A plea for diversity in marketing to women who love sport.
It may come as a surprise, but the women who inspire me to ride are not the ones that many sports brands are choosing to collaborate with. I don’t deny young, smiley, pretty girls with no commitments other than an insatiable Instagram account and a yoga mat the opportunity to make some money (and I am hoping they are actually paid, and not just given free kit). But I’d really love to see a more diverse bunch of women represented too.
Of course as I’m over 45, and apparently therefore no sports brand’s target audience, then most will not consider my point of view of any importance. Then again – and bearing in mind the sums of money some of my aged 50 plus friends are currently spending on their Alpine cycling adventures – it might be worth sitting up and taking notice.
So here goes: the women who inspire me to ride my bike are the provocateurs, the trail blazers, the mavericks, those who ‘don’t quite fit in’ but who ride their bike anyway – and have a great story to boot. I also value the way they communicate that story: great writing will never go out of fashion (enough of the feel good lifestyle quotes, please).
As an example of women who make me go ‘wow, I’ll cite Rebecca Rusch: 47 year old, multi-title winning U.S endurance mountain biker, self-titled ‘queen of pain’ and firefighter (how’s that for a job description?). She also wrote this – a letter to her former self – which is just about the pinnacle of authenticity that really only comes with age, and the last word on finding your own way forward. Interestingly Rebecca is clearly pretty heavily sponsored – perhaps there is nothing to be feared in collaborating with older athletes after all.
And then of course there is the lovely Jools Walker – cycle style blogger and The Cycle Show presenter. She’s a great communicator, 30 something, charmingly quirky, and totally authentic: you just want to be best friends with her. She’s also black – there I said it – how wonderful it would be to see the diversity that exists in cycling – be it age, gender or ethnicity – more widely represented.
I’ll also flag up Sian Roberts, mountain biker and co-owner of the fabulous Oldskool Mtb Accommodation near the Coed y Brenin trail centre (I’m share the link on the condition that you don’t book yourself in when I want to be there) who let slip, over a cup of coffee, that she had been a Welsh and UK MTB elite racer – and had persuaded key sponsors to come on board when Coed y Brenin (the first and largest trail centre in the UK) was set up. You really don’t get much more trail blazing than that.
There are loads more inspiring women riders of course. Who would you add? Let me know below – and the more diverse the better, please.
I am stunned and excited to have been nominated in the Singletrack 2015 Reader Awards, in the Best Written Article category. I’ve been shortlisted for my post ‘The trouble with womens’ mountain bikes’, which was originally published on the Singletrackworld.com site earlier this summer.
Singletrack had approached me about writing for them after I published a story on this site celebrating their choice of a female rider for the magazine cover – a hugely popular story that even Rachel Atherton retweeted!
For the nominated post on women’s mountain bikes I went back to the drawing board and spent a lot of time checking facts and researching details from brands such as Santa Cruz, Trek, Specialized and Orange, as well as talking to female cyclists and local bike stores. The result – I hope – peels back the layers of marketing and gets to the bottom of why it can be so difficult for women to find the right bike. It also addresses the fact that there is actually no such thing as a ‘men’s’ bike: perhaps it is time to start using the term standard bike instead, make more sizes and fit options, and also show women riding them alongside men in advertising.
There are several categories to vote for, but I believe Manon Carpenter (nominated for personality of the year) and I are the only women up for a prize. So lets hope at least one of us gets to make a victory speech and fly the flag for women’s mountain biking at the awards ceremony on the 25th September!!
Voting closes at midnight on Sunday 20th September and (hint, hint) you can vote here or on the link to the post above.
Mountain bike magazine Singletrack put a woman on its May 2015 cover, and it’s caused a bit of a stir.
Singletrack magazine is always a good read but I am really pleased to see a woman on the cover of their May 2015 issue (German Enduro rider Laura Brethauer, about to go over the edge of something very steep). To be honest I am also a little surprised as women in mountain bike magazines tend to be noticeable for their absence. I tweeted about the cover on Saturday and got a huge response – all positive – including a RT from Rachel Atherton (19 mountain bike world cup wins to her name, and a major player in promoting women’s mountain biking) who added ‘Was buzzing when I saw this!! Respect!!’.
I love the image (by Christoph Laue), because its not posed: Brethauer is clearly totally engaged in her ride. It’s the moment we all ride bikes for and it isn’t about being male or female. Singletrack tell me that they chose it simply because it deserved to be a cover, and not because it’s a picture of a woman. This is, of course, as it should be. However it is also really heartening to see a woman represented on the front of this esteemed (and little bit maverick) mountain bike title.
As a print journalist it is also good to see that magazine covers continue to command respect: everyone who saw this and commented on it understands that putting a woman on the front is way more significant than slotting one in somewhere in the vicinity of page 36.
I’m aware that most mountain bikers are male (80%, I think) and that magazine making is a business, and that it is dependent upon entertaining its target readership. I also know that the vast majority of mountain bike photography features men. And of course, I don’t want to see a quota of ‘women covers’ to win a few PC points. But let’s hope that the reaction that this cover has generated may just inspire photographers to work with women riders, and editors to continue to take the occasional risk with their choice of cover star.