Does Boy or Girl Gender-Specific Design Really Matter for Kids Bikes?

A frequently asked question by parents is whether the girls-specific and boys-specific design really matters on kids bikes?  And the answer is no, it does not matter. From a specific riding point of view, the difference in the girls or boys design has zero impact on functionality. In fact, a lower step through (which is the traditional girls-specific design dating from the 1890s) is an advantage for most young riders as it is easier to get on and off. Strength-wise, there is also no real difference in the design either. So it is more to do with the social aspect - there is an expectation in the market to have two different designs. So what is driving this? The lower step-through design was introduced in the 1890s for women riding in skirts and dresses. And over time, as bicycle production increased and the use of bikes by women increased too, bikes continued to be split into gender-specific design. And although the first kids bikes made in the 1920s also had a low-step through design, over time, kids bikes separated into the two current designs as well. However, in the last 10-20 years, adult bicylce designs are more commonly being described by their frame style, rather than the presumed sex of the rider. Have you noticed how many retro step through bikes are on the roads being proudly rdden by men and women alike? And the breaking down of the gender stereotyping is starting to filter into kids bikes too. We recently came across an article from the titled, "I Refuse to call my Daughter a 'Tomboy' by Catherine Connors.  It really struck a cord with us at ByK as one of our core design principles is to create bikes that both boys and girls will want to ride and ones that aren't strongly gender stereotyped, as many kids bikes can be on the market. When we shared this article on Facebook, the response from our followers was overwhelming with one Mum saying,

"Couldn't agree more with your statement. I have just started looking for a bike for my 3 year old and have been dismayed by the heavily gendered marketing. Thank you for offering real choices."

bike-n-fitness-school-kids-bike-clinics-900x447Photo credit: @bikeandfitness

Gender-specific design choices are under public scrutiny in other product categories as well. Earlier this year an Ohio mum's tweet went viral when she called out Target for separating "building sets" and "girls' building sets." Now, the Washington Post writes, the retailer is fixing the problem: for building sets and all toys, plus bedding, home decor, entertainment and more. For ByK Bikes, we try to have as many gender neutral colours as we can in our range so there is enough choice for every boy or girl. And we see both boys and girls riding both designs of our bikes - the high cross-bar and lower-step through - all the time.

bike-n-fitness-kids-learning-to-rideKids learning to ride on all styles of bikes at @bikeandfitness Bike Clinics for Kids in Newcastle

We see kids riding bikes every day - some on the paths and some in the dirt, some racing on the road, and others riding to school. It is our generation and the next that will remove stereotypes and labels. Because, as quoted from Catherine Connors,

"The scope of who our children can be narrows or widens depending on the degree to which we do or do not challenge gender stereotypes."

kids-bikes-double-gender-specific-design-article-900x450These two photos are typical of ByK Riders - both show boys and girls riding bikes that might traditionally be design-stereotyped by gender. Photo credits @jessmnicol and @melissa.luhrman