There's a cycling purchase I made a few months ago which I keep meaning to write about (and it’s not in praise of). Knog porno patches.
So, I ran out of patches after an unfortunate affair involving tire levers that seemed to have mysteriously sharpened themselves (in case you're wondering, there is a limit to how many times you can patch an inner tube before it becomes unusable). A fellow Birmingham Bike Foundry-er said something along the lines of 'Hey, we're doing an order, why not get a Knog puncture repair kit? Everything they make is awesome' – I believe meaning lights. Little did I know...
Porno, as you might expect, means pictures of naked ladies. On patches. My first impression was that this was slightly odd, but maybe there was some kind of message here, something along the lines of women should be happy with their bodies whatever shape and size, we shouldn't be ashamed of being sexually liberated, go women cyclists-you rock...second impression, yeah, it's really not about that.
A quick google reveals that most of the marketing around the patches focuses on them being a bit sexy and a bit naughty.
A few choice quotes:
"It's proven that these saucy patches are lurking between the tube and tyre of over 90% of parish ministers' pushies. Oh heavens, another puncture!"
"A lab test revealed that if you give these kinky self-adhesive patches to girls they’ll fix their bike puncture quick smart and ride away with a bike as sexy on the inside as the outside, and that if you give them to boys they’ll stick them on their nipples. Nuff said."
Feel free to say I'm being uptight (it wouldn't be the first time), but I'm not really onboard for images of naked women being used to sell puncture repair kits, regardless of how clever the marketing is. It seems to me that images of naked women should be used to sell products relating to being a woman and being naked (do you think the Knog designers repair punctures naked? Personally I’d feel a little exposed). There is no empowering undercurrent here, this is just women’s bodies used to make money.
Even if you don’t see the design as problematic from a female perspective, is it really necessary to sex up puncture repair? I’m failing to see the point.
It should be noted, the patches feature naked cartoons, not actual photographs, but I don't think this really changes the issue. The cartoon women all seem to have skinny, shapeless bodies with tiny breasts…further weirdness. I believe there is also a male version, but I'm yet to properly see the images as they seem to feature less on internet marketing.
Looking at the rest of the kit the contents are less sexualised, but definitely not so useful in a puncture situation. The patches are pre-glued, so vulcanising solution and chalk are not necessary. There is a bit of sandpaper, but a crayon for marking punctures is absent. The tire levers are frankly crap. I’ve found that they just aren’t rigid enough to use on racing tire beading, and they do not have the useful little hooks that clip onto spokes. Unless you’re one of those people with steel hands who need a lever once in a blue moon, you’re not going to find these make for an easy time.
So - sexist, a bit tasteless but harmless, silly and impractical...or a great product? Any ideas?