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She's Peddling a Bike Made for Women

Cycling: Georgena Terry was just messing around when she came up with some ways to make bicycles more comfortable for female riders.

August 01, 1996|BUCKY GLEASON | ASSOCIATED PRESS

MACEDON, N.Y. — Georgena Terry swears she wasn't trying to become the next Henry Ford. She was just messing around with a blowtorch in her basement when the bicycle idea popped into her head.

Terry made a few changes to a simple concept and, like Ford, became a pioneer in her industry by making a product that has both comfort and reliability. Women who had pedaled around in pain for years say the Terry bicycle works wonders for them.

"A lot of women were complaining about the same thing--sore neck, sore shoulders, sore crotch--whether they were 5-foot-2 or 5-10," Terry said. "It occurred to me that they weren't getting what they needed. It's not the solution to make the bike smaller or paint it pink."

Terry's changes to the conventional frame were simple: smaller front wheel and different fork angle, a design that forces shorter riders to sit upright and more comfortably. The normal-sized rear wheel still gives them the same leverage while the smaller front handles just the same.

Terry, 46, a self-taught welder, quit her job as a mechanical engineer with Xerox and rode into the bicycle-making world 11 years ago when she founded Terry Precision Cycling for Women Inc.

The company, located in a Rochester, N.Y. suburb, has its own line of sportswear, bicycle parts, handbags and water bottles to complement four bicycle models and more than a half-dozen saddles for men and women--including the women's Liberator.

Terry's bicycles include the Classic ($1,670) and the Symmetry ($1,000), which are designed for roads and are equipped with a smaller front wheel for small riders or equal-sized wheels for larger riders.

The Jarcanda ($1,440), a mountain bike, has equal-sized small or large wheels, depending on the size of the rider. The fourth bike is a hybrid called the Athene ($700).

"I'm a real amateur at this," said Classic owner Sue Lillis, 49, of Huntington Woods, Mich. "I went a couple miles down the road and it was instantly comfortable. I didn't have to stretch and stretch for the handlebars. I haven't had any problems."

Most manufacturers simply make bikes for women that were just smaller versions of men's bicycles. But that doesn't take into consideration the difference in women's muscles and stress points.

Analyses show that women bear more force in their limbs than men in the same position. For example, women's arms typically fatigue sooner than men's because of stress--not because they are physically weaker.

Because Terry bike riders are not required to stretch as far to reach the handlebars, they are under less stress.

"I've seen women when they get on a Terry road bike. They don't care about the price," said Patti Brehler, owner of Prestige Cycles in Clinton Township, Mich. "They feel comfortable for the first time in their life, and they didn't know they could. They're glad someone is hearing them out. Before it was like being left-handed being in a right-handed world."

Shops across the country have had few problems selling any of the models because women are attracted to bicycles that were designed for them. The prices are also competitive with those of other quality manufacturers.

Terry sells 700 to 800 bicycles a year, all through retailers. Other accessories, including clothes, can be purchased through the company's catalog. While refusing to release revenue figures, Terry said sales have grown by about 30% over the last several years.

"The bikes sell themselves," said Matt McGoey, owner of All American Bicycles Center in Damascus, Md. "Women need a compact frame that's proportionally designed. They've tried all other bikes and can't find a fit. They come in, and the Terry bikes fit perfectly."

One problem Terry has had is keeping her U.S. patent on the saddles from being abused. She said the same Japanese manufacturer that previously produced her seats has sold slight variations to other retailers.

Other copies have also turned up at trade shows, and she has had former customers call from locations around the world claiming the seats are marketed as Terry saddles.

Terry hopes a switch to another manufacturer in Italy will solve the problem. She also is planning new designs she hopes won't be copied.

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