The Unlikely Cyclist in Newport Beach is geared specifically for women. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / November 1, 2012)

Sharrows and bike safety committees weren't enough for one devoted female cyclist.

So after riding into town, Lisa Kanno opened the Unlikely Cyclist, a female-centric biking boutique on Irvine Avenue in Costa Mesa.

Her brightly decorated store offers Bianchi and Volagi city, road and hybrid bikes in women's sizes (44 to 55), gear, accessories and women's clothing, including plus sizes.

"I just remember being a beginner and going into a typical bike shop," Kanno said of her inspiration behind the boutique. "Walking in there as a beginner is one thing; walking in as a beginner woman is another. We represent about 10% of the sport or close to it. It's a pretty small chunk."

Kanno began detailing her journey into the male-dominated sport though her blog about two years ago. Some of her early frustrations are common to both genders — learning her way around a bike and the strains of physical training — while others could only be understood by other women — searching for bike parts designed for female anatomy.

"What they used to do is something the industry called 'shrink it and pink it,'" Kanno said. "Thankfully, we have moved away from that."

Now, bike frames and parts are designed specifically for shorter arm spans, smaller feet and other proportional differences of the average woman compared to the average man.

Kanno put a selection of these bikes in one place, but she also decided to make shopping one step easier for women by implementing a test-saddle option and a "try it before you buy it" clothing program. Cyclists are able to try out both the bikes and clothing before committing to a purchase.

The shop also has a service department and will soon offer informative workshops on bike maintenance.

"If you're new to cycling, it can be overwhelming," said Lori Hoechlin, a Huntington Beach resident and competitive cyclist who met Kanno while frequenting other local bike stores.

"The majority of bike shops are geared predominantly toward men; the clothing lines are mostly for men," she continued. "It's nice to have a shop that, as a female, you can feel good walking into."

While Hoechlin, a triathlete and cyclist who averages 200 miles a week on her bike, is not your average cyclist, she remembers what it was like to be a beginner.

"It is such a competitive sport," she said. "When you're just starting out, you don't know all the names of the components, and you'd go into shops and sometimes feel like they're talking over your head."

The Unlikely Cyclist is different, she said.

"[Kanno] has tried to make all shapes, all sizes and all abilities welcome," Hoechlin said.

One way Kanno has done this is by organizing women's group rides that she pledges will not leave behind any beginning or struggling rider.

"Normally, group rides become a competition between the men, and women end up falling off the back, or riders that are not that fit fall off," Kanno said. "I've been in the position myself and know how frustrating and demeaning it is."

Unlikely Cyclist group rides are designed to help women improve and know where they stand in their own training, Kanno said.

While Kanno said she would not exclude male participation, the group rides, like the boutique, cater to female comfort.

"This truly is a women's bike shop and women's ride in that sense," Kanno said. "It's about providing that safe environment for women, and it is something that I feel very protective of."

The Unlikely Cyclist, 1673 Irvine Ave., Suite L, is open 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Kanno's blog and a listing of events hosted by the Unlikely Cyclist can be found at theunlikelycyclist.com.

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