A recent article done by The Sunday Times details how cycling is a sport that is currently designed for men. It points out how women are often ignored by manufacturers of cycles and cycling gear. This is unsurprising to hear considering women are often existing in a world designed for men – as Caroline Criado Perez discussed in her 2019 book ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men’.
Bikes are mostly sold as unisex, but this doesn’t cater to most women’s bodies. While everybody is different, on average cis women are shorter, have wider hips, narrower shoulders and smaller hands meaning that they need a smaller bike overall.
It goes without saying that women need to be able to reach the handlebars properly while being easily able to reach the brakes. The saddles on bikes are causing injuries for women, often making them consider having surgery to reduce pain and pressure when racing. This was the case with professional riders who have experienced pressure on the vulva. The standard bike makes it more challenging for women to sit on a bike as their pelvis’ tend to be tilted more forward than a cisgender man’s are.
The Sunday Times reported that since tilting the seat on a bike downwards, there were fewer injuries for women in Team GB at the Rio Olympics in 2016. This shows the necessity of providing different bikes and different constructions for women’s bodies that can be harmed from the current structure of a unisex cycle.
Not only are cycles not made for women’s bodies, but the prize money for cycling races is vastly different when looking at the men’s competitions in comparison. The Tour De France winner receives £1.95 million. The women’s equivalent La Course winner wins £17,000.
These winnings also reflect inequality in other sports. In the first year of Wimbledon in 1968, the men’s singles winner received £2,000 whereas the woman’s single winner received £750. Equal pay between the winners was not established until 2007, where the prize money was £700,000. Outside of sports, we are aware that the pay gap between men and women around the world will not close for 99.5 years.
It really is a man’s world. Caroline Criado Perez’s shows this with the facts she shares in her book. For example, how phones are too big for women’s hands, how the major safety rating systems around the world don’t represent the average body type of women in car safety, and the US does not use a women’s dummy in the driver’s seat for most crash tests. It just shows how the world takes men’s bodies as the most representative form, despite it representing only half the population.
Cycling being a sport that caters mainly to men is a part of the wider system where women’s bodies are often forgotten about. Women matter and all people need to see this, whether it is within cycling, mobile phones, or safety in vehicles. Companies need to represent women, but we also need to remember on a personal scale that the world is not a one-size-fits-all system.