*Feature image: Interviewing Bob Varney – who, to be clear, is a great bloke and not mentioned at all in the copy below – this is just a cool picture of me at work. Image: Velofocus
I left a job at a local newspaper to immerse myself in the cycling industry seven years ago.
Since then, I’ve worked in marketing as well as journalism – for ‘unisex’ titles and women’s only online sites.
It’s been a journey. The cycling community is full of so many wonderful characters whom I respect very deeply. The industry is also constantly improving, and I’d say it’s getting easier and easier to be a woman within it – levels of respect are growing markedly. I’m pleased I exist in this life now, and not ten years ago.
However, in my time I’ve come across plenty of face-meet-palm moments…
The ‘is this your girlfriend?’ one
I’ve just waved my dictaphone below the face of the owner of a leading bike brand, for around ten minutes. Now I am sauntering around the factory – next to a male journalist who I became acquainted with around an hour ago.
Bike brand owner to male journalist: “Is this your wife?”
Bike brand owner: “Is this your girlfriend?”
Me: “No… I am a journalist. Also on your factory tour. I just interviewed you.”
Maybe I asked the wrong questions – but at the time queries about the pro team the brand sponsored and disc brakes seemed pretty representative of what any other journalists might ask.
‘When a woman says something intelligent, she gets more kudos’
‘Cos she has a vagina. I was once told (face to face by a peer, we’re not talking social media comment trolls) that female journalists receive greater respect from the audience, because they’re impressed that a woman has the capacity to understand the science/tech/racing all on her own with her tiny little brain.
I’m not sure if I was meant to agree and feel great sympathy for the men who are no doubt womansplained to and patronised at all angles.
Surprise and congratulations for… being able to keep up
Sometimes, brands will invite a group of journalists out for a bike ride – usually for the launch of a new product, so you can all try it together and chat to the creators.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve joined the “long” or “fast” ride (read: it’s rarely that long or that fast, most of us spend our days at desks) to be congratulated with a comment along the lines of “GIRL POWER.”
I once high-fived the guy back and shouted “BOY POWER.” I don’t think he got the joke.
Being told you can’t keep up (or descend fast)
For example, the time the route looked to be particularly hilly and the ride guide glanced around at the four assembled male journalists, commenting, “you will be fine”, before staring pointedly at me and adding “you, I’m not so sure.” The repressed rage got me to the top of the most of the hills first, so that worked out well.
Another close personal favourite was the women’s bike launch where no rider was allowed to overtake the guide, who proceeded to ride embarrassingly slowly, on the descents. This has never, ever happened on a mixed launch.
The ‘aero tits’
I’ve just interviewed a former team mechanic, about tyre pressure of all things. Sexy subject, I know.
He’s also a bike fitter so when I mention I’ve had some knee pain I think nothing of a quick bike fit check up whilst I’m there. Until he turns into the Facebook direct messenger creep making comments about my un-aero-boobs.
Closely related: the ex-colleague who DMed me to say “I wouldn’t mind seeing you in the shower, like what’s his name did”. I’ve no idea what he’s talking about but spent the next week wondering if I once forgot to lock the shower door.
I’m not big into women’s specific bikes – but I am keen on components that fit.
The number of times I’ve been asked to ride a bike with a saddle that seemed to have a personal vendetta against my ever having a sex life ever again is obscene. Pro tip: always take your own saddle if you’re not riding your own bike.
The ‘unisex titles don’t want to hear about women’s product’ one
Forty journalists sit through a several hour long presentation about a new men’s product, before the two women invited are treated to an additional 30 minutes on the women’s iteration. During which one marketeer comments “female pro cyclists don’t need women’s products, because they’re hardcore.”
Needless to say, the majority went away and wrote about the men’s product, with no real information about the women’s version – since no one had really bothered to tell them about it. And seemingly some members of the team felt women’s product was redundant for those who are ‘hardcore’ enough, anyway.
Always being the ‘only girl’ on the photoshoot
Grimacing madly whilst being sent off in various orders to promote assorted views of gender politics. The result is that it’s always intensely difficult to find a picture of two women actually riding their bikes together.