Editor’s Note: Another introduction in what will hopefully be a long lived series: retail shop owners (female and sometimes male!) who have done the previously unimaginable: taking women seriously as customers and as an important part of making cycling inclusive, rather than exclusive.
I hear from traditional bike shop owners from all over the country that women simply don’t shop in their stores for anything but a bike, tubes and maybe a spandex short or basket. Or that they don’t want to sacrifice precious floorspace. So it’s no wonder that Pedal Chic‘s Robin Bylenga didn’t start her shop with either a proven business model or a lot of peer support. But thankfully she didn’t let that stop her and Pedal Chic has gone on to be one of a small handful of shops that are not only paying the rent, but bringing new joy to cycling for local female riders. Here’s her story:
I started a women’s specific cycling boutique almost a year ago. Recently, I was at a cocktail party and was informed that a few of the local “bike shops” had been taking bets on how quickly my concept would fail….After getting over being a bit pissed, I had a bit of a giggle because it really solidifies why I started my business in the first place. Cycling as a sport (or hobby) has been mystified for women for way too long. Personally, I had had enough. Long story short, I started my own shop.
In my quest to make cycling more accessible to women, I have learned you must meet women where they are. We are striving to create an environment where women feel welcome, unintimated and free to express themselves no matter what type of cycling she wishes to choose.
Greenville, SC is a huge cycling community, but has historically been heavily dominated by men in spandex. We are changing how cycling appeals to the community in general. It isn’t always about time trials, triathlons and crits. Sometimes it’s just about family, friends, fun and fashion. That’s where we come in…
We love the response when a customer feels actually attractive in her cycling attire. We also love that we can show someone how to commute without having to carry anything on their back. Right now, we adore our Basil Bags
as a fashionable and highly functional commuter pannier. The fabrics, colors and style are fabulous and the functionality is superior.
Building our community:
- shop driven Women-Only rides
- unusual event such as our recent “Intimate Conversations” evening: bra-fittings, and discussions with cycling coaches about saddle issues, chamois creams, “bike hygiene” and other conversations women were simply afraid to discuss. Basically, making private conversations more comfortable.
- Fashion Show: We built a 16′ runway and had a cycling fashion show with women on all types of bikes, more importantly, women in all sizes from XS to 4X were able to show how every woman can look fabulous head-to-toe on her bicycle of choice.
- We have a full-time bike mechanic and have periodic classes on bicycle maintenance “Women with Wrenches”
I dream of seeing women on any type of bike that fits her personality – freely riding the streets or bike paths fashionably, with confidence and, by the way, stopping to fix her chain if it falls off.
By the way, I wonder who lost the bet?