The women’s mountain bike market used to be a proverbial ghost town. A few manufacturers offered some lower tier offerings, but most brands only made women’s specific hybrids or road bikes. Today, the women’s market is a filled with options. Ladies can choose from dozens of high end carbon offerings in a dizzying array of travel options and colors.
For the past two years, Norco has been surveying the landscape, trying to figure out the best approach. In the past, they’ve offered several women’s models under the Forma name (including a freeride bike). But currently, the Forma women’s products are heavily biased towards entry level offerings.
This year, that all changes. Norco is now making each of their main line bikes available with women’s specific touch points and gender neutral colorways across several different price points. Because Norco optimizes the frame tubing and ride feel across each size to align with targeted biometrics and rider weights, the bikes work well for all riders, regardless of sex.
To learn more about Norco’s approach, Mtbr sat down with Sarah Moore, the bike maker’s marketing and communications supervisor.
Mtbr: What’s the story with Norco’s new women’s lineup? Is this something that’s all new or have you offered women’s bikes in the past?
Sarah Moore: We’ve had smaller women’s offerings in previous years, but this is the first year we’ve had equal offerings for both men and women. For example, we’re offering five different women’s specific versions of the Optic. There are two carbon and three alloy price points. With the exception of race bikes and niche models, all of our main line models have options for women with equal spec.
Mtbr: Equal spec meaning same frame and components?
SM: Yes. Same frame, just different touch points.
Mtbr: So touch points would be things like handlebar width, grip, saddle?
SM: Yeah, depending on the build, it will vary. But those are the main ones.
Mtbr: What sizes will these bikes be available in?
SM: All the main line bikes that have women’s specific versions will be available in an extra small, small, and medium. If a woman wants a race bike, those are also offered in sizes all the way down to extra small. For example, we don’t offer a Range or Revolver in a woman’s version. Both those models are race bikes. But we do offer them in an extra small. Anyone can get those bikes and customize their grips or saddle, or anything else they might want to adjust.
Mtbr: Norco isn’t including their “race” models in the new women’s line. How did the brand decide what bikes to include?
SM: There are tons of women, like Jill Kintner, who race. She has every Norco race bike except for the Revolver in her arsenal, so obviously they work well for her. It’s not that women don’t race, it’s just that the women who race know their bikes. They know that this is the saddle they always run, so switching a saddle or grips or handlebar from one bike to another is easy. They go into a shop and know exactly what they want. And they gravitate towards race bikes.
We want it to be easy for women who go into a shop to feel they have a bike that is theirs. If you’re a racer, we have one enduro and one cross country race bike and that’s our Norco race bike. It works for both men and women.
Mtbr: Norco does a lot with size specific tubing. Can you talk about how that carries over into the women’s bikes?
SM: We knew that we have bikes that women love riding. I love riding Norco bicycles. They fit me and they fit all the women I work with. And we have a good group of women that work together at Norco. We have seven or eight of us that go for after work rides, so we knew that our geometry works.
We have size scaled tubing that means that the frame construction on a smaller bike is lighter than on a heavier bike. We also have gravity tune, which means that the smaller bikes will react the same for a smaller rider on a small bike as they will for a larger rider on a bigger bike.
Mtbr: Every brand has their own unique approach to the women’s market, how did Norco settle on this approach?
SM: We’ve been working on this women’s line up for two years. We had a women’s committee that had some men on it, but was mostly a women’s group. We met at least once a month and we did multiple surveys. We did research and we looked at all the different options. There are so many different options. There’s rebranding, doing different geometry, touch points, not doing anything… We looked at all the different options and we wanted something that as women we were proud of. We are proud to say this is our Norco’s women’s offerings.
Mtbr: Who are these women specific bikes for?
SM: There are two camps of women. There are women who absolutely hate everything women’s specific and that’s fine. There are also women who are drawn to something specifically for them. Our lineup doesn’t have super feminine colors. It’s more about inspiring imagery and using strong women in our photos and videos. Basically, we’re not being demeaning. It’s about confidence, control, and making sure women feel like they have a space within Norco bicycles.
Hopefully women are drawn to the brand and like the bikes and everything we’re doing. In the near future, we’re going to be building out an ambassador program and doing more women’s specific events. The goal is to get more women on bicycles. We want more equal representation in the sport that we love so much. And every woman we speak to who loves biking wants more women to be in it.