When I was five I had a My Little Pony tricycle. It was my pride and joy and I scooted about all over the place at high three-wheeled speeds that would have left Del Boy Trotter eating my dust. It was, of course, pink. My friend next door had the Barbie version and I am pretty sure my best friend at school had one with Hello Kitty – which was way cooler than mine and left me with serious bike envy.
I do know that when I hit eight, I no longer sought out the pink ‘Barbie’-looking bikes, and asked Father Christmas for a shiny BMX, so I could get trick nuts and ride around with the block with the boys. Now a fully grown adult, despite becoming much more ‘girly’ I would not be seen dead on a pink bike.
Penelope Pitstop may have been my ‘toon idol in my early teens, but I had no wish to actually look like her. So why is it so many manufacturers still seem to think that is what ‘we girls’ want? When it comes to bike gear pink and pastel shades dominate the women’s cycling clothes market and much of the frames.
Ex-pro rider Karen Eller says options here in the UK were pretty limited when she was racing and Europe were way behind US designers with bikes here “just men’s frames painted with flowers”.
Obviously design specs have come on a long way since the traditional ‘sit up and beg’ style was the only option on offer for female cyclists. Now geometry has come to the forefront for most manufacturers’ design teams.
However, while the female physique has finally begun to shape the form of the bike and play a key part, the colour scheme remains the same. We could put this down to recent scientific research that appears to ‘prove’ women prefer pink – “or at least redder shade”, but a recent Evans Cycles straw poll would suggest otherwise.
I spoke to five design teams from top-end to middle-range bike manufacturers, to find out why pink still prevails…
I was intrigued as to why Quintana Roo made such pro-bikes for women in such sickly shades. Making the first ever triathlete bikes for woman who take sport seriously, it seemed slightly ironic that 2 out of the 3 of 2011 women specific bike range feature pink – heavily. So I spoke to Cary Brown, the marketing co-ordinator who has raced road bikes at tri-level for some answers.
She told me the bikes in the range are “more than just a man’s bike painted pink or ‘prettied up’ with flower decals, QR women’s bikes are made and built for female triathletes”. Sounded impressive, however, pink camouflage is the theme on the 2011 CD0.1 Ultegra, which she described as, “a tried” and “true design” which has been “loved by the majority of our female athletes for almost three years now”. She then informed me, “You gotta love the edgy contrast of camouflage and differing pink tones”. Honestly? I don’t.
Next on my hit list were Japanese design team Fuji, who have some slightly ‘cooler’ hot shades of pink in their ranges, and two pink bikes in their 2011 range. The Supreme 3.0, woman’s specific fit carbon road bike, comes with “an accent of pearlized pink” and the Addy 1.0, their new hard tail mountain bike has “salmon coloured accents” to compliment the black and white. Karen Bliss, their VP of Marketing told me: “We chose these colors because they look fun – and that’s what bike riding is all about.”
She said that the pink bikes sell “just as well as less ‘girly’ colours and that some women like pink and some do not”. She also admitted that some “may be put off”. However, Bliss did make it clear that “no manufacturer deigns to tell women what they want” – or in fact any customer – but I guess it boils down to what is on offer, and in this case it seems to be around 50/50 pink and non-pink bikes. Go figure.
This year Dawes produced most of their city bikes in pastel shades, for that “classic look”, with many of the girls’ bikes in baby blue or pink. They did not just restrict the pastel tones used to the women’s bikes but did tell me they thought that “pastel colours work well for ladies bikes as they can make the bike look lighter”. Personally, I feel as long as a bike is easy to carry, I would probably go for a ‘heavier’ colour. But that is just me. The marketing team also admitted they felt that “ladies are looking more for unisex colours nowadays” and on their mountain bike range they have now changed the top tube to be less angled and therefore look less girly.
Out of all the manufacturers I spoke to, Specialized seemed to be the most aware of the “pink factor”, with head of marketing Rachel Lambert telling me they have a team of women from “all different backgrounds” working on their Designs for Women range. Pink does play a small part in their 2011 catalogue, but where pink features, “there is a second colour option also available”. In fact, if anything, they avoid pink for girls – adding “the majority of our women’s line is red, black, white, carbon, blue, green etc.”
Lambert says that Specialized feels “strongly about offering a very broad range of colours for women”. I also enquired whether she felt women would be put off more by pink in their high-end range. Lambert told me she thought this would indeed be the case, and as such, all their S-Works and Pro level bikes are in “gender neutral” or “racy colours” like flo red, black, white and raw carbon.
The final manufacturer for me to speak to was Raleigh, who told me their pink women’s bikes are “more popular” than other colours in their range. Fair enough – if this is the case, then I guess there’s no point in them steering away from a good seller? The manufacturer also offers a wide range of pink accessories to match, like helmets, which for me seemed to be summed up by the fact they feel “lower end products tend to be more pink and pastel with fewer comfort and sizing components, whereas higher end tends to have many women-specific items and colours that are less overtly feminine”.
Scott also offers a good range of female-friendly, non-pink bikes, and have a team of female cyclists that promote pro events for women. However, their range of gear for women includes Scott Shadow Line, “with innovative, technical solutions and distinctly feminine designs”. My only question is why is it designers think we want to look “feminine” while getting muddy, hot and sweaty? We may be referred to as the ‘English rose’ here in the UK, but we don’t need to grow petals, smell like one or become the same hue while on two wheels.