It’s a muggy Saturday morning in Bee Cave - a suburb outside Austin, TX. Twenty or so women are gathered around a tent in the parking lot of Bicycle Sport Shop chatting and comparing bikes. There are fancy 2020 road bikes with electronic shifting present, as well as 20 year old hybrids, and big box store mountain bikes. It’s Women’s Ride Day for Bicycle Sport Shop’s Laura Neighbors, which also happens to be her favorite group ride of the month.
The women I work with don’t think they are cyclists. I hold their shoulders, look into their eyes and say “YOU ARE A CYCLIST” and ask them to repeat it. When they do it's usually with tears in their eyes.
Women face a ton of real and perceived barriers to becoming cyclists, and shops that work to break down these obstacles win life long friends, customers, and ambassadors. When barriers like actual and perceived safety, what kind of gear to wear and buy, where to ride and who to ride with are removed, the 99% of potential cyclists feel comfortable to get on bikes.
If, as bike shops, we are only talking to that one percent that are active enthusiast road cyclists, we’re missing huge opportunities for sales and business growth.
“When you host women’s specific group rides, and especially those that cater to new or beginner riders you have the ability to talk to a captive audience,” Neighbors says. “You can teach skills - of course - but safety also! If women don’t feel safe they won’t ride. Giving them these skills will help them feel safe and get on a bike more often.”
Beyond that, when you open the door and create trust with riders on your beginner group rides, you create a forum for discussions around gear to be had in an organic and less “salesy” way.
“When I went to get my bike checked at the South Lamar location, I told them I’m a beginner, I don’t know if I can do this, but they said it’s all women…so because it’s all women doing it - it made me want to try.” says Zee Jiminez, first time group rider at the June 22nd Bee Cave ride. Creating safe spaces for women to learn and support one another is more than just a catch phrase - communities like this help build informal mentorships between peers AND bike experts.
And with women holding a significant percentage of the U.S.’s buying power, these connections matter. As they become more confident riders, they’ll need new gear - and gear for family and friends that are introduced to the sport as well. The bike industry can and should lean into removing these barriers and encouraging new women to ride bikes. In our next blog, we’ll talk about how utilizing Ride Spot can help engage new women bike riders and remove some of the unknown through storytelling on Ride Spot.