Do I need a women's bicycle?
Many women often ask, if a bicycle needs to be a women's bicycle to feel right. After all there are many companies offering bicycles marketed for women. And there have been ladies bicycles offered for decades before, in some cases along mens models. So what's the deal? Do women need specialized equipment or not? Men and women have been cycling for over two centuries now since the bicycle was invented in 1817. In fact the bicycle was the engine that fueled the movement for women's rights! That's because for the first time women could travel long distances to find work, under their own power, without a male chaperone. Even still, many bicycles were manufactured with a step-over downtube as 'Ladie's model' or 'Women's model'. The reason for this had more to do with fashion than geometry. Women were to a greater ( then lesser ) extent expected to wear skirts by society. Straight top tubes and aerodynamics made skirts incompatible with men's bicycle models for this reason. Therefore many manufacturers made 'alternate' or unique bicycle designs to suit the fashion needs women had during those time periods. In fact, this design has still stuck around, and is known as unisex step-through frame. It is predominantly used on bicycle designs in use by mass bikeshare systems and in bicycles marketed at casual cyclists where throwing a leg over the top tube is seen as too much of a barrier to riding. And of course there are still people today who enjoy riding in skirts ;) So what do we know about bodies then? We know that on average women tend to be smaller than men. This is not that relevant however because there are short men as well. Additionally there are teens and child riders who may equal in body size to that of a small women or men. In fact, humans are the most similar in body shape between sex of any animal on the planet. Women do differ from men in a few key areas - and those are the touch points where potential recommendations will be useful. Women have wider hips and narrower shoulders than men. In terms of equipment a wider women's saddle may be more comfortable if the default included is not. Additionally if the bars feel too wide and the hands are going out beyond the shoulder width some narrower bars may help. Women may also experience some discomfort in their neither regions a women's specific saddle may help here as well as its usually stubbier and with an accommodating cut along the center. For women ( and men ) who are shorter, sometimes reaching the brakes/shifters or having a relaxed body position throughout the day can be difficult. In these situations the bike stem can be modified to use a stumpier length which brings the bars closer to the saddle. Similarly some riders have found more comfort in selecting made for or compatible with 650b diameter wheels rather than 700c Overall the recommendation is that depending on your budget you may want to start with a generic used bicycle to learn what works or stop by your local LBS for a bike fit. Most things on a bicycle can be adjusted and every ones body is unique - so you really learn your fit over time. A women's specific bicycle is not recommended although if you want to buy one it wont hurt you, other than a potentially more limited set of features/colors. On the inverse men can score a great deal as well by buying a 'women's' bicycle and swapping out the saddle/bars/stem if necessary. Hope this article was helpful in guiding your purchase. If youre looking to save on your first bike while youre still learning what fits your unique body - check out our bicycle marketplace app Sprocket