- The Viking Pursuit is a great women’s starter road bike.
Although the number of women cyclists in the UK is actually falling, in recent years there has been an increased focus on women’s cycling from cycling bodies (viz, British Cycling’s Breeze campaign) and bike retailers (Rutland Cycling launched its first women’s cycling month in 2012). Nearly every manufacturer now offers a women specific bike or range, and women can now browse bike selections safe in the knowledge that someone in an office at BikeCorpTM has designed and built a bike that is specifically for them. Women specific design is a good thing. Sometimes.
Firstly, we’d better come clean. There really is no such thing as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ specific frame. They're just bikes that are designed to fit a group of general body measurements. At some point somebody started measuring women exclusively and applied the average measurements to a bicycle frame. But whenever you create an 'average' measurement for women, you simultaneously exclude a significant group of women that don’t fit these measurements, and are therefore not ‘average.’
Those experts that examined women's body measurements found that the average woman has long legs with a short torso. Bicycles aimed specifically for women are usually designed with this rule in mind. The length of the frame is shortened to allow a woman with a short torso length to reach the bars with comfort, while the frame height is increased to accommodate a longer leg length.
In reality bodies, men's and women's, come in a variety of differing shapes and sizes. Sometimes they fit this rule, sometimes they don’t. If you are one of many ladies who doesn’t fit the long legged, short torso body type, riding a women specific bike may be an uncomfortable experience and a standard (‘men’s’) bike geometry may be the answer.
- Giant Avail 5 - not pink and no flowers
Obviously being a woman means that you would like your bike to be painted pink with butterflies and flowers on it. No? Luckily most bike manufacturers have moved away from painting all women's frames pink, and Merckx offers its women’s bikes with the same paint job as the unisex frame. Handy for men who don't fit the long torso, short leg body type, too.
So what bike do I need?
One easy rule of thumb is to stand in front of a full-length mirror and place a finger on the top of your hip bone. If where your finger rests is around halfway or more from the floor on your overall body length, you may find a women’s frame a comfortable fit.
If you are taller than 6 feet, you may find a unisex frame better as many women specific frames don't go large enough.
Ideally, get yourself correctly fitted for a new bike – Rutland Cycling offers expert advice with bike fitting at its four shops (open every day), and you can try out the various frames available.