Let me begin by noting that I don’t ride a women’s bike. Gasp.
You mean I ride a men’s bike?
Adult bikes come in two flavours: unisex and women’s specific.
That’s odd and it might make you wonder what unisex really means.
When I was a kid the difference between a boy’s bike and a girl’s bike was the top tube. The one on a girl’s bike slanted down to allow modest access to the bike and ease of riding in skirts. This isn’t the issue with adult bikes. When it comes to road bikes they look pretty much the same. Sadly, that image accompanying this post is one of the dozens I found by searching for images of girl’s bikes!
Of course, it turns out that unisex adult bikes are proportioned to your typical male cyclist. So road bikes come in two flavours, unisex, which really isn’t, and women’s specific.
Here’s Team Estrogen on women’s specific designs.
What’s the difference? Women’s bikes have typically “a shorter top tube, a more relaxed head tube angle, a taller head tube, and perhaps a slightly steeper seat tube angle.” Mostly it’s the ratio of the top tube to the leg length of the rider. Women’s bikes are made for people with long legs and short torsos.
I don’t have long legs and a short torso. Rather the reverse. I have a long torso and short legs. I am 5’7 (above average height for a women, my tall teens say “You keep telling yourself that mum”) but I have to wear petite pants to get the right fit in leg length. If I wear a one piece bathing suit it has to be the special long torso version but mostly I stick with bikinis. Men will be shocked that most women’s clothes don’t come in a variety of lengths. We just use heels to make it work. Unless you don’t like heels then you’re screwed and add $10 to the price of each pair of pants you buy for hemming.
So I have a regular unisex frame road bike not a women’s specific frame. Lots of women ride regular bikes and the geometry of women’s bikes is a great fit for some men.
Then there’s the packaging. Women’s bikes also often come with different women specific seats which might work great or not. It all depends on your anatomy. Choosing a bike seat is a tricky business. The bars are often narrower too because women, though not me, have narrow shoulders. Of course, some men have narrow shoulders but regular manly torso leg ratio.
Do you get where I am going with this?
Ditto bike shoes. Men’s shoes are wider. But some men have narrow feet so they wear women’s shoes. Some women wear men’s shoes and other than colour choices there is no other difference.
Can’t we just call them “wide” and “narrow”?
Can’t we just call the frames “long torso” and “short torso” and measure people?
How about just giving people choices about seats and bars etc? Why do we need gendered packaging?
I agree the addition of women’s frames is an improvement over the days when women had to struggle to fit bikes made for men but I’m not sure anyone is well served by the gendered labels.
Or so says the woman who rides a men’s bike. I think men riding women’s bikes would probably agree with me.
I actually like my son’s response best. At school he was teased for wearing “girl’s shoes.” The child of a philosopher he said very calmly, “I’m a boy. They’re my shoes. So they’re boy’s shoes.”
Proud moments in parenting….
Oh, and here’s my road bike for real in front of our cage of other bikes: