MOD 048: Are you a women-friendly race director?

Merchants of Dirt Episode #48

If you invest your time in teaching and encouraging women to become better riders today, you can create an environment that promotes women to try racing for the first time and encourages more women to attend your events.

#1 — Make your sport more appealing to women

This seems like a no-brainer until you sit down to do it.

Then you start to struggle with what exactly does “more appealing to women” mean.

Does adding something to attract one type of customer to your race ALSO attract another type of customer?

Or a better way to think of this is — if I make these changes, does it actually move the needle in respect to bring more of A to my race?

Mountain biker marketing is very male-based in that the edgy, dangerous world of single-track riding is featured at all times.

This is not to say that women do not like edgy and dangerous trails, it is to say that not ALL women like it.

As a race director, you need to focus on the fun atmosphere that is created during a race as a selling point.

#2 — Develop better outreach towards women

Women riders are already focused on the fitness part of cycling.

Racing is just fitness at a faster pace.

Plus it can help some gauge where they are — their fitness level — when they compare themselves to other women with comparative fitness levels.

Your job to show them that racing is just an extension of that same fitness.

This can be done with group rides of the race course or practice clinics where only women get to experience the venue with other women (i.e. No dudes).

When you remove the unknown part of a race, it can begin to show the fun side of racing.

If you invest your time in teaching and encouraging women to become better riders, your races will become, over time, imbued with the same reputation.

Build the future of women racing by giving your time away now.

#3 — Ride without cars

Tap into the Women Road Biking crowd with what mountain biking offers: NO CARS!

Mountain biking can be a lot safer than road biking.

You could try to interest women riders by offering a bike-share program that connects your local bike shop with a demo day at your venue.

The bike shop wants to sell bikes, and you want more racers.

Why don’t you team up with a women-only demo day for women road bikers?

Winning over roadies will be a tough sell, but if you can do it without requiring them to buy a bike right away, it could be the introduction they need to switch to mountain biking.

Better oxygen from being out in nature away from cars is not a bad selling point either!

#4 — Being Outdoors is the new Indoors

Speaking of nature, nature is another selling point that can take the edge off of male-dominated race marketing.

Getting out in nature on a trail has very powerful imagery.

If you connect that to riding with friends, then your race marketing starts to take the shape of social riding with friends for fun and fitness.

Lose the gnarl and shred you find in most hardcore racing marketing.

Change it out for the social connection of ride groups that explore different locations as a build up to your event.

Sometimes, the trees and fresh air can be a stronger selling point then the copywriting on your website.

#5 — Produce women-only event

A women-only event is just like it sounds — NO DUDES!

You can have men promoters and volunteers, but there are no men allowed to participate in the actual racing.

The goal is to make an event for women that removed the intimidating nature of competition created by some men.

Is it not foolproof, but that’s why it’s an experiment.

Some women love these kinds of events.

Surprisingly, other women hate these kinds of events because they see them as even more competitive then Co-Ed events.

Thus, it’s experimental.

Your turnout will tell you if it works or not.

#6 — Bonus Strategy

For those that are not fond of women-only events, you can begin introducing better categories and classes in your existing races.

This means less open classes and expanding the range of women race classes.

This could include breaking up categories like Single-Speed into both a men’s and women’s class.

It could also include adding in the same age categories. Instead of only having a Women’s 35+ class, you would create both a 35+ and a 45+ class.

The risk is in dividing your small turnout even further, but marketing is a double-edged sword.

By focusing your marketing efforts towards women, using expanded women’s categories and classes as an incentive, you make increase turnout due directly to that expansion.

It might not, but the answer cannot be known until you work out the problem.

You can make a race day decision to allow classes to become combined if there is no turnout.

Or you can just make an overall decision to eat the extra cost of awards and medals for the few women riders that show up, in hopes they will tell their friends.

And they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on!

So make it easy to try out racing.

Reduce the cost of entry to incentives taking a chance on an experiment.

Once they’ve had a taste of racing, then all the worry about what the experience might have been like is washed away.

They get to be in the mix, with all the yelling spectators with cowbells as they cross the finish.

They get to see that nobody really cares what place you come in.

The social environment is why some come to race in the first place — the race is just the shared experience that connects everyone together.

If you build it, will women race?

There is a paradox to overcome when developing strategies designed to increase the turnout of women in your races.

You cannot expect large numbers of women to turn out to your race if the environment is focused mostly on men.

But if you create an environment that promotes a women-friendly environment, you need to tap into your local community and find those women that may want to challenge themselves to a race, but never knew they could or would like it.

Only after having women-friendly thinking built-in can you honestly market to them.

Do not go into any of these strategies thinking that you can increase your women turnout with half-measures.

These are long-term solutions that take multiple seasons before they start to work.

And Now You Know!

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Thank you so much for listening to Merchants of Dirt Podcast. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to me @MerchantsofDirt on Twitter, by Email, or my Contact Form.

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Kyle Bondo
Kyle Bondo is a thinker, podcaster, author, and creative strategy dragon seeking to make a small dent in the universe. He is the founder of Reckoneer, host of the Merchants of Dirt and Get Lost Racing podcasts, and an avid mountain biker and adventure racer.
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