The Problem With Pink

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I have a complicated relationship with the colour pink. I’m going to try and explain why.

Once upon a time, in what seems like a lifetime ago, I was a Project Manager. I wore suits to work, juggled Gantt charts and multi million pound budgets, and went to lots of meetings – quite a few of them in hard hats, and most of them with men. As one of very few women on the project I was working on, I was proud to be there. Proud to be a woman in a man’s world, and I enjoyed proving that I was good enough to be there, knew what I was doing, and wouldn’t be bossed around. I was also a lot younger, and wasn’t yet tired of proving myself, again, and again, and again…

Pink scarves, pink blouses, pink shoes, pink skirts, pink knickers.

While I was working in this world, I developed a bit of a thing for pink. Not only was I the only woman in the room, but I was going to make sure all those men noticed it. I wore something pink every single day. Deliberately. I liked the colour, it suited my complexion, and I wore it. Pink scarves, pink blouses, pink shoes, pink skirts, pink knickers. Not all at once mind (I’m not Dolores Umbridge) just something pink, every day. I was the girly looking woman in a man’s world showing them all that pink and frilly did not mean thick and silly.

Moving on more years than I care to remember, with children added into the mix I was glad to get to work without porridge on my clothes or baby sick down my shoulder. Careful choosing of clothes fell by the wayside (other than trying not to slot my daughter and son into pink and blue pigeonholes). I wore whatever came to hand (and whatever would fit over my ever changing body shape). A spell of full time motherhood meant no shopping, and no dress code. And now, working at Singletrack, suits are not required. Looking smart is not an issue, and I’m generally to be found wearing whatever packs easily into my rucksack for the commute, whatever bike wear I’m currently testing, or whichever branded t-shirt has just arrived in the post.

So many colours. So much choice.

Some things haven’t changed. I’m still a woman working in what is, largely, a man’s world. In the Singletrack office we’re now at a 50/50 split in the Editorial team, but in the wider industry the split isn’t so even. My impression is that this is changing for the better, but if I head out on a press trip I can be fairly confident of being the only woman there. It has its advantages – you can be pretty sure you won’t be asked to share a room with anyone.

But what has changed is my attitude to pink. I still have pink in my wardrobe. On days when I’m wearing ‘proper’ clothes, I’ll wear them. Practically all the flowers in my garden are pink – or purple. My toenails are currently painted turquoise. But on the bike I’ll do all I can to avoid pink, and its purple and turquoise cousins. Not because I don’t like the colours, or because I don’t want to stand out on the trail in the way that I chose to stand out on the building site. Instead it’s because all too often, wearing pink is not a choice – it’s the only option.

Look at a catalogue of cycle clothing from so many manufacturers and what you’ll find is a men’s section – maybe a few pages of it – with a selection of cuts and styles of shorts and jerseys, each in two or three different colours, with interesting panels or patterns. Those colours and patterns are clearly the product of a design process. Someone has looked at bike colours for the year ahead, or trainers, or racing car colour schemes, or something and pulled them all together in a mood board or whatever as inspiration for what will be this year’s fashion forward collection for the male rider.

Put a bloke in something from the early 90s and they’ll look retro. Put a woman in something from the same era and you’d be hard pushed to tell it wasn’t this season’s

Flip now to the women’s section, and all too often you’ll find it significantly smaller than the men’s. Fewer cut options, smaller size ranges, fewer colours. Pink, purple, turquoise, maybe black. Year in, year out. Commercially I can understand why companies might offer only two styles of women’s shorts against men’s five or six, but there’s no reason why there should be any less effort put into the design of that more limited range. Where is the mood board that inspires the women’s range? Why does the men’s range change with years and seasons, but the women’s colour options stay the same? Put a bloke in something from the early 90s and they’ll look retro. Put a woman in something from the same era and you’d be hard pushed to tell it wasn’t this season’s. This is all doubly disappointing given that women’s specific clothing is one of the few women’s specific things that I think is actually beneficial to the experience of being on a bike.

Yes there are companies out there who are doing a better job of creating visually and functionally interesting clothing for women. Some of them even choose to produce some of their items in pink. But for me, pink (and purple and turquoise) are sullied by association with the ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach of (hopefully) years gone by. The colours have, to my mind, come to represent lazy design, and women as an afterthought.

Now I’m not decrying anyone else that wants to wear pink. Go for your life – I really don’t mind what you wear on the trail as long as you are out there and having fun. Whatever kit you choose, I hope it works for you – that whichever technical features you bought it for deliver, that you feel great when you put it on.

But until I see all companies putting as much effort into their women’s designs as their men’s, I’m going to struggle to feel great in pink. Give me bright orange, lime green, stylish grey, navy blue, maroon and gold. Give me zig zags one year and colourblock panels the next. Give me subtle graphics or bold prints. Give me repeating patterns and random splatters. Give me tops that fit boobs and shorts that fit bums. Give me sizing that doesn’t make me want to go on a crash diet. Give me waterproof shorts as well as summer baggies. Once you’ve given me all that, then I might choose to wear pink on the trail.

Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

Comments (20)

    Give us blokes more pink please bike industry

    ” working at Singletrack, suits are not required”

    I have to say, i’m disappointed. In my imagination the ST office looks like this on deadline day:

    On the flipside… go to a high street clothing store. The women’s department is often a collage of every hue under the sun, while the men’s is (at least at this time of year) a landscape of grey, black, brown and blue. ‘Twas ever thus. We’ve been having to choose from three different greys for years whenever we want to buy a suit; it’s only fair that you have to choose between three different pinks whenever you want to buy a bike 😉

    PS when’s international men’s day?

    *facetious klaxon* before anyone starts

    Bravo. I seriously hate turquoise and am sick of going into a bike shop to be confronted with a sea of jade and purple.

    Firstly, I’d not really agree that there isn’t thought put into the design of ladies mtb stuff. I often find myself wishing they did the women’s design in a mens size/cut. I’ve seen stuff from the likes of Flare clothing, Sombrio, Raceface and Spesh that is designed for females that I much prefer to the male version.
    The mens stuff is normally very subdued colour-wise.

    I agree with the above. High street clothing is always massively weighted towards females, and I suppose it reflects demand in the market. I suppose that mtb clothing also reflects demand in its market. If in doubt, wear black 😉

    I’m not sure I really agree that much female kit is pink. As others above have said – I utterly bemoan the lack of colour in men’s kit and look quite longingly at the range of colours available in female ranges. If you are male, you’re stuck with lots of black or brown or red.

    Mountain biking’s supposed to be a fun sport. I love pink, turquoise, combinations of rainbow colours, and white even. Let’s peruse the evidence of female kit actually being wall-to-wall pink shall we..?

    The problem with pink, is that writing about this way has become quite a cliche.

    It seems like the whole thing is circular and therefore no obvious solution. 🙁

    As you say, the vast majority of mountain bikers are – rightly or wrongly (hint: wrongly) – male.
    As a business it makes financial sense to focus on the biggest market. Limiting your market by being morally correct will make you less money.
    And that means selling predominantly male clothing/designs/whatever.

    If the market becomes a more even split, the kit being sold will also adjust to be more evenly split.
    So the way to fix the situation is to get more women biking.
    And if we knew the answer to that, the world would be a better place.

    (As a man, speaking on behalf of all men) I don’t know where the rest of you are looking, but I have no problems finding men’s bike clothes in absolutely any colour I want.

    Additionally, if any of you want to talk about markets and demand, economists have known since the 80’s that supply tends to shape demand in various ways. It’s not a simple relationship no matter how much anyone wants to believe markets just respond in ways consumers want.

    ‘Shrink it and pink it’ is a very old bike industry problem.

    While there may be more variety in the men’s section it’s not necessarily all good though. Mountain bike clothing designers appear convinced their entire market are 13-14 year old boys …

    I (a man*) LOVE pink.

    Pink hubs look awesome on TI bikes.

    Hi Viz? Only if it’s Rapha (retina blinding) hot pink. Black, pink and Ti are great together.

    I also LOVE purple, but have none of it on my bike after the industry went a bit purple mental in 2015?


    It’s the same with a lot of womens outdoor clothing. My other half has a lot of pink / purple kit as that is what is generally discounted in the sales.
    Why not make more of the other colours that sell out and don’t have to be reduced to sell, unlike the pink / purple / lilac / baby blue etc?
    I’d guess because the shops don’t decide what colours the manufacturers produce and in what volumes, it all gets bought in the end so the manufacturers don’t care.

    Having women deigners doesn’t seem to make much difference either. I remember a ever so slightly heated dscussion between a couple of female oudoorsy friends and a woman designer about the lack of colour choice. Her response was pretty much “but that’s what sells”. Which plays straight back to the point than nach makes above.

    My 2015 Nomad is ‘girlie’ Turquoise and Pink, I love it.

    ” “but that’s what sells”. Which plays straight back to the point than nach makes above”

    But perhaps the reason it sells so well is because that’s the only option provided?

    I still have my T-Mobile replica kit that is a gorgeous shade of pink – mostly – and if I still rode my trusty cannondale 613 road bike and if I could still fit inside the aforesaid kit – i’d be wearing it out for England. Unfortunately to make all that come true I’d also have to emulate my hero Jan Ullrich’s choice of chemical performance enhancement. Pink syringes anyone?

    This year I bought my 12 year old son a pink second hand Orange Patriot. It was a great bike, in very good condition for good money and was perfect for him, apart from the fact that I was not sure how he’d react to the colour. Initially he wasn’t sure about it but the bike looked great, and in fact around the same time Finn Iles started riding a pink bike in the word cups so we agreed that he’d give it a go and we could always get it resprayed at the end of the season if necessary. Anyway, he had zero issues from any of his mates, no nasty comments, and we all love the colour of the bike. The one thing to upset him was a lady who saw him riding DH with his club this summer and commented “that girl is a really good rider” to his MTB club tutor. He immediately said why do you assume it is a girl? The answer is obvious but it goes to show how ingrained the whole pink thing is. I think us blokes need to help win the colour back for all and then maybe women will not have it forced on them so much any more. After all 100 years ago it was pink for a boy and blue for a girl.. then somehow it got swapped over.

    “But perhaps the reason it sells so well is because that’s the only option provided?”

    Thats exactly the point nach (and I) was making.

    Produce lots of kit in pink and a limited amount of other colours, all the stck is bought by shops, manufacturr has no reason to change from pink and limited other colours.

    mens riding clothes are either dull, or look like a clown threw up in a toothpaste factory.

    Meany people have a problem with pink. I don’t care, I really like pink. I think some shades of pink are really stylish. We have bought this sofa lately and I really love it. Im 100% hetero man, father of two 😉

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