Mens, Ladies, Unisex

My son rides horses and I ride bikes. We were recently discussing the availability of kit and found we were both moaning about the same thing, how we were the minority gender within our chosen sports (at an amateur leisure rider level) and felt that there was an imbalance in availability of kit for men and women – he said he feels that horse riding kit is more available for women and I was saying the inverse about cycling.

With British Cycling applauding the number of women now taking up cycling and a couple of the cycling magazines finally noticing that some of their readers are women I wondered how much my perception was real and how much was imagined. So I created a really (not very) sound survey to find out.

I looked at the websites of 11 companies that directly advertised to me on social media. Looking at the Ad data in my Facebook settings advertisers can easily target me as a female cyclist – all the ads I clicked on appeared to be targeted at just that. I arrived at each website by clicking on the Facebook ad, not via a search engine or using their site URL, I felt this was important as the landing page from an ad influences how I feel about a particular site and can be turned off a brand if they get this wrong.

I looked at the landing page, the number of women’s jerseys available vs the number of men’s jerseys and the largest size of women’s bib-shorts available via the website. And here are the results:

BrandLanding PageWomen’s Jersey CountMens Jersey CountLargest women’s shorts
uk.lapassioneMenswear1050+XL : 31.8″ Waist
Victory ChimpMenswear510XXXL : 40 – 45″
Cafe du CyclisteWomenswear15 – good colours21XL : 34 “
Presca (ready to wear range)1317XXL : 37-39″ – although only in stock up to XL
AssosWomenswear1042Size survey, requested height, age and weight – not waist or inseam, suggested XXL or 37″ waist for me – I usually wear Large Endura Bibs which are for a 34″ waist
SundriedWomenswearsee below 12XL : 34-38″
SirokoWomenswear824 + 8 race jerserysAnother survey requesting age, weight and height but this also asked if I had a small, average or full bust and a flat, average or rounded tummy – after completion they had nothing to fit me.
Hills and MountainsUnisexsee below 2Selected a ladies product but when I clicked through to the size guide only menswear sizing information was available.
Granny GearMenswear248 pages with 15 jerseys per pageDon’t stock women’s shorts but largest jersey is a 6XL : 50″ chest
PariaMenswear25 *34 pages with 16 jerseys per pageXL : 34-36″
My really scientific survey results

Notes: 1 – did not have a section on their website for “jerseys”, I found 1 cycling jersey in the Jackets section of their website. the menswear was no better on this site.

2 – There was no obvious ladies section on their website but I found 12 items with “Ladies” in the description, however as noted in the table above the size guide for these products only gave menswear sizing.

3 – Where male and female versions of the same jersey was available, the ladies section illustrated the male product, eg a mannequin torso with pecs and a six pack and no boobs. This would put me off buying as I would be concerned I was being sent a ‘unisex’ fit jersey – in my experience “unisex” is code for menswear.

4 – This site looked promising, I clicked on a few images and each jersey I looked at was offered in a menswear and womenswear variant. I wondered if that means they have women’s fit jerseys or if the women’s jerseys are just scaled down mens fit – see my comment about “unisex” above. I emailed the company to ask them to clarify – they said that all jerseys are available in women’s fit and if I send them my weight, age etc they will recommend the appropriate size. Excellent response and very timely.

The Landing Page: I think if you are targeting an advert at women then the landing page should at least be unisex – lapassione had invested in a targeted facebook ad that was clearly directed at women (I wish I’d had the foresight to take a screenshot to show) but when I clicked on the ad I was taken directly to a page full of menswear, this seems like such a simple thing to get right that I am surprised at how many companies got it wrong.

The Jersey Count: This was what I most interested in, I wanted to know if my perception that men are better catered for than women when it comes to the available range of kit. I think the numbers confirm my feelings. I understand that there are fewer female cyclists and market economics and all that gubbins, but this is a growing market and I think these retailers are missing a trick. In addition to the reduced range in womenswear there is a definite colour theme for women’s cycling and if you don’t want Black, White, Teal or Pink then you might find some of these retailers have nothing for you. It reminds me of the running and hiking gear market of ten years ago, hopefully cycling kit manufacturers will take note from the running companies and see that women like to wear other colours.

Finally, sizing. I don’t have a picture of me in my cycling kit (I doubt I’m alone in thinking I look like sausage) but I’m not unusually large. I wear a large in bib shorts from Endura – this equates to a 34″ waist. Based on this I would be the largest size in some of these brands – as I mentioned on a previous post it has been repeatedly reported that one of the barriers to women starting sport is the availability of appropriate kit. I have to give credit to the online retailers that they do carry a wider range of sizes than most bricks and mortar shops but the offering from some can still be intimidating and off putting to the larger cyclist.

So my conclusion: Men are better catered for than women with regard to cycling clothing. It’s getting better but isn’t good enough.

A side note: As I was looking at all these cycling ads there was only one company that used models of different ethnicities (Rapha). This is really disappointing – whatever happened to inclusivity in sport?

And another side note: Recently a couple of the cycling magazines have run features/special issues dedicated to women’s cycling and with female guest editors – the Rouleur Women’s edition was excellent . I went to the Cycling Weekly website on the week that they had a guest female editor and took a look at the kit being advertised on their site. I came across a review/article revealing ‘the ten best bib shorts/tights”. Every single pair was for men – if it’s simply that Cycling Weekly can’t find a female reviewer I’m here, somehow I don’t think that’s it. It does feel that they are simply paying lip service to gender inclusivity but when it comes the nitty gritty, women don’t really belong here.

A final final note: I’ve completed screwed up the advertising algorithm on my Facebook profile and now I only get to see cycling ads – bikes, clothing, protein powders, some weird thing that stick on your arm and mentions glucose a lot. Oh, and a company that makes really nice looking silk pyjamas – I can’t afford a pair but they do look lovely.

2017 Tour De Yorkshire Ladies Race
2017 Tour De Yorkshire Ladies Race – women on bikes

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