The Myth of Women’s Specific Bikes . By cycling specialist physio.
What is wrong with women-specific bikes
Recent thinking is that the term “Women’s Specific Geometry” is a bit of a misnomer. It goes on the assumption that women have shorter torso’s and longer legs than men of the same height. Hence the thinking was to produce frames with a shorter top tube in proportion to the head tube for women. Whilst this may be true in some cases, it can also be the opposite in others. The person, whether male or female, should be fitted to a bike by their own individual proportions and characteristics. Some women will find the geometry of a women’s specific bike more ideal for them, whilst others will not.
What are the benefits of women-specific bikes
There are a few things that I do find women’s specific bike good for, that have nothing to do with geometry.
A women’s specific bike will have the manufacturer’s version of a women’s saddle of it. Again, this is highly individual to each person, but I have not met many women who don’t prefer a cut out of some description in their saddle to decrease soft tissue pressure. They also tends to be slightly wider than men’s, for a slightly wider pelvis.
Women tend to have slightly narrower shoulders than their male counterparts, and women’s specific bikes are supplied with handlebars accordingly. They are often compact reach as well, to make it easier to reach the brake levers when riding in the drops for those with small hands.
Top end women’s race bikes will tend to come with a semi-compact (52/36) as opposed to a standard (53/39) chain set found on the equivalent men’s bike. This is on the assumption that women generally weigh less and have less muscle mass, and so proportionally produce less power.
Women-specific bike will tend to have more sizes available at the lower end, often down to a virtual top tube length of 44cm. Often small women will ride a women’s specific bike because they are the only ones made small enough to fit them properly. Half my women’s racing team (who are 5’4” or less) ride Specialized S-Works bikes (Tarmac or Amira), because it’s a top end bike/frame that comes in a small enough size to fit us.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping us buying a “unisex” bike, then changing the components (saddle, handlebars, gearing) ourselves. However, this just adds extra cost to what us usually a limited budget, which could have been spent on getting a higher spec bike in the first place (or having a good bike fit!). So there may be some worth in opting for a women’s specific bike, not necessarily for the geometry, but for the components that come with the bike.
Useful cycling info and physio expert tips
More information on loads of cycling
related stuff including common injuries and free exercise videos can be found on this website including a basic bike set up.
Get in touch
I look forward to hearing from you.
BAppSc MCSP HPC
Nicole graduated from the University of Sydney in 1998 with a BAppSc in Physiotherapy. She spent the first few years of her career combining work and travel, before settling in the UK in 2005.
Nicole worked for 2 years in NHS outpatient departments and orthopaedic wards, before moving on to London Bridge Hospital. She spent 5 years working in the physiotherapy department of this renowned private hospital, treating primarily a City-based clientele and closely working with some of the top consultants and specialists. She then set up Peloton Physiotherapy at the beginning of 2012 and joined Octopus Clinic in 2014.
Nicole has completed post-graduate training in Acupuncture and Clinical Pilates, as well as attending many Sports Medicine Conferences, including the Ironman conference in Kona, Hawaii, where she also worked in the Medical tent. She has a special interest in cycling, triathlon and running, but also loves a good injury and problem solving!
In her spare time, Nicole can usually be found on (one of) her bikes; she still enjoys travelling, but these days tends to be accompanied by a swimsuit, bike and trainers. She caught the triathlon bug in 2006, and realised that she was more suited to “long and slow” events. Highlights have been qualifying and competing in the 70.3 World Championships in 2009, and completing her first Ironman in 2011.
She now concentrates on road racing, competing in national-level events for Les Filles RT, the women’s racing team that she co-founded. She continues to run on a regular basis, and swims on occasions for the novelty of it.