We have never made products for women. By focusing on men, we have helped reinforce a culture that you can see across the cycling industry: a culture that is not particularly welcoming for women.
For too long, the sport has been defined by men, led by men, and designed for men; for their bodies, their needs. When brands introduce a women's range, it is often done as an afterthought and assumes that women are little men.
The cultural codes of cycling clubs have been written by men and can appear as a tribal language that only the invited have the right to understand. The hierarchy in cycling puts men first – look at the architecture of most cycling brands' homepages; very few put the women's category first. Very few cycling brands have women in leading positions. The list goes on...
No wonder that many women feel intimidated by the sport. No wonder that the sport has a vast gender gap. No wonder that the market for female cycling gear is much smaller than the male market. We designed it that way.
When governments, organisations, and companies decide to make cycling more inclusive for women, they often start by defining all the problems that women face on their bikes. The question becomes: what's holding women back from cycling? It all sounds good, but it often ends with solutions that assume that women are the weaker part. Solutions often become about lowering barriers to cycling, making it easier to participate, removing the hard parts, and in some cases making the products about style alone.
On a day where we celebrate women's achievements, maybe we should turn around the problem. Instead of looking at all the barriers women face in cycling, could we look at what make women achieve great results on the bike? All the women we know personally that ride bikes are strong, confident, and adventurous. They are not weak. Yet there is very little gear out there that is designed to make women stronger, to make them perform better and get more out of their rides.
At CHPT3 we want to change that. We want to build a future where cycling feels like a home for both women and men, where at least half of our customers are women, where we make female-specific products, where we include women in changing the cycling industry. In May we will launch our very first women’s line, but that will only be a first step.
CHPT3 is currently owned by two men. Hopefully that will change with time, but until then we need to get the balance right.
We need to listen. We are very curious to understand why women ride their bikes and understand what it will take to make this a better experience. We want to understand the physical needs of women and what can help women perform better. We want to understand how to involve women in our brand and treat them with dignity and respect, but also how to push their limits. To help us listen better we have engaged in a close partnership with the CEO of WILD.AI Helene Guillaume, who initially inspired us to look from a women’s perspective.
Helene has built a technology that helps women optimise their performance based on their menstrual cycle. Helene and her team have done some of the most substantial research there is on female performance and the female body. Now she has been so kind to engage her network of female athletes to help us understand the needs and wants of women in cycling. Together with Helene we will conduct a 6-month research project with female athletes to understand their behaviours, their needs, their performance. We will use the research to inform the development of our future female product line that is being built from the ground up. We hope this will lead to entirely new ways of thinking about cycling gear that will inspire our future range for women.
We need to place women at the top. We are changing our executive board so at least half of the members are women – and women with strong voices in sports. We want to be accountable to the goals we set to become a brand where women feel at home.
We need to put women in charge. We don’t believe it’s a good idea to have men decide what women want. How would they know? How would they avoid replicating the assumptions that have driven the cycling industry to be so male-oriented? Instead we have chosen to have women lead the creation of our entire women’s line. We will dedicate a female-only team to design our collection and all decisions will be taken by women from 2022. And as we grow we want to have an equal representation of women and men in our leadership team.
Many people in the cycling industry have told us that we are taking a big risk. Only 20 percent of the revenue in cycling gear comes from women, we are told. While that might be true of the past, we don’t want to it to be true in the future. At the end of the day we can decide what future we want. We want one where women are celebrated and welcomed in cycling.