The Myth of Women’s Specific bikes
Written by Nicole Oh – Physiotherapist and Bike Fitter at The Body Mechanic
With International Women’s day this weekend, I thought it might be topical to write about Women on bikes.
Recent thinking is that the term “Women’s Specific Geometry” is a bit of a misnomer. It is based on the assumption that women have a shorter torso and longer legs than men of the same height. Hence the thinking was to produce frames with a shorter top tube in proportion to the head tube for women. Whilst this may be true in some cases, it can also be the opposite in others. The person, whether male or female, should be fitted to a bike by their own individual proportions and characteristics. Some women will find the geometry of a women’s specific bike is ideal for them, whilst others will not.
There are a few things that a women’s specific bike can be very good for, that have nothing to do with geometry.
A women’s specific bike will have the manufacturer’s version of a women’s saddle on it. Saddles are highly individual to each person, but I have not met many women who don’t prefer a cut out of some description in their saddle to decrease soft tissue pressure. They also tend to be slightly wider than men’s, to accommodate a slightly wider pelvis.
Women tend to have slightly narrower shoulders than their male counterparts, and women’s specific bikes are supplied with slightly narrower handlebars accordingly. They are often fitted with compact reach brakes as well, to make it easier to reach the brake levers when riding in the drops for those with small hands.
Top-end women’s race bikes will tend to come with a semi-compact (52/36) as opposed to a standard (53/39) chainset found on the equivalent men’s bike. This is based on the assumption that women generally weigh less and have less muscle mass, and so produce proportionally less power.
Women’s specific bikes will tend to have more sizes available at the smaller end of the range, often down to a virtual top tube length of 44cm. Often small women will ride a women’s specific bike because they are the only ones made small enough to fit them properly.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you buying a “unisex” bike, and changing the components (saddle, handlebars, gearing) yourself. However, this just adds an extra unnecessary cost which could have been spent on getting a higher spec bike in the first place (or by having your bike fitted properly by someone who assesses your body before fitting you to it).
So there may be some worth in opting for a women’s specific bike, not necessarily for the geometry, but for the components that come with the bike.
If you would like to book in for a Bike assessment to have your set up and position assessed with Nicole (female or not), please contact The Body Mechanic on 9955 5842 or firstname.lastname@example.org