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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”