Back to top
Rainbows and bike on the NC500

Know your market, by being your market: it turns out bikes aren’t just bikes

There’s a reason that my specialism within a specialism is marketing translations for sports. And while I’ve been mad into sports for many years, my endurance sports obsession really took off a few years ago, when I started signing up for running races and got my hands on a road bike.

Is it Marketing over matter?

Despite (or because of) a serious lack of experience and training, it wasn’t long before I had cycled a large part of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route (five months post-purchase; and it took a delightful stomach bug to stop me at around 380 miles). Since then, I have tackled various sportives and triathlons. My trusty aluminium Liv Avail, with 9-speed Sora groupset, has accompanied me on a handful of holidays, too.

Farewell tiny bike with big wheels. Enjoy your next life, away from the elements and confined to the turbo trainer.

But it’s not only my XXS steed that has come with me on a large part of these adventures: my now-fiancé has been there too, constantly telling me how much more I would enjoy cycling with a better bike.

or can matter truly boost performance?

Most of what I translate markets something and a lot of that something is sportswear and sports equipment – for endurance sports, in particular. Texts about kit tend to be a technical-marketing hybrid, but never so technical as bike marketing. And while I know all the arguments by heart (carbon is lighter and stiffer, so it’s logical that it’s more responsive and faster) it wasn’t until after the Cyclist Track Day at Fife Cycle Park in June 2019 that I internalised the difference that can make.

Spending the day riding bikes that seemed to be propelled disproportionately forward at each pedal stroke planted a seed in my mind: had I outgrown poor old Liv? (Worth mentioning: we have now travelled nearly 4000 miles together in three short years.)

Flash forward a year and some serious research had gone into one of the bikes I tried out in Fife and another that could offer an ever-so-slightly better spec for the same price. Enter: the women-specific Canyon Endurace, 3XS (the geometries work out the same as Giant/Liv’s 2XS) disc brakes, carbon frame, 11-speed 105 groupset, but with 27.5” wheels. She now goes by the name of Edna.

She’s a beauty, our Edna. But after all the build-up, the research, the anticipation and, frankly, the cost, the thought that Edna wouldn’t be all she was cracked up to be was somewhat terrifying. I’m thrilled to report – she’s totally worth the hype.

Edna, so fresh out the box, she’s still wearing some of her protective padding

Carbon and groupsets are more than just buzzwords

Edna is over a kilogram lighter than her tiny predecessor. As a small person like myself stacks up Aberdeenshire’s exaggerated elevation over a long distance, that benefit really adds up. But that’s not all – more than I ever expected, the carbon frame makes it feel like almost every ounce of effort I ply into the pedals is converted into forward momentum. So she nails that “responsiveness” emphasised in all the marketing spiel.

Left: just in from hill reps; Right: checking Edna for size – I always wear a helmet on rides, this was just a quick test on a quiet evening.

On my previous charge, I never quite felt comfortable cruising: gear changes will inevitably slow you down by breaking your rhythm, and I was regularly having to flip between gears – I never seemed to find the Goldilocks gear. Now, I have the same lower and upper limits (although the bike is lighter so I can save the easiest gears for the steepest hills!) but more choice in between. Even Mr Bike himself (my fiancé) was amazed at how much faster I am on a flat or drag since the upgrade.

Hill reps on 20th May on my old bike
Much faster hill reps on 2nd July on my new bike. I’ve been getting fitter but over 20″ (a 10% decrease) is significant.
Just a few PRs on my first big ride – and no, this wasn’t a new route for me!

big news for my marketing translations

I said previously: the arguments all made sense. The same goes for sportswear. All that time I have spent translating about light weight, shock absorption, airflow, sweat-wicking, and the designs, mechanisms and materials employed to achieve those qualities hasn’t been uninformed; but now it’s been supercharged.

Sometimes I buy a new garment and I’m amazed by its effectiveness. For example, I have a Castelli windproof gilet and it still amazes me how effective it is for being seemingly just a thin piece of material that doesn’t even cover my arms. In the same way, experiencing a new bike with all the mod cons has deepened my understanding of what the marketable features really mean. It’s not just about hyping up the technical features, blurting out statements that sound sophisticated or plausible causes and effects; it’s about making clear the impact they could have on the experience the consumer gets from them.

And what better way to know what the consumer wants than to put yourself in their shoes? Than to be the consumer?

Edna’s spec

Frame Canyon Endurace WMN CF SL Disc; Internal cabling
Fork Canyon FK0086 CF Disc, Carbon
Rear & Front Derailleurs and Crank Shimano 105
Cassette Shimano 11s
Brakes Disc
Wheels DT Swiss E 1850 Spline db Aluminium Rims; tubeless ready w/Thru Axle
Saddle Selle Italia X3 Lady
Seatpost Canyon SP0043 VCLS CF, Carbon
The summarised spec for the bike techies. The full spec can be found here.

Why go for 27.5” wheels?

Typically, all road bikes – regardless of size – have 29” wheels. And when you search for 27.5” wheels, you’ll get a lot of data and debate around mountain bikes (which are actually trending towards larger wheels now).

After some digging (largely, I’ll admit, on my partner’s part), we discovered what I suspected all along – it does make sense for someone who needs a bike as small as I do to have more wheels.

I won’t delve into the science, but it naturally means everything is in better proportion. While we have women-specific bikes, it’s no myth that most sportswear and equipment is designed for men and adapted to women, so the larger wheels are simply a better fit for bikes originally designed to be bigger.

It’s also claimed that they provide better handling. This includes the fact that I’m less likely to hit my toes off the wheel while turning a corner (a smaller frame puts the same size cranks and the same size wheels close together).

Smaller size means less material means lighter weight. Then there are other issues: I haven’t sought out any mudguards yet, but I struggled to find some that would fit my previous bike due to the lack of clearance between frame and wheels.

And no – it does not make the bike slower!

A word on Canyon

They have been simply excellent. The bike arrived barely a week after ordering it. It came with one hefty manual (a valuable translation resource, in fact), a torque wrench with a set of bits, a second simpler torque wrench, carbon assembly paste, and a musette for storing/carrying all of the above. (Plus two bells, for some reason.)

Sadly one of the wheels has a bit of a scratch on it, but Canyon got back to me really quickly about this, confirming it would have no safety implications and offering me to exchange the bike or accept a relative amount in compensation.

I should also add that my bike-buying agent (or Mr Kirsty, as he’s known to some) also spoke to Canyon through the live chat function prior to buying and he too was impressed with their friendly and professional responsiveness.

So, Canyon – thanks for making this experience about more than just laying my hands on an excellent product.