Women on Bikes California

Moving the Bike from Must Have to Must Ride for Women

This December Electra made Oprah's favorite things list. Imagine if this bike not only showed up as a "must have" item as above but also ended up featured in an article in the same magazine on how riding a bike has improved a woman's life? O Magazine has over two and a half million print subscribers + their internet audience. If having an item on Oprah's favorite things list can set a company up for months in sales, imagine what having an inspirational bike story could do?

Right now the bike is hot as media darling as a "must have" item in all kinds of lifestyle press but editorial stories and features about how bikes are being used by ordinary people to make extraordinarily positive changes in their lives aren't showing up much. Let's change that. This January I'll be pitching stories about the women in our creative team and beyond as editorial stories to a variety of media outlets like O Magazine, More, Vogue, Refinery 29 and others for May as National Bike Month.

Do you know someone the media needs to know about? Let me know! Maybe it's you! Imagine how exciting it will be, and the hearts and minds we'd inspire to get back on the bike (or try for the first time), if major lifestyle media outlets started to regularly feature stories of how women are reversing diabetes, gaining strength, enjoying their city more, and saving significant money all by bike?

And what if we were able to get stories of the bike as a tool for optimism in the media not just about women but girls too? It's during the preteen years that the self confidence of girls starts to plummet. Now at 50 I am thrilled by the bold adventurous young female heroines I read about in books and see in movies. So why is it still ok to use the term "Like a Girl" as a acceptable insult? How can we help change that? Talented creatives are working on it - but imagine how inspirational stories of girls riding bikes could help.

I don't know about you but I'm guilty of saying sorry way too often. But what stopped me cold about the sorry scenario is when my two year old niece started to say it too. Yikes! This commercial from earlier this year by Pantene hair products (of all things) does a beautifully witty job of illustrating just how frequently women use this word. And what if, when top creatives are putting together sassy smart stylish ads like this they just automatically showed women biking and walking? Imagine the culture shift that could happen and let's invite them to do just that.

Melissa Balmer is a writer, media relations specialist and active living advocate. Her mission is to share the power of artistry and personally engaging storytelling to inspire. Her passion is to recruit fresh voices from diverse multi-generational perspectives to share their stories in traditional and new media platforms to engage new audiences in active living. She has developed a multi-faceted strategy to exponentially grow positive stories of biking in California’s media and beyond – with an emphasis on women.

How do we move from "must have" to "must experience?"

Two bike lines are really capturing the fashion and broader lifestyle media by storm this year.  The higher end Shinola is handmade out of Detroit (which is just one of the items in this gorgeous new handcrafted designer line that also includes watches as its flagship product and is the brainchild of Fossil brand founder Tom Kartsotis) and Martone Cyclery based in New York by fashion publicist Lorenzo Martone.

Above is Lorenzo's personal introduction video to the line and our front cover image is from his marketing video. It beautifully spells out how the current intensely sport focused sales and marketing approach of the bike industry intimidates even the most passionate (and successful) of casual riders and how someone with a fashion mindset approaches designing a product - which you mind find surprisingly practical and utilitarian.

I first saw the Shinola line at the 2012 Interbike show at the very cool "Hand Made" pavilion and made a bee line for it because they had bikes named "Bixby." I was so hoping that perhaps the Bixby family was into bikes even in Detroit. Alas no one in the booth could tell me the reason for the bike's name. I'm still hoping to find out - and I do think regardless of the reason Mark Bixby would have thought it very cool to have bikes with his family name on them.

In doing research for this piece I found both Los Angeles Times and Forbes articles on Shinola within about 30 seconds. Snap! Martone is in this month's Instyle Magazine and has an absolute dream list of media clippings (there are so many they have an easier time keeping up on them on their Facebook page than their website press room). Both are featured in the December/January issue of Bazaar Magazine as "must have" items.

I applaud both companies for their style over sport approach for those of us who either never wanted to wear lycra, or no longer wanted to wear lycra, or who actually are happy riding both road and city bikes. All are growth markets and I'm certainly looking forward to connecting with both companies about their take on the opportunities for "life by bike" in the U.S.

Because that's my big question. How do we best harness this talent for creating buzz by these types of beautifully crafted and well thought out lines to help catalyze the bike movement into a whole new realm of popularity across the U.S.? There will be many great answers to this question and I'd love to start a dynamic conversation about it. Are you in? Will you share your thoughts?

I'm throwing my own hat of ideas into the ring by testing them out here with Women on Bikes California and Pedal Love, and my involvement on the marketing and media committee for the League of American Bicyclist's Women Bike program. Here they are in a nutshell: 1) Bike advocacy needs to develop a comprehensive media outreach strategy for the lifestyle media - including fashion, design and health rather than just focusing on the media for transportation and law. This approach keeps us stuck in the traffic section. 2) We need to create compelling and well-trained storytellers to capture the imagination of both the media and the public.

To that aim here in California we're now developing the "Active Living Plugged In" new media leadership trainings which we'll roll out in 2014. We'll be focusing on training people in new media tools such as video, blogging, webinars and social media, media strategy and focused pitching, and utilizing the TED model to create a short emotionally engaging talks. One of my favorites below is Simon Sinek's talk on "How great leaders inspire action." Imagine if a talk about bicycling received 13,519,427 views. Just imagine the positive impact that would have.

It looks like we'll have a training for L.A. in mid February, Long Beach sometime in March or early April and Silicon Valley on April 12/13. I'll have more details posted about the "Active Living Plugged In" dates, how to apply, sponsorship opportunities and more this coming Monday December 9th. Want to know more? Send me an email with "Active Living Plugged In" in the topic line wobsocal@gmail.com.