LexParkerJr
3 years ago10,000+ Views
Bicycling: Portland already has at least 70 bike shops. Did it really need one more? Leah Benson: Based on all the conversations I've had with women who had bad experiences at traditional bike shops, yes. I've heard numerous stories about women who don't ride anymore because they had a flat and were too afraid to take it in to a shop and get it fixed. And Gladys Bikes is better than that? We don't hang pink and purple as some code that women are welcome here. Being direct and saying, "Hey, we have saddles that fit women's bodies," works better than symbolic gestures. Beyond that, we're just educated on some of the differences between a man's body and a woman's body and how each interacts with the bicycle. The most uncomfortable point of interaction is often the saddle. You solved that by creating a saddle library to help customers find their perfect match. How's it work? It's a try-before-you-buy program. You put $25 down and then try as many saddles as you want to—for up to a week apiece. If you buy one, your $25 goes toward the price of it. Has anyone tested all 52 models in the library? The most anyone has ever tried is 21. I think she just kept coming back because she liked us. What's the worst review someone's given a loaner? There's a woman who comes in and calls really uncomfortable saddles "lip-rippers." A lot of the descriptions are pretty vulgar, but I love them. Are the reports as colorful when the saddle works? When you find the right saddle, you shouldn't have superlatives about it, you should just forget it's there. The goal is to shove this awkwardly shaped, hard thing up between your legs, sit, and forget about it enough to enjoy riding your bike. If you can do that, awesome! You're not afraid to talk to women candidly about their bodies. That's pretty taboo in most shops. Why's it so easy for you? I have a background in sex-education studies, and after talking so much about it I've desensitized myself to it. And I just force myself to be comfortable with it. If someone is asking about saddles, I make a point to use the anatomically correct language so they know it's appropriate and don't get embarrassed. Getting embarrassed is unique to women? No, we have just as many men come in who want to talk about how their balls are getting pinched by saddle X, Y, or Z. Wait, isn't Gladys a shop for women? What kind of guy shops there? I don't know if I can generalize. Awesome men? I think some men are turned off by a place geared toward women even though we say time and again that we're not women-only. But the men who come in have specific needs, whether it's for service or a saddle. I take it as a huge compliment that so many men enjoy coming in here—that we've created a place focused on women that's cool enough that everyone wants a part of it. Women's bikes—are they good or bad? Women-specific bikes are wonderful, but they can be problematic if someone trusts that because it says "woman" it's going to work for everyone who walks through the door. Many women have shorter torsos and longer legs in proportion to their male counterparts, but not all do. A lot of times someone might actually fit better on a bike designed for a man, and vice versa—sometimes men fit better on women's bikes. You also sell women's bikes to men? The only women's brand we carry is Liv—outside of that we try to carry brands that have a large size run with geometry that is flexible enough to work well for women—for that reason we have a lot of men who come in here and buy the same bikes that women do. So would more women ride if their bikes were more comfortable? It's a tough nut to crack. Some of it has to do with fit and discomfort—so many folks are uncomfortable and they don't even know that riding can be comfortable. And a lot of bike shops don't necessarily reflect women's needs—when you walk in, it's all young men working there. But there are factors outside of that. Safety gets mentioned a lot as a barrier that prevents women from riding, but a new study found that traditional gender norms also keep women from riding; they're busy taking care of their children. That's a more complex problem than finding the right saddle. When one of the issues keeping women from riding is deep-seated gender norms, it's a little more difficult, yes. The way we help is to present images of women on bikes and keep inviting women to be part of the cycling community. Last one: What saddle is on your personal bike? Oh, that's adorable—you think I have time to ride a bike!
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Great article, I'd like to hear your opinion on it though...lol
3 years ago·Reply
With women's cycling taking the stage like the 2014 Tour de France its about time the cycling community takes woman's cycling and their specific needs in mind and that is just what Gladys Bikes has done. Their try-before-you-buy saddle program is truly customer service and wish I had something like that in my area. I had a female biking buddy reference to her last saddle as a crotch grinder but "lip-rippers" is a good one, I'll have to let her know there is a new name for it.
3 years ago·Reply
It's great to see women supported (heh) in cycling. I loved every second of the women's race during the Tour and it's good to see shops being more accessible to women!
3 years ago·Reply
@LexParkerJr I wish I had something like that too! Buying a saddle is always such a tough decision and I usually end up going with what I know more than what I really need. It would be great to be able to try so many and see what I really enjoy.
3 years ago·Reply
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