From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Women Want Their Own Gear

Whether in the workplace or climbing a mountain, a new survey by retailer REI indicates that smaller or scaled-down versions of traditional men’s gear aren’t “fitting” most women.

Conducted in February 2004, the survey of over 800 people, including 500 women, found that the majority of women want gear that’s built for them rather than gear that’s just a more petite version of equipment designed for men. Additionally, a full 36 percent of the women believed that gear designed for a woman would improve performance and another 14 percent said that if they had gear that actually fit them they would likely venture into recreational pursuits more often.

While overall awareness of designed-for-women recreational gear wasn’t high, 90 percent of the respondents were aware that bicycles had made the jump into women- and men-specific models. For companies like Terry Precision Cycling, a bike and accessory company that builds women-specific components, the fact that bikes are now being fitted to the sexes is a welcome change.

“A traditional scaled-down man’s bike still comes with 700c wheels which limits the length of the top tube,” Marchand told Ergonomics Today in 2003. “With 700c wheels, the top tube can only be so short before the pedals start hitting the front wheel. Too long of a top tube makes a cyclist uncomfortable at least, and out-of-control at the most,” she said.

According to Marchand, aside from a lack of comfort and performance, there can be other problems for women using scaled-down men’s equipment. In bike design, said Marchand, to turn a man’s bike into a women’s bike, manufacturers will alter some of the angles of the bike’s frame to shorten the top tube but these changes can cause a rider to be out of optimal riding position. “Her legs may not be in the correct position in regard to the pedals, for example, which can cause knee pain and injury. Too long of a top tube causes neck and upper back aches and will cause the rider to ride less,” she said.

Other concerns, indicated Terry’s VP of Marketing Paula Dyba, can arise in something as simple as the circumference of the handle bars or the design of the seat. For seats, she said, designers need to remember that “women have wider pelvis and sit bones, requiring a slightly wider platform in the rear. We also have comfort issues further toward the front of the saddle. The traditional bike saddle had a very hard, unforgiving nose which required women to sustain a lot of pressure against soft tissues and pubic bone. Additionally, the stretched out bike frames that many women end up riding result in even more pressure being placed against this area,” said Dyba.