Originally published at: https://blog.cyclop.in/why-is-women-specific-bike-necessary/
Women’s bodies are different from men’s. No argument. But do women need different bikes? Does it improve their comfort and performance? Or is it just just a marketing ploy? Read on and find out.
Learn about women’s bikes from cyclists themselves in Cyclop’s facebook group.
Why Women’s Bikes Are Different – Body Structure & Proportions
Cyclist Shirley D’Souza puts it in a nutshell. “The difference in women’s bikes is just about size and reach. The main issue is that women have shorter upper bodies and we cannot stretch/bend over the handlebars the way men can. I used to ride a unisex bike, had gotten it in as small size as possible. In female specific frames going for your actual size should be enough instead of downsizing. I still recommend you try out the frame before buying as we all have very different body geometries.”
Most cycle brands base their women’s bikes’ designs on the belief that women have shorter limbs. However, as per cyclist Michelle Arthurs-Brennan’s information, in Cycling Weekly, “Based on the Dreyfuss Human Scale, there’s no statistical difference between women and men’s limb lengths. There’s no measurement which is different between men and women that affects bike fit…. The only women’s specific parameter is stance width. All bikes come with the same stance width … but women have wider hips… which is why some women have knee pain, because their knee goes inwards as they pedal.”
So, the debate is open. Some parts of a women’s bike may suit women, others may not make a difference. As Shirley suggests, it is best to try the bike and find out if the geometry suits you.
Factors That Make a Women’s Bike Different
Women’s bikes are different from men’s or unisex bikes in two ways
- Bike geometry/Frame features – These are integral to the bike and cannot be changed
- Contact points/Components – These can be replaced with ones that suit the rider better; like saddle, handlebar. Give these less importance when choosing a cycle.
Here is a list of all the differences in women’s cycles.
Women’s cycles have shorter reach to suit their shorter (as is believed) arms. With less distance from the saddle to the handlebar they don’t have to over-extend their arms as they might if riding a men’s bike.
Women’s cycles have short crank-arms for their shorter legs (as is believed). This means, the length of the arm on which the pedal is attached is shorter than in men’s bikes. Thus, women don’t have to over-extend their legs and feet when cycling.
Lowered Top Tube/ Step Through Frame
The top tube is well, the tube at the top in a cycle, the horizontal one; it may be slanting in some. It connects the head tube and the seat post. Women’s cycles may have lowered top tubes so it is easy to get on and off fast, and one can also ride in skirts and dresses. This is great in everyday bikes that are used for commuting or casual riding. Since you can easily step onto the bike, these are also called step-through frames.
Handlebars – Narrower, with Shallow Drop
Women’s bikes have narrower handlebars to suit women’s narrower shoulders. This is to avoid them having to spread their arms unnecessarily wide and creating strain on the arms and related joints. The handlebar on a men’s bike usually ranges from 42 to 44 centimeters, while that on a women’s bike ranges between 38 and 40 centimeters. In drop handlebars, the drop is normally shallower for women, for the same reason; that they shouldn’t have to over-extend their arms.
Saddles – Shorter and Wider
Women’s saddles are made for women’s wider hips and the female anatomy. They are shorter and wider while men’s saddles are longer and narrower.
Suspension – Tuned for Lighter Weight
As women are usually lightweight riders, the suspension in women’s bikes is tuned for lower weight.
Women have smaller hands on average, and it may be difficult to reach and operate the brakes if they’re too far. Women’s bikes have brakes with shorter lever reach. Sometimes levers also have adjustment screws to help you adjust the lever reach according to your need.
Editor’s Picks for Women’s Bikes
Check out the options below, and pick a women’s bike for yourself!
1. Fuji Bicycle Finest 2.1 (2018) – Silver Ice
This bicycle from Fuji flaunts a sleek design and a silver-coloured finish. It has a sturdy, high-quality frame which is durable, and Fuji has classified this bike as a Road Endurance Bike.
It weighs 9.98 kilograms or roughly ten kilograms, and even then, it’s surprisingly lightweight! It is comfortable and picks up speed quite easily, and Fuji has proved that it’s possible to have high speed without sacrificing comfort.
This bike is your one-stop destination when it comes to flexibility. It also has an Oval Concepts 351W Women’s saddle, designed to rest your rear in the most comfortable way possible.
This bike is versatile as it’s good for both fitness and commuting purposes. We just have one word to describe it; Finest.
It comes in the sizes XXS(44 cm), XS(47 cm), S(50 cm), M(53 cm) and L(56 cm).
2. Giant’s Sedona DX Women’s MTB Bike
This bike is perfect for casual rides around your neighbourhood as well as exploring the mountain trails. It has an aluminium frame (ALUXX-Grade) which makes it extremely lightweight.
It also has a very low top-tube or a “step-through” frame, so you can easily ride this bicycle while wearing skirts and dresses! You also have a ton of colour options here, such as Metal Grey, Plum, Black, Orange or Raspberry.
It has a Liv Comfort women’s saddle that’s carefully curated to hit the right places when you go for a ride. Its plush saddle, seat post and suspension fork work like a team to ensure that you have a smooth ride even on the bumpiest terrains.
It also has nylon anti-slip pedals, so forget fidgeting with your bike in the middle of your ride because your foot keeps slipping – because it won’t!
3. Giant Tempt 3 Mountain Bike
The Giant Tempt 3 Mountain Bike is part of the Liv series. It has an ALUXX aluminium frame which is exceptionally lightweight and has a low top tube that adheres to women’s comfort even when they ride in dresses or skirts. It also has 27.5 wheels that make it a complete package of efficiency, speed, and control.
It has a shorter stem and longer top tube for extra stability and control and is also equipped with powerful hydraulic disc brakes to help you assess extra control over your bike! It comes in the shade variants Magenta, Black, Yellow, and Teal. It features all the latest trends of a mountain bike.
Women’s Bikes – Limited Options
At the end of the day, however, there are limited options if you are looking for women’s bikes. Men’s bikes and unisex bikes dominate the market in terms of models and options available.
You will also find that women’s bikes often come in limited colours, softer colours like white, pink or mauve. While some women may like these colours, others are offended at being stereotyped. Check out professional MTB biker Micayla Gatto’s song – Ferda Girls in which she says having just pink and yellow jerseys to wear that make her “feel like Cinderella” in her race kit.
Do women need a women’s bike then?
Erm.. Maybe. There is no definite answer.
Cyclist Pramita Mishra says “I feel that size is what it matters (not the gender specificity). I have ridden both unisex and women’s bikes, and as long as the size is perfect there is hardly any difference. Having said that, for some unisex bikes, the reach may be large creating a constant nagging pain in the back or neck. The solution to this can be to adjust the handlebar stem, which would shorten the reach. This has been my experience in unisex bikes.”
Interestly, a women’s bike can suit a man too depending on his body proportions. Deepak Rao, a cyclist says “Well, I’m a guy and one of my bikes is a women’s bike; fits me to the T. The main points in women’s bikes are shorter reach, higher stack, narrower bars, more standover height, shorter cranks, wider saddle. I have huge legs and a short torso and with my latest bike, I got a women’s bike. I am only 5 ‘8” in height but my inseam is 83cms. That’s like an inseam of a 6 foot guy. So it’s about fit, not women’s or men’s.”
Find a bike that fits your body rather than a women’s bike. However if you want a bike that already comes with components such as a saddle and handlebar designed for a woman, go for a women’s bike. You could try brands like Liv, designed specifically for women by Giant Bicycles.
At the end of the day however, whichever bike you have, go for a bike fit in which you can tune the bike, make adjustments so that the bike fits you just right.
Checkout bike collection on cyclop for both men and women.