In the paddock of the women’s Tour de France teams, one color reigns supreme: pink. SD Worx, Le Col-Wahoo, EF Education, UAE Emirates… Many teams have it on their jersey. Like what clichés are still popular when it comes to designing equipment for female cyclists. “The first thing runners are asked to do is not to have things that are too feminine though”, Dorian Tabeau, marketing manager of Lapierre, partner of FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope, was surprised. He laments that these prejudices die hard: “Things are too gendered.”
Available in the women’s peloton for six years (also in the men’s with Groupama-FDJ), the French brand is one of the successors of the unisex range. “To the eye, you can’t see any difference between David Gaudu’s bike and Marta Cavalli’s. It’s a will”, assured Dorian Tabeau. He added: “We haven’t made a bike with supposedly feminine geometry for four years. Talking to the riders, we understand that it doesn’t add anything, that it almost lowers their performance.”
On Lapierre bikes, the frames are unisex. Apart from the saddles, the size only varies for a simple and good reason: runners are generally smaller than runners. But this way of thinking has yet to catch on in the paddock of the women’s Tour de France teams, although it is shared by other equipment manufacturers such as Cannondale. “The women’s cycling market ten years later, it has emerged, it is looking for itself, and its consumers are still not aware of it. We have a lot to learn, but for us, the way is unisex equipment”explained Dorian Tabeau.
This conclusion, the tricolor equipment manufacturer takes it from the six-year partnership with FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope, and from the permanent exchange of staff and runners. “Today, we know what women want. We are now almost only concerned with technique, aesthetics are settled.“, said the marketing manager. Lapierre also unveiled at the start of the Tour a special bike, imagined by the riders, with references to the eight levels of the Grande Boucle.
Lapierre presents the Xelius SL, specially designed for Touring with references at every stage of the frame.
— Adrien Hemard-Dohain (@AdrienHemard) July 24, 2022
Between designing a bike to the taste of female riders, and falling into sexist clichés, the line is very fine. “To avoid this, we first look for prejudices, especially coloriels. We also hire women, in an environment that is still very masculine.assured Dorian Tabeau. It’s a balancing act because we remain in a male universe, and on the other hand, we don’t want to be seen as opportunists in the women’s market.
As such, the Women’s Tour de France should facilitate the process. Behind this talk, however, there are real differences between David Gaudu’s bike and Marta Cavalli’s. Dorian Tabeau lifted the veil of the invisible: “The big difference is the relationship between the nature of the bike, its weight and the level of hardness. You have to find a good compromise, because the riders are lighter”. Although in the end, the addition of components (derailleurs, chain, tin…) makes the weight equal.
So much for the mountain, but what about the clothes? Responsible for the Ekoi brand, which dresses the Arkea, Saint-Michel Auber 93 and Cofidis teams, Pietro Cicoria acknowledged that his teams aim to “bringing a feminine touch to the world of cycling”without falling into the trap of all-out pink. “First, we systematically equip the male and female groups of our partners. It’s natural”he acknowledged.
For two years, the Ekoi brand has set up a service dedicated to the female peloton, with its own collections. “We brought someone not from the world of cycling, but from fashion, who works with our riders. The goal is that what attracts the professionals of tomorrow is available to everyone”Pietro Cicoria promised.
Obviously, women’s knitwear is cut differently, to adapt to a woman’s morphology. “We are constantly improving it all thanks to their feedback. “, appreciated Pietro Cicoria. An example? Helmets. “We adapted the tightening of the back of the helmet, leaving space to pass long hair, our engineers worked on it at the request of the runners”. The same is true for bras, which are designed so that runners can run with their jerseys open, without revealing too much of themselves.
“Cycling is very much associated with men in culture, but that has to change and it will. You have to adapt when necessary, but otherwise make as few differences as possible. A cyclist , male or female, a cyclist”concluded Pietro Cicoria. “It is sometimes not an easy challenge, but you have to do it. The bike falls behind, it has to catch up.” And join the peloton of sports where we no longer ask about gender.