Friday, July 20, 2018

Equal Payouts and the Evolving Bike Industry

I am so stoked to be a mountain biker. For lots of reasons, the trails, the people, the bikes... but also because I have NEVER done a MTB race where the payout wasn't equal. I realize this is strange considering I've been racing for 5ish years and Cyclocross and Road racing still have MANY races (including world cups) with pay disparities, but how freaking cool is that!?

This record of never entering a race with unequal pay isn't really my doing either, it just happened that every race I have wanted to do already HAD equal pay...  until recently, when I registered for a race which had a deeper purse for the men than the women. To be fair it was really close, the website stated that the top three men and women would recieve equal pay, but the men's pay went 5 deep where the womens only 4 deep. And even though this doesn't seem like TOO big a deal, it didn't sit right with me.

A month or so ago I woman I race with often, Chase, mentioned to me that I should use my platform as an athlete with a large audience to help advocate for equal pay in some of the ultra endurance races that don't already have it. I've been thinking about that conversation ever since, so it was a no brainer when I read the race website for said NUE I was signed up for that I should email the promoter. Long story short, he changed the pay schedule so top 5 male and female racers get the same payout, which feels like a little victory for everyone, and made me very pleased. BUT the conversation we had through email, and the responses I got on Twitter when I posted about the issue have me thinking, so I wanted to share a few of those thoughts here.
From Bentonville where TONS of women ride mountain bikes!
My main issue stems from a conversation I had with a few different industry insiders back when I was racing for the Marin factory XC team 4ish years ago. I was told by multiple guys that marketing to women wasn't worth their time because women just buy men's bikes, or they get hand-me downs from their husbands/boyfriends. I remember being VERY upset by one of these conversations at Sea Otter, it made me feel sick to my stomach that my gender 'wasn't worth' being marketed to. I know it's business and bottom lines and nothing personal... This was only 4 years ago. Fast forward to present day and things have changed a lot.
Most companies now acknowledge that marketing to women is VERY worthwhile, and that we are the largest growing sector of the market (my argument 4 years ago when I was told that we didn't matter). But think about it, if you have the viewpoint that women aren't worth marketing to, obviously women are going to be slow to join the sport, which means at races there are going to be less women registered than men. DUH! So when the race promoter tells me that 'men support the race more than women' I kinda feel miffed. MORE WOMEN WOULD SUPPORT THE RACE IF YOU GUYS DIDN'T TREAT US LIKE WE DIDN'T MATTER a short time ago!!!

From Carson City Off Road, an Epic Rides race with a HUGE equal payout!
And on top of that, in my van there is a bike magazine from 2014 with a Specialized ad with a skanky nurse pumping up a bike tire, boobs hanging out, skirt so short you can see butt cheeks. OK, how do you expect us to support your race in droves if such a short time ago the message you were sending us was that we are not athletes, but sex objects?

Thing are changing, and pretty quickly, so I'm not terribly worried about this issue. But I just have these kinda pissed off feelings when people say the race should pay the men deeper because there are more of them. Yeah, way to be short sited and NOT forward thinking. Thanks for treating my gender like we aren't important up until a few years ago, and now saying it's still our fault that field sizes are small... that's really helpful.
Women's fields are growing, but not giving equal pay is NOT going to encourage this growth.
Usually I try to focus on the positive, and there is so much positive, like all the US Cup races I ever did having equal pay, and the Epic Rides races (where there are over 100 men and around 40 women) having HUGE equal pay... just had to get the frusties out I guess. Thanks for listening :)


  1. Is it about money/marketing or isn't it. It sounds like a mixed message. If it's about money than maybe the purses should be portioned based on percentage of sales that are women-specific bikes. Or maybe it should be based on how many competitors enter (or finish) the race. Or how about a co-ed race, now that would certainly embrace the idea that men and women are equal. I know I'm sounding like a jerk and I am speaking tongue-in-cheek but it's like saying that WNBA players should be paid the same as NBA players, and everyone knows that's about the money/audience size. Also I always thought it unfair that the 20th place guy might have a time better than the race-leading woman rider and hardly gets anything for his efforts. And then there's the Senior-PGA Tour! A whole separate series of competitions for guys who can't compete anymore. And the Olympics! Don't get me started!...

  2. I have ridden mountain bikes for over 30 years in my home state of Colorado. I almost always see more women out riding than men. I would think the bike companies and race promoters would get it by now, if they actually went out and rode. Keep up the good work and having fun out there.

  3. You can get paid to win a bike race? I had no idea.