You are here

Op-Ed: About that Pinarello story ...

Published November 22, 2017

It's Tuesday morning and I pick up my phone to a very angry woman. "How could BRAIN possibly say women can't keep up with men on a bike? How could you publish such views as an industry magazine?" This female racer was infuriated and I could hardly get a word in edgewise.

The issue at hand: Our publishing of Pinarello's press release about their new Nytro e-road bike on Monday.

I tried to explain, this was a press release submitted by Pinarello, and that the statement that had many readers up in arms was verbatim from the company. It was their marketing statement — who they thought this electric road bike appealed to and would be the customer for it. For that reason it was in quotation marks. It's not our view, or even our words.

"Nytro aims at a wide target, from the one that has no time to train but would never miss a weekend ride with friends, to women who would like to follow easily the men's pace, or even the ones who desire to experience cycling as a new way of life, climbing easily and going downhill safely, enjoying every single minute on the bike," the company said.

Our staff edits press releases all the time, taking out superlatives such as "world's greatest, the best ..., the highest performing ...," and the list goes on. Those claims cannot be substantiated and it is our job to present information as factual as we can. But in this case, a statement from the company as to who they're targeting their new e-bike to was not a technical claim but an audience statement.

Some readers questioned our judgment and why we would publish that statement at all, claiming that by doing so we somehow agreed or condoned Pinarello's views. Let's be clear: Bicycle Retailer & Industry News does not support or condone sexist marketing. But we do write and include how a company is marketing a product. To censor their language out would be to inaccurately portray their philosophy or viewpoints.

Shouldn't readers be aware of how brands market their products? For years, many companies have gone about it in a very backwards or ill-fated way and this is clearly one example of how marketing can go wrong.

Twenty four hours after its posting, our story had 21 comments, and cycling websites including Bicycling, Cycling Tips, Cycling News and Cycling Weekly featured stories not only on the release but the Italian bike company's Instagram campaign featuring a female who "always wanted to go cycling with her boyfriend, but it seemed impossible," implying that she couldn't keep up.

With a badly worded press release and corresponding social media campaign, Pinarello's story about its entry into e-bikes was reduced to a commentary about gender in cycling. E-bikes can be an equalizer between riders of different fitness levels, regardless of gender. However, Pinarello's word choice and statement did not express that. It implied that all women need help keeping up with male counterparts.

It's not on Bicycle Retailer to edit to ensure that Pinarello's statements are not sexist. We are, however, glad that it has sparked the conversation about how companies talk about their products, brands and women.

As an aside, I'll point out that Bicycle Retailer has three females on staff. And I, for one, have been told verbally what Pinarello states in this press release several times by various brands. Perhaps that's why it has become such a hot button — many players in the industry have for years implied or made these claims in some subtle or not so subtle way. But today, women aren't just going to shrug it off as stupid marketing. They're going to be turned off to the brand or to cycling, and they're going to vote with their wallets.

As the informational source for the industry, we aim to be critical of the content we publish and let readers know the difference between company marketing and statements and our magazine's views, and we welcome your feedback.

Join the Conversation