Female-specific Mountain Bikes have come a long way from the days of 'shrinking and pinking', With many of the largest manufacturers within the cycling market investing heavily over recent years on the innovation of geometrical and performance features that enhance the riding experience for Women.
These new innovations have led to an influx in the variety of Women-Specific frames (WSF) available on the market. WSF Bikes are seen at all major price points, from entry level to high-end competition standard, allowing female cyclists of all abilities to experience the advantages of frames that are meticulously refined and designed to be more complimentary to the female form. As is the case with any bike purchase, it's always important to check the build quality and level of componentry to ensure that they are at a level that is sufficient to support your level of performance and ambition.
Different manufacturers will have different approaches to designing a WSF. Some brands approach the issue by producing 'unisex' frames with smaller margins between the sizes in order to give a greater chance of finding the correct fit. The unisex bikes are then finished with either male or female specific kit. The unique finishing kit on a Women's bike is likely to include a gender-specific saddle for comfort and a shortened reach and handlebar reach to cater for the smaller upper body dimensions generally seen in Women. Furthermore, suspension tuning will be altered to support the lighter weight of the rider, as seen via Trek's WSD system on their Women's full-suspension range. Other brands, such as Liv (Giant's affiliated company), go a step further and design 'Full-Female Geometry' products from scratch. They use 289 individual measurements and a tonne of historical and current research to construct frames that are entirely dedicated to providing for female riders. The compromise between these two approaches is the 'Activity Specific Design Method'. This method is seen a lot in mountain bikes produced by Scott and Specialized and basically revolves around the basis that all cycling disciplines have different requirements and therefore drastically altered geometries aren't always required. Instead, each new model is assessed individually via processes such a 'Retul Bike Fit System' and geometrical changes are made where necessary. This approach is still likely to utilise female-specific saddles (to reduce to possibility of saddle-sore), handlebars and aesthetics.
The Mountain Bike market is manufactured around averages. What do most Enduro Bikers need? What is a beginner likely to be most comfortable on? - these sort of open-ended questions will permit the companies to create a frame that is perfect for the majority but unfortunately it's nigh on impossible to cater for everybody. Female-specific geometry should be approached in a similar way. Some Women are taller, broader or prefer a more stretched-out riding position. For these women, a WSF bike may not to suitable, with a unisex or even men's frame providing more comfort and better performance. Make sure you test a good selection of bikes across the brand,gender and size spectrums before making your purchase and consider a professional bike fit that will ensure that you're riding in your optimum position for efficiency.
What style of bike that you go for will of course dictate the style of frame that you want. You'll need to consider whether you want to go for a Hardtail or Full-Suspension bike, with the former suitable for light off-road, commuting and cross-country (XC) riding and the latter better used for tougher off-road sections, jumps and Downhill or Enduro races. To give you a starting point, here's our five favourite Women's Mountain Bikes for MY2018 - All available to try and buy in our stores or online!
Our Top Five
Equal parts agile and tough, the Pique Advanced was built to go fast, climb at blistering pace and inspire confident downhill ripping across technical cross-country terrain. With superb 120mm suspension and a low stand-over height, Pique balances your body while it's moving around the bike during those tougher sections of trail that feature rocky, rooty sections and uphill ledges. The 27.5-inch wheel size ensures that bike handling is still nimble and playful, while maintaining the stable cornering and bump-reducing qualities of a larger wheel size. Liv's High-Performance Grade raw carbon material is used to produce the frameset and by using these state-of-the-art materials and manufacturing techniques, the Advanced-Grade frames offer light weight and stiffness with optimal compliance. In addition, Four strategically positioned pivot points and two linkages all work together to create a single floating pivot for an active, efficient and independent suspension system. The Overdrive steerer tube provides precise front-end steering performance by combining oversized headset bearings (1 1/2� lower and 1 1/8�) and a tapered steerer tube to give the rider the best possible steering stiffness.
To create a fully-female specific frame, Liv's Data driven bike-building method revolves around three key points:
- Fit: Liv analyses data on human body dimension, muscular strength and muscular activity and then consider the type of riding the rider will be doing. This is done to build a frame that is fine-tuned through athlete feedback - with the goal to fit as many women as possible.
- Form: The intention here is to create a strong bond between the rider and the bike. The designers match the performance level of the bike with a beautiful and inspiring outlook, aiming to create a fantastic overall package.
- Function: The componentry of the bike is carefully selected and the composite layup is uniquely crafted to give the rider an unprecedented performance edge and comfort.
Marie C, February 2018Just took this bike out for a demo ride from the Giant Store at Rutland Water. Felt smooth and fast as soon as jumped on it - loved the single chainring, good range of gears with smooth, fast shifting. Geometry really suited me - I'm 5' 4� and went for the M. Also loved the dropper seatpost and used it a couple of times on the ride. Can't find anything to fault!
Scott Contessa Scale
The Scott Contessa Scale series is the women-specific counterpart of the famous Scott Scale. A prime example of the 'unisex' approach mentioned above, the Contessa Scale was completely redesigned in 2017, changing from a fully-female specific geometry into a 'unisex' frame layout that utilises unique finishing kit and minor incremental changes to differentiate between the male and female orientated models.
The Scale is Scott's dedicated Women's Hardtail and can be found from the entry level, aluminium Scott Scale 40 all the way up to the all singing and dancing Scale RC 900 with a carbon frame and top level Sram Eagle 1x group-set. There really is something for everyone in this range!
Cube are renowned for their innovation - whether it be developed in their own Testing Lab or out on the trail. The Access is Cube's female specific mountain bike and is predominately aimed at the entry/intermediate level mountain biker looking to tackle winding singletrack, varied off-road and cross-country style riding. The Access is durable and ultra-reliable with a strong-as-an-Ox build quality that provides confidence to the new trail ripper learning to shred the trails. Good quality tyres and brakes allow for reactive grip and stopping ability whilst the upright riding position and unique Women's saddle gives the rider a comfortable ride experience. Surprisingly for something so strong, the Access is no slouch when it comes to speed (especially if you go electric..) - It accelerates with excellence and flows across dirt like a messiah over water. A brilliant bike (at a fantastic price point too!)
When no trail is too steep, and no jump is off limits, you'll need a bike that delivers a purpose-built trail experience.
The Rhyme delivers the right tool for the job - It's designed to not just be the most capable women's trail bike out there, but to also be one of the most capable trail bikes regardless of gender. A fantastic full suspension machine, kitted out with Women's Rx Tune, a shock that's tailored to give you the best suspension performance possible. Produced with either an aluminium or carbon with 29" or 650b wheels, The Rhyme also features SRAM's 11-speed GX groupset that offers a wide gear range that delivers climbing and descending efficiency in spades. On top of this, the one-by setup is notorious for being next to impossible to drop a chain with, plus it provides significant weight savings in comparison to a standard two-by setup. Air sprung forks, Sram disc brakes and large volume,wide profiled tyres complete an excellent all-round package that is pretty much guaranteed deliver awesome performance out on the trails.
Trek was the first major bicycle company to develop a full line of bikes designed specifically for women, and they've been refining their women's product line ever since. Trek's Women's specific mountain bike range offers some excellent bikes, including these two Hardtail - we couldn't decide between them as both offer very different but equally excellent qualities so we opted to include them both!
The Procaliber 9.7 WSD is a race-ready OCLV Mountain Carbon XC Hardtail. It comes stocked with a high-quality spec, women-specific contact points, an IsoSpeed decoupler, a carbon crank and a RockShox Reba RL suspension fork to keep you fast and smooth over roots, rocks and your most demanding mountain bike rides. The Procaliber 6 WSD is a fast XC mountain bike and the most affordable MTB model with both women-specific features and IsoSpeed. IsoSpeed gives you a unique and substantial advantage over a traditional Hardtail, because it cuts down on the trail's fatiguing bumps and delivers a smoother, faster ride.
SK, Bristol , December 2017This bike is absolutely fantastic. The G2 geometry is perhaps more clever than you first realise. Setting out on the trails for the first time you might well think that you are on a 27.5 as the shortened seat stays keep the handling of the rear under such good control. The handling up front is brilliant too but it is when you are climbing that this bike comes into it's own; being light and agile is a great starting point for the bike but when seated the IsoSpeed gives you incredible comfort too. Dare I say It, I almost look forward to the climbs! Added to all of this are the high quality Bontrager and Shimano components leaving you with a bike that not only looks and handles incredibly well but that also delivers comfort in abundance. Well done Trek!
The Roscoe 7 WSD is the ideal entry-level trail bike for riders who want a Hardtail that's lively and fun. Confidence-inspiring 27.5+ wheels with mid-fat tyres, a plush suspension fork and an easy-to-use 1x drivetrain make the Roscoe 7 WSD stable enough for new riders whilst remaining playful enough to make even the most experienced shredders smile. The Roscoe 8 WSD is a trail Hardtail for anyone looking to have some serious fun out in the dirt. Its 27.5+ mid-fat tyres and longer-travel suspension fork make it a blast on every trail, from packed single-track to the loose stuff. It's a laid-back trail mountain bike dressed in a high-quality spec that's ready to party.
I have just bought this bike after riding a full suspension 2005 Specialized FSR StumpJumper Pro which cost me 4k to build, I don't miss it, I have just ridden with my favourite trails and smashed all of my strava times, I was shocked how well it rolls the big tyres have no real negatives. It corners amazing, it climbs fantastic, it bulldozers through rock gardens, the grip is mind blowing, instead of trailing behind my friend's I was out pacing them, I've been mountain biking for 27 years and this is is the fastest best handling bike I've ridden, best tips I can give is, play with the tyre pressures for cross country I run around 23psi for gnarly stuff I run 17psi or lower (this does increase rolling resistance)
*Both reviews taken from Trek's website