Over the weekend I had the opportunity to test ride on a local trail a few women’s specific 29er mountain bikes. As I had mentioned in the past I was very excited about this new idea of women’s sizing in 29″ technology but that is where my research ended.
The idea of fitting smaller individuals (men or women) on to the larger wheel technology has been something that I’ve had hopes for. A few years ago when the 650b movement started I was completed behind it for that reason. The 26″ wheel, to me, is not the solution for everyone based on how they ride and where they ride. People deserve options, an example of this is why 3″, 5″, 7″ and 9″ suspension systems exists.
Back on topic, riding women’s specific 29ers
I didn’t have the ability to check saddle fore and aft, saddle to handlebars or any specifics other than seat height. Now that my disclaimers out of the way….
The bike didn’t handle well. I don’t know how else to say it…. The geometry of it all doesn’t make any sense. Take a normal size 29er, keep the wheel base the same length and shorten the top tube. What you get is a very slack, very flip flop, very slow handling bike thanks to changing the head tube angle to something that would mimic a 5″ travel “all mountain bike”.
To a point I understand why they did this. Shorter top tube to fit women with shorter upper bodies.
My Opinion : How to fit women on 29ers
My bike fit is 140% female. I have a super long inseam and super short upper body, even my arms are short. This is my take on fitting my own personal 29ers. Longer top tube than I would ride on a 26″ bike, and an inch shorter stem. My effective length from saddle tip to handlebars hasn’t changed, but how I achieve it has. My handling is changed to make up for the bigger (heavier and larger) front wheel and often more raked out fork. Faster steering is achieved with the shorter stem and my front wheel isn’t tucked up under me either.
Your Bike, Your Opinion
Fitting mountain bikes is a very dynamic effort. It’s not as straight forward as fitting someone on a road bike. You take everything that you know from fitting road bikes, tie in your own mountain bike experience and then tie in the person RIDING the mountain bikes own feedback. Test ride, try out things, and repeat.
Depending where you ride, how aggressive you ride, and your own body type (size, shape, fitness, strength & flexibility) every bike will fit you different. A bike out of a box most likely won’t fit you. How the mechanic that built the bike probably won’t be how you need it to fit.
The above feelings about how the 29er women’s specific bikes rode is my own experience, I ride aggressively, I push my bike and body every time I’m out riding. The handling of the bike was too slow and did not excel for technical riding. Inquire with your local bike shop, talk about bike fitting and your own needs!