By Sarah Whitmore

For this weeks blog the Blustarr girls have come together to talk about and discuss riding gear. Men’s gear? Women’s gear? Which really is the best for fit, function and protection?

I remember in 2004 when women specific gear first began to hit the market, I was excited to finally have gear that showed off the fact that I was a female. Not to mention the gear I wore then came up so high on me I would joke that a sports bra was no longer necessary, as I could just tuck them into my pants. A better fitting pant was definitely needed.

The question is are you trading in fit for quality? As it is, most of the companies who jumped on the girls gear bandwagon soon realized that even if their gear seemed like a success, few female riders and numerous companies for them to choose from, it was difficult to make a profit. And that was with them already skimping on quality, because it wasn’t feasible for them to have leather in the knees or use the quality materials as the more expensive men’s gear. The story I heard over and over was, “They don’t sell enough of the gear and the average woman rider doesn’t need it.” Eventually I think about half of the companies making women’s gear died out, along with the companies who solely sold just women’s gear. As much as it hurts to say, our market of female racers just isn’t big enough yet. Eventually the craze sort of died off and many of the top WMX pros went back to using men’s gear.

Although Sarah’s sponsor does not make a women’s collection, she prefers their Vapor line, with its tailored fit and lightweight materials.

It may seem like a sad thing, fewer companies making gear there is less of a variety, but it also means the ones who stuck with it are finally able to make a profit. Even though I currently ride for ONE Industries, who doesn’t have a women’s gear line, I can still see the benefit for the companies that do. Despite all the recent adversity, women’s racing is still growing, which means more women are buying gear. I believe women who want to wear pink or have gear that show off their curves should be able to. I can also make the argument that women should buy women’s gear to support the companies who are supporting us.

I think women’s gear is great and I have worn many different brands of it, a sort of testing of them all. But, as I said I don’t currently wear women’s gear and here’s why. First, I am kind of burnt out on the whole pink thing. I started wearing pink before James Stewart made it cool again (yes, I know it shows I’m old). But after getting taken out weekend after weekend, it’s kind of nice to tuck my hair up and look like just another rider on the track. I’ve fought my whole life to hold the title of being fast without someone adding “for a girl” afterwards, and that’s hard to do when the only thing people see is long hair and pink gear when you go by. I no longer feel the need to throw it in everyone’s face, for now I am happy just blending in. Also, I have never felt truly comfortable in women’s gear. Sure it looked good while I was just standing around, but I was constantly worried about the low-rise pants and smaller jersey falling down. My other complaint would have to be quality; I could blow through the knees on a set of gear in one race, something they say the average rider wouldn’t do. They felt the average rider didn’t wear knee braces so it was always so hard to get my pants on over the bulkiness of my braces and they built the legs too skinny.

The biggest complaint against women’s gear in the past has been the materials used, but with each new release, the quality improves. Thor’s 2014 line, for example, is built with 600D poly oxford and leather knee panels.

Even though my shape is womanlier than not, I feel the women’s gear tries to go too far and just doesn’t work with my womanly figure. They are too low and made too small, forcing me to go up a size to get the desired room and comfort I look for in a ridding pant. Maybe that’s why I hold a grudge? No girl wants to buy pants a size bigger than she is. What I love most about my ONE gear is that while it has the room and protection I desire, they are still a midrise pant. They don’t come all the way up to my chest, nor do they fall down when I ride. And then they make their Vapor gear, which pretty much feels like you’re riding in you’re favorite pair of yoga pants. After wearing those I never want to ride in anything that falls down, is too tight or bunches in all the wrong places ever again.

This is just my opinion though, so I asked other riders their opinion. Cady VanCura said, “Personally I prefer men’s riding gear. As a 5’10” tall girl, I find most all woman’s gear to resemble capri’s rather then pants. I have found that the quality of woman’s gear is also not as high, with thinner pants and less padding most are made to look fashionable rather than be protective. Also, there isn’t a very wide selection in the woman’s gear market and what they do offer every other girl will be wearing, and we all know no girl likes to match another girl!”

Although they may be an afterthought for some, the fit and cut of nearly every product in a women’s line must be altered for the body type. Standard items such as jerseys and pants need a curved cut, while chest protectors use a curved breast plate.

Lecksi Winger’s answer wasn’t too much different either. “I like wearing men’s gear because there is a more of a variety. I always go through women’s gear faster than I do men’s cause I think it’s cheaper material. My problem is finding boots. I wear a size 5 and only Alpinestars goes that small! So for boots I’ll take whatever I can find.”

FLY Racing’s women’s line is specifically made for the female racer, by a female racer. In addition to her role as a WMX racers, April Zastrow serves as product designer for the line.

My plan was not to have this blog so one sided, as I said I believe women’s gear definitely has its place and I knew if anyone could state a case for women’s gear it would be my friend April Zastrow. Not only is she the girly-est WMX rider I know, she also works for Fly Racing and designs the women’s gear that she races in. "As a WMX racer and gear designer I have a lot of experience with the difference between women’s and men’s gear. I have been working on the Fly Racing women’s gear for a few years and have had input on the gear since the first year they produced women’s specific gear," says Zastrow. "I have done much research to try and get the best fit for every size. Our jerseys are tailored to fit the female form and have more of an hourglass shape compared to the men’s jerseys. Our pants have a comfortable low cut fit that women are use to with casual clothes while still performing under race conditions to make sure they stay in place. We do curve our fit of the pants throughout the size chart as well for what is most comfortable in each size. I would only consider the smaller sizes to be low cut since the rise has a curve as the sizes increase. We have optimal stretch panels in areas needed most to make sure all shapes fit, because the same size pant fits many different shaped women. I have always preferred the women’s race pants over men’s because as a professional racer, I am always looking to have the highest performance in all aspects of racing; that is why I chose to wear the women’s gear."

As I conclude this blog I think it’s best to say there’s no right or wrong when it comes to gear. Some women are always going to wear the men’s gear while others appreciate the fact they can still be girly on race day. It just comes down to the individual and what works best for her.