What is a Women’s Bike?
Women’s bikes (sometimes described as “Women-Specific Design or “WSD”) bikes offer an alternative to a unisex or men’s bike, which is designed to better fit a woman’s frame and body shape. For example, the frame geometry may feature a shorter reach to the handlebars, as women’s arms and upper bodies tend to be shorter than men’s. Ladies’ bikes will also come with specially designed ‘contact points’ (e.g., saddle, handlebars), to make them more comfortable for women to ride. Some models also come equipped with matching accessories, so they’re ready to go!
Of course, we all have different heights and body shapes, and women can ride any bike they want to. Indeed, some women will find a men’s bike more comfortable than the equivalent women’s model, and vice versa. But, for many women, the introduction of women’s-specific bikes has meant a much more comfortable and enjoyable ride. Less ‘tweaking’ of a new bike is needed, as it just fits better from the start and there’s no need to buy extra parts to get the fit just right.
Are there different types of Women’s Bike?
Women’s bikes are just as varied as men’s or unisex options, but we can see some key differences in frame geometry and accessory choices. In the past, manufacturers have fallen into the trap of using bright, stereotypical colours to identify women’s bikes (think: “shrink and pink”), but modern designs are more considered – and definitely less pink! Generally, women’s bikes will fall into the below categories:
Women’s Road Bikes
Road bikes (also known as racing bikes) are easy to recognise, with their drop handlebars, 28-inch (700c) wheels and narrow tyres – they’re what the professionals use to conquer the mileage and mountains of races like the Tour de France. The large wheels and thin tyres of a road bike help it roll over tarmac very efficiently, while its light, aerodynamic frame helps you travel faster up and down the hills. Women-specific road bikes offer more choice in terms of frame sizes – especially for smaller riders – and will use ‘finishing kit’ (saddle, handlebars and accessories) designed with women in mind.
Women’s Mountain Bikes
A mountain bike (MTB) is specifically designed for riding on different kinds of trails, tracks and – as the name says – mountains. They come in many different shapes but a few features are common: wide, knobbly tyres for grip, wide bars for stable handling and some kind of suspension to absorb bumps and jumps. Women’s mountain bikes will usually feature 27.5-inch wheels, although some larger 29-inch wheel bikes and plus-sized bikes are also available. Some women’s MTBs feature a kinked top tube to allow for a more confidence inspiring, stable riding position.
Women’s Hybrid Bikes
Hybrid bikes combine the fast rolling 700C wheels of road bikes with the handling qualities of a mountain bike. They are a great option for a multi-purpose bicycle, allowing for easy commuting and the potential to explore some light trails. Women’s hybrid bikes tend not to differ much from unisex versions, but traditionally styled frames will feature a step-through frame that makes riding in a skirt easier.
What type of Women’s bike should I buy?
This will depend on the kind of riding you want to do and you might not even need a women-specific bike. The main considerations should be the terrain you want to ride on and your body shape.
Sport and Leisure Riding
If you want to focus on improving your fitness or venture into a hobby that allows you to enjoy the great outdoors, a hybrid bike is ideal. They allow for a variety of terrain to be ridden without needing to make adjustments or use specialist equipment and clothing. They won’t go as fast as a road bike or cope with tough terrain like a mountain bike, but are perfect for those not interested in really specialised riding.
Commuting and Urban Riding
Hybrid bikes and flat-bar road bikes are great for commuting as they sit the rider in a stable position with good visibility. Commuting focused bikes will be designed with ease of use in mind, so will require less maintenance and may use features like mudguards and dynamo lights to allow for cycling in a variety of conditions.
Roads and Racing
Road cycling is a unique opportunity to explore the local countryside from a new perspective. If you’re looking to venture further afield by bike or take part in a race or sportive, road bikes are perfect for the job. The larger wheels and narrow tyres are more efficient on tarmac, meaning covering larger distances is quicker and easier. They are also very light and responsive, meaning getting up hills is more comfortable and coming down the other side is more enjoyable.
The kind of off-road trails you want to tackle can vary wildly and will determine the kind of bike you are looking for (we have a guide for that too). However, many mountain bikes are capable of handling a wide variety of terrain and offer an entry point into the exciting world of off-road cycling. Most mountain bikes will feature some sort of suspension to absorb shocks and bumps from the trail and women’s versions may feature a kinked top tube to allow for a more confidence inspiring, stable riding position.
What should I look for when buying a Women’s bike?
Women’s bikes are not the only option; unisex or men’s models may suit you just as well. The important things to remember are the style of riding you want to experience and your personal body shape.
For example, taller female road cyclists might find a larger men’s frame to be a better fit, whilst smaller off-road riders might need the reduced frame and wheel size of a women-specific mountain bike. In the end, it’s all down to personal choice and fit – so do spend time trying out a few different bikes – visit one of our stores if you live nearby – until you are happy you’ve got just the right bike for you.