Every summer I see women on bikes that don’t fit them properly. Either they’re reaching too far for the handlebars, or they’re perched on a frame that’s so big you wonder how they get their feet to the ground without falling when they stop.
Last time I checked, women were shaped differently from men. We tend not to be as tall or as broad as men. Our centre of gravity is different. And yet for years women cyclists have been riding bikes that are designed and built for men. Many women continue to do this because they just don’t know that there are bikes available that are designed for them. Your local bike store might not sell bikes that are designed especially for women, and might instead try to sell you a small men’s bike. But women are not small men. We’re different.
Most women can’t easily be fit to a man’s bike. Here’s why:
1. Women have shorter arms and smaller hands than men with the same leg length.
2. Women have a different pelvic and hip rotation than men.
3. Women have smaller muscles than men and the muscle placement is different.
A well-designed women’s bike will take all these factors into account. A smaller man’s bike frame will not do the same job. Last year I bought a Dolce Élite built by Specialized— a road bike especially designed for women. It fits me perfectly because it’s designed to fit a woman my size. I could feel the difference immediately. And it’s a pleasure to ride.
More manufacturers are starting to design women-specific bikes but before you buy, do your research. A women’s bike is not just a smaller-framed man’s bike. The head angle, seat angle, and seat tube have to be engineered to fit a woman’s body. And, it goes without saying, you have to have the correct standover. [This is the distance from the ground to the top of the crossbar. You should have 1 to 2 inches clearance.] Get these right and you’ll have a better cycling experience and have more fun on your bike.