If you've been following the local news in Vancouver, you may read one of the many stories about women-focused bike shop, Sidesaddle, that recently opened up in East Vancouver. When I the early rumblings, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to go in and meet co-owners Andrea Smith and Lucas Gallagher, and find out just what it was they were offering that was different from other shops in the city. Having had more than a handful of poor experiences in bike shops (that will remain unnamed), I was intrigued by what exactly the phrase "women-focused" really meant, and Andrea and Lucas were only too happy to tell me their story and their hopes for this fledgling enterprise.
Andrea and Lucas boast years of experience working as mechanics in the city, as well as in bike retail, and both have maintained a passion for getting more people on bikes. While working in an office, Andrea found it all too common for her coworkers to ask her a myriad of question about bikes, after finding out she loved fixing them up. Because she was so helpful, many of the women she helped urged her to start her own bike shop. It was this encouragement, and a desire to serve female riders in the city, that pushed her to give it a shot.
When she approached Lucas about teaming up, he was all to eager. He had been working continuously in the bike world, and was starting to feel frustrated himself with an industry focused more on specialized gear and machismo than simply riding for transportation. Teaming up with Andrea would offer him a chance to start fresh, and an opportunity to offer customers a level of service he could be proud of.
Their approach is simple - to create a welcoming retail and work space without intimidation, and open to all levels of riders. Although they are women-focused, that has less to do with not also providing equal service to men, and more to do with offering products and services to a historically underserved segment of the population. They recognize that when a women enters a bike shop, many times they know what they want, and they don't want to deal with an attitude about those choices. And even if they don't know what they want, Andrea and Lucas feel it's their job to help them without pressure or condescension.
Sidesaddle may still be in its early days, but they are already making a positive impact. Lucas is pleased to see a lot of older women coming in and asking for advice, and even giving their own guidance. Andrea has experienced so many positive reactions that she now knows women were simply waiting for the chance to have a space dedicated to them. From a sales perspective, they have gone above and beyond to research companies that are meeting the needs of women without defaulting to the stereotypical "pink", and are continually researching brands to offer the best products out their to their customers. I, for one, am excited to check out the cycling denim, which I hear is soon to be added, and in more realistic sizing options.
People certainly were waiting for a shop like this! On the afternoon of Saturday, June 13th, we joined hundreds of neighbours that stopped by Sidesaddle's Launch Party and welcome them into the area. It was such a wonderful event, with people from throughout the community stopping by to wish Andrea and Lucas success, and also check out some of the fabulous products they have available, including some truly beautiful upright bicycles by Papillionaire and Breezer. From the big smiles on their faces throughout the party, it was clear that Andrea and Lucas could never has expected such a warm reception, and were incredibly thankful for the early support.
It's that support that they hope to build on. They look forward to building relationships with their customers, and hearing stories of their adventures on two wheels. They recognize that momentum is gaining in the bicycle culture in Vancouver, and with a steady increase of female riders on the streets, it's a very exciting time for women and cycling. From what I have seen, the community has accepted Sidesaddle with open arms, and I only see their success growing as the biking community grows around them!