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Cyclist’s 31 Inspirational Women No28: Bonnie Tu

Founder of Liv Cycling, chairperson of Giant Bicycle Group

Maria David Sponsored
28 Mar 2021

Cyclist's 31 Inspirational Women

To celebrate International Women's Month, we have partnered with Zwift to tell the stories of 31 inspirational women across 31 days

Words: Maria David Photo: Liv

One of the most influential women in the cycling industry, Bonnie Tu is not afraid to go where others fear to tread.

In 2008 Bonnie founded Liv, the only cycling brand that specialises specifically in women’s bicycles, cycling gear and clothing. It came about when an incident in 2007 where she struggled to find women’s cycling gear for herself convinced her there was a gap in the market.

Bonnie, who was Giant’s chief financial officer at the time, was looking to ride the multi-day Tour of Taiwan cycling event alongside company president King Liu.

‘I didn’t have a bike, any clothing, not even a helmet,’ Bonnie says. ‘I had to purchase everything. So I went to the shop, and was so shocked that I could not even find a women’s jersey.

‘I ended up wearing a men’s extra small one, and riding a guy’s bike that didn’t fit me very well.’

Back then, Bonnie’s main sport was golf, in which she had seen a growth in women-specific equipment and clothing in Asia. So she simply applied those observations to cycle wear and equipment for women.

‘When I started golfing in the 1970s, there were no female-specific golfing sets, although they did have clothing, but by the 1990s the female golfing equipment market had matured.

‘For example, the men’s golf club is very hard for females because we need more flexibility and shorter length in our golf equipment.

‘Women’s golf clubs, golf wear and accessories have made golfing more enjoyable. That’s why I felt confident that we could bring that concept to the bike industry.’

It is great that more women are cycling now, but many women still find it frustrating because the retail environment is still not used to talking to women

Bonnie prides herself on the fact that Liv builds its bike from the ground up as women-specific, rather than tweaking bikes originally built for men.

‘When we started the Liv brand, we were aware that women’s bikes did exist, but they were mostly “shrink it, pink it and flower it” bikes! We knew that wouldn’t work.

‘We initially tried to tweak the men’s frame for a female’s physique. But after a few attempts we knew that was not enough either, so we looked at the data and designed our Liv bikes from the ground up using geometry measurements that fit women.

‘For our performance bikes we sent the prototype to our racing team in Europe to test, and with their feedback we adjusted or modified our mould to come up with the right frame.’

Although Liv bikes have satisfied much-needed demand by consumers, Bonnie still has to deal with opposition to the concept of bikes with female geometry.

‘Retailers say if they have women-specific bikes they have to carry extra stock. So they just push men’s bikes to women.

‘Also, manufacturers don’t want the extra cost of creating moulds for women-specific frames. So they say that to create women-specific bikes all you have to do is to change the contact points – the saddle and handlebars.

‘To that point I reply, “If that theory really exists then the bike should be built for women, and men can buy them and change the touch points themselves!” Or I’ll ask them if they think a man should wear the same underwear as his wife, or if brothers and sisters should share underwear!’

Bonnie says she encounters greater resistance to change in European markets with their long-entrenched cycling cultures compared with Asia, where performance cycling is new and so people’s mindset is more open, with no cycling heritage beyond the bike as transportation.

Find the rest of Cyclist's 31 Inspirational Women here

With that in mind, Liv Cycling recently launched its Liv Committed campaign, a global initiative aimed at getting more women into cycling. Resources on the Liv website include the LivTV catalogue containing digital content on skills, how-to guides, and inspiring stories. Women can also join weekly Zwift rides.

Liv has been committed to women’s cycling from day one, and has supported activities in every discipline and at all levels. This includes everything from sponsoring the Afghan national women’s team to having a team of ethnically diverse global ambassadors, and sponsoring the Liv Racing WorldTour team, which has one of the fastest sprinters in the world on its books in Lotte Kopecky.

Bonnie explains the thinking behind it.

‘We started the Liv Committed campaign because we wanted to show we support women. Female representation is so disproportionate in cycling. People see the stereotype of a cyclist as a Caucasian male, aged 20 to 40.

But cycling is a very good sport for women and they are looking for information. That is what the resources on our website are for.

‘It is great that more women are cycling now, but many women still find it frustrating when they first go to a bike shop to get a bike because the retail environment is still not used to talking to women.

‘That’s why at our dealers’ conventions that we host around the world we always advise them to train or hire female sales staff who can give good advice to women.

‘Based on my personal experience I’ve found that cycling boosts female confidence and gives a feeling of freedom. So that’s why we are committed to bringing more women to cycling.’

For more from Zwift this International Women's Month, visit here.