If you’re looking to relive your childhood joys of cycling by getting back on a bike, you’re at the right place! Even if you’re looking at upgrading your bicycle this is a good foundation course to know what to look out for with your next bike.
It’s likely that you have been riding a unisex bicycle before – for the past 2 decades or so most big manufacturers have introduced Women Specific Bikes that cater to the female rider better. Each brand has its own approach to women’s bike design, there isn’t a universal consensus on what makes a bike women’s specific. There are however a few set standards that are followed by most bike manufacturers.
REASONS WHY YOU MAY NEED A WOMAN SPECIFIC BIKE
- Women usually have proportionally shorter arms than most men
- Women are generally lighter. The frame uses thinner material, meaning the bike weight is of a smaller proportion of the rider’s weight.
- Women may prefer a more feminine paint job
- Women generally have less muscle mass, and therefore less core strength, so should not be placed in a stretched out position – so a shorter top tube is used
Watch this video by GCN on whether women need a women’s specific bike.
WOMEN-SPECIFIC BIKE FEATURES
- Shorter reach: This is the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. Bikes with a frame designed for female riders will sometimes have this when compared to equivalent men’s or unisex models. This sometimes means, combined with other frame elements such as a higher front end, the result is a more upright position for the rider.
- Smaller sizes: Small, X-Small and XX-Small cater for smaller riders. Sometimes these are the small sizes of the men’s/unisex bike, some manufacturers even make dedicated women’s frame with a unique geometry.
- Lowered top tube: This mostly applies to hybrid or commuter bikes. They have a lower or sloping top tube, which allows a lower standover height, making it easier to get on and off – as women usually have lower standover height.
- Lighter shock tune: Mountain bikes that feature suspension will have this set up to accommodate the average lighter weight of the female rider.
- Saddles: Women’s bikes usually come with a saddle designed to be comfortable for female riders specifically. However, because saddles are a personal thing, you may still want to try one before buying it.
WHAT TYPE OF BIKE DO I NEED?
The kind of bike you need is primarily going to depend on what you intend to use it for. Let’s have a look at the three main types of bike available these days.
These types of bikes are designed for speed and distance on the tarmac. They have super lightweight frames, thin tyres, and dropbars so you can take a more aerodynamic stance on the bike.
Some road bikes are designed with a focus on endurance and comfort, others for sheer speed. Endurance road bikes are the ideal options if you want to cover greater distances, explore the countryside. If however, you do intend on racing then you will want a proper race bike geometry.
Hybrid bikes, also known as commuter bikes. These kinds of bikes usually sit somewhere inbetween road and mountain bikes in their design and purpose. They have flat handlebars and an upright riding position, which gives you good visibility in city traffic conditions.
They usually have a frame that’s lightweight with a focus on speed and agility. They’re designed to handle a certain degree of rough road usage with the basic front suspension that they come with. There are also rigid front fork options that are more suited to urban city conditions.
Hybrid bikes also have attachment points that allow you to fit mudguards, pannier racks, or child seats if you so wish.
Mountain bikes are extremely versatile. They’re typically built for off-road use but can still be ridden on any road, they’ll just be slower going than a road bike.
They have flat handlebars and wider tyres, and usually have suspension on either the front only (hardtail) or on the front and rear (full-suspension), which helps smooth out rough terrain and provides traction for climbing and cornering.
Mountain bikes are ideal for exploring the woods, heading out on trails or simply riding on really rough and rocky terrain.
DO I NEED A WOMAN SPECIFIC BIKE?
This is a very valid question that many riders have. The reason being – Some women have a better fit on women’s specific models, while others feel no significant difference between women’s and unisex bikes, or prefer unisex bikes.
Either way, a bike-fit is something that is essential. An experienced bike-fitter takes measurements, level of flexibility, and how far you reach forward when seated. They will also observe as you ride the bike on a static trainer and suggest a couple of changes that can improve your on-bike comfort.
CHANGES YOU CAN MAKE FOR A TAILORED FIT:
- Change of saddle
- Shorter stem
- Narrower handlebars
- Shorter crank arms
- Chopping your seatpost
This is a judgement better left to a professional bike fitter than yourself as every brand has slight variations in bike sizing.
Most brands have an online size guide that will recommend a size based on your height, or other areas such as your inseam length. This is where you can start. Try to demo a bike if you can, so you can see how it feels when you ride it. This is particularly important if you sit between sizes because it will help you work out which size is right for you.
Choose a type of bike that suits your riding requirements and caters to your needs. Consider a women specific bike before looking at unisex bikes as they may end up offering a lot more comfort for you.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I’m an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often.
Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking
CURRENT BIKE: RockRider 5.3 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW
DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010