Bike commuting has been steadily increasing over the last decade, but ratio of men to women riders is still very lopsided. Many cities and bike-related organizations have studied the reasons for this, and the recurring themes are clothing choices, a lack of time, and risk aversion. The first barrier is why we're here!
I've been bike commuting since the 1980's and have bought a grand total of one bike jersey and padded shorts in my entire life. I've just always felt traditional bike apparel is for racing or bike touring, and you have to admit hardly anyone looks good in them. Seeing anyone in bikewear when they're off their bike is like looking at a fish out of water. Admit it - all eyes go straight to the crotch.
So for years I biked in casual clothes and sensible shoes, and very often tried to duck into a bathroom unnoticed to change. I don't know how it is on the coasts, but here in the Midwest people get wiggly when they know someone is half-naked in the public bathroom stall next to them. I have a friend who works in a company that advocates bike commuting and installed a shower for their employees to freshen up. "It's all good", he says, "Except my office is right next to the changing room and I don't want to know who's in there and what they're doing."
A woman I talked to who owns a store in Manhattan exclaimed "You shouldn't have to dress for your ride!", and I agree! But in a practical sense it's hard to find clothes that work both on and off a bike. Maybe it's a Midwest thing because the spaces between home and the grocery or the dentist or your work is generally farther, and it's not like we can just hop onto the subway if biking isn't working. Also the weather can change dramatically here in the space of hours. I certainly remember times when my paniers were bulging with extra clothing options because a front was predicted to move through.
So I want to empower women as much as I can to bike, and I want to make the clothing simple and easy. Too many times I've tried on commuter pants made by large companies, and they're just not right. Recently I tried on a pair of commuter pants - they were cut to be form-fitting and made from stretchy material. The waist was right but they were grabby in the crotch and tight in the legs. Do manufacturers not know women who bike get muscly thighs? This is such a no-brainer to me, and about the last place I want to be uncomfortable when I'm biking. I think this is a classic example of goods sold to a woman are just drawn from a man's size small, instead of designed specifically for a woman's body.
Bikarelly is a small company devoted to designing smart clothes so that more women can ride. We have good ideas about what works, and we want to hear what your ideas are too. Please contact us and tell us what you're thinking!