Women’s cycling apparel: who can we blame for pink and shrink?

Image: Barbie World, Thomas Masotti. Licensed under Creative Commons.

When I started getting into road cycling, my cycling ensemble consisted of: my hiking tights, a t-shirt, an old pair of cycling shorts of my partner’s and Converse sneakers. My partner bought me some new kit that Christmas, mostly I think because he was embarrassed to be seen with me.

I thought to myself: What is the deal with all this Lycra cycling rubbish? I can wear whatever I want! I’m not going to get sucked into this vortex of expensive apparel-buying! Hah! You can’t get me, marketing industry!

Then I got a sore knee from my foot not being aligned correctly on the pedals. So I got some cycling shoes with cleats. Then I got serious chaffing from my tights after cycling to Arthurs Seat and back from Melbourne. Ouch.

So I figured I’d better invest in some proper kit. I guessed that – like other tech gear – the huge price tag on most cycling clothing was perhaps because there has been some thought and testing put into the design. I readied my credit card for the shock.

When I started looking at cycling clothing online, all I saw was really garish, horrible outfits, and everything made for women seemed to be – well – pink.

Look: I’m not against pink as a colour in principle. I really like wearing pink lipstick, pink dresses, and at the moment, my hair is pink. I just don’t like pink cycling clothing.

See? Pink hair. That’s me, btw.

I think what I’m railing against is the idea that must be in some cycling marketing person’s head that to make clothes for women, you just need to make them smaller and pink them up. I defy you, marketing person!

A confession: I actually am a marketing person. That’s my profession – oops. But really: who is doing this market research in the cycling industry? They haven’t asked me, that’s for sure. And they clearly haven’t been reading all the literature about ‘shrink it and pink it’ being old-hat in terms of marketing specifically to women.

So I did a lot of googling (“hipster cycling clothing”, “women” – yeah, embarrassing) to try and find the nicest, most inoffensive-looking cycling clothing I could find. Without garish labels, without vomitous patterns, and without being PINK.

My search led me to a French (of course it was!) cycling label called Café du Cycliste. As I write this, I’ve just discovered all their new cycling clothing is pink (sigh), but back then, 2 years ago: none of it was!

Oh what joy!

A Frenchy-chic cycling label with images of women-and-men-who-are-not-20 cycling truly spectacular French alpine landscapes!

A French woman looking chic, wearing Café du Cycliste kit. She’s so chic, she doesn’t even need a helmet!

And wearing clothing so nice, I’d wear it out on the weekend as normal wear!

Look at this! It’s beautiful! This is the Heidi jacket, which I bought with a gift voucher my old workplace gave me after I left. Best. Gift. Ever.

So, my first purchase was this fluro vest.

That is me wearing my hiking tights, my partner’s old shorts and jersey, with my chic new Café du Cycliste Jacqueline vest during the 2017 Melbourne Dirty Dozen. Look how pleased with myself I am!

I actually thought I’d be against fluro, but I really liked this vest. And you know: people will be able to see me. From there, it was a slippery slope.

Now, 2 years on, I own (all from CDC):

  • 2 x 3/4 bib shorts
  • 1 x summer bib shorts
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 summer hat
  • 1 winter hat
  • 2 x summer jerseys
  • 1 x winter long-sleeve merino jersey
  • 1 x winter jacket

Phew!

A note of caution to all those who follow here who are not millionaires: wait for the sales. But if you wait, don’t wait too long, or your size will run out. If you’re in Australia you’re lucky because when the end-of-summer sales hit in Europe, we’ll be just heading into our Antipodean summer, so it’s a good time to pick up a bargain!

Nowadays I have a weekly email from the Café du Cycliste La Gazette, showing me beautiful pictures of people cycling in France, looking très, très chic. Ooh la la!

Luckily, their current pink collection is preventing me from further damage to my credit card. I emailed them to find out why all the sudden interest in pink, and a lovely woman named Tiphaine Rolland – Café du Cycliste’s PR Manager – got back to me, and she did kindly point out that their current pink range is available for both men and women: “For us, pink is not only for girls! We use pink as we use any other colours.”

Although all is not equal in the land of pink cycling clothing amongst the genders. There are a couple more jerseys in pink that are available for women only. Tiphaine explained: “The logic of having 2 pink jerseys that are only available for women is purely sales related as we know, by experience, that they will be best sellers.”

She’s referring to this:

Cafe du Cycliste Women’s Francine jersey in pink. I mean, as pink goes: it’s kinda nice, right?

And this:

Holy moly those mountains. Oh yeah, that’s CDC’s Women’s Fleurette Jersey in Misty Rose.

I mean: they’re hardly garish, right? How can I be against a colour called Misty Rose? And – honesty – those snow-capped mountains are almost enough for me to rethink pink.

Almost. Maybe ask me next season.

In the meantime, if you have any tips for nice (non-pink!) cycling clothing for women, I’d love to hear about it, so do comment below.

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