“Real” Women and What We Want from Cycling Gear

One of the interesting things that came out of the discussion of women and bike shops from a few weeks back was the apparel and accessory tangent that manifested.

It’s a conversation I’ve had many times before.

We lament the “pinking and shrinking” of everything. We lament the lack of “real” sizes.  We hate that women’s specific jerseys are too short in the torso.  We hate when the length of the leg on the short is too long, too short, or too anything.

I’ll come out and say it: I hate pastel jerseys. But then, I hate pastel anything. (By the way, Team Estrogen owner Susan O. makes an interesting, business-based case for hearts and butterflies in this blog post. I like a savvy business woman who can back up merchandising practice with cold, hard data. That said, I think that Team E’s search result indicators may have more to say about their specific clientele than women-cyclists in general. It’s hard to say. The important thing about Susan’s post is that it does show some concrete evidence for what women are buying. If things sell, they will get produced again – apparel manufacturers are also business people who know how to tell when/where there is a market and when there’s not.)

Pinking and shrinking is real, and it’s as annoying to me as it is to you, but the extreme variety of comments I’ve heard/read/seen by women about apparel has me wondering what clothing designers are to do.

You like it this way, she likes it that way and – her over there? She wants it another way.

There are a few important points to consider about the way we wear clothes:

  1. Our bodies vary wildly, even if we’re the same height and weight.
  2. We expect our clothing to fit well. Close to the body but not too close, long enough but not too long. Think about shopping for denim. We have high expectations, we don’t compromise.
  3. We are inclined to want our personal style reflected at all times. (Which means, no – I’m never going to wear a pink jersey, even if someone gives it to me for free.) Neither am I going wear a pair of shorts with moons or stars on the leg band.

Are men so different?  Do they have lower expectations? Less focus on style?  More uniform body shapes? Or is it just that there are so many more options for them out in the world?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I bet you have some ideas to share.

But, back to the original question:

“What is a “real” woman?”

I hate this phrase “real woman”.  I understand that people use it to indicate women with curves or women who aren’t a size 2 or whatever. But what does that mean?

I’m about as average as they get. Not skinny, not curvy, not tall, not short. I’m a sorta muscular boy-shaped girl without much of a waist. I’m not petite, I’m not tiny, and I have average length legs.

Am I a fake woman? Is my friend who can’t weigh much over a buck-o-three and is made out of 100% straight lines not a “real” woman?

And, finally.

What Do We Actually Want?

We talk a lot about what’s wrong with women’s apparel in the cycling industry (trust me, I do it to the point of exhaustion) We’ve got a lot of critique.

But I know that if I gave specs and marching orders to a company to build the perfect women’s line, it wouldn’t be the perfect line for many women.

Maybe it comes down to options – and us needing more of them. Maybe it comes down to better communication. I’m not sure.

But I’m asking you. What do you want? What’s your ideal cycling jersey? Helmet? Shorts? Bibs?

Do your best to stay focused on what you want and avoid sliding into a tirade about what’s wrong with what’s out there. Consider this a list to cycling apparel manufacturers.

I’m really curious to see how varied the answers are.

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  1. sexy.sassy.girlie. some days I want to be cute and pink. some days I want to look like a bond girl.

  2. I’ll throw in a few:

    -Leg-friendly elastic on my shorts (this is getting better)
    -Jerseys long enough to cover my belly even when I throw my hands up in the obligatory end of ride victory salute. ; )

    But basically, it comes to this:
    I want LuluLemon for the bike.
    Can someone do that please?
    That shit is on.

  3. I don’t really care too passionately about color of things. I am no bike racer or competitive rider. But when I ride a long event like Reach the Beach, I want a riding short/knicker that keeps the chafing to a minimum, and doesn’t show anything I don’t want shown. (No slippage — I’m not going to stop every two miles to hike up my shorts.)

    Bottom line for apparel co’s? TEST the stuff on actual women before you put it on the market. Don’t just size down the men’s design and call it good.

  4. Oh, and P.S.: Not every woman who buys bike gear is a size 6. I’m sure as hell not, and I have money to spend and few places to spend it locally in Portland (that I have found.) I shouldn’t have to order everything online…

  5. I’m definitely not a size 6 either, Meghan. And I feel your sentiment.

    I think that local shops struggle with inventory. The owners that I am friends with express their frustration at having too much stock left over. Those guys are barely staying in business as it is, so if they’re not selling product, they can’t justify buying more of it next time around.

    It seems like we need a store that is like Team Estrogen, but the Brick and Mortar version (and hopefully with a less hormonally related name?) so we have a place to shop locally where we know we’ll find a good selection of brands and sizes.

  6. I believe you hit it with the need for more options. I am 6’3″ with long skinny everything, but I also have curves and a waist. It’s nearly impossible for me to find anything that fits, and men’s are all the wrong proportions. Knowing that my proportions are a rarity, I don’t think the entire industry should cater to me. HOWEVER, the option I would like to see is TALL women’s sizes offered at least SOME of the time. There are plenty of taller-than-average women who can’t find tights and whose best jerseys still don’t cover their tummies, unless they are standing perfectly still. I’m not even that picky about style, I just need it to FIT.

    So yeah, my vote is for more sizing options, above all.

    Industry, let’s work on this.

  7. First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with your distaste for pastels. Ugh.

    What I want:
    1. Longer jerseys (specifically in front) with pockets that aren’t so tight that you can’t get anything in or out.

    2. Better elastic around the arm bands! I don’t have guns or anything, but I do try to keep my upper body fit and don’t have sticks for arms.

    Yeah…the arm thing is a biggie for me.

  8. Ah! Great points about the stupid small arm holes.
    And pockets!!
    I love what I call the “Luna Bar” pocket. Those women’s jerseys that have one tiny pocket in the middle of the back. What the hell am I supposed put in there? A tampon? For Christsake I have stuff to carry!

  9. bibs that are soft all the way thru the shoulder. Snug in the tush, but big enough for the thighs – I do not have bird legs. Come to think of it, there should be at least two leg types in addition to your SML sizing, to account for larger vs thinner leg types. As long as I’m not getting the sausage effect, leg length can vary.

    Slim, flattering, sophisticated and hip. Athletic and feminine – Nike seems to do this well.

    And absolutely no tags, rough seams, or scratchy zipper / reflective materials.

    Princess seams on jerseys are good. Soft, giving fabrics are okay, until you have to load your pockets. Smooth, easy to pull zippers… I shouldn’t have to use my teeth for leverage. And please, can we manage to keep 3 pockets?

  10. 1. I want it to fit! I’m a climber by trade, with a butterfly swimmer for a mother, my shoulders are broad, (my hips are broader), but my waist isn’t. Oh and i have short arms – oh and tiny feet (but stocky ankles).

    2. I want to look cool. Even if i’m not i want to look sleek, fast, independant and smart, pretty much all the time would be nice.

    3. I want technical.

    4. I don’t mind paying for nice stuff if it does all of the above.

  11. Classy, stylish, functional, fun to wear/interesting, comfortable, multi-purpose, fits well, fucking rad to look at.

    This is particularly interesting and covet-inducing to me: http://sartoriallyinclined.blogspot.com/2010/02/barbour-to-ki-to.html

    As is the Rapha women’s line set to come out this Spring. NOT interesting is Stella McCartney’s Adidas cycling line, which is tragic.

    Longer jerseys = YES
    Colors a la men’s Patagonia and men’s Rapha lines = YES
    Jerseys, etc. devoid of terrible flowery and swirly patterns = YES

    Heidi, want to design a line with me?

  12. I AM a size six, and that doesn’t make it any easier. I will not wear the goofy pink pastel lady colors. I want to dominate the peloton, not bring a femminine softness to it.

    I want women’s bib shorts available in stores.

    I want jerseys where the elastic at the bottom doesnt rise up to the smallest point in my waist, making me look like Steve Erkle.

    I want bibs that are wide enough in the hips, but small enough in the leg-holes.

    I want a vest that is more hourglass shaped so i can fit my boobs and hips inside without it flapping in the middle.

    Maybe several different jersey cuts for each brand so when I order my team kit, it fits my curvy figure, and there’s an option for the 4-10 skinny climbing machine who is my teammate.

    • Jennifer

      I want exactly what Meghan D wants! I’m not a size 6, in fact, I’m twice that but I’m a strong rider and I love to do big distances. I want a jersey that doesn’t ride up on my waist! Why do they all have elastic at the bottom – blah! I’d love a vest with an hourglass shape. To fit a vest over my boobs just adds like 15 pounds and the excess fabric flaps in the wind – dumb! I have about 4 vests at home that are ill fitting (and I never wear them)! Lastly, I want shorts with a great chamois and comfortable elastic around the legs.

  13. May height-specific clothing? Like they make “tall” and “petite” jeans, why not bike gear? Nothing is ever long enough for me, jerseys or shorts

    Knee warmers that don’t make my legs look like sausages.

    I don’t care too much about the color, since I just wear my team kit all the time.

  14. Thanks Heidi for writing a post. I work for a Portland, OR company who buy cycling clothing from several European makers. We’ve been working pretty hard at improving the women’s line of clothing (bigger pockets, full zippers, long length, etc.). We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re making headway.

  15. Jerseys – no elastic around the bottom. no elastic in the sleeves. 3 real pockets in back. Long enough to cover my bellybutton. And I’m 5’3″! I like flowers and pink/purple, so I’m ok there :-)

    Shorts – at least a 7″ inseam. NOT cut low in front, so that my stomach hangs over (hey, you have surgery and 2 kids – flat stomach. Ha)

    Gloves – bigger finger openings, and a proper thumb gusset; most are too tight across my palm/thumb. Men’s gloves are way too big. Go figure.

    Arm warmers that stay up. Leg/knee warmers that are not quite so tight up top, which creates that unsightly bulge in my thighs.

    Plug – I review women’s gear for an online newsletter – let me know what you’d like reviewed!

  16. Amen to longer jerseys. I was sent some Castelli gear a few months back to review for Women’s Cycling Magazine. I am a little person (not a “real woman”) but the jerseys were nearly at my bellybutton! I had to give them away to my pre-teen cousins at the end of the testing period because they just wouldn’t stay down.

    I was further disgruntled when I saw an online video of Castelli’s “fashion show” that they put on to model their womens’ summer line. Tall, skinny women pranced on a catwalk in white, purple and pink ensembles, including a tennis-dress-looking thing and very short shorts. I almost thought they were trying to sell me date-night clothing or lingerie.

    I’m totally with you and Robin and others – more bold designs and colors, fewer pinks and flowers! I have nothing against them, I just don’t want them and I don’t want that to be the stereotype.

  17. Like others have said, I’m looking for more more understated and classic looking cycling clothes. When I see pink,purple, and lime patterns on women’s jerseys that look like they were borrowed from Jan Brady’s curtains, I wonder how that got green lighted. Clothing in the men’s section usually seems less “busy” and more get-down to business looking.

    I liked some of the jerseys in the Castelli’s fashion show, but solid white cycling tights? Between dirt, chain oil, and rain, I don’t think that will end well.

  18. AMEN! How is anyone supposed to look fierce and fast in pink butterflies or busy weird flower prints…I’m not against them for others but really if I’m in a race and everyone else has thier rad team kit (no offense to team kit wearers) could I really be taken seriously? I’ve been searching high and low over the last year for “cool” comfortable jerseys (especially jerseys) and have come up with little.

    These guys have come as close to my ideal as I’ve seen yet although I haven’t tried on a jersey for sizing. http://www.twinsix.com/ Their site says something about european sizing which I assumed meant small arm holes :)

    I second or third the armhole and back pocket dilema…my arms always feel squezed and I’d say I’ve got pretty average sized arms.

    ReEally I just don’t want to look like a guy but in ill fitting clothes…I’ve borrowed my husbands jerseys enough to know that that’s not a solution either.

    • I spent a few years riding in Sal’s jerseys as well.
      It was cool in that “letter sweater” kind of way for a while. And then I wanted my own stuff.
      That was around the same time that I started to realize that I couldn’t use the same saddle he did and that not all of his hand-me-down components were right for me either.

  19. I cannot be objective about women’s lycra. Well I can but i’ll let myself down eventually.

    But this might be of interest to some of you.


    BTW Luna’s ‘moons’ shorts might not be your cup of tea, but I love their ‘women specific’ energy bars.

    • Chris – The Rapha announcement partially spurred this post. : )
      I’m going to go in to view the new women’s line with them as soon as I am back in Portland. I will be sure to report!
      I will check out Beth’s site – Thanks for the tip!

  20. http://bethbikes.blogspot.com/2008/08/r-and-quads.html

    Check out the rest of Beth’s blog too. this story runs. She is hilarious!

    Keirin cut jeans!

  21. I care much less about patterns and colors than I do with FIT. I’m 5’10 with boobs, all xl jerseys are short and fat. Too big around, yet still too short. It’s like manufacturers think xl needs to be for a short chubby girl. Several of my jerseys and jackets are men’s (thus, ill fitting in the shoulders and chest) because the women’s versions were just way too short. I also find it so frustrating with cycling clothes that the men’s sections of stores and catalogs tend to have MUCH more variety than women’s sections. It’s getting better, but I think still needs work. (yet it’s MUCH better than the selection in my other sport- mixed martial arts- where 100% of my clothes and gear is men’s)

  22. I have also discovered that some companies try to sell gear labeled as women’s that hasn’t even been shrunk; it’s actually “unisex.”

    Case in point: I am a “brand champion” for Sugoi (basically, I get a 50% discount on gear as long as I write for their blog once in a while and wear some of their stuff to rides & races). I was excited to score some cool kit at great price. Turns out, all the stuff in the women’s section that is labeled as women’s stuff is actually men’s stuff. They hadn’t even bothered to make female versions, nor tell me, so everything fit poorly. Even the XS was too big.

    Great about Rapha making women’s gear, except I can’t afford it and, honestly, think there’s way too much snobbery & stigma attached to their stuff. I don’t want some guy looking down on me because I’m wearing Rapha but not fast enough or Euro enough or PRO enough.

    • Snobbery and stigma with Rapha is a valid point. Cost is also a valid point.
      But as for people looking down on me for what I wear?
      They do that already.
      Some people hate on the racing kit.
      Some people say I’m not fast enough for my wheels.
      Some people say blah blah blah blah.

      I’ve got no time for “what people think” these days, ya know?

  23. A couple of things on my perennial wish list:

    Jerseys and jackets with long enough sleeves and large enough arm holes, while still being trim through the body. Soft fabrics that don’t feel sticky (merino wool is good, plus it doesn’t stink)

    Mountain bike shorts/knickers/commute pants without a low-rise cut, particularly in the back. I don’t want the sunburn stripe, and also don’t need to leave a tempting gap for my 7-year-old to drop things into while on the tandem… (ok, not everyone has that problem, but clothes should fit without big gaps!) Part of the problem for me is the way bottoms are sized — if something is big enough though the hips and thighs, it’s invariably way too big around the waist, and the whole garment slips down dangerously further than is practical.

    Nice, classic, not overtly girly colors and patterns.

  24. If people look down on you cause you can’t live up to their expectations well what does that say about them?

    I was use a ‘french’ word but, it’s not my blog.

    Wear what you like, ride to the best of your ability, or indeed don’t ride. The choice is yours, not theirs.

  25. Something I have had good luck with is shrinking men’s wool jerseys. New Belgium was selling long sleeved wool jerseys for $59, but they only came in men’s sizes. I bought the small jersey, washed it, and then threw it in the dryer on high heat. While it was still damp I put it on so it became a little more form fitting while it dried. The material became a little thicker, but I prefer it that way because it’s my favorite cold weather jersey. I’ve also done this with wool Icebreaker sweaters, however, I don’t know if I’d have the guts to try it out with spendy Rapha gear.

  26. I think the difference between men and women with buying bike clothes is the same as it is with buying jeans. My husband can try on three pairs of jeans at one shop and walk away with at least one pair that suits his needs. I am not so lucky.

    I think it comes down to having MORE selection – both more selection in general and more selection available to try on in shops. There are some companies out there making great stuff but I’m hesitant to order something without trying it on first.

    I will admit that I like girly looking cycling clothes. It doesn’t have to be pastel pink, but I do like it to look a little feminine (which is funny because in general i am NOT that girly of a girl). There’s just something about wearing a girly looking jersey that is completely caked in mud that I find way satisfying. All other things being equal (including quality and functionality) I tend to gravitate towards more girly patterns.

    For me it comes down to fit and function. I would like longer jerseys and shorter shorts that don’t have tight elastic that gives me that god awful bulgy look. There seems to be two body types when it comes to cycling – those who ride a ton and in turn get skinny and those who ride a ton and in turn get muscular. I am the latter and have a hard time buying cycling clothes when I feel like most are made for the former.

    I don’t think there is an easy answer for clothing companies, especially when the number of women who ride is relatively small. I can’t help but wonder if the way to get more options in women’s cycling apparel is to give the manufacturers a bigger market to which they are selling. More women in the sport = more options in clothing?

  27. So I just received an order for a jacket that I bought on sale and a whim from a discounter: It’s the Sombrio Lush, like this, but in black. http://images.chainlove.com/images/items/large/SOM/SOM0053/CYPGN.jpg

    When I put it on, I had a bit of a revelation. This is a jacket designed for cycling: it has elastic on the cuffs as well as the hem, and the jacket is long enough to go down to about the hips without riding up. The collar goes way, way up and has extra fleece on the top to protect the neck and chin from the zipper. The pockets zip, and there’s a key clip in the right one. The zipper is protected on the inside to keep water from seeping through. The material is thick and warm and obviously resistant to the elements.

    And yet… OMG this thing is *beautiful*. There is a slight puff to the sleeves, a nip at the waist, and a bit of a bust-detailing to give shape without drawing too much attention. I could easily see myself throwing this jacket on going the movies, running errands, after a race, and definitely YES DEFINITELY on the old French roadbike or steel cruiser.

    I went to the manufacturer’s website and drooled over most of the stuff there. I now want one of everything.

    Realization #1: Mountain Bikers have a much easier time with fashion. MTB jerseys can have modern necklines, 3/4 sleeves, princess seams. The have shorts in plaid, with pockets, embroidery, hip-camouflaging constructions, various inseam lengths. They have *riding skirts*, heck I even own a mountain biking *dress*. I remember the woman leading my MTB tour who wore western style button-up blouses with baggy shorts, or a leopard print jersey with a swirly thigh-length skirt over her spandex; she totally changed my mind about what I could wear on the MTB.

    Realization #2: women like to transition seamlessly between active lifestyles. We like prAna and Lululemon and TitleNine and travel dresses at REI. Sexy and sleek by exposing just the right amount of skin and no more. We can choose what skims and what ruffles, what lines to create, because we’ve watched too much “What Not To Wear” or whatever. Going to the gym no longer means boxy heather grey T-shirts and black leggings; we have *options*.

    Road cycling? We have a cookie-cutter. Your spandex will be this length, this shape, have these pockets here; the only major creativity seems to have been in what goes on that template. Only recently has more attention has come to functional details like where elastic goes and how tight it is, or where boobs go on a pair of bibshorts, etc.

    Which leads me to Rapha again: ok, we get better fabrics, we get some curves thrown in, but I don’t think this will revolutionize women’s road cycling apparel. In addition, I appreciate what companies like Sheila Moon and B. Spoke Tailor have done, but their on-and-off bike stuff seems trapped by a nod to retro tweed-style rides.

    I think the solution is FIRST in function: non-tangling, midriff covering, circulation promoting, and maybe a little warmer in the toes while we’re at it.

    Then, we need to think outside the S/M/L box. Maybe by cup size? Thigh circumference ranges? Long/short options on torsos and legs? Make things with more adjustability, maybe, with strategic velcro and elastic drawstrings?

    Finally, get some real freakin’ fashion involved. Some women wear cashmere twinsets, some wear fishnet shirts, ain’t NO WAY a few patterns are going to appeal to everyone. Lets look at slight cowl necks or longer tux-coat inspired backs. Let’s ruche, gather, drape on occasion. Let’s be inspired by wool and argyle and Betsey Johnson skulls and Chanel jackets. Let’s watch powerful women in the Olympics, from snowboarders to figure skaters, let’s watch episodes of Wonder Woman, let’s idolize librarians and pinups. Let’s be able to ride a century while looking comfortable enough for the bistro afterward. There must be more to life than race or club cut, butterflies or solids, form or function, you know?

    • Damn, Gnat.
      You kind of just crushed that. I’m a little speechless (in awe and admiration) but I’ll go scrub up some words and come back. : )

  28. Yes, Gnat! Yes to everything you said, but I would especially love shorts measured by thigh size. Now if they only did that with jeans, I might actually find a pair that fit. Big thighs and a tiny waist/no stomach make it really hard to buy bottoms of any type.

    Just wanted to report satisfaction with my new Twin Six jersey. Wider arm holes, longer length with longer back, big pockets, no waist elastic, hidden zipper and a slim, shaped fit that is not too snug. I wish the sleeves were a bit longer to meet the top of my arm warmers, but all in all, the soft jersey will probably get worn much more than my others. Good bright graphics, too. Check ‘em out.


  29. It’s hard to read others’ comments wih the gray on black type. Consider something with more contrast.

    +1 on offering more than the flowery swirly jerseys – hate the cap sleeve T’s too. Although I have been saving on ton of money flipping by these offerings.

    +1 on don’t make bike shorts white, or even with white contrast stripes.

    For online ordering, it would help to have more fit info – eg, inseam length, jersey length, chest width are often not provided.

  30. All these comments are awesome. As previously stated, I work with some European manufacturers (GSG, Etxe Ondo, MS Tina). The problem in Italy and Spain is that women don’t ride. They have no way of testing what they make. I’ve made notes of all the comments to pass onto them. It will be interesting to hear their feedback.

    Two comments from me: I read one post about leg grippers / elastic. They are starting to do away with that and going to lasor cut edge. It seems to work pretty well. No elastic grippers or silicone to rub you silly. And they stay put. And talking about staying put: arm warmers…we have started to sell outwet arm warmers. These are the only arm warmers I have ever owned that don’t fall down and don’t squeeze the heck out of my arms.

  31. I normally wear my team kit as well. Just because it isnt pink/purple and swirly does not mean it fits well. I want bibs for short women, not just small men’s. The men’s bibs come down to almost my knees, and the legs are way to scrawny for my thighs. My jerseys are also just shrunk for the most part. I dont have a problem with length, infact some of the team kit women’s jerseys are too long. Also there is usually a men’s race and club cut, but usually only one option for women’s. This goes for chamois too.

    My mother recently started riding and was appalled at the pink/purple/lime flowery options. I remember feeling the same way when I first started riding.

    The biggest points for me would be:

    1) Make the sleeves longer, I am tired of my wrists being cold

    2) Although I do not want to show off pubic hair with low cut shorts, I also dont want them to ride above my belly button. Is there nothing in between?

    3) Being a small person, but having muscular legs (remember we are riding bikes here), I have to buy medium shorts so they fit in the thighs. But now they are all baggy in the ass and waist. And catch on my saddles.

    4) I want pockets on my jerseys. However on the small jerseys, the pockets are barely wide enough for a Clif Bar. How am I supposed to get my hand in there?

    5) Gloves. I cannot be the only women with long fingers. I have to wear men’s smalls or even mediums, but then then palms dont fit well.

    6) Accessories: please make something besides pink as well.

    And yea, something with some style wold be GREAT. With some use and thought put into it. Ive though long and hard about starting a clothing line.

  32. It irks me endlessly that society has sold women the idea that they must wear pink to be considered feminine.

    Actually, my biggest problem is that clothes aren’t small enough! I realize I’m the exception to the rule, but I have a small chest, smaller waist, and hips, and finding a jersey to fit that is surprisingly difficult (since I’ve got an ‘athletic body’). Given the frustrations vented by other women, I’m not sure that manufacturers actually design anything for any woman: smaller women find jerseys too big, bigger women find the same jerseys too small. I’d rather see a manufacturer pick a body type and shamelessly play it up. “Not everyone is the same, and that’s ok! We’ve created a line for women with larger chests, smaller waists, and hips!” This would allow competitors to design for a different body type. Banana Republic does not design for the same market as Urban Outfitters, who does not target the same women as Ann Taylor. Why are all bicycle clothing designers just creating the same thing (short sleeved jersey in pink and light blue)?

    Shorts measured by thigh size is brilliant.

    There is more to a feminine piece of clothing than the color- the chainlove jersey linked by Gnat earlier would never be considered anything less, but it isn’t pink. I’d love to see more of the kind of creativity Gnat advocated.

  33. Props to all these thoughtful, intelligent comments, especially about the many variables in womens’ sizing. If I may chime in:

    1. I’m a newbie racer, longtime tourist/randonneuse, and a four-plus decades-long transportational cyclist. I COMMUTE over three thousand miles a year on a bicycle (not counting my racing or training miles in that number).

    2. I am 5′ 7″, 165#, with long arms and legs and reasonably short torso. I have a little middle-age spread and real breasts. This does not, repeat, does NOT, make me “fat”. I do not look like an Olympic athlete but my body can ride a bike for 7 hours straight in 42 degree temps and driving rain, on a regular basis. I also race a singlespeed mountain bike in short track and ‘cross. And while I’m not winning any races I feel plenty strong — AND beautiful.

    2. I race on a syndicate team (west coast based with regional satellites) and recently took delivery of my 2010 jersey. According to the maker’s sizing chart for “womens’ specific” team kit, I take a — sit down now — Womens’ 3X. That’s X, X, X, with an L on the end. Seriously? For real?

    3. I’m the rare gal with no serious body image issues. But I’d hate to be a salesperson and tell another woman my size that she takes a 3X in ANYthing. She’d be livid, and rightly so. Womens’ sizing is completely dorked, with a skewed sizing range that practically begs too many of us to see ourselves as obese if we’re not slim-hipped and, well, concave.

    (That’s why all the rest of my cycling clothes are mens’ sized. Mens’ sizing is consistent enough that I know a Mens’ Large will fit me reasonably well in most makes and models of jersey. Womens’ sizing offers NONE of this consistency. Worse still, the designers assume we all want jerseys that look like 19th-century wallpaper. But that’s another argument.)

    The clothing makers are missing out big-time by sizing womens’ bike wear the way they do, and by not offering an extended sizing range that reflects how many different kinds of women love to ride.

    Rapha’s womens’ line? Yeah. I saw it. Very nice stuff. None of it will fit me. My ta-tas, which extend farther forward than my collarbones, are apparently too big for the womens’ bike clothing makers to think of me as “athletic”.

    Dear designers: If you would only make stuff that fit me I’d buy it. You’re missing out on my money, and frankly you should care more about that than you do. Bottom line is still bottom line, after all.

  34. Gosh, where do I start? I remember my first “women’s” sportswear was a pair of Nike Valkyrie running shoes back in 1982! Things have certainly come a long way since then.
    One of my problems with “womens/girlee” clothing is that I generally run a mile from it, it’s only when I am forced to try something on or wear it that I realise that some of it is awesome.
    Example #1-a friend of mine asked me to model some Cannondale clothing for a photo shoot in a training crit last summer, she also allowed me to keep the jersey. This jersey (http://www.cannondale.com/usa/usaeng/Products/Apparel/Womens/Jerseys/Details/98-9f161-Womens-Classic-Jersey). I love this jersey. The white color way. I love the soft subtle hem-less sleeve edge, I adore the zippered rear pocket on the middle rear pocket for phone or keys, I love the flat stitching and the shaping and the soft but not nauseous white/blue colorway. That said, with many retailers not stocking women’s gear in depth, there’s no way I ever would have tried this jersey on had my friend not tossed it at me and said “hey, model for us”. It’s one of my fave jerseys along with a jersey from Scott, that I was also given. That jersey is a predominantly white jersey with a tiny touch of light and deep pink-believe me I am not a pink kind of gal. The Scott jersey has the most construction of any jersey I’ve seen with subtle mesh inserts down the centre back and sides and lots of shaping. Believe me some serious thought went into both of these jerseys and having been initially forced to wear them, they are my first picks out of the drawer when the sun is shining.
    On the subject of shorts, I finally sorted the chafing sitbones situation back in ’01 when out of frustration I bent over in front of a mirror and measured the distance between the red marks on my ass. (Not a great visual I know but by god did it work.) With that measurement in hand I went to the bike shop for first of all a saddle with a flat area slightly wider than my measurement and secondly becasue then I was sitting on the chamois stitching, searching for women’s shorts with a chamois/liner that also measured about 1/2″ wider than my measurement. I have been chafe free since doing that.
    On the subject of sizing and patterns, I’ll say that it’s my experience that companies do fit jerseys on women and have women test them. I was a medium fit model during my days working at C’dale in the 90s. I was asked back as a potential fit model there 2 years ago but was too big in the upper body (believe me I am not buff) for their cut. Yet, that c’dale classic jersey that I love is a size small, so maybe everyone, like many fashion brands is grading up on the sizes after a move in the opposite direction over the past decade.
    I agree that it’s a tough job for manufacturers to fit all of our shapes, desires and whims. I also agree that as a not short bodied woman, a lot of clothing is too short in the torso length (which also gives you much smaller rear pockets). I’m 5’9″, 140, athletic/boyish build.

  35. Geargals

    This real woman wants to never hear the phrase “real women” again. It’s degrading to just about everyone. Who is not a “real” woman?

  36. ^^^^ funny, and true.

    I’m not :)

  37. This is so true! I’m 5″9, 150 lbs and I HATE how most Jerseys fit me, it’s like they took it and chopped off the bottom 2 inches!
    And another thing that’s been getting to me, I find a pair of running shoes i LOVE: like a really intense black and yellow pair or bright orange and then find out they’re mens.
    I look in the women’s sizes and what to I get? Pastel green and baby pink.

  38. I want a short-sleeved top that is neon bright to stand out – no flowers, long back – and a single zipped back pocket – not 3 pockets that things can fall out of – plus 2 side pockets with zippers and long torso.

  39. Fashion and women are almost inseparable. Mostly all women tend to have the innate sense of fashion which is why they are likely to go wrong with their dressing sense.

  40. Really interesting debate. Going to add something that may be controversial. I dont think the choice for guys is great either. Certainly in the UK, and even in the biggest bike shops, colour choice for the guys is usually limited to single colour blocks. Mainly black or hi vis, at a push red or blue too. Even in bike shops, with guys stuff you still have to navigate the same fashion vs function minefield to find something you can actually ride in.

    My personal bike clothing view? I won’t go anywhere near girly, and look at mens small sizes instead, which fit me fine. I want functional and distinctive. I rarely find anything worth paying for, so ride mainly in old faithful kit I’ve picked up from other sports (e.g. rowing), and freebies, cast offs or bargain bin specials.

  41. Jessica S.

    I like pink, but my friend’s the opposite. This is her open letter to the manufacturers, it’s hilarious.


    She also raises a price issue. The options are out there, but theyre expensive.

  42. Stumbled on this web-site and feel like i’ve found some kindred spirits – boo to pastel coloured cycling gear for the ladies and yay to bold colours and designs that actually fit. I’m just about to hit the buy button on the Rapha site – clothing that fits and looks “the business” – yep… i’d pay (and am about to) big bucks for that.

  43. All I want is LONGER jersey’s (especially in the front) for women. They are almost ALL cut way too short.

  44. First and foremost, I want shit to feel and look good. I HATE pastels and froo froo colors. I want to look good riding solo, in a pack of women, or with a pack of testosterone driven males. I want gear to look as flattering on me as it does on any man. I want to start seeing wicked fun colors and color schemes. I don’t want to have to feel like I’m settling for my bike and gear. Guys don’t settle, why should I have to (and I’m not on a man hating tirade here). I want options; options in color, sizing, and look without being laughed off the floor of a shop or discussion. I’m 5’2 between 110/115lbs, it’s hard to find correct sizing and MINIMAL options in general. Fitting into men’s items is not even a realistic option. Companies have come a long way, but I think they still being too timid on challenging boundaries, GET CREATIVE COMPANIES and they will come!! Look at the running/fitness shoe industry, I’ve heard many men complain that women have more and better options with color and sizing, get with the program WSD cycling folks.

  45. I was all excited to see this post – then realised it’s already a year old. Nothing’s changing fast I guess.
    Longer jerseys – I thought I must be longer than average but every second woman wants this.
    Pockets that are large enough and low enough to get your hand into.
    No elastic at the bottom – it’ll just end up at my waist.
    Anyone selling online should include length in their sizing chart.

  46. some days I want to be cute and pink


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