One of the things that’s always struck me about mountain biking is how supportive the industry is of women. Coming from a snowboarding background, where sexism is much more prevalent (I’ve written several articles on the subject if you’re interested: ‘Sexist Snowboards’; ‘Why are there so few female pros in snowboarding’; ‘Is women’s snowboarding fairly represented in the media?’) , it’s refreshing to see how much, well deserved, recognition and exposure brands and the media are giving to the growing number of women who are participating and excelling in the sport.
However, it would appear that not all companies are as enlightened and progressive as others. When scanning my Facebook feed yesterday evening I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a post from an enraged female cyclist who had happened upon the product information page for the collection of women’s mountain bikes by Czech company, SUPERIOR Bikes.
According to the “active cyclists” at SUPERIOR Bikes (they like to shout their name in capital letters) who “know your needs”:
“Female cyclists do not generally need to push their limits, race against time and increase their adrenaline when riding rough downhill trails. They just want to enjoy the time spent in nature on the bike, and their expectations from the bike are completely diff erent than men’s.” [Grammatical errors are their own].
Seriously? My initial reaction was to assume it was a wind up, albeit a pretty insensitive one, and had to go to their website to check whether or not it was for real. Sadly it was, and their patronising onslaught continued, to inform us that:
“They look mainly for safe, easy and, of course, stylish bikes that have good and natural handling.”
In a state of disbelief and anger I shared the post on my Facebook page, and before long my entire feed was full of posts and shares from other enraged female cyclists who had also got on to it. Many then proceeded to post angry messages to the SUPERIOR BIKES Facebook page along with pictures of themselves absolutely pushing their limits on a bike and looking every bit as gnarly as their male counterparts. It wasn’t long before the page was inundated with posts from both women and men, outraged at such blatant sexism.
For women who push themselves every bit as hard on their bike as any man, and in many cases harder, what could possibly be more insulting? We may never have heard of the brand SUPERIOR bikes before, and they’re not likely to ever make any impact on the overall mountain biking scene, but to discover that these kind of attitudes still exist, is pretty shocking.
It’s safe to say that this is a PR disaster for SUPERIOR bikes, and if ever there was a situation where the saying “any publicity is good publicity” is not applicable, it’s this. If SUPERIOR bikes want to have any relevance in today’s cycling industry, they had better take note of the size, standard and passion of the women’s mountain biking scene, and change their attitude and products accordingly. If not, it won’t just be the limits of our physical capabilities that will be pushed, but the limits of our patience.
Update (4 June): After a barrage of angry posts from affronted female, and male, mountain bikers, the company’s marketing manager has issued an apology and updated their website with a slightly less sexist description of their range of women’s mountain bikes. The updated description still isn’t great, but then again, neither are the bikes.
Please share your thoughts on this below…