“I want to create an atmosphere where women feel welcome.”
15.06.2023 | Business
Ophélie Laffuge from Lyon has created what she had always missed: an extra stylish shop where women can find anything they want for cycling. Since then, a fast-growing female community has formed around her, where women not only share a great deal of knowledge but, above all, the love of cycling is shared.
Hello Ophélie. “Beyond my Bike” is your pop-up store concept specifically for women. How did the idea come about?
Ophélie: Cycling has been an important part of my life for a long time and has gradually evolved into a lifestyle. At the same time, I have talked a lot with other female cyclists and pondered my role as a woman in society. The two topics naturally converged and gave me the idea to start an Instagram channel where I share inspiring content for a female cycling community.
How did people respond to your initiative?
Ophélie: Very positively. Many women reached out to me asking for recommendations because they were frustrated about not finding suitable and stylish equipment for cycling. At the same time, I discovered more and more brands that offer great products for women but are not very well known.
And that’s how the idea of opening a pop-up store aimed specifically at female customers came about?
Ophélie: Exactly. This store was supposed to be different than a conventional bike shop. I wanted to create a feel-good atmosphere where women feel especially welcome. Visitors should have a good and relaxing time in the shop and at the same time discover beautiful, fashionable and specially designed bike products for women. I launched the first pop-up store in Lyon in September 2022 and the concept was a smashing success: around 500 customers came during the three days that the pop-up store was open.
What do you want to convey to your clients and followers?
Ophélie: I would like to encourage women to cycle more. It’s just fun and gives you so much freedom: sitting at the handlebars, determining the direction and speed – it feels great. That’s the experience I want to convey in the corner dedicated to women that I launched in a large bike shop in Lille in March 2023. Not only can women find great and unique equipment and apparel there; they can also join in for special events as part of the Beyond My Bike community. For example, this includes bike tours or events and workshops, where I invite speakers or female mechanics to show how you can do repairs on your bike yourself. The response has been tremendous.
What feedback do you get from your community?
Ophélie: Many women do not feel safe in traffic. If efforts were made to improve and better adapt the infrastructure to cyclists’ needs, more women would commute to work by bike. In France, only about 30% of cyclist commuters are female. The proportion of women and children using a cycle path is a good indicator of its quality: if it is mainly men who use a cycle path, that generally means it could use some improvement in terms of safety.
Are there also other reasons why women cycle less often than men?
Ophélie: Yes. For example, women usually take their children to kindergarten or school and go grocery shopping. And cycling often isn’t an option for these errands. Cargo bikes are, of course, a great alternative here, so it makes perfect sense that they’re becoming increasingly popular.
Another reason women cycle less is that many have reservations about visiting bike shops. Their design is often geared more towards male customers and the salespeople and mechanics are also predominantly male. As a result, women might not feel taken seriously in such shops or might be afraid of being made fun of. Also, most bikes and equipment are designed by men for men.
How has society impacted women’s technical bike know-how?
Ophélie: Many women I talk to have never learned how to do minor bike repairs themselves. And if I don’t have practice changing a flat tire, then of course that holds me back from going on long bike rides. I think the underlying reason has deep roots that go back to women’s teenage years.
» I wanted to create a feel-good atmosphere where women feel especially welcome. Visitors should have a good and relaxing time in the shop. «
What do you mean?
Ophélie: Studies show that girls and boys cycle about the same amount up to the age of about 12. Differences don’t emerge until later. In the years after that, boys receive the message that they should go out with their friends and explore the world – and that they are also allowed to take risks. In this phase, bikes play a major role as a means of transport.
And what is conveyed to girls?
Ophélie: That they should be careful. The outside world is described to them as potentially dangerous, which is why they are better off staying at home and pursuing domestic activities. After a certain age, these differences fade, but girls are then behind in terms of experience, so to speak, in some areas.
You currently ride a Riese & Müller UBN Seven. How do you like the bike?
Ophélie: I ride it every day and love it! The look and the colour are just gorgeous. Everywhere I go, people talk to me about it and make positive remarks. The purchase of my first E-Bike was a real gamechanger for me. Since then, I’ve only been on E-Bikes, no matter what the weather. Before that, I also took public transport – but today I hardly do anymore. I feel safe on my bike, even when I cycle home late at night. I can’t always say the same for when I go by foot or take public transport.
Thank you for talking to us, Ophélie.