Whether you’re an experienced, veteran cyclist, or a total newbie looking to get into the sport, finding a road bike that fits you just right can end up being quite a challenge, regardless of your age, gender, body type or anything else.
But when it comes to gender especially, the various differences between men’s and women’s body types have led to bikes for either gender to be designed in a specific way in order to cater to these differences.
Whether it’s the size of the frame, the position, and shape of the handlebars, or even things like the curvature and material of the saddle, men’s and women’s bikes have a handful of small differences that make their riding style cater more towards their targeted gender. But to a cycling novice, these differences can be hard to spot, even when they are right in front of you – literally!
This article aims to outline the differences between men’s and women’s bikes, so you’ll know exactly what to look for when biking up your next ride.
Biggest Differences Between Men’s vs Women’s Bikes
As mentioned above, from a cursory glance, spotting any difference whatsoever might seem impossible. Although years ago handlebar tassels, bright pink or dark blue frames and love-heart-shaped bells might have been an obvious suggestion to who the bike was intended for, in modern times these differences have been made a lot more subtle.
This is a great way of providing both men and women with bikes that are stylish yet highly functional but means you often have to look a little closer to spot which bike will be intended for you.
Here’s what you should look at:
1. Structure of the Frame
A bike’s frame structure is the main influence on both the rider’s intended shape and size, as well as their position when using the bike itself. The main difference in bike frames between men’s and women’s bikes is the top tube – the tube that runs between the saddle and the handlebar.
On most bikes, this bar lies somewhat horizontally to provide optimum support and structure to the bike. However, on women’s bikes – and also some young children’s bikes – this bar lies diagonally, starting low down towards the seat, and rising up to meet the handlebars.
This is easier to mount and dismount, as when it’s not horizontal, it’s easier to get your leg over. As women tend to be shorter than men, women’s bikes have adopted this style to make them more suitable. Not only this, but top tubes on women’s bikes are often shorter than on men’s bikes, meaning there’s a shorter distance between the saddle and the handlebars.
Again, as women are shorter, this makes riding easier for them, as they don’t have to lean forward so much. You should also consider if you will have a bike bag with you when riding the bike.
Handlebars not only control your comfort when you’re riding a bike but are also the key component when it comes to staying in control of your ride.
Having handlebars of the wrong shape, position or even the wrong grip can make a huge difference to your overall experience. As women have smaller hands and narrower shoulders, their handlebars are usually narrower offer a softer, ergonomic grip.
As men have wider build-shaped and larger hands, their handlebars are often wider, with more performance-orientated grips. Men’s handlebars tend to also be positioned further forwards, as their bodies are longer and taller.
3. Shape of the Seat
Many bikes nowadays only come with one saddle style that’s the same for both the men’s and women’s version of the bike – or because the bike is considered ‘unisex’.
Many bikes, however, offer different saddle sizes and shapes for their men’s and women’s versions. Men’s saddles tend to be firm and narrow in order to maximize performance.
Women’s seats tend to be wider and more cushioned, for a more casual ride, as well as providing extra comfort for a wider pelvis shape.
4. Length of Crank
When it comes to your lower body – i.e. your legs and feet – the crank is what determines both your comfort and performance when on the bike. As men have longer legs, the crank and pedals on men’s bikes are usually positioned further away from the saddle than they are on women’s bikes.
As well as this, men have longer and wider feet than women, so their pedals tend to match this, whereas women’s pedals are smaller and narrower to accommodate women’s feet shape and size.
Should You Get a Women’s Bike?
Although the social differences between men and women and dwindling (it’s more acceptable for anyone to ride a bike of a certain style or shape nowadays), there’s no denying the biological differences between men and women.
Although not every woman is short and narrow, and not every man is tall and wide, the overall differences between both genders sometimes make gender-specific bikes a necessity. Although it’s possible for women to ride men’s bike, and vice-versa, for people of a certain size or shape, this might be quite difficult to manage.
Unisex bikes are a good alternative to gender-specific bikes as, not only do they tend to be ‘gender-neutral’ in style, but they’re often also designed to be easily adjustable.
Can Men Ride Women’s Bikes?
But it isn’t just women who might want to consider a bike that was designed for the ‘opposite’ gender – some men may want to ride women’s bikes too.
Whether you’re a slightly shorter guy, a young teen that’s yet to hit a growth spurt, or just want something that’s got a more comfortable saddle and that’s easier to mount and dismount, for many males, a women’s bike can be a great alternative.
Women’s bikes are also often cheaper – so you might be able to save a bit of money in the process!
How to Get the Best Fit
Very few people can buy a bike from a shop that automatically fits them perfectly. Although most people can do with adjusting the seat, and sometimes the handlebars, depending on your body shape and size, you might need to adjust a few more things in order for the ride to be more comfortable.
But many people forget, that just because the bike comes with a certain part of the component doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Whether it’s an uncomfortable saddle, handlebars that are too wide or narrow, or grips that are just uncomfortable – try the cruiser bike as it is, and after a few rides, if you feel like something still needs changing, then swap it out for something else.
What About Step-Through Frames?
Not everyone rides for the physical exercise or performance – many people ride casually, or just as a convenient means to get to work, school or just out and about.
When this is the case, a commuter or ‘casual’ bike is a good choice. When using a bike for this type of thing, getting a frame with a lower-set top tube that’s easier to step over can be a huge advantage. It makes getting on and off the bike a lot easier, and can even make the bike easier to carry and store away!
There are clear differences between most men and women that sometimes make having gender-specific bikes a necessity.
However, with interchangeable parts and components, as well as adjustments in both style and function, cyclists are less limited than ever in what bike they decide to go for – in short, the choice is all yours!