As the first bike manufacturer to specifically target the female market, Trek Bicycles has one thing to point out: You don’t want to get caught up with `shrink and pink’.
“Catering to the women’s market is not just about shrinking what product you already have and painting it pink,” Brand communications manager, USA Eric Bjorling tells Bicycling Australia down the phone line from Trek headquarters in Wisconsin, USA.
“For every woman who wants pink, there’s a woman who wants blue or black.”
Those are not just the flippant words of a man who has come to the end of his working day (it’s almost 6pm in America when we speak) and is keen to get home. Eric is so passionate about his work that he is still on the phone half an hour later.
Does it worry him that other bicycle manufacturers have gotten on the bandwagon since Trek designed its first product line especially for women in the year 2000?
“Welcome to the party, I say,” he says. “To be honest, we were wondering when they would get around to it. I think it’s really good, really interesting, that other manufacturers are getting into the women’s market.
“The one great unifying thing is that it brings more women into the sport. If you ask male riders what they want, it is to have more women on bikes, because it might mean they get to ride with their partner.
“We don’t see women’s cycling products as a fringe thing. More, it’s just a chance to offer them products that might fit them.
“I don’t think a woman needs a different brand or a sub brand to feel comfortable. The Trek brand as a whole is perfect for women. That’s how we see it.”
Trek set out on its journey towards developing Trek products that might suit women after recognising the unique anatomical differences between a female and a male rider.
“Not every person will fit on standard type bikes,” Eric said. “There is a definite bell curve.
“Women tend to be shorter in the torso with longer legs than men, so we needed to design frames around that. That was the genesis.”
But, Trek believes, there is more to the women’s market than bike frames.
“The collateral, the messaging, the website, the way the products are presented in the shops, the way women are treated when they come into the store … that all matters,” Eric says.
“Eight years ago we identified that the retail environment was not a very welcoming place for women.
“We took a lot of our practices from successful shops catering to females, eg fashion stores, and really started working that into the shops to make them more female friendly.”
So what’s the difference then if we are not necessarily doing pink?
“It’s really the way items are laid out,” Eric says. “Small things. Female customers are accustomed to having a changing room. Having a section devoted specifically to women, that makes things easy to find, we are communicating visually that the store is a place we do want to shop at.
But back to the bikes. What is Trek offering?
Last year, Trek started from the ground up and came up with Silque, a model that caters from entry level to full carbon version race bikes.
“The response has been great,” Eric says. “We’ve been really surprised by how many people have gravitated towards that bike and not just women either.
“We don’t have sales data to see if men buy it, but we are hearing of cases where some male body types would be suited to the women’s specific. For example I have narrow shoulders and am one step away from riding a Silque.”
Back to the colour issue. The Silque comes in different colours. Trek recognises that women want options when it comes to colour.
“One thing we have that is really good is Project One, a custom bike program. You pick the frame, the parts, colours, a paint scheme; it’s tailored towards whatever you want it to be. A lot more females gravitate towards that.
“It’s available for a number of our products including carbon road bikes, some aluminium options and male and female options across mountain and road.”
So what’s next for Trek? “Well, you can never sit still and say we’ve got it,” Eric says. “For us it’s ever developing and revolving. Our Trek female customer is really front line. We talk about it, we invest in it, we have people here on staff whose job it is to focus on ensuring Trek is the leading brand for female riders in the world.”