Last night I joined the panel at a London Bike Kitchen WaG event to discuss the ways in which women are portrayed in the cycling media. This isn’t actually us, but it is a great way to get your attention.
It was a privilege to sit alongside eloquent and informed speakers Jools Walker (cycling blogger and presenter), Laura Laker (cycling journalist) and Chris Garrison (cycling marketing expert) on the stage (which was actually a very wide window sill!) in front of a packed room of cyclists at Look Mum No Hands! What followed was a truly inspiring debate. Here’s a quick summary of some of the key points I put forward (not because I’m more fascinating than everyone else – clearly I’m not – but because I’d be here all night if I included everything that was said!), followed by a link to an excellent post about the whole event which highlights more of the topics we discussed.
First, I’m as passionate about the media as I am about cycling. I’ve been a magazine journalist for most of my career and it’s been fantastically rewarding work. Because my background is in women’s magazines – where women are the focus of everything that’s written – I’d like to see women represented more widely in the cycling media too. I’m not used to being an afterthought!!
“It’s not women’s cycling, it’s cycling”.
I’d like to believe we can reach a point where we no longer feel the need to discuss ‘women’s cycling’ in the media as if it is something separate from general cycling. Unfortunately our cycling media, on the whole, currently feels like it is an exclusive men’s club. This may not be deliberate editioral or marketing policy, but it is still the case.
“For me, mountain biking is about freedom, joy and mini adventures…”
Imagery or copywriting that objectifies women has no place in cycling either. I’ve written about this before for Singletrack World, when I wrote an open letter to Maxxis in response to some of their more sexist advertising. As a mountain biker and road cyclist, I’d prefer to see brands use their marketing material to reflect how it is out there on the trails/roads where, in my experience, cycling is largely a friendly, supportive and inclusive community of people having fun. It would be great to see that celebrated across the media instead.
“Focus on the good…”
If we see media coverage that we like then acknowledge it, share it, talk about it and reward the brands with our hard-earned cash! Which brings me on to the fabulous advert for Look Mum No Hands! podium pants (above). It is fun and it works – brands take note, the pants sold out off the back of this ad. And then there is this film, below, by Sealskinz about the power of mountain biking: a beautiful and moving acknowledgement of the fact that we all ride for different reasons. Both ads are a refreshing, exciting glimpse of what our cycling media could become.
“Ordinary women doing extraordinary things”
Women cyclists are not all the same: we don’t share the same levels of participation, experience or areas of interest within cycling. We don’t all want to read the same blog posts (one woman will want to know about getting started, another about training for ultra cycling) nor buy the same kit. What we do want is to celebrate our diversity by sharing our stories. We don’t have to be world champion to have a great story to tell.
“Onwards and upwards…”
I’m glad to report that the audience in the room last night were as informed and empowered as the panel!! There was a wonderful energy and a shared passion for cycling. I came home to read a huge number of supportive comments on social media. This is such an exciting time for women who cycle and it is a joy to be part of the discussions to move it forward in the media.
Thanks for inviting me, London Bike Kitchen!
You can see and read more about the event here.
I’m excited (and a bit nervous!) to report that I’ve been invited to join a panel of speakers to discuss how women’s cycling is portrayed in the media. The event is the first in a new series of WaG (women and gender variant) events and will be held at Look Mum No Hands in partnership with the London Bike Kitchen.
The other speakers – experts on women who cycle, both of them – are Laura Laker, who has written for The Guardian, Cycling Weekly, Road.cc, Cycling Active, Bike Radar, Total Women’s Cycling, Bike Hub and Good Housekeeping, and cycling blogger Jools Walker who has also appeared regularly on ITV’s The Cycle Show and is also operations manager for Vulpine Cycling Apparel. And then there’s me – a former fashion and beauty editor for women’s magazines including Marie Claire and Just 17, and now a regular contributor to titles including Singletrack and Total Women’s Cycling as well as cycling brands including Velovixen and Evans Cycles (oh, and I still write ‘non-cycling’ fashion copy too!)
With my background in an area of journalism that has women at its core, I’m really excited to discuss how – and why – the cycling media needs to get up to speed with women who ride. I’m expecting some forthright – and well informed – views from both the panel and the audience.
The event is open to all and free to attend, and it takes place on Wednesday 3rd February at Look Mum No Hands, 49 Old Street, EC1 9HX.
Hope to see you there!!
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.
Getting the inside line on the new Hoy Vulpine range with Jools Walker at the London Bike Show.
The first time I met Jools Walker – cycling style blogger at Velo-City Girl and ‘Head Girl’ at stylish cycling apparel brand Vulpine – was at a Sweaty Betty bloggers event on the Kings Road. It was a frenzy of trying-on and not enough changing rooms and somehow we ended up in the shop basement, in our underwear, gleefully giggling amid piles of luxury sportswear. I hasten to add that we’ve managed to stay fully dressed every time we’ve met since. Our paths have crossed at the launch of Brithish Cycling’s campaign to get more women cycling, the Vulpine cycling fete, the Total Women’s Cycling Awards, the Matrix Vulpine team launch and the social ride in Richmond Park, and now at The London Bike show where the brand was launching Hoy Vulpine, a new collaboration with cycling and Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy.
Jools was holding fort at what turned out to be one of the biggest stands at the show: a huge floor space featuring a fairly minimal amount of carefully displayed garments (think luxury retail). The promise of a Costa Hot Chocolate soon lured her away, and we grabbed ten minutes for a catch up about the new launch (whilst been shot by a photographer who had – fashion coincidence – turned up wearing a Vulpine jacket). Hoy Vulpine was born when Chris Hoy – GB’s most successful Olympic athlete of all time – approached Vulpine – GB’s most successful small, British cycling apparel brand founded in the last three years – about developing a range together. Once they had picked themselves up off the floor, they collaborated on a collection that includes bib shorts and jerseys alongside t-shirts, shorts and socks, with garments for men and women. They haven’t wasted the opportunity to use the Hoy name prominently – it would be foolish not to. While still based on performance fabrics as well as style, the garments are a little more keenly priced than those in the original label collection – £26.99 for a t shirt, £69.99 for a jersey, £79.99 for bibs. It’s also going to be available at Evans (from March) as well as online at Vulpine so while you might not be getting the full-on luxe merino of the main label, you are getting the benefit of economies of scale. I love the colourways and the design details – there’s not a garment that I wouldn’t wear. At the risk of sounding like a woman obsessed with zippers, I liked the choice between a full zip and part zip on the cycling jerseys, and the use of gripable zip pulls that you can use whilst wearing gloves (and angled rear pockets for ease of access). The bibs feature a full bodice rather than just straps: it gives a more streamlined look. And there’s even a zipper garage (a little flap at the top of the zip) that stops the top of the zip digging in to your sternum (I deliberately checked for this because I have a similar pair from another brand which lacks the zipper garage, and so digs in). And the lovely contrast zips – did I mention those?
Post hot chocolate, we headed back to the stand. Matt Stephens had just turned up and happily posed for a few photos. The next day Greg and Kathy LeMond visited and did a little shopping, and Chris Hoy was on the till (or at least very near it). Me? I came, I saw, I got the same T-shirt as Jools because she always looks great: it’s a no-brainer, really. See and shop the full range here. photos: Paul Mitchell.