BASED IN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, WHEEL WOMEN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HELPING HUNDREDS OF WOMEN TO DEVELOP THEIR CYCLING SKILLS, CONFIDENCE, AND FIND JOY IN CYCLING THROUGH FUN, CHALLENGE AND FRIENDSHIP. THERE WAS JUST ONE THING BUGGING WW FOUNDER, TINA MC CARTHY – THE LACK OF JERSEY OPTIONS FOR WOMEN OF SIZE. WE ASKED TINA TO TALK US THROUGH THIS FRUSTRATION, AND WHAT SHE DID ABOUT IT.
“When I hear the word inclusion, I must admit I tend to roll my eyes these days.
It seems to me the more we talk about women riding bikes, the more we find groups who extoll the virtues of inclusion, but in reality promote exclusion. Yes, I’m talking about that feeling you get when you rock up and you just don’t feel like you’re ‘their sort’, or you get that ‘maybe this isn’t right for me’ feeling. It’s a story I hear all the time.
I believe that all women should be welcomed and encouraged to ride. You see, I’m a bigger-than-most cyclist. Before I started Wheel Women I enjoyed many on-line chats with people in the cycling world and felt so included in this new activity that I loved so much…until they saw me. I didn’t fit their image of what a cycling ‘professional’ should look like…older, wider, bigger. They didn’t take me seriously.
I’ve always had trouble finding cycling gear to fit nicely. When I started out I was definitely in what we would call the ‘plus’ size category. I longed for those pretty jerseys, and the bright bold designs – only to find then, and now, that the really ‘cool’ brands stop at a 37” bust labeled as their version of an L!
Even though I’ve downsized a little over the years from time on the bike, I’m still not exactly what you’d call svelte with a 41” bust – half and inch over the ‘average’ woman. So shouldn’t that mean that a 40.5” bust is an M? So what was the solution: design the gear myself!
With a career in design before cycling took over my life, I figured I may as well use all those
skills to create something that worked for a really diverse range of women, from really small, to much larger…larger than what most cycling companies cater for. Our size range goes from XS-5XL, which is equivalent of a 6-24 in typical Australian sizing. That’s what I call diversity.
In an effort to make all women feel welcome, I really felt it was time to stop the body shaming that occurs with many cycling brands – why should I wear a size 5XL jersey when I usually wear an L in regular gear, or why feel I’m not welcome to wear their ‘cool’ brands because they won’t make anything big enough for me. The European sizing which is typical in cycling just doesn’t cut it for the average Australian woman – I’m just above ‘average’ in height and bust measure and come in pretty spot on as a typical 16 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
If the cycling world wants to tout inclusion, then they need to get off their tiny-euro-sizing charts and get into the real world. The last thing many larger women want is to be made to feel like a freak – either the jerseys don’t even run to fit the ‘average’ size 16, or the sizing for a 16 is listed at 5XL. Instantly, those very companies touting the inclusion story have instantly lost a large portion of women by humiliating them into thinking ‘I’m too fat for this sport – I can’t find gear that fits’. No, you are not too fat…you look brilliant the way you are!
At Wheel Women, the aim really is inclusion. No, REALLY! We want women to feel great, look great, BE great, feel welcome… regardless of size, shape, age, ability.”
Tina McCarthy, Wheel Women Founder