A tough question, that only seems to be asked by women with very tough skin or no shame. It is something that all women go through, and daily riders can’t take the few days off to deal with their monthly “friend.”
Question : What Makes a Bicycle a Women’s Bicycle?
This is a broad question with long answer so maybe take a seat.
In the old days…
Many women rode their bikes with skirts (much like they rode horses side saddle.) When bicyles were designed for women they came out with a dropped top tube design. The most popular of these were the “mixte” or step through. The design is still carried in many lines. Personally I think it is much easier to get on and off a step through frame, though some people don’t like the look. Another advantage of the step through is for tight clothing, or tight hips. I have successfully sold step through bikes in black or grey to gentleman with bad hip joints.
For a very long time this step through design is all women rode and men had a diamond frame with taller top tube. Even now many people visit bike shops and shop for bikes based on this very traditional thought process.
Modern time and modern designs…
These days bikes are designed differently. Most mid to high end womens bicycles have many other features that make them womens, and almost none of them are a step through design.
Some key thoughts going into the designs of modern womens bicycles :
Most women have longer legs over longer upper body. This makes so when they ride a traditional “squared” geometry, their seat is too high and length or top tube of the bike is too long . Making for a very stretched out, painful, ride.
Women come in all sizes, but often smaller sizes than men.
Most women have narrower shoulder width than men, which means narrower handlebars.
Most women have breast or chest to worry about when getting into a more aggressive fitting. This also means more weight on the upper body.
Details by Bike…
Road bikes have a couple key differences :
Shorter top tube of the bicycle. I touched on this above but many women have longer upper body and shorter legs. A shorter top tube allows them the length of the bike they need without needing to raise the seat on a smaller sized bike.
Taller head tube. A taller head tube allows the bikes front end to sit up higher. This allows for a more upright fit, if you decide, and less weight on your hands and more on your rear. It also makes it so you don’t have to rock your pelvic bone and hips so far forward to get the proper fit alignment on your back.
Womens seat. These seats tend to be shorter, wider in the back and a medically designed cut out to relieve pressure.
Narrower & shorter handlebars. Women tend to have narrower shoulders, so they need a narrower handlebar. Another thing a womens handlebar addresses is the “reach” down to the drops. Womens tend to be shorter, so easier to get into an aggressive position.
Different steering angles. When you shorten or lengthen a bike, it changes the handling. Many manufactures have fixed this by changing the angle that the fork and seat tube sit at.
Mountain bikes carry many of the above differences plus some extra :
Lighter weighted suspension. Suspension works two ways, coil or air activated. With air you can easily change the feel of suspension with a shock pump. With coil if you are below or above the recommended weight for that coil, you need to replace it. Many womens mountain bikes if they come with coil suspension are set up with the lighter suspension coil.
Lower stand over. Allowing women to feel more confident on the bike.
There are many other things I can talk about in this topic, which in the future I plan to, but for now try to read through everything above and let me know your questions. Many things have to do with brand specific designs and thoughts. One thing that happened when womens bikes first hit the market was an overwhelming feeling of “fru-fru” and that the product managers just didn’t get it. The bikes were mostly pink or baby blue and hit some of the above design thoughts but not all. They wanted to put a band aid over the issue. Granted, I partially feel that the band aid is still there for many but hopefully it is slowly being pealed off.
Next in this series will be “Do I Need a Womens Bike?” question. If you have questions or comments about that topic please let me know.
Our first guest post from another Bike Shop Girl, Sarah Matchett. Sarah is a USA Cycling coach based out of my shop, Cool Breeze Cyclery in North Carolina. Sarah recently competed in the UCI World Duathlon Championships, placing 10th overall in women (non-elite.)
I’m often asked how I keep doing what I do. 5 a.m. mornings, endless miles on the trainer, in the pool. Worn out running shoes… worn out dog. Folks think I have some secret knowledge, or extra gear that keeps me uninjured, motivated, strong and healthy. The truth is, there is no secret gear. No magic pill, no religious practice, no expensive bike part that will bring you the results you want. There is simply, moving your body, more than zero, every day.
There is a buzz online about a couple different individual packaged wipes. The first one we are going to talk about and get into a review is Grease Monkey Wipes. Designed originally for cyclist these degreaser wipes claim to even clean crayon off the wall.
A very well talked about bike at Interbike in the upright, euro style, bikes was the Batavus BUB, or Batavus Utility Bike. The bike has a “paper clip” look to it but holds all the function and design that we know of Batavus.
From Bespoke :
The Batavus BUB is the classic omafiets-meets-Rem Koolhaus. Expressively modern, the Batavus BUB (Batavus Utility Bike) deconstructs the classic Batavus omafiets while constructing a more cosmopolitan – yet equally iconic – iteration of the classic Batavus bike. True to the essence of the original, classic Batavus bike, the BUB keeps clothing clean, the rider comfortable, and maintenance to an absolute minimum while eschewing nostalgia. The Batavus BUB design presupposes the currents present in Dutch architecture, urbanism, and contemporary design and establishes itself as a new icon.
At a mere $550 the BUB is pure Dutch quality. Everything is present. The chain is completely covered. The gears and brakes are completely internal. The riding position is straight-up, allowing for clear safety sightlines and less visits to the chiropractor. The frame is light enough to take indoors, but durable enough to be stored outside all year in a tough Northeast winter. Like an Eames chair, the design is thoroughly urbane, recalling the clever tricks of Dutch architects and a measure of frivolity admist stern Calvinist practicality. A smashing success in previews throughout Europe, the BUB challenges North American designers to innovate function into form while pushing the native Dutch bike industry to challenge its inbred insularity.
Shortly, Bike Shop Girl will have a BUB for our reviewing pleasure. Be bopping downtown, the daily commute and the daily life is what the review will be about. If you have request, questions or any thing else you would like out of the review please let us know!
In the South East of the US it is becoming time to pull out your base layer long underwear and find your wool socks. Personally, I enjoy wearing my wool socks year round but not many others around my bike shop feel the same way.
Men have it easy, across the board it seems, with cycling. Clothing fits them easier, they don’t need specially designed bikes normally and most men don’t care what rain gear looks like or how it fits on them.
I’m different and it seems like, in the few emails I received, you are to! I’ve scored many places trying to find a suitable rain gear outfit for women and I still haven’t nailed down the colors but sizing seems to be getting better.
Not very cheap, but good waterproof and breathable rain gear isn’t. This jacket has tons of ventilation through out, including zippers under your arms and a vent on your back side. With a catching blue color this may change your idea of how a rain jacket should look.
A jacket made by the company that brought us Gore-Tex. Could you not ask for more? This jacket is in the Paclite family so it can be packed in a jersey pocket. A flip down tail will also add extra protection from road or dirt spray on your behind. With the slim fit, it is true, you need to be pretty slim to wear this jacket.
Gore Solid Lady Pants
I still have not been able to find a women’s cut, non-black, pair of decent rain pants. The closest I have found are these from Gore. Unfortunately no other colors but I guess that’s how it is for now.
One of the most popular types of bicycles right now is that recreational style. Either one to ride with the family around your community, take for errands or maybe do a Rail To Trails with your local church group. Below I have outlined a good amount of the various lifestyle bikes out there, depending on which brand you try the options may vary but I can do my best to help you along the way.
A little while ago I was interviewed by a freelance writer for a new startup magazine dedicated to women, Women’s Cycling Magazine. The writer wasn’t sure the article would be snagged but she loved Bike Shop Girl and wanted to try to put it under the editors eyes. Yesterday I noticed a tweet that I was featured on Women’s Cycling Magazine online!