Italy is famous for many things: the Pope is one of them, pizza, that’s another. One thing it isn’t famous for is political correctness, which is why I wasn’t surprised at the source of the most recent storm to hit the cyclists of Twitter.
Yes, it was a sexist tweet. When will the industry ever learn? Contrary to the demographic in your bike factory located, in this case, in Campiago, and regardless of the ratio of saucy calendars to employees and the distraction factor therein, it is not cool to send a tweet out on a Friday featuring a very young, almost pre-pubescent girl astride a bicycle with the tagline: “Ready for the weekend ride?”
Talk about innuendo. There’s a reason why the Carry On films are consigned to the dustbin of history, it’s because we’ve moved on from all this, regardless of what some of your social media fans might think.
Do yourselves a favour - don’t listen to them. Seriously. It doesn’t matter how good your bikes are, the right and decent will turn on you with a vengeance.
The funny thing is - and I have no statistics to back this up - but I would imagine it is more likely that your tweet is going to read by a woman than a man. Especially by the measure of some areas of the cycling industry which evidently thinks blokes are more likely to be messing around on bikes.
In fairness Colnago did offer a kind of apology, although in doing so actually managing to avoid the word itself. Instead it “deeply regrets the recent posting of an image and accompanying social media post that is offensive to women, and not at all appropriate.”
Colnago goes on to say that it has clarified its social media policies. It’s unclear if it clarified them following a totally gratuitous post a few months ago of a woman in high heels squatting down to pump up a tyre. She looks happy so Colnago must have considered that OK.
Of course if you’ve ever travelled to Italy, ‘appreciation’ of women in that country is all too evident. One commenter below Colnago’s apology, a female, draws attention to a “culture clash”.
There is no denying the brand’s support of women’s cycling either. They provide bikes for the Wiggle Honda women’s pro cycling team, for one thing.
But it is the objectification of women in the cycle industry that I think winds female cyclists up the most. There’s the podium girl issue for one thing, which could be considered a tradition for men’s races, but for women’s races?
That led to another sexist furore earlier in the year when the organisers of the E3 Harelbeke, the first race in the classics calendar decided to capitalise on an incident involving a juvenile Peter Sagan and his wandering hand.
The treatment of female pro cyclists compared to their male contemporaries is also a matter of much discontent. Man, even very successful ones, are paid so little that they have to hold down a day job and train for their races in the evening. Many are paid nothing at all, just raceday expenses and kit.
It’s an imbalance that is simply unacceptable in this day and age, especially when women’s cycling is becoming more and more popular. But it goes on.
Even recognition of achievements can be overlooked. Take Lizzie Armitstead’s success in the UCI Road World Championships. She won, in case you were watching the rugby at the time. She dismissed it as “a bad time of night” to win the rainbow jersey, which in cycling is one of the most prestigious accolades.
It’s not all gloom for the women cyclists, though. More and more are taking up the sport. A record 8,421 undertook this year’s Rapha Women’s 100, when women are encouraged to ride 100km on a given day in the summer.
Clothing has come a long way too as manufacturers wake up to the marketing potential and spending power of women.
It’s all ticking along nicely, in fact, if you take the dirty old men and their preference for a saucy photo out of the equation.
Dinosaurs do die out eventually and the new blood that is being brought into a revitalised cycling movement has a lot more respect for women. I haven’t actually been made aware of any female bike builders yet but it must surely only be a matter of time. If you happen to be one, do get in touch.
One thing the Colnago episode has reminded us is that women have a voice in cycling, and it is growing louder. So Colnago if you’re asking yourself if anyone is going to be offended by your saucy picture, it’s a fair bet they will be.
Just take a picture of your bikes and leave it at that. They all look gorgeous on their own anyway.
- The weather has been a bit rubbish of late and if the forecasters are anything to go by, El Nino is going to ensure that things are going to stay that way for the forseeable future. What’s a Strava user to do? Well you could go out in full wetsuit or you could sign up to premium and get two free months of Zwift. All of a sudden you’re in the Second Life of cycling, racing people in a virtual world. It’s all a bit odd especially when you’re actually inside your shed, but it beats soggy feet.