Bike business called Obsessive Cycling Disorder sparks outrage from OCD community

One of the covers seen in public.
One of the covers seen in public. Photo credit: RNZ

By Katie Fitzgerald for RNZ 

A brand of protective bike covers sold under the name "obsessive cycling disorder" has sparked complaints from people who say it is insensitive to the OCD community.

The business owner says the name fits with the target market, but people from the obsessive-compulsive disorder community want to see it changed.

Disability researcher Marita Broadstock was out tramping with her family during summer when she first saw the letters O, C and D emblazoned on a bike cover in a car park.

"I saw the word OCD and, in my brain, I immediately think of obsessive compulsive disorder, and then I realised that they're actually making a pun, a jokey pun on it, implying that people who are cyclists who are really keen on cycling, it's like they have OCD."

The cover came from Obsessive Cycling Disorder, a branch of Matamata Saddlery, which sells specialised covers for transporting e-bikes.

Broadstock does not have OCD, but through her work she has become very aware of the condition and does not like the name.

"I thought they were appropriating the acronym for a logo, which makes light of a condition that is really debilitating, and it minimises the seriousness of the disorder and makes it a subject of a joke or a pun.

"In itself, it might not be considered to be a big deal, but it's emblematic, in a very public way, of a broader societal view, that OCD is just an amusing behavioural quirk that many of us have."

She contacted the business and received a response from managing director Peter Gates.

"Matamata Saddlery has a lot invested in the brand and it is something we have chosen to retain as a consequence. However, we have adopted a sensitive position in our dealings with consumers and avoid making fun of the acronym and the associated condition."

Broadstock is not the only person to complain about the covers - OCD advocate Marion Maw contacted Matamata Saddlery in July 2020 after she found out about the name.

"I felt at that time, they knew very little really about OCD, they really had that kind of public misconception knowledge of OCD, and didn't really appreciate the context that they were operating in."

Maw also received a response from Gates, who said the brand would not be changing, but the business would treat conversations around OCD with "serious regard and consideration".

Maw, who is also an administrator of online OCD support group Fixate, said she wants to see the name changed.

"I've got no problem with the product, obviously. I think it's great, they're a small business doing their thing. I just think that they actually need to change their product name."

Broadstock also wants to see the name changed.

Marketing expert Bodo Lang said a name like OCD would certainly stick in people's minds, but for a small business it could be a risk.

"The safe bet is always to steer away from brand names or slogans or advertisements that upset anybody, and so, we try to strike the most powerful advertising message for the target market, without alienating other parts of the community."

Matamata Saddlery would not agree to an interview for this story, but in a written statement, Gates said when he first chose the name OCD, he received nothing but positive feedback.

"Most of our customers celebrate their engagement in cycling and the associated health and wellbeing, and social networking arising from being active.

"The average age of our clients is around 65, these people are worldly and compassionate. Never has there been anything distasteful, demeaning, or insensitive towards those who are affected by the obsessive-compulsive disorder."

He said the brand aligns with its customers' obsessive desire for premium products, and he's responded quickly to any complaints he's received about the name.

He said the business has received five complaints in the past two and a half years, and four customers have asked to have the logo modified, or not installed on the cover.