The Seattle BikeExpo was last weekend, and by the look of it, the bike scene is all about flashy sport gear, big organized rides, exotic tours, and power-sport-energy-nutrition-gonzo-bars. I nibbled a few bars, but I was really at the BikeExpo to attend a forum on “Bike Culture”. My general assumption was that the five panelists would talk about the integration of bikes into our modern, urban culture — the headway and the roadblocks.
The gender makeup of the panel, 4 men and 1 woman, was disheartening, even if it was an accurate representation of the cycling gender divide. It was an obvious example of how small of a voice women have in the bikiest of bike cultures — the Bike Expo. Looking around the Expo in general, you would get the impressing that to be a cyclists means suiting up in bright, shiny moisture-wicking, synthetic fibers, clicking your high-tech specialized shoes into your pedals, and riding your ultra-tricked out machine really, really fast. Sure, some cyclists do that—both men and women. Some ride for speed, endurance, endorphins and bragging rights, but that whole mentality is counter-productive to bringing bike culture into mainstream culture. What struck me about the BikeExpo in general was how little effort was made by vendors to show bikes as a way of life. Bikes were represented as a leisure/sport activity that is done on the side of life.
I’ve been thinking about how we get more people riding bikes as their everyday short-trip vehicle of choice and think that targeting women is a key ingredient, and the marketplace in America has neglected this segment of potential riders and shoppers. Fewer bikes are made to fit women’s bodies and the majority of the gear sold at bike shops (and BikeExpos) does not address the needs of running the quick and easy errand, but instead continues to focus on the sport rides in spandex. When the time comes that you walk out of your house and automatically ride your bike to the grocery store in your neighborhood instead of hopping into your car to get the quart of milk or bottle of wine for dinner, then we’ll have an integrated bike culture.
The panel discussion nibbled around the edges of this lack of women representation, but fortunately the lone women of the forum, Amy Walker, is the publisher and creative director of Momentum magazine. I can only imagine the charge I would get out of 5 Amy Walkers talking about how we live life — get to work, shop for new clothes, meet for lunch, run errands, get to community meetings, go to the dentist, arrive at a dinner party, take our kids to school, enjoy a date night, transport our pets to the vet — on two wheels.
“Momentum magazine provides urban cyclists with the inspiration, information and resources to fully enjoy their riding experience and connect with local and global cycling communities.” So says their web site.
Momentum is dazzling eye candy for women like me who want my bike to be an extension of who I am and how I choose to live, shop, work, and play. Momentum does for people on bikes what Dwell magazine does for lovers of modern, urban architecture and design. It makes me want. It makes me want to consume with its ads for beautiful city-geared bicycles, stylish bike bags, and life-style spotlights on people living — and making a living — as part of the two-wheeled culture. The fashion and stories show beautiful people living a dreamy life that I want to cultivate.
Which begs the question then, if BikeExpo had a large component of bikes and bicycle accessories for women living a cycling lifestyle, would more of those weekend trail riders want to integrate cycling into regular life? Could the bike-fashion-lifestyle trend grow and entice more women on bikes, which would lead to more awareness of bike riders, better safety measures, improved bike parking, calmer traffic, and ultimately utopia?
A girl can dream… And I dream of a day that my friend Michele wants to meet me at the bakery in Ballard on her bicycle. We will wear cute shoes.