Bex Hopkins, editor of Bike and former DH and XC MTB racer, shares her thoughts on how far female cyclist-friendly gear has come, and why there is still some way to go...

CHAIN REACTION: An improved offering for female cyclists

In the early ‘90s women just made do with small sizes of men’s gear. That included bikes as well as clothing; we didn’t really have much choice. Any female-specific gear we had was hard to source and usually picked up on our travels to the USA, or we’d tailor men’s gear to fit. It must be said that we didn’t exactly look great in this gear, or very feminine. Short or petite women had almost no choice at all. Finding size three cycling shoes was like searching for hen’s teeth or rocking horse poo.

By the turn of the millennium we were being treated to bikes with a female bias, some suffering from the ‘shrink it and pink it’ syndrome but others breaking ground and providing bikes that actually fitted us and worked better for smaller and lighter riders. The last ten years have dealt women riders a pretty good hand, with a good choice of bikes and better than ever support from retailers in stocking the products we need and, in most cases, their front line staff knowing what we need too. It’s important to remember that often women need a bit more nurturing to get us started, but once hooked, we are as committed to buying gear and riding as our male counterparts.

We don’t need to be patronised or treated with kid gloves, just straightforward advice and facts without too much marketing hype or technical frivolities please. It’s easy to miss some of the basics when you’re getting started, even obvious points like how adjusting a saddle can make it more comfortable and that we don’t all need a big squidgy sofa for a saddle. Sometimes just tipping the nose down a couple of degrees can really help.

Retail leading the way
On a personal note, I adore that my male riding buddies turn green with envy over the stylish and technical outfits I get to ride in, and we have to give a big nod for pushing that forward. That also applies to the big guys like Wiggle and Evans. We hear that another cycle retail chain is setting up a women’s section online, which we look forward to.

My dream is for all women-specific bikes to be designed and built to weigh less, so they work better for our (often) smaller size and weight. Why should my bike weigh the same as my hubby’s, when he is 25 per cent bigger, heavier and stronger? Women don’t tend to break bikes or wheels, despite often riding hard too, so I’m hoping it won’t be too long or too expensive for my dream to realise.

So, has the cycle trade done enough to appeal to women riders? Well judging by the number of women and girls we see out riding, we think things are continuing to swing in our favour and we plan on telling the girls all about it on our new website

Targeting the female cyclist market

BikeEnvy is a new website created by former editor Bex Hopkins, with Janet Birkmyre.

Hopkins is a former downhill and XC mountain bike racer, and Birkmyre is a road and track racer. includes information about what to wear and ride and how to get the most out of riding experiences, with reviews and product information. The site also features news from around the globe, race reports, health and fitness tips, rides, social events and a forum.

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