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Margo from Luna Cycles

Lately when I go into the local REI I am happy to notice the plethora of women-specific products being presented for a huge variety of sports activities. K2 offers their "She's Piste" backcountry skis. Women-specific kayaks are commonplace. Kelty has created women's backpacks. Burton offers women-specific snowboards, and nearly every shoe manufacturer offers every athletic shoe or boot in a woman's version. The list goes on and on. Only a decade or two ago, none of this existed, and women simply "got by." Fortunately manufacturers (and those who market their products) have finally begun listening to a growing, largely untapped, market of unsatisfied athletes...women! Women who want to be taken seriously as athletes, and who are now demanding that they not be required to adapt to the often heavier, overbuilt, and poorly fitting gear that has historically been designed by men, for men.

Margo from Luna Cycles

When Pedal Pushers Online asked me to write this article, it presented me with the opportunity to revisit the ideas which led me to found Luna Cycles in the first place, namely, that when it comes to bicycles it is particularly important to separate marketing hype from reality. I have listened to other frame builders and bike experts say that there is simply no need for "women's specific" anything in this industry. They state that we guys and gals are all of so many sizes and flavors and there is really nothing different about women's needs - in terms of fit and performance - that cannot be met by the current bike industry offerings. In fact, I know a surprising number of folks in the industry who insist that WSD (Women Specific Design) is all marketing hype, and that to display a product like "women's specific bicycles" is a waste of valuable space on their sales floor.

Margo from Luna Cycles

I say baloney! Women "need" their own bike gear no more and no less than they do in any other sport. Certainly we can get by (and have gotten by) without our own gear, but for most women certain compromises in fit and performance are required.



When I was bike racing in the late 1980's and early 1990's, there was no high performance women-specific equipment in cycling. My gorgeous, top-of-the-line Columbus SLX bike frame was way overbuilt for my weight and strength. Not only did this cost me in both energy and control, but further, I could never reach my brake levers comfortably when my hands were in the drops. I endured years of early-season saddle "break-in" pain (I wince when I write that!), and I figured that it was a lack of conditioning when my neck hurt and lower back ached after a mere two hours of cycling. I got by on my equipment designed by men for men, and I even won races on it! But, in retrospect, I sure wish there had been quality alternatives that would have respected and acknowledged my female physiology and anatomy.

Women are made differently than men - who can argue that?! Women tend to have different body proportions than men. Women of the equal height tend to weigh less than men. Women's hands are generally smaller than men's, women usually have wider hips and different musculature - I can go on and on.

Not every woman needs every women-specific cycling product, but of course many if not most women can benefit from cycling products that are designed for them! Anyone claiming otherwise is under the influence of a "one size fits all" mentality, which makes very little sense in a world where sporting gear is getting increasingly specialized. I am always stunned when someone is willing to drop three grand on a "size medium" buffed-up, oversized, but well marketed, big brand, mass-produced road bike. They would be much better served by spending a similar amount on something that is actually designed for their particular body, and built of materials that will complement and support their riding style. However, it is hard to fault the customer when alternatives to this kind of bike are not made very available in our local shops, and too often that is the case.
Margo from Luna Cycles
I build the majority of my custom frames and bicycles for women who are 5'4" or less. Those who are of any size, but have short torsos, narrow shoulders, or who can't reach their handlebars comfortably, you know, those women who quite simply can't be correctly fit on a stock bike-they are my customer. In general, the eyes of such frustrated female cyclists light up when they hear that I exist. For them, the news of a woman frame builder making bikes for women only is exciting especially in an industry where it is just not easy to find the right high-end bike. Suddenly they rise from being a short-torsoed smaller person who is not willing to settle for a kid's bike, or ride a road bike requiring a major retrofit of components, or one that weighs one quarter of her body weight, - to a serious consumer looking for a product suited to her need, and her needs alone!



Occasionally women will just buy a custom frame and fork from me, but far more often they choose the whole package, a complete custom built and equipped bicycle. I have developed several bike build kits, specifically for women, to fulfill the unique needs of my female customers.

    These kits include:
  • shift/brake levers that are short reach set up that way from the get-go
  • a stem that is of the right rise and length,
  • a shallow-drop handlebar which reflects a woman's (usually narrow) shoulder width,
  • a saddle that is comfortable on the first ride out,
  • crank arms that come in a length proportional to their legs.
  • And of course these parts come on a frame that is not overbuilt (i.e., too heavy and stiff) like most stock frames. I build frames and bikes that are the right weight for the rider and their intended cycling pursuit - and not an ounce more - not an ounce less.
Luna, a women's race bike

If women cannot afford to buy a custom bike, or if they aren't ready for the process (and it is a process!), they can still find a good quality ride by seeking out and supporting shops that support women. I also suggest that they go to a shop that has a knowledgeable female salesperson on the floor, and one where all of their questions are both welcomed and answered. If the shop offers big brand WSD bikes, they are acknowledging women as a unique and important market, and I encourage women to shop there for the best service. Women should also patronize a shop that is willing and able to switch out parts (stems, saddles, etc...) if the ones that come on the bike aren't ideal, and they should not charge more for the labor to do so (ed. Note: this is true on the initial build of the bike, but if you bring the bike back for retrofit after the build out, you should expect to pay for the labor) The shop should be aware of the existence and purpose of women's specific parts beyond the widely accepted world of cut-out saddles. They should know about (and offer) short-reach STI levers, women's specific handlebars, ultra short crank arms, 650c/26" road tires and wheels - and they should be making every effort to keep such parts in stock.

For women wanting to read up on products and hear from other women who have used them, there are two web sites in particular which exist exactly for this purpose. Girlbike.com is a fantastic, woman-friendly web site designed by a hard core (but never elitist) smaller-than-average female cyclist, who has gotten a whole team of women test riders (in all shapes and sizes) to test women-specific bike products and provide feedback. TeamEstrogen.com is another site that sells some women's specific cycling gear and provides a lot of resources for the female cyclist. Both are well worth checking out.

Margo from Luna Cycles

Even in this age, where nearly every other sporting industry has accepted this niche market, the existence of Women's Specific Design bikes, and products is still somewhat controversial in the sometimes retro-grouchy bike industry. Being a custom frame builder for women only has invited a lot of criticism and eye-rolling among industry veterans. It is something I embrace wholeheartedly. To demonstrate the need for my product I point to the fact that not many frame builders are surviving out there. Yet, I get busier every year. Women are entitled to be listened to and treated seriously. Their discretionary sports dollars represent a huge and growing market share. But, women must be willing to demand such WSD products and further, to express their dissatisfaction when their butts hurt, necks ache, and their fingers are numbed, all due to improperly fitting products. Women should make every effort to patronize stores that reach out to women cyclists, and to tell their friends about them. Things have come a long, long way in the bike industry since Georgena Terry first started pushing for a radical approach to women's bike design in the 1980's, but the industry - in this woman's mind - can still go much further.

Margo Conover is currently the only established female frame builder in the country, and she has decided to make custom bicycles exclusively for women.

Margo's experience in cycling includes 7 years of elite-level road racing and 5 years as a bike shop owner. She is a professional frame builder, bike mechanic, wheel builder, and bike fit expert. Since 2003 she also teaches bicycle mechanics to women at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon. Her experience racing bikes, repairing them, selling them, and educating others makes her the ideal person to design and craft custom frames and bicycles for serious women cyclists.

To find out more about Margo and Luna Cycles visit:
www.lunacycles.com
Margo from Luna Cycles

Lately when I go into the local REI I am happy to notice the plethora of women-specific products being presented for a huge variety of sports activities. K2 offers their "She's Piste" backcountry skis. Women-specific kayaks are commonplace. Kelty has created women's backpacks. Burton offers women-specific snowboards, and nearly every shoe manufacturer offers every athletic shoe or boot in a woman's version. The list goes on and on. Only a decade or two ago, none of this existed, and women simply "got by." Fortunately manufacturers (and those who market their products) have finally begun listening to a growing, largely untapped, market of unsatisfied athletes...women! Women who want to be taken seriously as athletes, and who are now demanding that they not be required to adapt to the often heavier, overbuilt, and poorly fitting gear that has historically been designed by men, for men.

Margo from Luna Cycles

When Pedal Pushers Online asked me to write this article, it presented me with the opportunity to revisit the ideas which led me to found Luna Cycles in the first place, namely, that when it comes to bicycles it is particularly important to separate marketing hype from reality. I have listened to other frame builders and bike experts say that there is simply no need for "women's specific" anything in this industry. They state that we guys and gals are all of so many sizes and flavors and there is really nothing different about women's needs - in terms of fit and performance - that cannot be met by the current bike industry offerings. In fact, I know a surprising number of folks in the industry who insist that WSD (Women Specific Design) is all marketing hype, and that to display a product like "women's specific bicycles" is a waste of valuable space on their sales floor.

Margo from Luna Cycles

I say baloney! Women "need" their own bike gear no more and no less than they do in any other sport. Certainly we can get by (and have gotten by) without our own gear, but for most women certain compromises in fit and performance are required.



When I was bike racing in the late 1980's and early 1990's, there was no high performance women-specific equipment in cycling. My gorgeous, top-of-the-line Columbus SLX bike frame was way overbuilt for my weight and strength. Not only did this cost me in both energy and control, but further, I could never reach my brake levers comfortably when my hands were in the drops. I endured years of early-season saddle "break-in" pain (I wince when I write that!), and I figured that it was a lack of conditioning when my neck hurt and lower back ached after a mere two hours of cycling. I got by on my equipment designed by men for men, and I even won races on it! But, in retrospect, I sure wish there had been quality alternatives that would have respected and acknowledged my female physiology and anatomy.

Women are made differently than men - who can argue that?! Women tend to have different body proportions than men. Women of the equal height tend to weigh less than men. Women's hands are generally smaller than men's, women usually have wider hips and different musculature - I can go on and on.

Not every woman needs every women-specific cycling product, but of course many if not most women can benefit from cycling products that are designed for them! Anyone claiming otherwise is under the influence of a "one size fits all" mentality, which makes very little sense in a world where sporting gear is getting increasingly specialized. I am always stunned when someone is willing to drop three grand on a "size medium" buffed-up, oversized, but well marketed, big brand, mass-produced road bike. They would be much better served by spending a similar amount on something that is actually designed for their particular body, and built of materials that will complement and support their riding style. However, it is hard to fault the customer when alternatives to this kind of bike are not made very available in our local shops, and too often that is the case.
Margo from Luna Cycles
I build the majority of my custom frames and bicycles for women who are 5'4" or less. Those who are of any size, but have short torsos, narrow shoulders, or who can't reach their handlebars comfortably, you know, those women who quite simply can't be correctly fit on a stock bike-they are my customer. In general, the eyes of such frustrated female cyclists light up when they hear that I exist. For them, the news of a woman frame builder making bikes for women only is exciting especially in an industry where it is just not easy to find the right high-end bike. Suddenly they rise from being a short-torsoed smaller person who is not willing to settle for a kid's bike, or ride a road bike requiring a major retrofit of components, or one that weighs one quarter of her body weight, - to a serious consumer looking for a product suited to her need, and her needs alone!



Occasionally women will just buy a custom frame and fork from me, but far more often they choose the whole package, a complete custom built and equipped bicycle. I have developed several bike build kits, specifically for women, to fulfill the unique needs of my female customers.

    These kits include:
  • shift/brake levers that are short reach set up that way from the get-go
  • a stem that is of the right rise and length,
  • a shallow-drop handlebar which reflects a woman's (usually narrow) shoulder width,
  • a saddle that is comfortable on the first ride out,
  • crank arms that come in a length proportional to their legs.
  • And of course these parts come on a frame that is not overbuilt (i.e., too heavy and stiff) like most stock frames. I build frames and bikes that are the right weight for the rider and their intended cycling pursuit - and not an ounce more - not an ounce less.
Luna, a women's race bike

If women cannot afford to buy a custom bike, or if they aren't ready for the process (and it is a process!), they can still find a good quality ride by seeking out and supporting shops that support women. I also suggest that they go to a shop that has a knowledgeable female salesperson on the floor, and one where all of their questions are both welcomed and answered. If the shop offers big brand WSD bikes, they are acknowledging women as a unique and important market, and I encourage women to shop there for the best service. Women should also patronize a shop that is willing and able to switch out parts (stems, saddles, etc...) if the ones that come on the bike aren't ideal, and they should not charge more for the labor to do so (ed. Note: this is true on the initial build of the bike, but if you bring the bike back for retrofit after the build out, you should expect to pay for the labor) The shop should be aware of the existence and purpose of women's specific parts beyond the widely accepted world of cut-out saddles. They should know about (and offer) short-reach STI levers, women's specific handlebars, ultra short crank arms, 650c/26" road tires and wheels - and they should be making every effort to keep such parts in stock.

For women wanting to read up on products and hear from other women who have used them, there are two web sites in particular which exist exactly for this purpose. Girlbike.com is a fantastic, woman-friendly web site designed by a hard core (but never elitist) smaller-than-average female cyclist, who has gotten a whole team of women test riders (in all shapes and sizes) to test women-specific bike products and provide feedback. TeamEstrogen.com is another site that sells some women's specific cycling gear and provides a lot of resources for the female cyclist. Both are well worth checking out.

Margo from Luna Cycles

Even in this age, where nearly every other sporting industry has accepted this niche market, the existence of Women's Specific Design bikes, and products is still somewhat controversial in the sometimes retro-grouchy bike industry. Being a custom frame builder for women only has invited a lot of criticism and eye-rolling among industry veterans. It is something I embrace wholeheartedly. To demonstrate the need for my product I point to the fact that not many frame builders are surviving out there. Yet, I get busier every year. Women are entitled to be listened to and treated seriously. Their discretionary sports dollars represent a huge and growing market share. But, women must be willing to demand such WSD products and further, to express their dissatisfaction when their butts hurt, necks ache, and their fingers are numbed, all due to improperly fitting products. Women should make every effort to patronize stores that reach out to women cyclists, and to tell their friends about them. Things have come a long, long way in the bike industry since Georgena Terry first started pushing for a radical approach to women's bike design in the 1980's, but the industry - in this woman's mind - can still go much further.

Margo Conover is currently the only established female frame builder in the country, and she has decided to make custom bicycles exclusively for women.

Margo's experience in cycling includes 7 years of elite-level road racing and 5 years as a bike shop owner. She is a professional frame builder, bike mechanic, wheel builder, and bike fit expert. Since 2003 she also teaches bicycle mechanics to women at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon. Her experience racing bikes, repairing them, selling them, and educating others makes her the ideal person to design and craft custom frames and bicycles for serious women cyclists.

To find out more about Margo and Luna Cycles visit:
www.lunacycles.com
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