We had a nice talk with Café du cycliste from France.
Specific (adjective): relating to species or a species - "the differences between them can only be on the specific level"
Fons bikes weren't happy with the 'shrink it and pink it' approach of the most of the big bike brands. Like the best entrepreneurs, they saw a gap in the market, a problem without a solution. So they set out to fix it.
And when they advised that our women's collection matched their ethos, we took the opportunity to compare notes on what it means to be female specific.
CDC: ARE YOU THE ONLY EXCLUSIVELY FEMALE BIKE BRAND IN EUROPE / THE WORLD?
FB: As far as we know, yes! All the other "female'" brands are just from bigger companies that sell their male bikes in another colour and pass them off as being female bikes or having a women-specific design. That’s why you get lazy geometry, female colours and often cheaper parts. You also find the bikes in the last part of the catalogue because female cycling is just not their main focus.
CDC: HOW DOES THAT GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE BIG BRANDS?
FB: By focussing on female bikes only we can do better research and it forces us to make the bikes better. If our bikes are not good enough or different enough from what is on the market already nobody would buy them.
The feedback that we get form our customers proves that we are doing the right thing and that motivates us.
With bigger brands you see often that they regard female bikes as a "niche market". We see that half of the world population is female…..
CDC: ARE MEN REALLY FROM MARS AND WOMEN FROM VENUS?
FB: We discovered this mars/venus thing is true when it comes to bikes.
Of course there are women with the exact same approach as men, just as there are men with a more feminine approach to cycling but they are a minority.
What we discovered is that women tend to make a more intelligent approach when it comes to selecting a bike. If for instance disc brakes work better, they want them. Men sometimes start to argue that the pro's don't use them….. They all want to look like Peter Sagan.
When we ask very active female cyclists about the brand that Marianne Vos is riding, eight out of ten don't know the answer. The world of racing is less important and the choices a female cyclist makes are more individual. Therefore we offer almost 4 million different combinations of set-up for our bikes! The chances are limited that you will see another woman with same bike as yours.
CDC: IF THERE IS NOT ONE SINGULAR FEMALE APPROACH TO CYCLING, WHERE DOES FONS BIKES FIT IN WITH THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FEMALE CYCLING?
FB: With our programme right now we cover almost every part of road cycling due to the versatile character of our bikes.
We feel you don't need a bike for every occasion (as fun as that is), but you do need a bike that works in the real world where roads aren't closed for you and the tarmac might be less than perfect.
Even on cobbles and unpaved roads our models perform. On our Strada Disco model you can use tires up to 30mm which almost makes it a gravel light machine and gives you loads of comfort without losing speed.
CDC: HOW DO YOU BUILD A BIKE TO BETTER SUIT THE FEMALE FORM?
FB: What we did different was to start with a lot of specific scientific data. We looked at the main physiological differences between men and women and how that influences cycling.
Based upon these studies we figured out that the bike should be different and that differs from what a lot of others did. We found through testing that other brands have not looked accurately at the difference - if their measurements were true every woman would have the body of a supermodel. Some of us maybe wish that was the case, but it's not.
After that we worked with a large development group of female cyclists to understand their demands. This group consisted of very hard cycling women (some who did a 300km day with a hard-riding mens group, eight times up Alpe d'Huez etc) but also on cyclists that we call "cake riders" - more social cyclists who enjoy the interaction at the café stop as much as the riding itself.
Our aim was to develop a bike that would suit almost everyone. Because our customers can configure their own bike when it comes to colours and parts there is Fons for almost every woman.
CDC: WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR CLOTHING TO BE FEMALE SPECIFIC?
We feel that clothing should not only be technically specific to include features like gender specific chamois and bibs. It should also make you feel good.
The moment you take your gear out to pull it on you should feel nice fabrics in your hands that not only look good but feel very comfortable and nice on your skin. This is important because that is the moment you get motivated to go out and ride. Of course, like any other garments, during the ride the fabrics need to support your muscles and help you to stay dry by moving sweat away from your body.
And it also means looking good on the bike as well as off it. So the connection with fashion and style should always be there.
Even when racing with somebody, you can do that better if you look good. Just like Coco Chanel once said "dress as if you are going to meet your worst enemy today!". And let's be honest cycling always has been about looking good on your bike.
CDC: WHO ARE YOUR FEMALE CYCLING HEROES?
FB: Obviously Alfonsina Strada, the only female cyclist who rode the Giro d'Italia and the woman that inspired us so much that even our brand name is based upon her story.
When she participated in the Giro in 1924 women where not supposed to ride a bike let alone participate in a race wearing shorts, etc. Showing you ankles led often to over-excited men. Yet, she became the hero of that Giro.
Other heroes are: Marianne Martin, Marianne Vos (the female cannibal of cycling with a very impressive victory list), Shannon Galpin and every other girl/woman that rides a bike and enjoys it.
CDC: WHO ARE YOUR MALE CYCLING HEROES?
FB: Eddy Merckx, Laurens ten Dam, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Hinault and of course Tom Dumoulin
CDC: WHICH FEMALE CELEBRITY WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONVERT TO CYCLING AND SEE ON A FONS BIKE AND WHY?
FB: Phew, difficult question. There are so many inspiring women. But since you are asking for a celebrity I guess that would be Stella McCartney. She is not only a talented fashion designer and entrepreneur she also uses her power to create more awareness for breast cancer.
The way she brought fashion into sports with her collection for Adidas is something we try to do with our bikes. She is a celebrity because of her qualities and not only for looks. Yes Stella McCartney on one of our bikes would be nice.
CDC: HOW DO YOU SEE THE WOMEN CYCLING AND THE WOMEN’S MARKET EVOLVING OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
FB: I see it growing and getting more serious. I see how many young girls are now getting on bikes (road, cyclocross, MTB) and having good fun on it. Each year the balance between men and woman involved in cycling will improve. That is a good thing because more and more women will discover how much fun cycling can be.