Ritte is one of those cool stories that makes you wish you had thought of it first:

(from Wired 1/30/12)

SANTA MONICA, California — Spencer Canon didn’t set out to start a bicycle company. He just wanted a kit that didn’t suck.

He found the jerseys and shorts road riders wear boring. Uninspired. So he designed his own, black with light blue and red and yellow stripes. The old-school Belgian vibe looked great, but it needed something.

It needed a story.

Canon found one in the life of Henri “Ritte” Van Lerberghe, who once won Belgium’s biggest race on a borrowed bicycle after downing a few pints at the pub. His improbable career underscored everything Canon thinks cycling should be: fun, free and a bit irreverent. He and his friends started wearing the kit on rides.

That’s when things got weird.

“We were riding as a fake Belgian team that doesn’t exist, but the kit looked so cool we actually got sponsors,” Canon said, laughing at the recollection. “It took a few months, but our fake team and our fake brand just exploded. I realized I could take a fake team and make it real.”

Ritte Van Vlaanderen Bicycles was born.

So it seems promising that their ladies team should also have a pretty glorious image to portray, as they look for sponsors. To my great disappointment I was contacted by a friend who is also a member of the team “squad” with the lookbook they’ve put out to promote themselves, women’s racing and … cars?

These are not images that make these women look strong, or beautiful or even capable. Which is a pity because they are all those things. I ran into a fellow in the Burbank airport who is a friend of the photographer who felt compelled to try to explain that there was a theme or some half assed “art direction” (by a dude from LA) that created the idea that these women would “break the mold” and “kick ass” by posing as if they were flinging molotov cocktails around downtown and stealing car while wearing their Ritte jerseys, which lucky sponsors could add their logo to.

Did someone just see the movie Drive and want to make an internet fan tribute? How did a women’s cycling team get hijacked by a car comercial? Why are the profiles shot as if the viewer was hiding in the “to be stolen and destroyed” car? Is that what they will do to us? How is that endorsing things like a fair and level playing ground? Also, they’re all wearing their colorful cycling jerseys so it implies that their not very bright about not getting caught.

 

Even if I wanted to be a sponsor, the street-light yellow/Black background obscures the written content; which is a good thing, because that sounds like the postulating of an over confident high school senior rather than evocative marketing copy.

and what’s with the overplayed “Keep Calm” meme? Isn’t Ritte inspired by Denmark, not Great Britain? Does this mean a European would get it or make fun of Americans for not being able to keep countries or themes straight? It seems to imply that this joyride of destruction is merely for kicks, they’re not exactly acting on a moral or political motivation. Not sure how that will help advance positive perceptions of women’s cycling.

And of course the big explosion picture. Should I mention their expressions are not their prettiest or most intimidating? Only one of them has a bicycle? To be fair, it seems that such a theme is an attempt to stay away from traditional ‘bimbo’ images of hyper sexualized female athletes, but it might just be misguided.

I think, as someone who also does art direction for lookbooks, I might have lofty standards when it comes to something that has so much potential to be a catalyst for good. A super strong women’s cycling team! Uniquely American, but with more style and room for experimentation than most racing teams. Perhaps this look book is just that: an experimental accident that can be learned from: just don’t fuck it up again, or you might be the Nascar Girls of cycling

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Ritte Womens Racing Team; Disappointing Start.

  1. MyRed Wheels says:

    This is fascinating. I’m wondering if the anonymous writer of this article really understands Ritte, bothered to contact any of the racers, bothered to contract Ritte to engage in dialogue, or is simply projecting their own victimhood into this sponsor book. Seems like the writer is horrified by… fun. I invite you to reach out and say “hello” and do some research before applying pseudo critical theory and personal attacks to irreverent fun. The writer waits until the bottom of the article to give props to Ritte for breaking the mold of tits-and-ass female photography. That should have been the first line.

  2. Annonymous says:

    I am someone who reads your blog and supports and loves seeing women in cycling. Which is why I read your blog in the first place. Until this post. I had seen the Ritte women’s team look book before and was so excited to see a group of women who look like they are having fun and doing what they love. After reading your post and the negative way you spoke about these women, makes me think you don’t really support women in cycling, unless it conforms to your artistic taste or what you think is cool. Sometimes people are just having fun! Maybe you should try it sometime.

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