How Machines For Freedom was born out of frustration with ill-fitting women's apparel

We’re pleased to be featuring women’s cycling brand Machines For Freedom in the CyclingTips Emporium.

Photos by Tracy Chandler, Natalie Starr & Matthew Miller

There’s a lot that excites us about the state of cycling at the moment, but mainly it’s just how popular our great sport is becoming. There are more people on bikes than ever before, and certainly many more women.

To support demand from the growing women’s cycling market more and more brands are focusing on women’s-specific apparel. You only have to think back a few years to when the only women’s kits you could find were odd sizes found hidden at the back of the racks in your local bike shop – often ill-fitting and typically a ghastly shade of pink.

And while there are many brands that still focus purely on men’s kit, what’s refreshing are the brands that are choosing to focus only on women’s cycling apparel.

Today, we’re pleased to add one of our favourite women’s-specific brands to the CyclingTips Emporium: Machines For Freedom (MFF). We spoke to founder, Jennifer Hannon (below right), to learn how the now-two-year-old MFF got started.

“What drew me to designing for the women’s cycling market was the untapped nature of this genre of apparel,” Jenn says. “The women’s scene isn’t as heavily steeped in tradition as the men’s, and with women challenging ideas on what it means to be feminine in a broader cultural way, there is so much room to create something new and fresh.”

The idea for MFF came in October 2013 through a painful personal experience involving ill-fitting kit. Hannon was ramping up her training regime to complete a randonnee through the Pyrenees (over 18,000m of elevation gain in just six days!). After experiencing some serious discomfort on the bike she worked with a top bike fitter in LA who found that while her saddle was supporting her in all the right places, her chamois was not.

“After that fit, I went home armed with information and ordered every pair of bibs I could get my hands on. I measured each chamois’ width and discarded the ones that were too narrow. Then I tried them all on and discarded the one’s that just didn’t fit.

“From there, I discarded the ones that zapped all of my confidence because they just made me look, and feel, awful. I was left with two pairs. I rode in those two pairs for months and the discomfort persisted,” Jenn says.

“I guess you could say that the idea for a women’s kit company was born out of frustration. I simply threw up my hands and said, there has to be a better way to design kits!”

Machines For Freedom is a simple yet empowering name that every new and seasoned cyclist can relate to.

“It stands for a freedom of spirit that we all experience when our self-consciousness, fears, and inhibitions are stripped away,” Jenn explains. “When everything clicks and we are in tune with ourselves, the people around us, and our environment.

“On a bike, this feeling tends to happen when I’m descending and my senses are heightened to every dip and nuance of the road. When you are so focused it’s like an out-of-body experience.”

Designing cycling apparel that women want to wear is, of course, a goal for MFF, but Jenn wanted the brand to play a bigger role in the women’s cycling community; to share stories women can relate to and that inspire them to get out and ride their bikes.

“I’m most proud of the community we’ve built and the way we’ve worked to humanise a sport that has a tendency to appear one-dimensional and intimidating. When I first started Machines I had a hard time finding stories of women on bikes that I could relate to. Stories that, I felt, reflected the experiences I was having on my own bike with my friends.

“Telling those stories in a way that is authentic to us is as important to me as the kit we design.”

As with any small business, the people behind the brand are crucial to its success and Jenn is fortunate to have a small and talented team working with her. While she still only has one full-time staff member (Ginger Boyd, below left), friend and photographer Tracy Chandler (below right) has been instrumental to the brand as well.

“Ask anyone who has started a small business and they will tell you that it feels insurmountable at times,” Jenn says. “There are times, lots of times, when you need someone in your corner that believes in you and your idea whole-heartedly. Someone who makes you see potential when you’re filled with self-doubt. That’s Tracy.

“When companies are this small each person has a big impact. Ginger was originally hired to help run the office, handle shipping, and manage our social media. Turns out she’s amazing in front of the camera as well! Her femininity, determination, and youthful spirit really capture what this brand is about.

“There are so many people behind Machines. In some way, I see every lady who rocks one of our kits, or caps, or simply comments on our social media, as being part of this company.”

MFF is celebrating two years since its first collection and we’re proud to be working with them. We love MFF’s collection of striking designs (as Ella editor Anne-Marije Rook wrote in a recent kit review, “this is the kind of jersey you want to be wearing walking into a coffee shop”), the passion for women’s cycling that Hannon brings, and the perseverance to stick with it to create something special.

View the collection at the CyclingTips Emporium here. It’s in stock and ready to ship now.

This content was written for the CyclingTips Emporium.

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