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Women in the Bike Industry, Who is to Blame?

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There is a hot debate going on at Bike Hugger.  Two articles are to be mentioned : The first is “Women as Outcast’s in Cycling Industry.”  The author goes on to tell about how it was very difficult for his wife to find a bike that truly fit her, even after trying several different types of bikes and bike shops.  He ends his story with a suggestion that every shop have a key individual for fitting problems. The follow up to the above article is “It’s Women’s Fault.”  After a tweet, that mentioned that women are walking into the bike shop without knowledge.  Changing blame from the bike industry, to the shoppers themselves.

How Original

My original thought to this was, how ironic that both of these articles are wrote by a gentleman.  A well rounded, educated, cycling, gentleman – but a guy. My brain then went in full tilt as these are things I deal with daily running a bike shop, and monthly in the cycling culture surrounding the internet.  Cycling is a double edge sword when it comes to education, training, customer service and what I will call “the boys club.” Many people walk into a bike shop every day, not knowing what they want or why they want it.  Apparently, all customers can be broken down into 2 of 4 personality types.   All the sales training classes, education and personal experience I have had.. its true!  Here’s the catch, it doesn’t matter if they are male or female!! Why do companies such as the Ikea or Apple excel in a hard economy?  They know how to educate their staff, keep a store and help their customers.  Sure, it sounds great and easy but it isn’t.  The bike industry is a hard one to walk into, most employees are paid less than a comparable job in a different industry, the learning curve is steep, products change daily and that damn internet is telling customers all our secrets. (Half joking on that last one.)

Why do women notice?

Women notice how a store is kept, customer service, knowledge and experience because they tend to be shoppers.  They are sensitized to all of the above thanks to shopping with companies that have their act together.  Walk into your local Gap or Brookstone, follow by walking into three of your local bike shops and then tell me your feelings as you left each one.

Women Spend Money

Make two different fitting bikes, create a line of women’s clothing and now multiple it by 2 because you need choices for a woman to pick between.  Create a buzz, a community, a clean store with knowledgable, well kept employees and you’ll see the bikes and clothing. Why? Because women want to buy those things, they want to be better cyclist, outfit their bike and body and feel GOOD about it.  Make them feel good, give them a reason for purchasing and they will buy it.

The Boys Club

I’ve worked in the industry for a long time and have a pretty thick skin.  Still there are things that once in a blue moon will kick me off my rocker.   If you want to become your local area’s “women’s shop” I would recommend to hire 2 women that know something or another about bikes, and can learn.  Pay them $2 more per hour than their male counterpart, believe me they will earn it and will deal with more crap than $2 per hour can make up for.  If you happen to be a bike shop owner or manager, don’t let the boys club get out of hand.  A joke here or there is good thing, but comments about female customers, employees or female products should be stopped quickly.

There is No Easy Answer

Changes need to happen from both ends.  Bike manufactures need to stop painting bikes pink for floor models, and need to give more choices to women.  They also need to encourage training, merchandising and demo’s.   Bike shop managers and owners need to take large jumps forward from human resources to store design.  Create a shop you would be proud to show to your mother for a week at a time, not just for a drive by visit.

Join the conversation on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @BikeShopGirlcom.

About the Author

Bike Shop Girl has over 12 years of bicycle industry experience and hands on knowledge. Hoping to empower women and others on the bike so they too can feel the freedom and power that two wheels can give someone.

10 Comments

  1. And I’d add that most shops need to take their female customers more seriously. Just because we may bike slower than men doesn’t mean that we’re any less serious about cycling.

    I hear from bike shops on our cross-country tour routes all the time, shocked at how nice the women’s bikes on our tours are. Well, they should be – they’re using them to bike across the country! We’ll spend a lot in bike shops if given the chance.

  2. That was absolutely the best commentary I have read regarding this topic. You are a smart chick and I’m glad you are on my team. Keep up the good work. And again, excellent post!

  3. The funny thing about the statement that say women just don’t know as much as men when shopping for a bike is that it’s almost completely false, at least in my shop. I tend to find way more men that are completely clueless when it comes to shopping for a bike.

    Women tend to do more research and are better listeners when being sold to. We as women tend to shop more in general so we weigh our options.

    It can be hard being one of the only females in a shop. The worst is when a male customer calls the shop or inquires about something and they ask for another man to answer their question.

    I don’t like to push myself upon them, but I often end up getting them to ask me anyways. Often times I help them out quicker than it would’ve taken for me to grab a male co-worker.

    Someday there will be just as many women as men in the cycling world and things will be different. Until then we just have to do our best to represent females. We need prove to the guys we are just as good as they are at doing our jobs and being educated consumers.

  4. I can tell you from years of working with @bikeshopgirl in a shop that she did have to deal with a bunch of crap and she was worth the extra few bucks that she was talking about paying. Sometimes the boys club stuff does get thick, but she is someone who could dish it right back. Also a strong woman in the shop could keep everyone in check, but sometimes at their own peril. I feel that we worked together in a progressive shop with well educated folks, but we let it slide a bit because we were used to being around guys.
    I have seen it get really bad when the ownership of a shop does not hire women to work in the shop or take advice on merchandising, purchasing, or management from a female perspective, but again, it you have the chance, go to a shop that does promote women and if they don’t be constructive about your concerns with the management or ownership. Every dollar is important in the industry these days, so shops need to hold onto customers in the worst way. You never know, maybe there is a consulting gig in it for the right lady!

  5. There is definitely a gap in the market for businesses catering for women who want to buy a bike. Do we expect women to have an advanced knowledge of cars when they go to buy one? Bike shops can be intimidating male spaces to even an experienced female rider.

    In Sydney a longstanding well known bike shop has now opened an affiliated women’s specific shop with female staff. Much needed I say.

  6. One comment I’d make as a cycling father who’s keen to encourage his kids to get on a bike as early as possible: I’m treated very differently in bike shops if I have the kids with me than if I don’t, almost to the point of hostility in some cases.

  7. I applied for a job working in a local bike shop. I have retail, customer service and admin experience and I’ve been to uni where I’ve been studying business but I didn’t even get a reply to my application. And the place, surprise, surprise always has boys (and I mean boys not men) serving in there (badly, I’ve walked out before because the customer service was so bad). They don’t seem to fully understand their market or sales xD

    • Thanks Keelin, I’m loving your blog over there.

  8. I am usually not one to submit my opinion on people’s write ups, but for your write up I just had to do it. I have been cruising in your site a lot recently and I am super impressed, I think you might potentially emerge as a main opinions for this topic. Not sure what your load is like in life, but if you began commiting more effort to writing here, I’d guess you would begin seeing a bunch of traffic soon. With affiliate stuff, it might emerge as a great passive revenue source. Just an idea to ponder. Good luck!

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