Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Dear Evans Cycles, [OPEN LETTER]

Dear Evans Cycles,

I don’t tend to take much notice of the junk mail which comes through my door, however the other day I noticed that you had kindly sent me your summer magazine/catalogue called RideIT! ‘What juicy reading!' I thought and sat down with a cup of tea, in the sunshine with your catalogue.

I planned this be an enjoyable event as anything to do with shopping and cycling is ace-of-spades to me, however, being a cycling enthusiast with a penchant for womens cycling, I was terribly disappointed by what I discovered on your pages. Now you may assume that most women would be happy to be thrusted images of heroic, masculine, 'lyrca-ed up' male cyclist, but let me tell you this is not the case! In fact, it has the opposite effect.
Lycra man bums
The reason being, Mr Evans (and I am not sure you have even noticed this) is that out of 80 photos of cyclists in the your magazine, just 6 of them are women. That is a mere 7.5% of all photos of people in your magazine pages! Now I know that men dominate the cycling industry but do you really feel that the gender split is THAT wide?
The token woman cyclist!

After my shock and inability to identify with your rogue male cyclist images, I took to the internet to find out some hard facts. Let’s look the last census. In 2011, 650,000 people commuted to work each day by bicycle in England and Wales, 27% of which are women (bikes.org.uk) (and that census didn't even include me!). So if 27% of cycle commuters are women, then why is your magazine so male-centric? I know that a large amount of your consumers are men who cycle for sport, but this does not excuse you for ignoring the growing female cyclist consumer market.

Mr Evans, it makes me wonder who is advising you about the bicycle industry? I am always at hand to offer my services if need be, for example, I would like to point you to the direction of some companies who are business smart and savvy to the increasing female market for bicycles and accessories. Just to name a few: Beg Bicycles, Bobbin Bicycles, Cycle Chic. These are companies which offer a female-friendly brand and sell products which I could easily spend my monthly salary on. Please feel free to peruse the photos on their websites and take note that they present a contemporary, carefree image of cycling, with plenty of women on bicycles!!

Furthermore, I would like to highlight a couple more misdeeds in your RideIt! catalogue. On page 50, you talk about the RideIt! organised bicycle rides, mentioning the 'Family Fun' rides you offer for all abilities. You state:
'All our rides have different route lengths to choose from so you can set the distance you feel comfortable with. Our 'Family Fun' routes are designed so the whole clan can ride, and kids cycle for free!' (Pg 50)
‘Hurrah!’ I thought, you’re finally writing for real, everyday people and not superhero cyclists. But to my aghast, the picture accompanying this family bicycle invitation is........
.....more lycra men! AND going uphill! Memories of my family bicycle rides were certainly a lot more pleasant than this family image you are promoting.

And whilst we’re on the family theme, let’s skip to the kids page where you feature bicycles for children. Please see picture below. 
I think you can agree that one of the crucial ways to get people on two wheels is to introduce cycling at a young age. Unfortunately, you seem to have prioritised boys bikes over girls by showing 6 bicycles of which just 1 is for girls (and in a very sickly pink colour at that!)

So Mr Evans, I think I have made my point clearly. I do accept that your brand caters for a large sports market which men seem to rule, however I hope you can agree that you could put a bit more effort in to representing women in your catalogue, after all, we are your customers too! 

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Jemma Leahy
AKA Help My Chain Came Off
H.M.C.O Headquarters 


Unknown said...

I agree completely... and I'm a man!

pollollups said...

too flipping right! It would be useful to have some idea of distances for the family rides as well. Only the 'king of the downs' (nb not Queen!) distances are given. Mind you, at least there are some women. From my memory of reading it over my shreddies this morning, it's not exactly ethnically diverse either!

Anonymous said...

Astute and necessary comments. I haven't seen the Evans Cycle catalogue but I suspect most of your criticisms could be applied to much of mainstream cycling marketing. The only point I disagree with is the matter of children's bikes. Instead of condemning Evans for only offering one "girls" bike, we should point out that selling gendered products is just as damaging as not showing enough women cyclists in their photos. They should just offer different sizes of children's bikes in neutral colours and let kids decide which one they like. Growing up I always hated the fact that my only options were pink, princess-y bikes.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and it's everywhere. Just take a look at Wiggle's website. The main navigation is Cycle, Run, Swim, Triathlon, Ladies. They may as well have a category called "Special Snowflakes"

It's endemic in the cycle industry. But then these large companies are going after the biggest wallets they can find, and I suspect there's a lot more cash to be made trying to persuade men that £800 carbon fibre wheels are going to make ride like Cav than there is in any other sector.

They are in it for the money, pure and simple. There's no cash to be made in persuading people that they can get on any old clunker without a tonne of specialist equipment and still enjoy cycling.

Idle Boy said...

I think you may be missing the point of the Catalogue - it is to sell items.

By far the most amount of money I would think that Evans makes is from Lycra Warriors who will spend 10 times more than an average cyclist. Evans will be aware of their demographics and have the catalogue set out to sell to those people.

Maybe their demographics are wrong but I assume they are like every other well organised shopping chain and know exactly what sells the most for them and where they make the most money. I suppose then they have to make the assumption that they will focus on this market and forego other parts of the cycling market.

Business is business even if it in selling bikes.

emilyobyrne said...

I agree wholeheartedly, and my poor other half has been on the end of similar rants.

However, please can we move on from the idea that 'female friendly' cycling equals Beg Bicycles and Bobbin? Surely I'm not the only woman looking for something more than the Miss Marple styling of the wicker basket brigade? (I'm looking at you, Victoria-Pendleton-for-Halfords)

Yes, if I'm popping to the shops, I might take my town bike, but if I want to go any further than N4 to N1 I'll be on my road bike, and I'll probably want to wear something suitable for travelling at speed. The kind of get up that Vulpine, Velobici and Swrve sell by the bucketload - but only to men (and please don't tell me it's unisex). If I want to go on a proper ramble I'll be putting on the lycra because anything else is plain inconvenient - but I still want my lycra to fit properly.

@Idle Boy, I completely agree. Business is business. And Evans do try to serve the women's market but the gear is just grim (purple flowers embroidered on your cycling jeans, anyone?). If they stocked the right kind of clothes, I would be there with my credit card on a regular basis. As it is, most of my not-insignificant cycling outlay goes to Rapha and to the lovely Minx-girl.com. They get the idea, so they get the money.

Anonymous said...

I think you're missing the point Idle Boy : )

The catalogue is designed as a lifestyle magazine / brochure … it reads very differently from the argos catalogue! They try and sell their products by promoting an image and lifestyle… the image they’re promoting excludes a bunch of people.

Plus loads of women are into sports cycling and im sure they spend plenty of cash on fast bikes and thin tyres. Oh and i think people who aren't white also enjoy cycling.

Its a lazy publication for a market that is far more diverse than Evans realizes. Evans the Dinosaur!

Anonymous said...

They only seem to feature those annoying summer cyclists that block you at the junctions when they try to clip in?! The more gear and flash the inevitably brand new racing bike is the more arrogant and agressive they are - you're commuting to work not taking part in amateur hour of le Tour guys!

Sarah said...

Well said! How very disappointing. Unfortunately, this isn't uncommon so I tend to turn to blogs for my female cycling fix.

liz said...

I was reading the catalogue over breakfast, and it really does seem geared to the lycra-wearing road bike market. On the "commuter bikes" pages, there's a graphic recommending mudguards and a pannier rack to make your bike more practical - features that are missing from all but two of the bikes on the next five pages. I can only assume that, for Evans, sports cyclists are a more profitable customer than transport/leisure cyclists...

anniebikes said...

Bravo. That rag is really sexist.

@thomaslegge said...

Brilliant letter, I hope they take note - if not, then it's a lost opportunity and their market share will be further eroded by the shops that take into account the needs of their diverse customers not just the Lycra brigade.

James Backhouse said...

Hi Jemma. I was part of the Evans team working on the catalogue. Thanks for reading it... but sorry about the men-in-tights overload. We definitely all have our limits and I agree with you that we could have done much better.
Don't suppose you fancy coming in to have a chat about how we could do it better (and avoid the 'it must be pink' trap)? I'll drop you a line with my email.

Cheers, James

christina said...

hi, i happened to stumble across your blog and started reading vigorously and i really enjoyed reading it. this is an issue a lot of us female bike advocates are taking on. women in bike sports magazines and industry are depicted as objects of consumption and consumers and it's wrong!. however, we are changing that and challenging it as well. there are a lot of women starting there own ebooks, group rides, bike shops, and companies as you mentioned. it's a new time for us.

thanks for speaking up about it. i look forward to connecting.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more! Very well expressed and thank goodness someone has. Well done Jemma, love your blog.
Will email you separately.
Sally Guyer

Jemma said...

Ah some fantastic comments! And thank you Evans for the invitation, count me in for a visit! I'm sure I can put you into shape :-)

Julia said...

Well done! With the bicycle such a key component in women's liberation, I appreciate you having taken the time to speak up for the interests of women in cycling. Women make up a relatively small portion of cyclists the world over (roughly 25%), which says to me, "opportunity to bolster our broken economy and gender inequality in one fell swoop." Go, Girl!!

I am pleased that you will be informing Evans about what women desire in cycling images and equipment. By women for women. If only more industry leaders were of the female persuasion! (Props to Giant.)

Go boldly to your meeting with Evans, and remember, where a revolution begins, there you will find women.

Dean Stacey said...

Hi Jemma

I organise the Ride It events for Evans and read your blog with interest! I'll leave James to talk to you about your views on sexism in our catalogue, but would like to comment on the "misdeed" you mention about our Rides.

We do mention the Family Fun routes, but this is just part of the article, not the main focus of the feature. I agree that we could have had a montage of pictures that showed a family and also some mountain bikers as they are not represented either! I guess what I'm saying is that the feature is not about family cycling like you used to remember, but about our rides which include shorter, fun routes.

@pollollups. The article is a general overview of our events. We organise 26 weekends a year and ride distances vary from event to event depending on MTB/Road/Winter/Summer/terrain/hills etc. It would not be practical to state distances for each ride at each event on the limited space of the two pages available. We do, however, say that full details are available on line and give you the address. Here you will find all the other details there wasn't room for, like which rides are on which day, start times, registration opening times etc. For the record - Fun routes vary from 12 - 16 miles depending on the venue.

King of the Downs, it's just a name. There was no thought about excluding women, in fact 120 rode the event last year. We did think about a Queen of the Downs category as well, but women ride the same distance and hills as men so why segregate them? We have actually stopped specifying gender on our rider times so both genders are shown together.

The bikes shown are how we sell them as supplied from the manufacturers, they do not come with panniers, mudguards etc. Panniers are a personal choice for you to add after or when you buy the bike. Most of the bikes on those 5 pages have dedicated pannier fixing points which do not come on "racing" bikes, so these are commuting bikes and are not aimed at sport cyclists

I hope this has explained a few of the points raised in the original post and following comments.


Dean Stacey said...

@ Emilyobryne

I've had a quick look at our womens range and can't find any jeans with flowers on ( not saying we don't do them!) Out of the 94 different womens jerseys available on our site, none of them had any flowers on. Neither do any of the 3/4 trousers. I haven't looked at all sections so I'm sure you can find some flora somewhere, but generally we don't sell womens clothing with flowers :-)


Jemma said...

Hi @Dean Stacey

I understand that the family fun rides is not the main focus of the article, however it would have been nice to document what they look like and would probably attract more families for the rides! Just would have been nice to have a different picture of people cycling other than the classic MAMIL. If you organise rides for all abilities, then show pictures of rides for all abilities.

Maybe I'll come to the next one :-)

Dean Stacey said...

Hi Jemma

I agree with you. I'm pretty sure ( but not certain ) that previous editions of the Ride It magazine have promoted the fun/family side of the events.

I had a laugh about your "Rouge male" cyclists comment. Most of those pictures are of two of my staff who went out for a photo shoot. They'll be gutted to know their "heroic, masculine, 'lyrca-ed up' male cyclist" poses don't hit the mark :-)

Hope you have a good meeting with James.


Anonymous said...

This is outrageous, I'm going to write to my MP as well! Seriously, valid point and great blog.

upSlopeAunty said...

Great post Jemma, valid points all well made. I'm impressed that Evans is listening to you and willing to talk, hope that goes well.

However, this isn't just an issue about the catalogue. One positive thing we can say about RideIT! is that it is an accurate reflection of the Evans high street shopping experience. My local Evans is pretty much wall to wall racing and bmx bikes, it's a very blokey experience, and I've never seen a woman working there. I go in there occasionally, I very rarely spend anything. At least the current RideIT! doesn't build up my hopes up that my local Evans has changed.

Michelle Arthurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Arthurs said...

Hi Jemma

As the 'token female cyclist featured, I thought I best get back to you.

Firstly, there is much more on my own blog about my own riding. It's not been updated a while, I'll admit, but this is because I'm waiting until I've got time to write an epic long post, following a week training abroad: http://www.trainbynumbers.blogspot.co.uk/

Sadly, cycling is still a pretty sexist sport. You can see that in the way, when I enter a Time Trial race, I can expect to be racing against a handful of other women, and even if I win, I only get a prize of about a tenner as opposed to the 50 quid the top male might win. But then, the top male has beaten 100 or so other riders, and I've beaten 3 or 4, so I can see this is fair, in a way.

Sadly, there are more items around available for men now. There are more male cyclists. So yes, there are more males picutred in our catalogue.

However, we did make efforts to include a good selection of womens items. For example, I was also featured in Velo Fever as a triathlete, alongside a selection of items for women.

I can promise you, there are a lot of staff at Evans cycles who are absolutely devoted to getting more women on their bikes.

This is something we are working very hard at. In our last Summer catalogue, we produced an 8 page information guide on womens riding. Sadly, we received criticism for being patronizing. The problem is, we are trying to reach out to a very varied female audience, and we want to go about it the right way.

Sorry we're only half way through the struggle, but I'm confident we will get there.

Sarah-Jane said...

I also saw red (and pink) at the Evans catalogue and started a discussion on here http://www.birminghamcyclist.com/forum/topics/women-s-cycling-clothing Unfortunately, some the respondents seem to be in the same dinosaur category as Evans.

And for the people from Evans, your catalogue does include flowery clothing on page 13.

Jemma said...

@Sarah-Jane Just read the discussion you started off on birmingham cyclist, flabbergasted that some men on there thought it wasn't a problem!

Dean Stacey said...

Hi Sarah-Jane

Having read your forum post I can see you're not a fan of pastel colours and flowery clothing.

Taking a closer look at the womens jerseys on our website I can find one patterned top which I wouldn't personally class as flowery and two which are trimmed with a discrete flowery pattern.

There are pastel coloured tops shown, but if you click on the majority of them you will see that there are non pastel versions also avialable ( if there is not a picture, then the codes give the colour ( BLK =Black, WHT = White etc ))

So out of 94 womens tops there are 3 with flowers and the majority of pastel colours are also available in other colours.

Yes, there is one top in our catalogue that has some small flowers on it, but that's one top in 6 pages and there will be women out there that want flowery tops and pastel colours, so we are catering for them as well.

I'm not saying you are wrong and Evans are right, just pointing out that we do hold a large selection of clothing that is not pastel or flowery.

You also call us a dinosaur which I feel is a bit unfair. Firstly, as stated by Michelle above, we have written articles on womens cycling in the past Ride It magazines. We have also had women only nights at some of our stores in the past, so we are trying to address this issue. Secondly, Evans are not a manufacturer, we are a seller. If all our suppliers only produced pink flowery tops one year then we either stock these or nothing - which would make people think we sexist. We can only stock what our suppliers produce.

I would just like to point out that although I work for Evans I am writing in a personal capacity and all these views are mine. I'm writing from home on a Bank Holiday!


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Elizabeth said...

l agree with everything you in this post, Edinburgh co op l had quite bad experiences with them but you see the odd dutch style ladies bicycle but most of the product are gear to men .l got fed up with the whole thing and moved to the netherlands six months a go with my bicycle too. its fun because in the netherland bicycle come in all colours pink,green yellow and women cycle with two childs on the bike like its normal. the problem l see is you dont have to convince little girls to cycle ,you have to keep them from giving up . most bikes sold in the uk have nothing on them for commuting no rack ,mudgurads etc. but here in the netherland most bicycle have this about 80 percent have mudguard and rack. there not enough bicycle shops in the uk and there gear to men

Anonymous said...

I can't stand Evans! Sold my partner his bike with parts missing/stolen then emails back & forth carried on for weeks with no apology/refund/replacements. Eventually we were sent a very ugly bottle opener.

Their store in Reading is particularly bad. Practically a boys club where they opening discuss how 'fit' their customers are.

Clare said...

You are so right!! I've just been reading Cycling Plus, which is generally pretty good, but there are some ads included in their pages which seem to require ladies in lycra who forgot to put their jersey on..

Anonymous said...

Interesting point on the childrens bikes. I've worked for a bike brand that made children's bikes in the 'gender stereotypes' of pink and blue, as well as neutral colours that personally I preferred. Guess what sold best? Guess what retailer demand was for, based on parental demand? Dissapointing, but that's the reality of it at the moment.
Brands often would like to be less gender-focussed but buyer-power and commercial pressure means that customers usually get what they want. I welcome a future where the demand for leisure bikes and less stereotyped children's bike are a bigger part of the market. The problem is that the industry's biggest positive - it being full of passionate and motivated people who love bikes - is also a weakness, in that the focus is still on the sports/hobby side of things due the interests of most of us in the trade. That's changing though, particularly as cycling is becoming more mainstream, more about transport and less about sport.. imo it's in the best interests of us all.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know much about any magazine but I do know that Evans Cycles are the worst company I have ever has the misfortune to use (ever!). Just a few points if anyone from Evans reads this:

1. If you use a Customer Services/Support email address then customers expect to receive support via it, not a bog standard "Please call our Customer Support on blah blah blah...". Many people email in the first place because they don't have time to call so when you receive this response it is so frustrating!!

2. Stop putting false delivery times on your website. This makes you look better than your competitors who are looking worse by 'telling the truth' on their sites! This is a crude tactic.

3. Stop sending out returned/damaged goods. Whenever I've ordering something it looks as though it's been dug out of the bottom of a skip!

4. I don't want a refund, I want a replacement! Why is this so hard to understand?!

5. It helps if everyone is on the same page, one member of your staff can tell me one thing and then another will say something completely different when asked the same question. Again, STOP LYING!

(The above are based on website issues/support and not stores, I have no experience of their shops and don't wish to).

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