her for the ‘real’ Leigh story. I was not expecting to hear about drug rehab and her parents’ marriage falling apart [and how riding bikes fit in]. It was not stuff you can find on Wikipedia. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment that I have an opportunity to help share stories that are totally relatable to anyone who rides bikes or wants to ride bikes.”
For Roam Rydes, Bocast has talked to women who operate mountain bike getaways, lead cycling tours all over the world, sail through the air with incredible skill, ride their bike solo across continents, survive horrific setbacks to rise again and young girls who simply love riding bikes. Each episode of Roam Rydes gives the listener a taste of each subject’s personality, their tips and their reality. Nothing is sugar-coated, and humanity is maintained.
For an amateur, Bocast (who attended a technology academy for high school and describes herself as a “closeted super-nerd”) has a seasoned radio voice, an ease about her interviewing and is clearly able to make her subjects comfortable enough to tell great stories. The shows are engaging, often featuring un-cut sections of very real conversations. Her goal is authenticity, and she turns away anyone that only wants to promote a product or service.
“At the end of the day, I’m so grateful. What I get paid to do [as a Liv demo driver] blows my mind,” said Bocast. “That goes for the Roam Rydes podcast, too. Being able to share these women’s stories is such an honor. I love the feedback I get from women about what hearing it means to them.”
Find Roam Rydes online and on iTunes and give it a listen.
Words: Jessica Glenza
Photos: Cole Wilson
Published in Bicycle Times Issue #39
If you eye a motley crew of ladies biking New York City, two dozen strong and high-fiving all the way, there’s a good chance you’ve bumped into WE Bike NYC or a group they’ve inspired.
The all-ladies biking collective has toured the five boroughs for three years now, teaching mechanics classes, holding cold weather clinics and popping off for hot cocoa. And the nonprofit that started as a bicycle mechanic’s graduate thesis has gained some serious street cred.
In March, the group members presented their own flavor of activism on a panel at the National Bike Summit. In September, members ceremoniously painted green New York’s 1,000th mile of bike lane. WE Bike, according to bicycling community observers, is a “linchpin” in a new wave of feminist activism that has turned an eye toward leveling the gender gap in bicycling.
Founded at the start of a new grassroots push to get more women on two wheels, WE Bike (or Women’s Empowerment Through Bicycles) encourages urban women to join their male counterparts who commute, race and fix bicycles.
The group doesn’t advocate one kind of bicycling, but holds events to introduce women to every sort imaginable. Classes teach riders how to fix a flat tire, introduce them to scenic road routes near New York and offer tips for riding in the frigid weather, to name a few.
WE Bike’s current leader, Casey Ashenhurst, joined in the group’s early days, about three years ago. Ashenhurst had lived in New York for three years in 2012, when she saw a WE Bike NYC flier in a shop window.
Her first thought: “I need to go to this party.”
“I literally bought the T-shirt and was like ‘Where can I sign up? I want to get involved,'” she said. “I got really jazzed … The people that I met who were representatives of WE Bike, they encouraged me to come out, they said, ‘Sign up for our newsletter, here take a sticker, put on this temporary tattoo,’ and really made me feel part of it.”
By her second meeting with WE Bike, she volunteered to be team captain in a five boroughs tour, helping organize other members for the ride. Now, she heads up WE Bike as resident organizer, but is quick not to take too much credit.
“We wouldn’t exist without all of the other people,” Ashenhurst said. “Our ride leaders, and just random stuff … We have people that help our Moms on Wheels initiative, our website stuff, all kinds of random things—special events.”
Other grassroots organizations have sprung up almost simultaneously. On the East Coast, women-specific groups are organizing around locations, such as Women Bike PHL in greater Philadelphia, and around identities, such as Black Girls Do Bike in Washington D.C.
The more established advocacy organizations are getting on board as well. Over the last two years, the League of American Bicyclists has given away more than a half dozen “mini-grants” of $3,000 to support women’s cycling programs around the country. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance launched a “Women Bike” campaign in August 2015, and women’s advocacy is now a key fixture at the annual National Bike Summit.
“Lots of people around the country look to WE Bike as an example, as ‘How did you do this?'” said Carolyn Szczepanski, who works as a consultant with New York’s pedestrian safety Vision Zero program and the Alliance for Biking & Walking. “They’ve really been kind of a linchpin of the women’s bike community.”
WE Bike NYC’s founder, Elizabeth Jose, is now the membership coordinator for the Southeast Seattle Tool Library. She moved west in 2014, two years after forming WE Bike NYC as an outgrowth of her graduate thesis at New York University.
Her interest in biking started as an undergrad at the University of California at Santa Cruz in roughly 2006, she said, where a bicycle provided freedom on the hilly, 2,000-acre campus.
“I was using my friend’s little brother’s mountain bike, and I’m not a short person, and that was not a good solution,” said Jose. When a neighbor gave Jose a bike (missing pedals and a seat) she brought it to the campus’ volunteer-run bicycle shop, The Bike Church, for help.
That free bike, and the freedom it bestowed, was the beginning of a long relationship with two wheels. Jose biked across the country in 2008.
“[I] learned the bike mechanics out of sheer terror because I was going to be riding across the country, and what if something went wrong?” she said about how she learned the trade. Later she commuted to work on her bike in Boston and when she moved to New York to attend NYU. When she got a job as a bike mechanic, she assumed there was a ready community of female cyclists in the city of more than 8 million.
“There’s a competitive pinball league and it’s full—and I was like ‘Of course there are probably a zillion lady bike groups operating in the city, and all I have to do is find the one that meets my needs,'” Jose said. “So, I started Googling and there was nothing.”
“I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe there were no groups for riding bikes, as ladies,” she said.
At the same time, Jose was shopping her thesis focused on a girl’s biking program, titled “Strong Women Start on a Bicycle,” to different nonprofits. Most of the responses she received said no one felt ready to teach the class, but instead wanted to take one. She sent out the first WE Bike NYC email a few weeks later to 30 “bikey” friends.
Sixty people emailed back.
“When women’s [biking] was organizing WE Bike back in 2012 it was really at the start of a visible movement around gender equity in bicycling,” said Szczepanski.
New York, it turned out, was a perfect petri dish for testing how to engage women to ride bicycles. It included demographic subgroups likely to ride bicycles, but not readily depicted in popular biking culture.
At the time she wrote the thesis, women in New York were less likely to be white (44 percent versus 72.4 percent), and more likely to be poor (16.2 percent versus 10.1 percent) than the national average, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Women in New York are also more likely to be the head of household (18.7 percent versus 12.6 percent), meaning they need practical advice on how to link trips—for example, from the pharmacy to day care to the grocery store.
So, after the first meeting of about eight bike riding New York ladies, the group formulated a plan. Materials in Spanish addressed the needs of Latinos, while playground meet-ups allowed moms to test each other’s bikes and carriers and discuss the safest routes for family riding (with more bathroom breaks). The Latinos engaged by WE Bike’s Spanish language materials are now thriving, according to current members. Mujeres en Movimiento (Women in Motion) are semi-independent and based in Queens. Moms on Wheels continues to bring moms out in the city to socialize on bikes.
“The women’s movement in cycling didn’t just materialize in the last 10 years, or five years,” said Szczepanski. “But, there’s been a recent resurgence in organizing around identity in gender.” Ashenhurst said when she looks at all the new bike organizations and campaigns springing up everywhere from Boston to San Diego, her enthusiasm is hard to contain.
“I’m like ‘Yes! We need more!'” she said. “All women–I want all the women–to be able to ride bikes together.”
Words: Anna Schwinn
Illustration: Stephen Haynes
The cycling industry has a massive problem with women. This problem persists despite small victories including the rise in prominence of women’s racing and the increase in shops and brands that cater to female consumers.
The big issue? In this industry, men and their product needs remain the default. Products designed to serve the needs of men, which do a halfassed job of serving the same population of women, continue to be marketed as unisex. If you’re a woman and a consumer you continue to have to wait for trickle down products—items that are first developed for men then adapted for women when companies feel like it, usually with fewer features or options, and many times at a lower quality but a greater cost. And this is stunting our industry.
The biggest indicator that this remains an issue is in the core product of our industry: the stock bicycle. We are often distracted by the marketing being inappropriate or consumer experiences being negative, but at the end of the day it’s all about the bike.
The first step a person takes to becoming a cyclist is walking into a bike shop and purchasing a stock bicycle off of the shop floor. The problem is that the standard range of unisex sizes, a range that works for nearly all men, does not work for a sizeable percentage of women. If the bike isn’t there, the consumer isn’t either.
To frame this, I have to drop some numbers straight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention*. The average adult American man is 5 feet 9 inches tall, and 90 percent of American men are in the range of 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches tall. Most stock bike sizes cover that range of human stature pretty well. That means that if you’re a guy in the U.S. you can expect to walk into a bike shop and find something that you can ride away on. Most bikes designed around the predominant wheel size (700c/29-inch) will have a geometry that fits you well enough and offer a consistent level of handling. You, sir, are catered to.
The average adult American woman, however, is 5 feet 4 inches tall and 90 percent of women fall between 4 feet 11 inches and 5 feet 8 inches in height (the 5th and 95th percentiles). If you fall under 5 feet 4 inches you begin to run into issues such as toe overlap with your front wheel, top tubes that are too high to stand over, uncomfortable fit and poor handling.
For you, cycling is a lower quality experience. These problems are exacerbated when fatter cyclocross or gravel tires are dropped into the mix. If you are in that 5th percentile or lower, good luck finding anything at all. Your neighborhood bike shop might even say that you are out of luck—that you need to seek out lower spec’d children’s models or make a significant investment in a custom frame.
But it doesn’t stop there. The UCI minimum bicycle weight requirements apply to all size frames, regardless of the rider, meaning that women’s race bikes have frames that are proportionally heavier to compete on. Also, UCI dimensional requirements ban different sized wheels so that frames are unable to utilize a smaller front wheel to better accommodate bike fit for those with short reach requirements.
And though these race requirements would, on their surface, appear to affect only race bikes, it is important to note that race technology largely dictates product trends and development investment in our industry. The industry standard for testing bicycles (ISO) requires that small bicycles for short people with lower weights and power outputs pass the same tests at the same loads as those designed for much larger, heavier and more powerful riders — meaning that small frames tend to be overbuilt.
Modern drivetrains have minimum chainstay length requirements to properly shift so that even if you wanted to design an appropriately handling small frame around a small wheel (26 inches or 650b or 650c), you could not utilize those drivetrains.
And then there is the pervasive problem of “down spec’ing” women’s product, where women are charged more for “women’s” bicycles that feature lower quality components. I understand that this bias towards the standard men’s bell curve also affects large and small men, but not nearly to the degree that it affects women as an overall population.
And sure, companies may extend a model line or two of their total off ering to the smaller sizes to give those riders something at all to ride, but really it’s just throwing small statured cyclists, predominantly women cyclists, a bone. Why do we not question the lack of small bicycles in stock, “unisex” size ranges?
Because it is inconvenient for the industry at large. Designing product to serve smaller (predominantly women) cyclists to the level that we serve our current male default consumers will require investment in time, testing and tooling. It will be expensive and it will take thought. Most critically, it will require that as an industry we acknowledge that our market, when considered as a whole, looks diff erent and has diff erent product needs than the group we currently serve. We must reestablish our default.
*Source: “Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults: United States, 2007-2010.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. October 2012.
RXL Thermal Long-Sleeve Jersey – $110
Of the two jerseys reviewed here, the RXL Thermal is the more cycling-specific. It has a more fitted shape and the shoulders are cut for being bent slightly forward over the handlebars. I think Bontrager did a better job with the cycling-specific cut than many other brands in that it didn’t just replicate the upside-down triangle shape of many men’s jerseys. The cut is shaped but not too exaggerated (i.e. you can be comfortable even if you’re not super-Strava-aero in the drops), and the elastic, grippy waistband isn’t so restrictive that it rides up. It is a tiny bit too short in the front, but I and my long torso seem to have that problem with all technical jerseys. It might be just right for you.
The thermal Profila fabric has a soft, brushed interior and a very stretchy exterior. Warm and wicking as advertised, the RXL Thermal is an excellent, capable winter road-ride jersey whether on its own or layered nicely under a jacket.
Thoughtful little details include a draft flap on the front zipper, three rear pockets that are deep enough to actually be useful and a rear zippered pocket for a super-secret stash. The neck is also comfortably on the higher side and features a mesh patch at the back to help dissipate heat. I’m not sure how practical or visible the three, tiny reflective dots on the back pocket are, but there you have it.
The RXL Thermal jersey comes in enough colors to satisfy most tastes across the women’s product spectrum (yay!): light blue, red, pink, bright yellow/green and black. Several of the colors are currently on sale, so check it out. Sizes XS to XL.
More info: bontrager.com
Vella Thermal Jersey – $100
I’ll just come right out and say it: The Vella Thermal is my new favorite winter jersey, even though I honestly don’t like the color (bonus that it’s the cheaper of the two). The shape is more universal and the cut slightly less fitted, making it great for all winter activities, not just cycling, and allowing me to wear a wool T-shirt underneath it on the coldest days. It’s also a bit longer than the RXL Thermal and the unique wrist openings easily fold up, making way for my gargantuan technical watch. The waist is not as fitted but the silicone dots do a nice job of keeping the jersey in place. I think it would make a great technical top for commuting, among other things.
The Vella also features Bontrager Profila thermal fabric, but this one feels a bit thicker and slightly less technically fancy. It wears very cozily and wicks as advertised. Similarly to the RXL, this jersey also features three deep rear pockets and one zippered stash pocket. I don’t really get the point of the asymmetric front, but I think it looks cool, and I do appreciate that the front zipper is reflective.
The Vella Thermal jersey comes in black, bright yellow/green and an intense pink. The heathered look of the black one is particularly classy; you could get away with wearing it in various situations not directly related to cycling. Sizes XS to XL.
More info: bontrager.com
Bontrager continues to improve upon and expand its women’s line of cycling clothing. I’m always pleased to see when high-end offerings get women’s-specific versions, such as the RXL Softshell Tight reviewed here, and versatility in investment pieces. Neither of the bottoms have built-in chamois, for example, making them endlessly useful through winter and allowing you to choose the right padding for each ride. Both of these pieces have comparable men’s versions, as well.
RXL Softshell Tight – $130
I was told when I started working here to expect inconsistent product review times. Some items could be written about right away—their virtues and flaws would be obvious. Then, there would be bicycles, gear and other items I would have to stick with for a while to figure out. These tights fall into the latter category.
I know, I know, they’re just pants. But they’re fancy pants.
The downside of this relationship is the fit. The RXL doesn’t stretch as much as I think “tights” should and I find them a tad short for ensuring warm ankles (I don’t have long legs). They’re too fitted around my cyclist thighs and too loose at my little waist. I can’t hoist them up enough to prevent the crotch from sagging and have caught the pants several times on various saddles.
That said, they might fit your body type just fine. Mine is apparently called “spoon,” which is like an hourglass figure but with a smaller chest. Anyway…
The upside of this relationship is everything else. The RXL Softshell Tight is a very nice product that, fit issues aside, I still wore the heck out of over the past couple of months and will continue to reach for on cold, snowy rides. They are pre-bent at the knees and have a nice rise in the rear to prevent gaping when bent over. The RXL tights are windproof, water resistant and lined with a light, cozy fleece (Profila Thermal fabric). As advertised, these thick and hearty pants kept me warm and dry on the most frigid of outings, including a multi-hour fat bike ride through spitting snowfall and temperatures in the low teens.
The ankle area of the tights is longer in the front. The shorter back of the ankle allows for unrestricted pedaling motion with cycling boots and the longer front means less cold air seeping through your laces, but I’d rather see an overall longer length.
The quality of the RXL Softshell Tight is impressive. They’re impeccably made and full of nice, little touches like a drawstring at the comfortable, yoga-pant-inspired waistband, ankle zippers and reflective detailing. My pair has been through the wash several times and so far, so good. I would also be perfectly happy wearing them hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
More info: bontrager.com
Race Thermal Tight – $90
The Race Thermal Tights were designed to be performance tights that remind the wearer of yoga pants. They are versatile for winter activities, both on the bike and off, as well as layering for winter warmth.
The Profila Thermal fabric is the same medium-thickness, smooth-faced, cozy fleece as the RXL tight, but without the windproofing front. The outer fabric of the tights feels particularly hearty. I think they would work better than a thin base layer tight for tramping around in thick, snaggy underbrush, should you find yourself on a rather adventurous outing. The tights also wick and breathe as advertised, preventing clamminess when you heat up too much on that hard road ride.
These tights offered me some of the same weird fit issues as discussed above, and I’ll confess that I heard some ripping noises in the waistband area the first time I put them on and had to yank them up over my thighs (but sizing up would have meant serious waist gaping). Again, I’m willing to concede that women with other body types won’t have this issue, but I like to think of tights as generally more stretchy and universally shaped enough enough that one-design-suits-most. Admittedly, because of the tight fit, I can’t comfortably get chamois liners under these tights, so I primarily wear them running and snowshoeing.
Speaking of the waistband, it’s wide and soft, but the comfort factor is interrupted by harsh, itchy seaming on either side near the hips. Because of that, I always make sure to have a long under shirt tucked in if I’m wearing them. This might be a problem with my pair, only, so try to find these at a Trek dealer to try out before purchasing.
More info: bontrager.com
Svelte London is a small cycling clothing brand that is a product of the Kickstarter generation and is focused on keeping its products European. Production of the company’s line for men and women started only this year and takes place in East London (jerseys), Italy (bibs) and Portgual (baselayers). They are also a part of the generation of more subtle, comfortable cycling clothing that focuses on a few, well-made pieces.
“The vision for Svelte is to create well-designed, minimalist clothing that is understatedly technical,” wrote Tom Barber of Svelte. “We are aiming at design-conscious but cost-sensitive consumers. We are aiming to make clothing that will last such that people can invest in a jersey that, thanks to its minimalist design and carefully chosen colour schemes, will be timeless.”
The Svelte Heritage jersey does indeed have a timeless appearance and has become my go-to cycling top whether I’m wearing it on its own or grabbing it as my baselayer on colder days. It has worked very well for road riding, mountain biking and simply running errands on two wheels. I’d gladly take it on a multi-day tour and re-wear it multiple times without washing.
The Heritage is made in London of a lightweight, performance Merino blend from Denmark, which is the star of the show. This Merino breathes and moves wonderfully while not itching in the slightest and not surrendering to body stench, either. I’m smitten with the fabric, which also has a startlingly rich look and feel that outshines many of my nice winter sweaters.
The jersey’s fit hits each of my personal preferences. It features a full-length zipper and a shaped, but not overly fitted, design that includes room in the hips and silicone grippers on the dropped tail without any constricting elastic (it won’t ride up on you). I’m rather small up top, in general, and found the “athletic” fit to be flattering without being restrictive.
The three main pockets are big, deep and strong (which I find to be rare on women’s jerseys) and the jersey’s overall length is far better than most in that it actually covers my belly button. A bonus pocket closed with a loop and button is nice for small items.
The Classic Bib Short is lovely and comfortable and features a fairly traditional design with flat seams and a small, reflective detail on the back. The chamois falls into a good middle ground without being too bulky or too thin, and I found the shorts plenty comfy on multi-hour rides. The bib straps don’t have any special ventilation nor do they unhook for faster bathroom breaks, but they are so soft and so light that I forgot they were there; they caused no uncomfortable chafing or sticking.
The rich navy blue color is beautiful, but I would love to see a future option that lacks the pink stripe. While a chic touch, the pink makes the shorts less versatile when trying to match other jerseys and I like to see versatility when it comes to high-quality investment pieces. I’d also like to see Svelte ditch the elastic silicone grippers on the legs, which can sometimes stick painfully to the skin on long, sweaty rides. They definitely work, but aren’t the most modern option.
The jersey and short each cost 90 British Pounds which, at the moment, is roughly $135 U.S. That could easily be considered steep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these pieces hold up for quite a long time. (I accidentally fried them both in the dryer and they came out looking brand-new.)
Svelte ships to the U.S. and it only takes a few days. See more and order on their website.
Allow me to set a scene for you: It has been a long and arduous journey for women in cycling, from those who work with bicycles for a living to those who simply find joy when riding them. For decades, we haven’t been seen as equals or deserving of either employment or representation because we don’t measure up or shred hard enough or constitute a large-enough market. Still, those of us with decades-old passions for cycling, myself included, found avenues and bicycles and gear and just did what we loved, which was to ride.
Meanwhile, what we longed for was to be seen as “cyclists,” not as objects. All we really wanted was for bike shops and bike companies to acknowledge our existence even a little bit. Interested in women shopping with you? Be nice; it’s that simple. I don’t need to be treated like a princess or given wine when I walk in your door. I only request that you not be a dick to me.
Apparently, this is still sometimes too much to ask. It’s Interbike week and we were greeted yesterday morning with the news that official attendee bags had been stuffed with socks featuring the backsides of two women in barely there bikini bottoms. Interbike has since offered an apology (see below) and explained that the socks were shipped per a sponsor agreement and the attendee bags were stuffed by volunteers. (As of Tuesday afternoon, Interbike removed the socks from the remaining bags.)
It doesn’t really matter who is or was responsible for filling thousands of goodie bags with socks that are demeaning and exclusionary. What matters is their association with the bike industry’s biggest trade show. What matters is that someone, somewhere, thought that it was acceptable to officially represent the bicycle industry’s biggest, most “professional” event with a revealing graphic of butt cheeks, and that sucks. All one has to do is look around the Interbike show floor and realize this isn’t a bro-only industry anymore.
Prior to “sockgate,” I was on a high about my beloved bicycle industry. I just came from five years at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) where I worked with a staff that is one-third female. In my tenure there, I had the privilege of getting to know the coaches of several rapidly growing women’s mountain bike clinics, the tireless female leaders of mountain bike advocacy groups across the U.S. and the participants of women-only mountain bike races. I was also beginning to notice more companies including women prominently in their print advertising.
Hell, I was just discussing my appreciation for the lack of scantily clad booth babes at this year’s Outdoor Demo, something I saw en masse in 2010—the last time I attended Interbike.
Considering the many good things happening for women in cycling, ass socks might seem like a small thing. But under the bright lights of what Interbike is—an event intended to help grow and expand this industry—ass socks are indicative of a pervasive misogynistic attitude that is continually excused and refuses to go away.
I spoke to industry veteran and marketing manager for Pivot Cycles, Carla Hukee, about this. “It’s not that this is just a one-time incident; rather it’s the fifteen-hundredth time something like this has happened,” she said. “These incidents are coming at us in a steady stream.” Hukee also pointed out that Pivot employs several women, which is a significant reason she is proud to be working there.
Exclusionary, demeaning marketing moves (beyond this one instance) need to be called for the bullshit that they are and that is why Pivot’s female staff was more than willing to gather at Outdoor Demo for the featured photo. They are proud of their professional status in the bicycle industry and wanted to show you that it’s not just men working on behalf of your favorite brands.
Interbike—to its credit—is making a significant effort this year to promote and recognize women in cycling. Interbike is hosting an indoor space called “The Women’s Collective” which I hope will be well attended and taken seriously. In conjunction with organizations like PeopleForBikes and the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition, attendees can choose from multiple panels, seminars and product line presentations (some of which we will report back on). The collective will also serve as a conversational space for women and men to discuss and learn about the state of the women’s cycling market.
But the socks also run counter to Interbike’s own 10-point “Manifesto,” which was published with the intent to “begin to take action toward a more sustainable future and a prosperous industry.” The document came into being following Interbike’s January 2015 Independent Bicycle Dealer Summit and specifically calls out women as one the the “greatest opportunities” for the future of the bicycle industry.
Should none of this move you emotionally, perhaps take a dispassionate economic view of the situation: 46 percent of outdoor participants are females (Outdoor Industry Association); 24 percent of all bicycle trips in the U.S. are made by women; and the number of “enthusiast” women cyclists (the most active) increased by 8 percent from 2000 to 2010.
(Source: PeopleForBikes participation statistics )
Simply put, if you don’t want to alienate a growing segment of your buyers, don’t scoff at the idea of purposeful inclusion and thoughtful marketing. Don’t shun a little good taste for the sake of a cheap laugh. Yes, we are in Las Vegas, a city in a state that has pockets of legalized prostitution. Does that make ass socks acceptable? Absolutely not. Just because you are forced to attend a family gathering with your racist uncle doesn’t mean you can suddenly turn on your black friend and demean him in front of others.
In remarkably timely fashion, the current issue of Dirt Rag—its first “personality” issue—comes out today at Interbike and features professional downhill and enduro mountain bike racer Amanda Batty on the cover. (Dirt Rag is Bicycle Times’ sister publication and I work for both.) Her interview is a no-holds-barred discussion of the sexism, misogyny and double standards often found in cycling and its media.
Over the years, Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times have learned much about what their readers expect, prefer and appreciate, and we’re pretty damn proud that they seem to be a level-headed, fun-loving bunch interested in riding and adventuring with male and female friends alike, not bothering to spend time objectifying women.
But in the year 2015, the Dirt Rag staff shouldn’t suddenly feel like outliers that the cover of our latest issue features a woman riding a mountain bike on a technical trail. It shouldn’t have to be seen as “taking a stand.”
I can claim no credit for the current Dirt Rag issue, but I’m immensely proud of my colleagues for taking it on. Before I showed up, the small editorial team steering Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times was fully fueled by testosterone but, clearly, it did not matter.
You should not need to have women around to view them—and support them—as riders rather than figures to be objectified.
In addition to this, please read what Christina Julian wrote on the Surly Bikes blog about this issue, especially if you still don’t think objectification of women constitutes a real problem for the bicycle industry. Julian is Surly’s marketing manager and her piece is personal, honest and compelling.
Here is what Interbike had to say:
Official post on the Interbike Facebook page:
“There was an unfortunate incident with socks in our OutDoor Demo bags. It was part of a sponsorship and the bags were stuffed by a third party organization. This was a mistake and is not how Interbike rolls. We have removed the socks from the bags and apologize.”
Comment from Justin Gottlieb, Director of Communications and PR for Interbike (found on a Facebook discussion feed):
“… We in no way meant to offend anyone and are sensitive to the issue at hand. We are researching the situation right now to see what happened, but it seems as though a 3rd party received and packed the socks in the bags without our review. Had we seen them, we would have never let them in the bags. We apologize for the mistake, and are pulling them out of all bags as we speak. Let me know if you have any other questions.”
Several brands including SRAM, Liv, United Bicycle Institute (UBI), Quality Bicycle Products, Pedro’s, and Park Tool have joined together to offer ten scholarships for women to attend United Bicycle Institute.
Recognizing the bike industry needs to reach out to more women, these industry heavyweights have collaborated to fund a scholarship program for women. Additional support for the scholarship is provided by Nuu-Muu and the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (OIWC).
The scholarship was created for women who are aspiring or experienced bike mechanics wishing to increase their technical knowledge and actively pursue a career in the cycling industry.
“It can be challenging for women to join the bike industry, and it will take numerous efforts to create a talent pipeline,” said Alix Magner, QBP’s Distribution Sales Manager and QBP’s scholarship program manager. “This is one step, and we’re thrilled at the level of initiative from our partners to start leading change in how women are included in our industry.”
Recipients will receive scholarships to attend UBI’s Professional Shop Repair and Operations Workshop. Lodging will be provided for those attending the Ashland, Oregon campus. Travel and other expenses are the responsibility of the recipient.
Interested parties can apply at qbp.com/womensscholarship through November 15, 2014. Applicants must be currently employed at a bike shop, at least 18 years old, a U.S. resident, and must be available to attend the February, March or April sessions. Winners will be notified via email by December 19, 2014.Tweet Print