Should women buy a woman’s road bike. It depends.
In this issue:
1. Women’s road bikes. What’s the difference? Do you need one?
2. Today’s quick tip
In the past a bike was a bike. They were made for men, and just men. Women were expected to ride bikes in a dress, and so they didn’t have many options if they wanted to do any more than that, and women’s bikes merely realigned the top tube to allow for the dress, and to allow them to mount the bike without lifting the leg too much.
But as we all know women are different to men. Men will have, as a general rule, a longer torso, longer arms and wider shoulders than women. Some women will have longer legs than men.
And when women were buying a bike they were forced to try and adapt a bike designed for a man to themselves. So they tried to find bikes with smaller frames and make them fit.
However at the end of the day a frame is a frame, and whether you put a shorter stem on the frame doesn’t change all that much. As a result women often rode bikes which were the wrong shape for them and which were uncomfortable.
But now there’s women’s bikes
Thankfully, over the last few years, bicycle manufacturers have seen the light and are now making bikes with frames specifically designed for women. However this is not the same for all bike manufacturers, many still make bikes just for men.
But what is the difference between a woman’s bike and a man’s bike? And does it matter?
Although there are many differences, there are probably 2 that are the most important. The first of these is the length of the top tube and the second is the saddle.
To allow for the fact that women tend to have proportionately longer legs and shorter torsos than men a bike designed for a female will have a slightly shorter top tube reducing the distance between the saddle and the handlebars.
And as a woman’s bone structure, where she sits on the saddle, is slightly different, women will benefit from a different saddle than men, and women’s bikes usually accommodate this need offering slightly different saddle shapes.
As a general rule women’s saddles are slightly wider than men’s.
There’s other differences between a woman’s bike and a man’s bike
Other differences include slightly narrower handlebars to accommodate the fact that a woman’s reach is slightly less than a man’s and her shoulder width is slightly narrower.
The intention of this different geometry is for the female rider to be in a comfortable seating position without having to stretch too far or to hold her hands too far apart.
And of course women have smaller hands, so groupset manufacturers are now beginning to understand that they should design their equipment to suit the needs of women as well as men. SRAM levers, for example, can be adjusted inwards to allow women with small hands to use them properly.
And of course a lot of this comes down to marketing, and shrewd bike manufacturers are now catering to the growing numbers of women who are road riding by introducing a range of colours and designs specifically intended to appeal to the female rider.
After all girls, colour is important.
But at the end of the day it’s completely impossible to design a bike for men or to design a bike for women. Millions of men ride road bikes, and they vary in size from short to tall, long legs, short legs, long arms, short arms and so on.
And the same applies to women. Like men women vary enormously in shape and size. And for this reason there are many women who are entirely comfortable riding a man’s road bike.
So if you’re a female, and looking to buy your first road bike, what do you do?
What you do is look for a quality bike shop that understands how to select bikes that suit their customers, both in budget and fit.
A good bike salesman is not someone who sells you the most expensive bike. A good bike salesman is someone who discusses your requirements with you carefully, takes note of your budget, looks at your physique, experience and equipment and can select a range of bikes for you to try out.
A good shop should always allow you sufficient time riding a bike before buying it. You should have the opportunity to ride a number of different bikes, so that you can feel the differences between them for yourself, and decide which one suits you. Not because it’s a woman’s bike, but because it’s comfortable.
And a great bike shop may even offer you the opportunity to ride with different saddles, handlebars and even different crank lengths so that they can tailor a bike exactly to your needs before you buy it.
So yes, girls, there are differences between women’s road bikes and men’s road bikes, but don’t just assume that if you’ve bought a bike designed for a female it’s a great bike.
Make sure you’ve bought a bike, whether it’s a man’s or a woman’s bike, that fits you and is comfortable. That’s the most important consideration.
Today’s quick tip.
Never buy a road bike without riding it first, and not just for 10 minutes either.