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Shimano going all in on women's indoor cycling shoe

Published August 20, 2019

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (BRAIN) — Peloton's popularity has many women in the market for cycling shoes. But the shoes have to be fashionable, comfortable and functional. With New Balance and Tiem entering the market, Jessie Gascon, Shimano's North American lifestyle gear product manager, spent some time indoors.

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"I worked with a lot of local studios with prototypes with both the newbie and the committed indoor cyclist," said Gascon, a Shimano product manager and developer the past 15 years. "Then I traveled to hot pockets of the marketplace: California, New York, Texas, Florida and other stops. I personally took a lot of these spin classes. Now, I truly understand why this thing is booming. They are extremely satisfying. Very motivational and emotionally satisfying. A lot of people are embracing this as a lifestyle."

The result is Shimano's IC3 ($115) and the IC5 ($125) in six colors. Designed as a slip-on with no tongue, they feature a BOA fit dial for adjustability. The IC3 is targeted for "active newcomers" and is more sneaker-like, Gascon said. The IC5, for "avid enthusiasts," is stiffer but still flexible enough to walk in, he said. 

They are compatible only with SPD cleats, which are prevalent at spin clubs and recessed into the outsole to ensure non-slip walking. Gascon's research revealed that most women average between 120-150 watts in classes and at home, so making a more flexible shoe was paramount and allowed Shimano to keep costs down. The shoes also can be worn outside on a bike.

Gascon originally planned to have one model but differing opinions on what's fashionable and what's not created a bit of a dilemma during the 1½ years of research and development.

"We had the two prototypes and I just wanted to choose one," he said. "I got a lot of aesthetic feedback. People would look at the (IC3) and say it was the cutest thing in the world. I would show the same shoe to another group of women, and one or two would say, 'I would never wear that shoe. That looks like my grandmother's shoe.' It was very polarizing."

In the end, Gascon went to market with both models and a strategy to cater to a non-endemic audience that won't necessarily visit a local bike store. "We realized very early we have to take a different approach. I won't reveal what our go-to-market plans are, but they do entail a lot of face-to-face time with these core enthusiasts. These are activities and ideas that your traditional fashion-oriented brands would do."

While Gascon said some IBDs will stock the IC line, Shimano approached REI first, and it validated his sales forecast. He said REI will stock the IC3 company-wide, while Zappos, an online footwear retailer, will carry the IC5.

Shimano's website will have a landing page for indoor cyclists "to keep these enthusiasts away from the technical stuff so they can easily navigate to the product." He said a blog will be featured on basic topics like mounting cleats the benefits of indoor cycling.

The Shimano IC5 women's indoor cycling shoe in purple.

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