Beyond pink: The rise of the female-specific bike shop

Picture of the outside of Everyone Bikes shop

Walking into Everyone Bikes, in Battersea, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into a boutique rather than a bike shop.

Everything here has been laid out with an eye to its visual appeal – from the helmets, forming a colourful display along one white, minimalist wall, to the clothes, draped from wooden hangers towards the back of the shop. There are bikes, yes, but they don’t dominate the shop. It’s a calm, clutter-free space – one that owner Alex Coleman describes as “a relaxing environment” and “a comfortable place to come and ask questions.”

If this doesn’t sound like your typical bike shop, that’s because it’s not. Everyone Bikes is part of a new breed of bike shop – one that caters specifically for women.

There are now two female-specific bike shops in London – as well as Everyone Bikes, there’s Bella Velo, in Surbiton, both of which opened in 2014. There are more online, including Cycle Chic and VeloVixen, which both sell a range of accessories and clothing for female cyclists.

What’s behind this rise in female-specific bike shops? And what can they offer that another bike shop can’t?

Lack of choice

If you talk to any of the owners of these shops about why they opened, a common story starts to emerge – one of a lack of choice for female cyclists. Often, bike shops will only have a limited selection of products for women, many of which are, as Alex says, “hi-viz stuff and numerous shades of pink.”

According to Belinda Scott at Bella Velo, the issue is not that there aren’t any women’s specific products out there – it’s that traditional bike shops won’t stock them.

She says: “I’ve worked in other bike shops where they won’t take women’s stuff because they think it won’t sell. We realised there was a market out there and the products are out there. It’s just a question of bringing them together.”

Offering this choice of products can help women to feel valued in what is typically seen as male-dominated environment, as Phil Bingham, co-founder of VeloVixen, explains.

“We have a lot of customers who are genuinely surprised that we exist. I think female cyclists are used to being a bit of an afterthought when it comes to bike shops,” he says. “So women will often get really quite carried away in reaction to us, and the fact we’re doing it properly.”

Picture of the inside of Bella Velo bike shop, showing  bikes on display

Bella Velo caters to ‘predominantly fit women who want to get into cycling more’

Sense of community

It’s not the just range of products on offer from a female-specific bike shop that can help women to feel valued – it’s the support, and sense of community, too.

Bella Velo – whose typical customers Belinda describes as “predominantly fit women who want to get into cycling more” – runs regular Saturday morning shop rides, which aim to help women cyclists to build up their confidence, and meet other bike-minded women. It’s an opportunity for women to gain experience of group riding, which they might not otherwise have had.

As Belinda says, “The reason women come along to our rides is because they don’t like the club scene. It’s pretty male dominated. Or they ride, or have tried to ride, with male friends and partners and they’re too fast for them.”

Encouragement

This sense of community is important, as it’s something that female cyclists can identify with and feel a part of – and which can encourage more women to get into cycling.

Cycle Chic, which launched back in 2008, helps to build this community through the use of photos on the shop website. These show stylish young urban women on bikes – the shop’s typical customer.

Cycle Chic’s founder, Caz Nicklin, says that, by showing that cycling is not just about Lycra, these images help to encourage more women to get on their bikes. “They invite women in who might have dismissed cycling in the past. We get lots of comments from women who maybe haven’t cycled since they were a kid, and they’ve been inspired to get back into it because they can see women like themselves in the pictures.”

Picture of two young women walking with their bikes

Cycle Chic shows women that cycling is not just about Lycra

Approachable

The rise in female-specific bike shops shows there’s clearly a growing demand from women interested in cycling. There’s a lot traditional bike shops can do for them, such as offering a greater choice of products, as Phil from VeloVixen says:

“It is chicken and egg. You do have to have the stock and the range and the different brands in order to interest women, and until you do they’re not necessarily going to come. But if you build it, they will come.”

But perhaps the most important thing bike shops can do is also the easiest. As Alex at Everyone Bikes says, “The biggest thing is being friendly, approachable and welcoming. That goes a long way with anyone, not just female cyclists.”

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13 Responses to Beyond pink: The rise of the female-specific bike shop

  1. Jules 01/05/2015 at 2:43 pm #

    Fantastic to see more ladies riding bikes!! Also fantastic to see more people in general riding bikes of all genders and ages. Having women specific bike shops to cater for women only seems to be overboard and unnecessary. It creates a divide between men and women cyclists and does not help to promote mixed cycling, resulting in another ‘golf’ situation which has also created women only cycle events. If this were on the other foot and we had men specifit shops and events this would cause real problems and complaints by our lovely ladies.
    We should all be able to ride together, drink coffee together and go to cycle shops which cater for both men and women!!! Happy cycling!!!

    • Jackie 10/09/2015 at 4:26 pm #

      The only issue is that all other cycle shops are de facto male focused shops but without promoting themselves as such. I am shopping for a new bike – I can walk into an Evans or any other major store, or into any of my local bike shops for that matter, and if I’m lucky10% of the products – especially the bikes – will be for women. And so I look for a women’s bike shop to try and get the range, diversity and options that men have to find a bike that works for me. Ideally all the bike shops would cater to everyone. But they don’t.

  2. Jos K 01/05/2015 at 4:12 pm #

    I don’t believe that women-focused bike shops encourage a divide between the cycling sexes. The reality is that there are some cycling shops, catering mainly for high performance cycling, which tend to become male-focused. Many of my female cycling companions have commented that they find some of these stores and the attitude and approach of certain staff somewhat intimidating. As quoted above, “the biggest thing is being friendly, approachable and welcoming”. Anyone who promotes cycling as a normal activity and encourages greater participation in cycling should be commended and these women-focused cycling businesses should be supported. We have separate men’s and women’s clothing stores, but we still manage to go out together!

    • Mik 07/05/2015 at 9:03 am #

      The thing is, those shops don’t just become ‘male focused’ believe me as a fat male I feel no more at home in one than a woman would (in fact I’d expect a woman who races to be much more at home in there than I ever would be). If there’s a need, then I see no problem in filling it, it’s just a shame it’s felt there is such a need to split things up.

      • Michelle 08/05/2015 at 7:04 pm #

        You know? I frequent a women’s bike shop in Chicago. Their mechanic is a man, and I’m sure he’d be glad to chat bikes with anyone. It’s possible that if you do feel uncomfortable in your current store, you could take your bike for service at a female centric, more approachable one. They aren’t going to turn away your business, and I’m guessing they’d be glad to help. They may have to order some things for you, but Im sure they’d be happy to.

  3. John H 01/05/2015 at 8:27 pm #

    Whats all this about women cycling.Nonsense I tell you. If all the girlies are out riding who, I ask you will be at home washing the mens cycling kit and cooking a hearty meal to serve on his return from the club run.Who will mind the children and attend to the household chores while the boys are in the cafe or pub enjoying a half of bitter, to replenish fluids and ward off dehydration.
    This is a nonsense I tell you, women drivers are bad enough , think of the carnage that will follow if they are allowed out of the kitchens and onto the roads on bikes,
    This must be stopped immediately.

  4. rebecca 02/05/2015 at 3:00 pm #

    I’m a woman, about to start working in the bike shop – I never realised how big a deal women cycling is until more and more people kept mentioning it to me, it wasn’t not something I thought of, its just something I’ve been doing.

    But then it forces me to be reminded that I’ve got the lovely task of empowering other women and reminding them that its safe to cycle – for those who are scared of course.

    I also really like the idea of having women’s tailored bike shops.. a safe haven for us 🙂

    Really interesting article, thanks 🙂

  5. Maria David 03/05/2015 at 2:10 pm #

    Well done on the opening of the two shops – Bella Velo and Everyone Bikes. I think it’s great that a shop stocks women-specific items for cycling. I do wonder if a whole shop devoted exclusively to women’s cycling is necessary though. I would rather see women’s gear integrated into sports/cycling shops for both genders. Also it seems a bit ironic that the shop is called Everyone Bikes and then the items stocked are for one gender only. Mainstream cycling shops may even feel they have no incentive to stock women-specific items if there are lots of women-specific shops, and then it might even become a kind of gender segregation when shopping for cycling gear. I feel that if current cycling shops seem intimidating it should be a case of educating the people in those shops – getting them to take on more female staff or educating the men on women’s cycling. I guess one thing these women-specific shops do serve as is a good meeting point for networking with other female cyclists, but this networking can still be done in other ways.

    • Claire 08/05/2015 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Maria
      Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments, but just to be clear, Everyone Bikes does stock some men’s stuff too – around 80-90% of what we have is female specific, whereas in the average bike shop it’s sadly still the other way round most of the time; ie, 80-90% geared towards men.
      We would also LOVE to see a more inclusive approach in other bike shops, and hopefully one day we look forward to the ideal utopia where all bike shops are stocking things 50/50!
      We are just one string on an ever growing bow of women’s cycling, and are not at all interested in segregation – we just want to cater for a market that currently isn’t that well served in mainstream bike shops.
      Have a great day!
      Claire

  6. Spoquey 10/05/2015 at 7:10 pm #

    There is definitely a market out there for more women-specific clothing and cycle gear.

    I would love to see a good-quality range of women-sized bikes. No, not the heavy clunky ones with baskets, but smaller-sized really lightweight road bikes, with smaller brake and gear levers, 650 wheels and frames to match. Does such a range exist (no white, pink or baby blue please).
    ?

    I bought a Brompton last year and was disappointed to find that the brake levers are too big for my not-very-dainty hands. I can not easily reach to brake. Why? Surely Brompton could produce a brake lever that everyone can use with ease.

    • Michael Thibault 29/05/2015 at 4:37 pm #

      > brake levers are too big for my not-very-dainty hands

      On most brake levers, there’s a screw–typically a Phillips screw, lately an allen screw–in the body of the brake lever assembly that runs more-or-less parallel to the cable (where it exits from its anchorage i.e. not far from the barrel adjuster). That screw’s depth, in the threaded hole in which it is found, is used to set the distance from the handlebar at which the brake lever comes to rest after being released. You can set that screw’s depth so that the lever doesn’t return to the furthest extent of its range i.e. such that the brake lever, per se, remains within reach of your fingers, if your fingers happen to be smaller than some average length.

      • Spoquey 09/07/2015 at 12:15 pm #

        hey thanks for that tip – I will give it a try!

  7. Jesper 13/05/2015 at 5:13 pm #

    It does seem, that cycling in the UK has generally been seen as a sport (even commuting) with everything that follows of bike models and accessories. Look at other countries around Europe where male and female cyclists are evenly divided, and you find find that they don’t often understand the competitive side, which has a tendency to be male dominated. Once we have established cycling as a normal thing to do in this country, this will stop being an issue.

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