Do We Need Man-Specific Bikes?

Words Andrew Major
Date Jan 17, 2017

"I see a future of man-specific bikes with very tall front ends and shortened reach to accommodate their deficit in flexibility and allow men to ride safely… So something more akin to the riding position of a penny farthing would be appropriate. Hopefully the industry catches on soon.” – Monika Marx

"Perhaps a step-through top tube on an MSB is the best option to ride safely without damaging the coin purse. If men are adamant about riding regular models I recommend wearing a pair of budgie smugglers.” – Cate Wagstaffe

Stack it and Black it

Stack it and Black it. Man-specific bikes. MSB. Around 50% of the population is male and the bike industry has finally started to take notice.

Some cry foul. Does painting a bike black or fluorescent yellow really make it ‘man specific’?

"I always recommend to my male pals: go for the burliest, blackest bike possible. When it comes to pure performance, this is all that counts.” – Sabine Wimmer

What is changing the geometry a few hairs supposed to accomplish that a stem swap or saddle adjustment can’t? So what if it’s spec’d with a ‘man-specific’ saddle? Most riders end up swapping out stock contact points for their personal preference anyways.

Man-Specific Bikes

Yeti Cycles is the mountain man brother brand of Beti Bikes. They have male brand ambassadors out shredding man-specific bikes and helping get men interested in mountain biking and the associated culture. Photo: Dave Smith

I’m joined by a handful of industry experts and one token male brand ambassador as they help me to understand where marketing meets the mountain with MSBs.

In no specific order, I like to start by thanking my esteemed panel of womansplainers: Cate Wagstaffe is an experienced bicycle mechanic. Sabine Wimmer works in sales and marketing at the brand level. Monika Marx is a coach and trainer working with driven mountain bike athletes. Judy Garren is a trail builder and president of the BMBA.

"Does size matter? For male riders? Absolutely! Size is everything. The bigger the travel the more power you have shredding C-buster – Cate Wagstaffe

Made for a Man…

…strong enough for a woman. When it comes to man-specific bikes there are two prevalent philosophies. The first is all about putting the ‘man’ in manufacturing. It requires a significant investment in tooling and design to build distinct bikes from the frame up. These aren’t simply re-badged women’s bikes. Among others, it is the approach taken by Liv Cycling in implementing their man-beast MSB moniker ‘Giant Bicycles’. Dripping. With. Masculinity.

"Giant is committed to the male cyclist. We offer the only comprehensive product collection designed specifically for male riders, ranging from beautiful apparel to premium bicycles. No matter your riding style, Giant provides the best products to help you discover new possibilities through cycling.”*

Man-Specific Bikes

Liv Cycling launched their man-beast sounding MSB line ‘Giant Bicycles’ a few years ago. Giant is “committed to the male cyclist” with slacker head tube angles and longer top tubes on bikes with the same suspension travel. Compared to Liv bikes, the Giants sport mucho-macho-masculine names like Reign and Anthem.

Compared to the equivalent Liv bikes, the Giants have notably increased top tube lengths and 1-2 degree slacker head angles to make men more confident in downhill situations. Buying a bike by reach and stack dimensions, the seat tubes on the MSBs are also notably shorter compared to the Liv models. This allows the men to use much longer travel dropper posts than a woman on a similarly sized frame.

Culture Comes First

‘Culture comes first’ is how I’d describe the second MSB design philosophy. It follows that man-specific bikes are about inspiration. “Santa Cruz is as much about creating a voice for men in mountain biking as it is about creating the products themselves.”

No compromises. That’s our philosophy across all our bikes and especially with our Yeti line. Our top carbon frame material is ready for the most aggressive male riders looking for superior ride quality”. *

Two proponents are Beti Bikes and Juliana with their respective twig-and-berries editions monikered as Yeti and Santa Cruz. These bikes share identical frames to the standard ‘unisex’ bikes with the man models getting different damper tunes in for the forks and shocks and some changes to contact points. And, of course, by and large more masculine paint work.

Man-Specific Bikes

Beti Bikes’ mountain man brand, Yeti, uses identical frames to the Beti line-up. Like Santa Cruz, the main differentiator comes down to developing a more inclusive man-specific riding culture.

But, wait a minute, men are different from women? Santa Cruz says that while the average man is 5″ taller and 30 pounds heavier the simple truth is their broad range of sizes combined with firmer suspension tunes are well suited to male riders.

Men want a bike that doesn’t let theory compromise real-world handling. They want a bike that’s been refined to have the most appropriate reach, height, and overall geometry for the terrain they’re riding. And that’s what Santa Cruz has offered from the very beginning.”*

Man-Specific Bikes

Juliana vs. Santa Cruz. Colour vs. Culture. Some riders question the comparative resale value of MSBs like the Santa Cruz Bronson – does it get more manly than Charles? – compared to their unisex counterparts.

Male Brand Ambassadors

Is that dude sponsored because he can shred on a bike or for how stunningly handsome he looks for the catalogue shoot? It’s 2016, how is it I’m still asking that questions?!

"Just like putting the time in to learn proper cornering technique, dental hygiene has it’s own rehearsed regimen that shouldn’t be scoffed at. Floss, Brush, Tongue Scrape, Mouthwash. As they say in the biz, at the end of the day, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” – Anonymous Brand Ambassador

Opinions are split on the value of brand ambassadors to mountain biking as a sport but as an activity, they are a popular method to build the culture behind a brand.

"Show more male riders in bike-related content. Guys that love to shred and can inspire others to swing a leg over the top tube. Too often are we seeing female only videos or a male rider tagging along as side act. It’s time to let the boys shine.” – Sabine Wimmer

At the end of the day it comes down to promoting mountain biking as an inclusive activity that men can also enjoy. Whether initially with other dudes, or with supportive women.

The Learning Curve

"Perhaps male riders should spend less time bellying up to the counter at the local brewery and more time actually pedaling their bike up hills?” – Judy Garren

Man-Specific Bikes

Strutting is where form meets function. Credit to the man-specific bike, and Dave Smith‘s photographic talents.

It’s a given. The best way to get better at riding your bike is by riding your bike. But riding on the North Shore has always had a steep learning curve. The primeval mountains don’t give a sh*t how a rider pees.

It’s true more beginner trails are popping up. Even so, setting fitness goals and training with the right people are at least as beneficial for dudes as buying the latest and greatest man specific bike.

"Men need to train in a non-intimidating, inclusive, environment without a bunch of women peripherally performing double body weight deadlifts, high-5ing after multiple sets of 10 chin-ups, and the typical estrogen-dominant environment that exists.” – Monika Marx

Mountain bike coaching outfits are great for developing a beginner’s skill toolbox or helping a more advanced rider progress. The fact is whether riding a ‘unisex’ bike or a man specific bike guys will need to develop skills and fitness to the pay the bills locally.

"Cornering? What’s that? Men seem to have an issue with turning their handlebars (it’s been suggested that perhaps riding with their pinky fingers extended might be the issue) since if there is even the slightest curve in the trail, a new straight line is “cut in” and in very short order.”  – Judy Garren

Man-Specific Bikes

Bikes don’t get more MSB than the Yeti 5.5c 29’er!

Man Specific Bikes

Personally, I’m happy popping my preferred ass-hatchet and an 800mm bar onto a unisex bike and going for a ride. I also don’t mind riding a pink, purple, or magenta bike – especially if it maintains a stronger retail value – but I have friends who go in for riding the same frames with a masculine paint job so I understand the appeal of man-specific bikes.

As Judy notes, I spend way too much time drinking beer so I would love the less-manly gearing of the equivalent Liv models. Otherwise, I love the longer and slacker geo of the man specific Giants.

It’s about f*cking time clothing brands recognize that men come in all shapes and sizes but maybe man specific bikes are a start?

*Note – quotes marked with an asterisk have been given a gender reassignment to suit Andrew’s purposes.


Will your next rig be a man-specific bike?

 

Comments

annas
+1 goose8
AnnaS  - Feb. 23, 2017, 8:31 p.m.

Late to the party but I thought this was hilarious, and interpreted it equally as a send-up of macho mountain bike culture as of women's specific brands. I've always attributed the rise of WSD not so much to the needs of women cyclists-which are as varied as the needs of male cyclists-but to wanting to reach out to women without alienating manly-men. If a company shows a Human- Specific Design bike being tossed around by a woman in one of their ads, no self-respecting bro will buy it because he might get cooties from it over the internet. MSD forever!

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 24, 2017, 11:32 a.m.

HSD! Awesome.

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JBV2
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james  - Jan. 21, 2017, 7:17 p.m.

Hnnnnnnnngg!

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chrisw
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ChrisW  - Jan. 21, 2017, 1:29 p.m.

Great article. Always good to have these issues brought up (and humour is a great way to do it) as it is not just this sport?/pastime?/hobby?/lifestyle? that is affected by these issues but the whole of society. On a positive note, we wouldn't have read this article if the bike companies weren't doing this marketing and they are only doing this marketing because they can see these products selling and they are selling because there are women who are participating - which is great! As the quality of the marketing… Well I am sure the companies are trying to hit the right notes and not offend anyone but… On a 2nd positive note the local bike park has just opened late last year and they have started Women's Wednesdays (same as Whistler does) - they are booked out every week. It is awesome to see so many women out riding - looking forward to being schooled by more and more women on the trails in the near future.

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taprider
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taprider  - Jan. 20, 2017, 1:12 p.m.

WOW humour is dangerous
reminds of that old controversial joke
"How many feminists (or WSB Marketers or other fill in the blank_____ minority) does it take to change a light bulb?"

"THAT'S NOT FUNNY!!! 🙁 "

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kesa
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Kesa  - Jan. 30, 2017, 5:49 p.m.

I have that same joke about Engineers. "how many Engineers does it take to fix a broken chain?". I ask this because i watched my 5 riding buddies who are Engineers stand around a bike trying to fix a broken chain for 45 minutes before giving up.

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monika-marx
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Monika Marx  - Jan. 20, 2017, 12:12 p.m.

Women specific marketing appeals to some, not all. There will always be two camps. Those that find it speaks to them, and those who don’t. I’ve always waffled between the two. Sometimes I am inspired by what I see, sometimes I feel my abilities are questioned. And this is the tightrope of gender marketing. This is not a new problem, and not specific to marketing in mountain biking.

Recently I was asked to participate in a parody article for NSMB.com “poking fun in a 100% positive/funny way from the imaginary perspective of it being a sport dominated by women”. This opportunity appealed to me, as I anticipated something light,
humorous and potentially thought provoking. In reality, the intent of the article differs from the outcome. Although the reaction has been largely positive, it has offended some. Yes, I likely should have been more thoughtful in my willingness to participate, and I take responsibility for that.

Professionally, I work with many female athletes and brand ambassadors who are supported by women specific bike brands. I myself am a “brand ambassador” because of what I do to support women in mountain biking. I work with my local bike shops to lead women only rides, and have been doing this for over a decade.

I love what is developing in the culture of the sport. I’ve been riding bikes for a long time, and the focus on what women want and need in the sport is very welcome. Liv Cycling’s commitment to the female rider is unprecedented, and I still remember the first time I saw the Juliana-SRAM Pro team cross my social media feed. A women only EWS race team – truly one of a kind – and I was absolutely inspired. Seeing the video of these women riding aggressively made my day. Did I share it? Absolutely. Did I concern myself with the color of the bikes, or what they were wearing? Not at all. This was a team of women riding their bikes at the international level, and I knew instinctively there had been a shift in the sport.

I am grateful for the support I receive from my athletes, both recreational and professional. I’m grateful that an online website asked me to participate in an opinion piece. My intent was never to discredit those who choose to ride a women’s specific bike, or discredit those whose profession it is to market to women.

Do I think we are there with women specific marketing? Like anything new, and it is relatively new, it is an evolutionary process and there are growing pains. The bike brands have their work cut out for them, and they will never please all. But I do see it heading in the right direction in that it also appeals to women like me. More and more, I see videos that I identify with. Women, yes on women specific bikes, riding the way I want to ride. And that is a good thing.

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rachael-raven
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Rachael Raven  - Jan. 19, 2017, 2:38 p.m.

Thanks for a great article NSMB! I had a good laugh reading it. As Bagheera put it, changing the perspective on gendered marketing rhetoric is a great way to illustrate the ridiculous things that are said (and written) about womens' bikes on a regular basis.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 20, 2017, 9:19 a.m.

Thank you for reading and engaging Rachael; I'm happy you enjoyed it!

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douglas-crossman
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Douglas Crossman  - Jan. 19, 2017, 1:06 p.m.

To be honest, it's hard to see where portions of this are going. There's some pretty scathing stuff up there, and there are moments where it feels rather brilliant, but then the article seems to trip over its own feet, as it loses the point. Or at least, what I'm guessing is its point, as I may be too dumb to understand the message.

That said, I think that it does a good job of highlighting just how absurd some of assumptions that are made by our industry and many of us in it are, in regards to women who ride, and the bikes that they want to ride.
I can only imagine the uproar that would occur if the males in the industry were approached in the same manner. It's unfortunate that, even when the industry starts to recognize their existence, many of the women who I know who ride, feel that they're being approached in a condescending or patronizing way, rather than as an equal participant.

Criticism out of the way, I wanted to thank you for the comment, "Is that dude sponsored because he can shred on a bike or for how stunningly handsome he looks for the catalogue shoot? It’s 2016, how is it I’m still asking that questions?!", because this is pure gold.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 20, 2017, 9:21 a.m.

Hi Douglas, I've certainly never claimed to be a great writer but if you had some laughs and thought about how the industry markets to women then my goals were met.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

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douglas-crossman
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Douglas Crossman  - Jan. 20, 2017, 12:09 p.m.

Don't take the comments too harshly. Like I noted, part of the responsibility of understanding lays with the reader, and I may just be having a stupid day…or week.

I greatly commend NSMB for the articles that have your teams have been publishing, trying to highlight the inherent discrimination, assumptions, pandering, and patronizing that exists in our industry. It's hard to point the finger at ourselves, and it rarely wins friends, but it's important to do. This isn't to say that everything is bad, far from it, but, there are a lot of areas that we can improve on.

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bagheera
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Bagheera  - Jan. 19, 2017, 12:43 p.m.

Personally,
I found this article hilarious. I can see where it might hit too close
home, but still. Nothing like changing places to alter your perspective. Made a
good job of highlighting how patronizing and stereotyping the marketing for
WSBs can be. Women specific bikes (or gear)? Great, if some women want them.
Supporting women who ride? All the way. Painting a frame pink and calling it
women’s specific? Ummmmm. My older
daughter would chose the Men’s bikes in the selection above, ‚cause they’re blue
and that’s her favourite colour. My wife would not be happy with the steepened
HTA on the Hail vs. the Reign. Monster truck all the way for her. Slacker,
longer, wider bars (wider than mine). Can’t we just all go for a ride and have
fun? We’ll wait fort he slower ones and try to catch up to the faster ones,
whatever their gender. (I fondly remember a shuttle ride this summer when my
wife got the „oh great, a girl, we’ll have to wait“ looks and happily proceeded
to beat at least half of the group.)

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 20, 2017, 9:33 a.m.

Ha! I've personally witnessed your "oh great, a girl" story at least a handful of times when it unfolded just like your tale.

Once, years ago, on Fromme I watched Elladee Brown absolutely thrash a section of Trail in front of a pack of dudes after one of them made a (loud) comment about getting passed by a girl. It was like a free skills clinic.

It was hilarious (and embarrassing) to be riding with buddy though I wouldn't be surprised if more than one guy in the group was thinking the same thing.

The first mountain bike skills course I took, the instructor was Joan Jones at West Coast that women can shred a long time ago.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Jan. 19, 2017, 9:35 a.m.

It misses the point to be offended at the emotional reactions people have had to this. I see legit reasons that underlie the satire, and the offence to it. The range of body size and proportions that women and men have overlap substantially, but certainly not entirely. Because of that, bikes designed in the absence of serious consideration for women still work great for many of them. And, I think it's easy to make assumptions, especially for men, that women don't need anything else. Many don't of course. There are limits to the utility of designing things around the size and tastes of most men, and what this article might not really acknowledge is that we do live in a world where the default focus is on typical men.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 19, 2017, 11:17 a.m.

Nat, your points are well-taken, however I don't think you have to look too hard to see that the entire point of the article is to demonstrate how man- centric that focus usually is. If it's not as obvious as it should be, we have two culprits: 1) satire is really hard to pull off, and no matter how well it's done, there will always be people that don't get it, and 2) it's pretty clear we didn't do enough to demonstrate either that this was satire, or the fact that Andrew is a big proponent of women in general, and women that ride, and the inspiration behind this article were comments and thoughts that came from women he knows and rides with. Oh, and 3) a tighter edit would've highlighted the satire better. That's not on the author, it's on Cam and me.

Most good stand-up comics straddle the line between offense and the outer limit of humour and tell jokes that otherwise would earn them a dirty look or maybe ejection from some public places. A comic, however, has the benefit of the fact that we go to their show expecting that kind of thing. That kind of humour is predicated on the notion that we understand that sometimes that which offends us can also make us laugh - and that being able to laugh about offensive things sometimes helps us understand our feelings about them. Readers at the beginning of this article did not have that indication made plain, so those who are predisposed to be offended by this kind of conversation (I'm not judging, I'm just saying) were triggered. We learned from that. Some still got it, but others weren't amused, for different reasons. We learned from that also. And none of us are offended by other people's emotional reactions. Maybe surprised, but no one ever learns anything if they're not exposed to new ideas, reactions, and thoughts.

We're taking a lot of comfort from the fact that women are being vocal about their support for this piece, but I want to acknowledge that a woman that is offended by it is precisely the type of person who might feel she CAN'T speak up about it. We want to hear from you, too. Let us know if and why you didn't respond to it. We promise to listen. Ash Bocast did that and I appreciate her willingness to let her voice be heard.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Jan. 19, 2017, 11:36 a.m.

Oh hey, you replied to my comment as it was in draft mode (saved in the interim as I transitioned from my phone to a computer).

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 19, 2017, 12:45 p.m.

Just noticed that. I think your comments, as usual, are well thought-out and usually require two readings so I am able to pull all the marrow off the bone. Thanks, once again, for chiming in.

Only one thing to add, because I really don't disagree with anything you said, but this is being missed by others if not yourself: the genesis of this article were thoughts and opinions expressed to Andrew by women. And it wasn't supposed to speak for all women, but certainly some of them.

Actually make that two things. While I think we should be wholeheartedly celebrating efforts being made to promote and encourage women in biking, I don't think that that alone is an insulator from criticism or, let's mellow that word out a bit and just settle on 'critique'. Just creating a bike for women, or a program for women is simultaneously something to be celebrated AND something that should still be subject to some level of evaluation. That wasn't the intent here (sorry Andrew - I feel like I'm speaking on your behalf a bit too much) but I realize it could easily have been the interpretation. Here's an analogy: is it fair to subject a non-profit organization to criticism or hold it to a certain standard, even if it is universally thought of as doing good work? Obviously the answer is yes. The qualifier is - how strict a standard?

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Jan. 19, 2017, 1:31 p.m.

Ha! Yes. You; good communicator. Me…let's just say…in my head a little too much.

Oh for sure, no one is above criticism. It's necessary for everything, and for anything to improve. If you inferred the opposite from what's in my second paragraph of my original comment, I'll take that aspect back.

In the case of your analogy, absolutely it should be held to a strict standard for every way it affects society. Great examples are the way the late Christopher Hitchens criticised Mother Teresa for her opposition to contraception, while it drove the poverty she fought. Or Glenn Greenwald criticised Charlie Hebdo, not on grounds censorship, but of choosing the somewhat popular (in France) easy target of Muslims for their mockery, instead of aspects that aligned more with cultural norms. That last example has been misused by many, not least of which being Sam Harris. I probably come across as one of the more extreme perspectives here, but I actually tone it down substantially. If I had to label my world view, I'm a pitchforks to the street style libertarian socialist (a real socialist) who dabbles in futurism. But I don't try to get too forceful, or underestimate the distance there is between me and the average view. Anyway, suffice it to say that I'm not short on opinions.

I'll come back at you with another, slightly more pointed analogy, which I infer from an editorial note to a recent Uncle Dave. Just because someone is a prolific trail builder, does that excuse them for riding trails that are closed for reasons related to elevated potential for environmental damage?

EDIT: I missed your real question, sorry. The ideal is a very strict standard. The reality is that change takes time, and has resistance, so should be tempered by expectation.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 19, 2017, 1:47 p.m.

Last word to you, sir. Well said. Upvoted for wisdom.

As for the last paragraph, I'm now backing silently out of the room while slowly looking side to side, hand extended behind me to reach for the door handle without taking my eye off the room…

There it is. Just gonna quietly, softly, turn the handle and make a smooth exit.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 20, 2017, 9:40 a.m.

Thanks the character reference and the, as always, interesting / thoughtful commentary Nat.

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andrewfif
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Andrew  - Jan. 19, 2017, 7:55 a.m.

That's an awesome article. I haven't laughed like that in a while. My wife is new to riding and loves her liv bike. She's confident and has cleaned the downhill on the hardest trails in St George after only 4 months of riding. Because she didn't bike until we got married we spent a lot of time talking anoint women's bikes and fits and that kind of thing. We probably got the first liv embolden in Utah. I couldn't be more impressed with it and she loves her bike. Since then my boss and coworker both got the exact same bike! As a huge supporter of women's riding I thought this was just a fun read for anyone who has had to make choices surrounded by the marketing we live in.

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andrewfif
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Andrew  - Jan. 19, 2017, 7:58 a.m.

I want to mention the Dayna had an old crappy bike and that Sadie didn't have one at all and we spent lots of time discussing options. They both love their bikes!

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 20, 2017, 10 a.m.

My wife rides a custom built Specialized Safire because it fits so I certainly would back your choice. As an aside it's actually crazy how many Safire's I could have sold to parents of teen-boys and also short men back when I worked in a shop if it wasn't for the WSB marketing.

Companies could / can / should offer a greater range of size options and support growing women's participation (culture, racing, events, etc) without the WSB marketing behind these bikes and I was attempting to get that point across in a funny way.

I'm beyond happy at how many more women I see on the trails than a decade ago and that your wife and her friends love their bikes.

Thanks for reading and sharing Andrew.

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Wylie
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CN  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:58 p.m.

Holy shit there were some people who got bent by this that I did not expect. This was fucking hysterical and an amazing bit of socio-cultural satire. If you make women-specific products and got your panties in a twist about this, I can't help you…

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walleater
0
walleater  - Jan. 19, 2017, 7:54 a.m.

Man-panties?

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 19, 2017, 10:44 a.m.

"budgie smugglers"

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JulieT
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ashroadadam1 .  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:52 p.m.

FFS. Some people just liiiiiiiiive to be offended. This article was clearly meant to draw attention to the experience of women in mountain biking, by switching the gender roles to showcase the challenges they face in participation and outfitting. Satire, and effective satire at that. If that is enough to send the Offendibots into a short-circuit frenzy, then they've got some bad programming. It's as if they couldn't come up with this themselves, so they need to be offended to reclaim the higher ground. Good grief.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 18, 2017, 6:46 p.m.

It's not prudent to try to convince someone they should change their opinion about what is humorous, and I can see how you could be offended by this piece especially if context or mood or perspective aren't the same as the author's or the editors'. But I do want to address a few things.

First, if you find yourself in that latter group and are offended, I apologize. The intent of the piece was to explore the humorous side of a serious issue, and we at NSMB all are big supporters of women who ride bikes, women in general, and the brands who have undertaken the massive challenge of making our sport more welcoming and accessible. Liv, Yeti, Juliana, and other brands not mentioned in this article all have our respect. The last thing we want to portray is that we don't think their efforts are worthwhile.

Second, it's interesting to note how the dissenting opinions are split. One woman (from within the industry) emailed to say this was the funniest thing they'd read in 2017. Other women loved it, too, but a few certainly did not. We heard from one man who used blue language - repetitively - to convey their disgust. Many others enjoyed it.

There is a really fine line between satire and venom. For some of you, the article landed in the way it was intended, and you had a few laughs. For others, its bitter taste was too much. It's unfortunate, but I guess it's also the risk we take with a piece like this. A recent satirical piece I heard about was so convincing that everyone believed Stanford had decided to admit no students to next year's incoming undergraduate class because the pool of applicants was too weak. It's an insane premise. But some smart and well- informed people I know fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Sometimes satire is hard to discern. Sometimes it misses its mark.

We can cop to not being perfect. In fact, if being perfect meant never publishing something controversial, we'd just take our place beside the other sanitized content out there and ride off into the boring sunset. But this article generated more views than every release we've ever posted about women's bikes in a big way, not to mention more discussion - and it is through discussion that we hear each other and learn. Fair trade off? I'll let you judge but I know where I stand. And for the record, no, this wasn't an attempt to throw gas on a fire and watch it burn.

We will have a good think about this one, and learn a thing or two. I want to thank those who took the time to share their opinions whether you liked the piece or not.

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ash
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Ash  - Jan. 18, 2017, 7:27 p.m.

Appreciate the response Pete. As you can imagine, the "women specific" subject comes up a lot in my life and knowing how ridiculously hard my colleagues work, and how life-changing our ambassador program has been for many of our participants, I can get a bit touchy about it…. and I do admit, while I do not find the article particularly humorous, I can see where others would. I'll happily be adding stack-it-and-black-it into my bag of party phrases.

Sincere regards.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8 p.m.

Thanks for the response to you, too, Ash. It wasn't directed only to you, but I appreciate your direct response.

This is a touchy subject, and as someone directly involved in this, I do understand you may have felt the tickle of the crosshairs. In hindsight, mentioning brands was not necessary at all and omitting that part may have allowed the humour to shine a bit more. Let's hope Stack It and Black It doesn't get lost in the shuffle, because I think it's bloody brilliant. Glad you appreciated that part.

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anna
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Anna  - Jan. 19, 2017, 1:28 a.m.

Hilarious! And well written too. Haters gonna hate, eh? I suspect it's the first time a bunch of men were patronised with a bit of marketing. Welcome to our world boys! I do not love nor hate women's bikes, some work for some women, some do not. That's fine. Choice is good. Implying all women need a WSB is ridiculous. It only perpetuates the thought that women are different; they're not. The worste thing is that a lot of women believe it too. Try telling Manon Carpenter she could do with a WSB! Lol.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 19, 2017, 11:06 a.m.

Thanks, Anna. Appreciate your thoughts and perspective.

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wacek-keepshack
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Wacek Keepshack  - Jan. 21, 2017, 4:44 a.m.

Some people can get offended by anything. It means they should be openly offended on a regular basis. The trick is to write an article or draw a picture in a way so it upsets the people you'd like to see upset. In this way you get double pleasure. Affirmation from people you'd appreciate and then there's Schaden Freude… you did very well.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 21, 2017, 7:37 a.m.

It certainly wasn't my goal to offend anyone - but I understand the difference between disagreeing with an opinion and outright offence has been subject to a lot of erosion lately.

Thanks for your perspective Wacek; I chuckled.

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wacek-keepshack
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Wacek Keepshack  - Jan. 21, 2017, 10:29 a.m.

No no no, you have no control over whom you can offend and by what part of your message. And when touching such hot subject you surely will offend someone. So you may as well do it on purpose 😀 It seemed light hearted to me but subject is heavy (and the reason it is heavy is the war reports from 10% of society being narrow minded pricks, fighting with 10% of hormonally imbalanced, power seeking social justice warriors - wankers vs white knights. And don't ask me which is worse, because I can't decide…). Now… can we please bring back Tranz-X to bring even more gender diversity to MTB table?

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 21, 2017, 4:15 p.m.

Ha. Isn't that a bit like saying "you're going to accidentally bump into people on crowded sidewalks so you might as well wear knuckle dusters and land the first punch"?

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ash
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Ash  - Jan. 18, 2017, 3:49 p.m.

As a female who has worked for several bike brands (and yes, full disclosure, two of them the women specific brands you mentioned in this article)…this article makes me want to puke.

Do women need women specific bikes? I personally don't mind bikes that fit me, whatever the brand or gender specificity behind the design, but more to the point…how about women needing companies and brands that support them? I understand this article is meant to be funny…maybe it was a "had to be there" moment to really get it. What is ridiculous about this article is that it blatantly mocks the brands and programs that women (and men) in this industry have poured a lot of resources, time, money, and heart into getting more women out riding. So you don't agree with it? Great. Don't ride their bikes. Prana makes women's-specific clothing. Nike, women's shoes. They both (gasp) market to women. Where is the "funny" article on that atrocity?

Also, the next time you decide to act like a dunce and put together some ridiculous article with a bunch of opinions from obviously uneducated people…maybe do some research? Maybe talk to teams at these companies and find out that yeah…they are trying to sell bikes…but they actually give a lot of fucks about the women who ride them. And, in some cases, they pour an insane amount of resources into actually making the bikes different, primarily based on rider feedback (I know because I've been one of those riders). Or maybe talk to the thousands of women who do ride "women specific" bikes and ask why they choose to support the brands that support them instead of getting the opinions of three women who feel superior to us weaklings that ride women's bikes?

Lastly, to the women who support this article. For shame. Why cut down the few brands in the industry actually trying to support you as a rider?

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 4:48 p.m.

Hello Ash,

I take no issue if you'd like to sh*t all over me but I think unfair to attack other people who participated in the piece with the understanding that they were contributing to something that was made with every intention to be a funny opinion piece.

I may be a "dunce" but I spoke to a lot of women in tackling this article - not just four. Which was always intended to be a humorous way to deliver the critique that a lot of women riders share about how products in the bike industry are marketed to them.

I asked four female friends who ride, who are around bikes, and who I think are funny to help me with some quotes. If anything is an "atrocity" it's that for the overwhelmingly positive feedback I've received about bringing some levity to a discussion about marketing to women comments like yours are what people will focus on. Any references in the quotes they made about respective riding abilities were exaggerated and entirely in jest.

Re. Prana, Nike, etc. I write, part time, about mountain bikes.

I love the contributions that, for example, Liv has made in BC to women's riding, or Trek with the Dirt Series, or Bell with Joyride. These are amazing programs and any time a company is putting their marketing money into growing the cycling community (events, races, trail building) that is commendable. The point I was trying to make - with humour - was specifically about woman's specific bikes and how they are marketed.

My intentions were not malicious but I understand it's a fine line. The vast majority of people I've heard from via various feedback channels - both riders and industry folks - including as I noted to Dave/Dirk a number of women - thought it was funny. Maybe, as Dave notes, I just have a really good echo chamber. Some thought it is was Really funny. Some thought it was a little bit funny. You didn't think it was funny at all. That's how it goes.

I'm going to go write some apologies for leading my friends into this…

Happy Trails.

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ash
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Ash  - Jan. 18, 2017, 7:31 p.m.

Drew. Please see the above comment to Pete. Again, appreciate the considerate response, and admittedly, this hit close to home in the "not funny" category. Perspective is everything I suppose. If any of those ladies would like a conversation with someone who has a ton of insight into what actually goes on behind a lot of marketing decisions etc. (and has had my fair share of frustration with the industry) please encourage them to reach out to me. Promise i'll be nice.

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anna
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Anna  - Jan. 19, 2017, 1:44 a.m.

I'm a girl and I found this funny. Shame on me? Jeez. While I'm sure the brands have invested money in women's cycling, why did it take a woman's brand to do that? Investment is gender neutral. And what is this "support" you speak of? Do you get anything with buying a Liv that you don't with Giant? No. And better fit you say? Well that's relative. And actually not relevant to the likes of Julian and Betty who don't even change the fit. A point well made by the article and, as it's fact, there should be no reason why a reporter can't report that.

The most common question I get asked, as a rider and a writer and a friend is: do I need a WSB? And I say; well that depends on if it fits you or not. This pretty much sums up the premis of the article for me. I've not said they're shit, but they're not for everyone, and the marketing is confusing (and somewhat patronising if you ask me).

Keep telling women they're different.. they're believing it.

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mammal
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Mammal  - Jan. 19, 2017, 7:28 a.m.

FYI Ash, Sabine Wimmer has a tonne of insight into what actually goes on behind a lot of marketing decisions (specifically mountain biking related).

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 19, 2017, 11:15 a.m.

Hi Ash, no problem re. the response and I sincerely hope that you would not have expected otherwise.

I understand, and deeply appreciate, that you are truly passionate about what you do. I would like to think that with some reflection you may note the irony of this comment as it regards the article:

"If any of those ladies would like a conversation with someone who has a ton of insight into what actually goes on behind a lot of marketing decisions etc… please encourage them to reach out to me."

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 20, 2017, 10:09 a.m.

This nicely reflects the opinions of the women who were the impetus for me to tackle this subject.

Cheers,

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Feb. 13, 2017, 8:57 p.m.

Huge necropost (sorry), but you should also consider that satire isn't necessarily something that has to be purely humorous to be effective. The parts that didn't resonate with your funny bone should very much be a way to frame the challenges are present for brands that do have a women's specific effort in one form or another.
Using the tool of reversing the groups, and framing it as satire through humor is arguably the best way to draw in a larger audience and have them critically reconsider what their own perceptions, biases, and reactions to media in this domain are - and in that sharper relief there can be much more useful discussion regarding what can be overcome, or at least addressed.

This article clearly wasn't intended to cut down the brands that are currently working on bikes and related stuff - instead it phenomenally showcases how enormous a challenge they're working to address, and illustrate that thriving in this environment is probably because they're filling a genuine need - and that maybe the way some of the products in the WSB market are being advertised would seem out of place if the shoe were on the other foot.

From my perspective, a lot of the massive limitations in developing bikes for this application effectively mirror the same causes that limit the accomplishment of ladies in science/technology/engineering/math fields, and it's that the ladies at the forefront of accomplishment feel that they have to devote some fraction of their time to overcoming stigma/stereotypes and emphasizing the fact that they can do those things… just go and get it done.

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john-utah
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John Utah  - Jan. 19, 2017, 1:16 p.m.

Woman specific bikes is BS. There is just as much difference between male body sizes,shapes ,sizes and torso ratios as there is between men and women. .Frame colour does not make you a better rider.
Most people end up swapping cockpit parts to fit them anyways. Ive probably been riding longer than you and your friends, building up bikes to fit as far back suntour rollercam brakes and steel frames days.ie The early eighties. Just make good bikes for everyone and offer to fit them properly when you buy a bike as in bars and stem length included in the price. Because of all the BS the big bike companies have put us through in the last 30+ years. I buy frames and build them up myself to fit me.

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Dirk
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Dirk  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:31 p.m.

In all honesty, I’m baffled by this article. What exactly are you trying to say here, Andrew? Are you calling out companies for not doing enough to make women’s models truly woman specific? Are you suggesting that women’s specific bikes shouldn’t exist?

If the former, this may be a fair point, but is the best way to make that point to call out the companies that are actually making some kind of effort? I don’t know as much about Liv and Beti, but I’ve met some of the women behind Juliana and these are some passionate women that are doing a tonne of work to build the sport for women. Are there women that their bikes won’t appeal to? Could they do more to differentiate their product line? Can they do more, in general? For sure. But is this a deserving target of our mockery? Surely we can make these points in some other way.

If the latter…I don’t even know what to say.

I get it. It’s satire. But if your point is lost, it’s not very effective satire.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 1:03 p.m.

I, and many women I know working in the industry & riding bikes, have issues with how bikes and riding bikes (road and mountain) are marketed at women. In general. After I made a few attempts at capturing those issues in serious editorial I decided instead to try and communicate them in a (attempted) humorous - but hopefully thoughtful - way using some fun/funny quotes from some of my friends who work in and around bicycles.

The piece is intended to be humorous and thought provoking not "targeted" or "mocking" so if it comes across as cruel it is indeed "not very effective satire".

I'm not a woman. I chose three prominent brand examples based on feedback I received from female riders. If any of those brands - or anyone else - has taken offense to what I've written and would like to discuss it in confidence my e-mail address is linked in the header. I'm also happy, of course, to discuss publicly.

I will say, in my defence, that - unsolicited - feedback for the piece has been overwhelmingly positive. Particularly among female riders and industry.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Jan. 18, 2017, 2:58 p.m.

I, for one, was triggered.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 3:33 p.m.

I don't know what "triggered" means. Is it a really tall person thing?

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craw
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Cr4w  - Jan. 18, 2017, 3:35 p.m.

OMG. Triggered again.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Jan. 19, 2017, 2:33 p.m.

More satire Drew. All good.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 19, 2017, 3:14 p.m.

I'll take your word for it. I wouldn't know satire if I was 6'6″ and it was a staggered series of low door frames.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 1:29 p.m.

Well said Dirk. It's not effective satire. I don't think Andrew had any ill intent and it was probably funny from where he sat.

Whether or not the current attempts to connect with women and bring them into the sport are great or not at least they are attempts to try and bridge the bro-gap. Providing some constructive criticism sure, but making fun of them doesn't sit well with me.

And the people who should be deciding if these approaches hold water are not white males in the mountain bike industry or even hardcore ladies in the industry…it should be existing and potential lady riders in the wider community who don't feel well served by the media, product design and sales/marketing that going down from the typical MTB channels.

I don't "get" everything I see/hear about the ladies specific segment in the MTBing industry, but observing my GF's growth from barely a MTBer to getting pretty hardcore I have realized that I don't "get" many of the things she chooses to do/say/wear/buy around the sport and that what I "get" or think doesn't matter one iota if she's having a blast and enjoying the trails.

I noted you wanted to get private emails about any critical comments, but the article is public so the discussion around it should be public.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 1:34 p.m.

Hi Vik. I'm happy to take critique publicly and edited my comment to clearly state that.

I know some people/brands may not be interested in public debate so I wanted to note the option; nothing more.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 1:57 p.m.

Thanks I appreciate your willingness to talk about the issue. That's not something every MTB media outlet would do.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 2:08 p.m.

That appreciation should of go to Cam and Pete.

Whether it's articles about Baked Potatoes, Serenly Swallowing bike industry standards, Perplexing Plastic or any of my other attempts at communicating my perspective (and sense of humour) their willingness to take a risk/flyer (and flack from both sides) because the readership will hopefully enjoy a piece is certainly uncommon and, I think, awesome.

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esteban
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Esteban  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:30 a.m.

I'M OFFENDED BY THIS

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - Jan. 18, 2017, 1:26 p.m.

No yer not.

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peter-verdone
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Peter Verdone  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:18 a.m.

While this is funny there is something to it…
A traditionally proportioned women on a bike designed around men's proportions, currently, is on a more modern bike than a traditionally proportioned man on the same bike. Pretty cool….if you're a girl.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Jan. 18, 2017, 9:57 a.m.

Best thing I've read in a while. No longer do I have to feel underrepresented as I take my 6″ travel bike on singletrack which appears rideable to ten year old girls on bright pink Hotrocks, or feel obligated to argue in online comments sections about how appropriate matte black bikes with black components are for my personal taste.
Thank you for publishing this!

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JulieT
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ashroadadam1 .  - Jan. 18, 2017, 9:43 a.m.

I'm offended by this article. I'm soooooo sick of having to ride a man-bike that is really just a woman's bike with a different paint job, wide bars, and a narrow saddle. This is the kind of condascending crap that prevents more men from participating.

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cooper
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Cooper  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8:40 a.m.

Merlin looks like way more fun than that Matthews guy.

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dj
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DJ  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8:25 a.m.

need more bikes with dragons and flames, and skulls and stuff in the paintjobs. like the bro tatoos of the real men at my rec center gym.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

Barbed Wire graphics over paint!

I want to say Brodie Bikes had such an option in the freeride days?

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peterk
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peterk  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8:22 a.m.

I think people riding 160mm bikes on Frisby Ridge could use a Man Specific Bike

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sc3pilot
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sc3pilot  - Jan. 18, 2017, 7:59 a.m.

Funny!

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 7:58 a.m.

So on point. The healthy gender balance in mountain biking doesn't need any special accommodation for anyone. Just look around the parking lot at any mountain bike mecca and you'll see proof positive of how diverse the sport is across gender and racial lines.

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morgan-heater
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Morgan Heater  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:04 a.m.

Sarcasm, right? Just checking, because it's the most white-sausage activity I've ever done.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:21 a.m.

Yes. Definitely sarcasm.

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chris-makuch
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Chris Makuch  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:12 p.m.

53/47 sausage to egg split in Cumberland ().

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:37 p.m.

Our MTB club is something like 50/50 men/women, but that's not at all representative of the larger demographics at the trailhead. I ride in Cumby several times a year and the gender balance isn't 50/50 on the trails.

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chris-makuch
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Chris Makuch  - Jan. 18, 2017, 3:17 p.m.

I agree that the methodology for collecting the sample in this study was definitely skewed which I'm sure biased the demographics. Anecdotal experiences aside, what I think this study does show is that the gender of riders who are particularly engaged in the riding community (which is a more accurate description of the respondents than the study acknowledges due to the collection methods) is split pretty evenly. At least in Cumberland anyway.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

We have a small MTB club [under 100 people] and I'd say our ratios were close to 50/50. I belong to our local MTB advocacy group and while I think the % of ladies is not close to 50% it's still higher than the wider MTB population. So you observations and mine align.

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walleater
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walleater  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8:06 p.m.

I think you've just accidentally named one of Cove's bikes for 2018.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 11:54 a.m.

It's definitely a largely "white sausage" activity as Morgan put it… but like everything it has been getting more and more inclusive over time. Not because of any marketing that has taken place but because society has.

There is probably some correlation between percentage of participant woman and minorities in policing and in mountain biking for example.

I definitely think our community has a long way to go on inclusion but there are hugely positive organic trends -- increasing % women at Trail Days and running trail associations as two examples. The number of women riding now compared to ten years ago is notable - does (often sexist) Women-Specific marketing help or hinder that change?

That said, this piece is on point - for me - if it's entertaining and if it makes people think about how our activity is being promoted to women.

Thanks for reading.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:35 p.m.

A few quick observations:

My GF went from a reluctant MTBer to basically having MTBing take over all her free-time when she discovered a ladies only MTB club. It's pretty clear the members really dig the vibe and being able to ride with other ladies. How they talk about MTBing and how they promote their club/events doesn't look like typical MTB media/marketing.

Despite being a fairly fanatic MTBer and being aware of NSMB and PinkBike she goes to those sites never. Occasionally I'll have something open and show her for the most part she's not interested and doesn't connect with the content. She's online reading a fair bit, but doesn't find those sites compelling.

She attended a women's only skills camp and came how with related Liv swag and a women's oriented print mag that she's kept handy and re-read for a while.

I think if the MTB industry [Marketing/Media] wanted to reach women and other racial/economic demographics it sure could do a better job. Is the current programs by Julian/Liv/etc… working on the marketing front? I have no idea. But, at least that question will answer itself. If those brands do well and prosper they must be connecting with a significant portion of ladies. If they fail you'll know it was misguided.

I also wanted to comment on the brand ambassador issue. Of the 100 MTBers I know maybe 10 follow racing or other competitive events seriously and another 10-15 maybe casually. The rest couldn't care less. For most people I know MTBing is about having fun with your buddies. So if a company has a brand ambassador that's a friendly outgoing "normal" rider who knows their product that connects with us just fine. I don't care if someone is pro-athlete and I may well appreciate the message from a "normal" rider more since we have more in-common. I get that this is not in the interests of pro-riders. But I think the idea that things should be setup more to benefit pro-riders assumes that racing and other competitive events is important to the vast majority of average folks on MTBs and I don't see that as true.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:45 p.m.

Hi Vik,

I'm an absolute believer in community driven efforts like women's mountain bike clubs. I've worked in a number of business who are Muddbunnies () supporters and I think they've made a huge impact on getting women involved in the sport.

I actually don't have an opinion positive/negative on brand ambassadors. I've heard arguments on both sides and I can go either way.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 18, 2017, 1:32 p.m.

That's great. 🙂 My GF took a crew of ladies to a MB event last year and had a blast. They enjoyed meeting up with other lady riders from a different part of BC.

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NickB
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nick bitar  - Jan. 18, 2017, 4:14 a.m.

Absolute highlight of my day. This is why I love NSMB.

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0
Amanda  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:05 a.m.

This is fucking brilliant, you beautiful, wonderful souls.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:29 a.m.

Thanks Amanda!

For anyone interested in a worthy read or curious re #battybaiting here's the link:

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0
Amanda  - Jan. 18, 2017, 12:45 a.m.

I found it particularly hilarious because we're actually on the same page about gender-specific gear… Even before I clicked on the link and realized some folks are still butthurt over the mediocre ambassador rant.

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the-chez
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The Chez  - Jan. 18, 2017, 8:49 a.m.

That's because some kids don't know that "ambassador" used to be called "pro deal". Same thing….just rebranded. Still have to buy it but you get it at cost. Only catch is you have to actually produce media content to go along with that cost. So, which is the better deal?

Loved this article though. Gave me giggles with breakfast.

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peterk
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peterk  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:22 a.m.

not to open up the can of worms, but I think Amanda was referring to the next step up: ambassadors who get bikes for free replacing racers who get bikes for free.

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the-chez
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The Chez  - Jan. 18, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

Oh gosh, there are different levels of ambassadors??? Hmm. Maybe we need to delineate more and have MSB and WSB ambassadors. Wait, don't tell me THESE exist as well….

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Jerry-Rig
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Jerry Willows  - Jan. 19, 2017, 4:29 p.m.

that's because companies see more of a roi with ambassadors than racers… business 101

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