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  1. #1
    Senior Member Hermespan's Avatar
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    Why the gender bias?

    If philosophical discussion of bicycle social issues do not belong here, moderstors please move this post.

    short story: Why are bikes 'a guy thing?'

    Long story: Whether as an elementary school boy or adult, in 1965 or now, in Asia or Canada, things remain more of less the same - girls (except in Vietnam and China?) do not ride bikes.

    I can think of a few possible reasons some from Victorian era, some based on the different ways are brains are hardwired. Never the less I find it strange.

  2. #2
    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermespan View Post
    I can think of a few possible reasons some from Victorian era, some based on the different ways are brains are hardwired. Never the less I find it strange.
    I'm not familiar with philosophy at all. What I do know is that I run into just as many female cyclists as male cyclists where I live (Seattle, WA), if not more.
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

  3. #3
    covered in cat fur katsrevenge's Avatar
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    Well.. if you mean 'cycling' as in funny clothes and a pile of gadgets then yeah, that seems to be a manly thing. If you mean VC riding in angry traffic.. also seems to be a manly thing. No idea why.

    But studies have shown that woman hop on a bike very fast in areas that have lots of bike lanes or other infrastructure. They also will bike to and from a store or for fun in places they feel are safe.

    As for the Victorians... Susan B. Anthony credited bikes as the one big thing that made suffrage possible.
    Just one of those dirty pinko commies some people worry about.

  4. #4
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    When I lived in Atlanta I saw almost as many female cyclists (roadies and commuters) as males.
    Around here some of the groups are all women -- some on road bikes -- some on trikes -- so on hybrids. And some of them can whip my butt on the bike.

    Not sure where you're getting this gender bias info.
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  5. #5
    Ding! Bandera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermespan View Post
    short story: Why are bikes 'a guy thing?'
    Wrong story.
    My training partner from the late 80's through the mid-90's is a woman.
    Nationally ranked and a better bike handler than most "guys".

    Nothing to see here, move along.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member antimonysarah's Avatar
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    While people's anecdotes may include a lot of women, that often says more about the reporter. Either they've self-selected a group with a lot of women, or they're not counting systematically -- there have been a lot of studies with things like crowd scenes that at 30% women people (men and women) report gender parity, and at 50% they tend to say there are more women than men. It's because that's what we're used to seeing.

    I take the bus a lot in downtown Boston, and I do idly count sometimes -- it's always between 1/4 and 1/3 women. Which is a good number, and a lot more than there were years ago, although there were so few bike commuters that it was hard to tell.

    I'm not sure what the real demographics are, but there's a big gap. RUSA, the national long-distance cycling organization is IIRC 18% women, and the US basically beats every other country in the international federation it's part of with that figure -- some of them are like 1-5%. Strava is about 10% women, IIRC.

    As for what to do -- that's a good question. Some of it is infrastructure-related, some of it is time-related -- women are more likely to be running to the store/dropping off kids on the way to/from work, and while you can do those things on a bike, it's less easy than a simple uncomplicated commute. Some of it is how performance-oriented a lot of cycling is and how that's presented -- for some reason, triathlon has been presented as woman-friendly whereas sporty cycling hasn't, so you have women coming into the sport side via triathlon. Some of it is making super-beginner-friendly shops that are not hostile to women who do not know about maintenance (and may have trouble developing the hand strength to do maintenance although likely can with time if helped to learn). There's a cultural expectation on boys to learn some amount of mechanical skill, there isn't on girls, and it can feel daunting to learn it as an adult.

    Some of it is because no one likes to get screamed "b***h" at out car windows on a regular basis, or to get other harassment that is specific to being a woman on a bike rather than just a bike. (We get a lot of the just-a-bike harassment from drivers, but my husband has commented repeatedly on how much more he hears if we're riding together and I'm behind him (i.e. the first one cars spot).

    The demographics help make it harder, too -- less choice in equipment (including used/inexpensive), fewer group rides at an appropriate pace (a average new, not especially in-shape woman is going to be a bit slower than her exactly-identically-average newbie not in shape male counterpart; there are always exceptions but the averages will mean women starting out are slower). And that makes riding in traffic aggressively harder, too -- it's easier when you can sprint up to 20mph in city traffic because that may be car speed.

    Etc. It's not one reason, it's many. Reasons why women don't start; reasons why they stop. It's a lot like "why aren't there more women software engineers". Or maybe I just see the similarities (I am all three: woman, software engineer, cyclist.)

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    Senior Member rebel1916's Avatar
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    Every little girl I have ever known has ridden bikes when a kid. There is a disparity among adults. As there is with most sports.

  8. #8
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Care to match your bike riding mileage against my wife's?
    She has ridden over a quarter million miles.

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    It might depend upon where you ride. I rode a 25 mile ride this morning that included two of the popular trails in the area, the entire Henderson Railroad Trail and part of the River Mountain Trail. The number of men riders outnumbered the women. There were women riders. I didn't count them. I remember a few. One was a family of several children (male and female) plus mom and dad. There were 2 young women riding solo and a couple riding in male/female pairs. The one racing group of about 8 were all men. It was a nice day to ride in terms of the temperature but there was a pretty stiff wind from the southwest. The head of one of the local bike clubs in this area has been a woman for many years. She recently passed off the role to someone else and it made the local paper.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    I think it might just be perspective.

    We develop our own little worlds... filled with familiar things. Often times we look past the things we don't expect to be there. I find my world to be filled with as much diversity... and as many friendly dogs.. as I desire.

  11. #11
    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by antimonysarah View Post
    I'm not sure what the real demographics are, but there's a big gap. RUSA, the national long-distance cycling organization is IIRC 18% women, and the US basically beats every other country in the international federation it's part of with that figure -- some of them are like 1-5%. Strava is about 10% women, IIRC.
    How do the RUSA get numbers for the other countries? While this may be another anecdote, I am pretty sure there are just as many female cyclists as male in cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where people consider biking as a means of transport. In Japan, tons of school girls ride to school. Does the RUSA consider all that?
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

  12. #12
    Senior Member antimonysarah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daihard View Post
    How do the RUSA get numbers for the other countries? While this may be another anecdote, I am pretty sure there are just as many female cyclists as male in cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where people consider biking as a means of transport. In Japan, tons of school girls ride to school. Does the RUSA consider all that?
    Actually, I was conflating two different figures, which is what I get for posting sleepily after two RUSA rides this weekend -- the RUSA total percent of women, and the percent by country at the biggest ride on the worldwide brevet cycling calendar, Paris-Brest-Paris, which, since it's a ride where people all register, has very well-documented numbers. RUSA is a USA-only organization specifically for riding a particular type of endurance ride; the worldwide organization is ACP, the Audax Club Parisien. I brought it up because it's one I have personal experience with, not because it's any sort of authority on other types of cycling.

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    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Hmm. All my kids ride, and I have more girls than boys. Where's the gender bias? Truth be told, I really don't like that terminology because it has connotations that any disparity in engagement in an activity along gender lines implies an exclusionary act on someone's part. If you look at horseback riding, there's more women engaged in it than men. Why's that?

    I really don't think there's any cultural driver promoting male cycling and/or discouraging female cycling. I do think that general engagement has a lot to do with how it's presented to kids. If it's presented as a toy, there will be different levels of adult engagement than if it's presented as transportation, for example.
    Just my 2c.
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    I don't think I've ever seen anyone trying to keep girls or women off bikes. In fact, I've seen the exact opposite multiple times.

    Come to think of it, I've never seen a pregnant man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    Hmm. All my kids ride, and I have more girls than boys. Where's the gender bias? Truth be told, I really don't like that terminology because it has connotations that any disparity in engagement in an activity along gender lines implies an exclusionary act on someone's part. If you look at horseback riding, there's more women engaged in it than men. Why's that?

    I really don't think there's any cultural driver promoting male cycling and/or discouraging female cycling. I do think that general engagement has a lot to do with how it's presented to kids. If it's presented as a toy, there will be different levels of adult engagement than if it's presented as transportation, for example.
    Just my 2c.
    Agreed.

    We now have something like 60% of the US undergraduate college population being female.

    Is that a problem? Is it the result of some kind of gender bias?

    If that's not a problem, why are fields that have higher male participation than female participation problematic?

    It's just one man's observation, but I seem to have stumbled upon something that just might be important here: men and women are different.

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    Senior Member raqball's Avatar
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    I see plenty of woman cyclist during my rides..

    Often they are on a group ride of anywhere from 5-10 ladies only.. Other times I see a man and woman cycling together.. I rarely see a woman cycling alone, though it does happen every so often..

    I did stop and talk to a lady a few weeks ago who was taking a break... She was training for a triathlon..

  17. #17
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermespan View Post
    If philosophical discussion of bicycle social issues do not belong here, moderstors please move this post.

    short story: Why are bikes 'a guy thing?'

    Long story: Whether as an elementary school boy or adult, in 1965 or now, in Asia or Canada, things remain more of less the same - girls (except in Vietnam and China?) do not ride bikes.

    I can think of a few possible reasons some from Victorian era, some based on the different ways are brains are hardwired. Never the less I find it strange.
    As long as you keep it philosophically investigative and avoid political hyperbole, it can stay here, no worries.

    Cycling, though, isn't across the boards male centric, but in certain competitive areas, it is definitely male centric, and this is a result of socialization that "Nice girls don't do that!"
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  18. #18
    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe View Post
    Cycling, though, isn't across the boards male centric, but in certain competitive areas, it is definitely male centric, and this is a result of socialization that "Nice girls don't do that!"
    That's a very insightful observation. It is just like saying driving per se isn't male-centric but Formula One Racing is, and that's true.
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe View Post
    As long as you keep it philosophically investigative and avoid political hyperbole, it can stay here, no worries.

    Cycling, though, isn't across the boards male centric, but in certain competitive areas, it is definitely male centric, and this is a result of socialization that "Nice girls don't do that!"
    Is it a result of socialization, or are the social norms driven by innate differences in the sexes?

    Go watch a basketball game played by 4- and 5-year-old boys. When the ball is going out of bounds, they know which team touched it last and players on that team will dive to save the ball. 4- and 5-year-old girls don't play a basketball game, they have a group conversation that peripherally involves bouncing a ball. If the ball goes out of bounds one or two of the girls might notice.

    Watch 3- and 4-year-olds on the "kiddie squad" of a local pool's swim team. The boys talk trash and brag about beating the slow kids. The girls cheer each other on and try to help the slow kids.

    There's such a huge disparity in behavior at that young of an age that it's pretty hard to attribute it to just social pressure.

  20. #20
    Senior Member FedericoMena's Avatar
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    Elly Blue's blog and writings are very insightful about this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by antimonysarah View Post
    While people's anecdotes may include a lot of women, that often says more about the reporter. Either they've self-selected a group with a lot of women, or they're not counting systematically -- there have been a lot of studies with things like crowd scenes that at 30% women people (men and women) report gender parity, and at 50% they tend to say there are more women than men. It's because that's what we're used to seeing.

    I take the bus a lot in downtown Boston, and I do idly count sometimes -- it's always between 1/4 and 1/3 women. Which is a good number, and a lot more than there were years ago, although there were so few bike commuters that it was hard to tell.

    I'm not sure what the real demographics are, but there's a big gap. RUSA, the national long-distance cycling organization is IIRC 18% women, and the US basically beats every other country in the international federation it's part of with that figure -- some of them are like 1-5%. Strava is about 10% women, IIRC.

    As for what to do -- that's a good question. Some of it is infrastructure-related, some of it is time-related -- women are more likely to be running to the store/dropping off kids on the way to/from work, and while you can do those things on a bike, it's less easy than a simple uncomplicated commute. Some of it is how performance-oriented a lot of cycling is and how that's presented -- for some reason, triathlon has been presented as woman-friendly whereas sporty cycling hasn't, so you have women coming into the sport side via triathlon. Some of it is making super-beginner-friendly shops that are not hostile to women who do not know about maintenance (and may have trouble developing the hand strength to do maintenance although likely can with time if helped to learn). There's a cultural expectation on boys to learn some amount of mechanical skill, there isn't on girls, and it can feel daunting to learn it as an adult.

    Some of it is because no one likes to get screamed "b***h" at out car windows on a regular basis, or to get other harassment that is specific to being a woman on a bike rather than just a bike. (We get a lot of the just-a-bike harassment from drivers, but my husband has commented repeatedly on how much more he hears if we're riding together and I'm behind him (i.e. the first one cars spot).

    The demographics help make it harder, too -- less choice in equipment (including used/inexpensive), fewer group rides at an appropriate pace (a average new, not especially in-shape woman is going to be a bit slower than her exactly-identically-average newbie not in shape male counterpart; there are always exceptions but the averages will mean women starting out are slower). And that makes riding in traffic aggressively harder, too -- it's easier when you can sprint up to 20mph in city traffic because that may be car speed.

    Etc. It's not one reason, it's many. Reasons why women don't start; reasons why they stop. It's a lot like "why aren't there more women software engineers". Or maybe I just see the similarities (I am all three: woman, software engineer, cyclist.)

    This is an excellent summary and quite interesting sociologically. The anecdotal numbers align almost identically with what I see around town: approx. 30% female. I do see more women riding bicycles in college towns although I wouldn't say it's 50%.

    The cycling industry caters primarily to male, middle aged, faux racer types. There's a huge emphasis on the latest gadgetry, and the vast vast majority of shop employees are male (perhaps 90%+ plus).

    The expense and pretentiousness of the typical bike shop is really unfortunate. It has been a long time since I've enjoyed a visit to a bike shop. You're likely to see 3 types:

    -gadget obsessed, annoyingly pompous owner with $11K bike.

    - a couple of 30-something cat 3/4/5 shop managers with shaved legs, and $5K bikes who look down on anyone who doesn't have aero wheels and a carbon frame.

    -half a dozen bonged out druggie mechanics who make minimum wage, but surprisingly, also have $5K bikes just like the 2 shop managers.

    Even though I've been riding for about 25 years now, I can probably say that I've never actually enjoyed visiting a bike shop for the purposes of buying a bike or accessories.

    The only times I've actually enjoyed my visits were for the free classes on bike maintenance.

    Unfortunately, visiting bike shops has been the least enjoyable aspect of being a cyclist. Riding comes first obviously, and reading and writing about bicycles and cycling comes second. Actually going to a bike shop is either last or close to it.

    It probably explains why I've been shopping for a road bike on and off with little enthusiasm for the past few years and never gotten around to buying one: I don't trust the vast majority of shops and don't even like visiting the best bike shops very much.

    If I don't like bike shops, then a woman who is a novice must loathe them.

  22. #22
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FedericoMena View Post
    Elly Blue's blog and writings are very insightful about this.
    She's entirely entitled to her views but it's pretty obvious she looks at the world through her own preconceptions.

    Therefore,
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  23. #23
    ex-everything. soze's Avatar
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    Bike shops *can* suck, but do not always do so. When my husband and I moved to Boston and began interviewing bike shops, we did so together. If I asked a question, and the salesperson answered to my husband, we were done. (We ended up at Back Bay Bicycles, btw. Because I was taken just as seriously wandering in wearing office duds as when I came in wearing bike grubs with my beat-up mess bag).

    One of my baby analysts, a mid-20's male, asked me to take him to the bike shop for his first grown-up bike because he felt very intimidated by the prospect and wanted to make sure he was sold the right setup and wouldn't get ripped off. He's happily zipping around all over Boston now, it's pretty cool, but he would have never gone for it if he hadn't had someone he trusted with him.

    I think a lot of it is that the entry curve is fairly steep. Everyone had the $50 Walmart special growing up, but I think women are less likely to buy the $1k bike and jump right into shop rides. It's intimidating, and you don't want to look stupid, and women are more likely to attribute poor initial performance of a new task to an innate inability rather than a lack of practice (this is actual science, not pulling anything out of my butt). There's Couch-to-5k for running, and effed if I know what there is for that bizarro quasi-sport of triathlon, but for us it's basically "here's your bike, why aren't you doing centuries yet". Add in the initial confusion of "which bike do I buy for what activity", and a woman looking for fitness will run instead while a woman looking for transportation will buy a scooter (because scooters are cool!).

  24. #24
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    here in Oita Kyushu, bicycle is (mostly) considered for transportation, so males, females, students, workers, using bicycles, various bicycles. event the rough badass looking young men I meet at train station also using `mama chari` (everyday city bike).

  25. #25
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    It seems the Poster originating this thread , is also in SE Asia , Singapore

    since there are a number to threads started complaining about the shops and mechanic cultire around there.

    so the issue is not the long cold/wet winters of us up North.

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