As a keen blogger one thing I do on a regular basis, usually daily, is check my web stats and look at things like how many people are visiting my site, where they are located, and what search terms they use to find me. One of the most popular search strings that appears at least once on most days is – ‘do I need a women specific road bike?’.
The searchers find me because I wrote a blog post on this topic about a year ago so I thought it would be good to revisit it.
I’m sorry to say to all those people who are looking for a definitive answer, we’ll probably never find one. It’s just not straightforward enough to obtain one. Instead I thought it might be useful if I give my view on the topic.
Straight up I need to declare that I ride a women’s specific bike – a 2011 Specialized Amira Expert, so my view is influenced by my own experience.
I know that some people are of the opinion that the concept of a women’s specific bike is just marketing hype and perhaps they are right to some extent. I do think that some brands of bike have jumped on the band wagon and produced smaller bikes in more feminine colours and labelled them women’s bikes. However there are companies like Trek, Giant and Specialized who spend time and money to develop genuine women’s specific bikes.
The most important thing about buying a road bike for women or men is that is fits you correctly. For some women, particularly taller women that may mean a unisex or men’s frame. One my of my female friends who is taller than me recently bought a lovely Pinarello and it’s not a women’s specific model but the bike shop she bought it from, fitted it for her requirements and changed the handlebars (to make them narrower), added a shorter stem and included a women’s saddle (these are usually wider than men’s and have a different cut-out but are not squishy like the stereotype might suggest).
One of the biggest challenges is to find a retailer that has many women’s bikes in stock. A retailer who is keen to clear old stock will often tell you a bike is the perfect size for you when it really isn’t (sorry more stereotyping but it does happen).
I’ve found a few shops that do stock a range of women’s bikes including Clarence Street Cyclery in Sydney’s CBD which has a women’s store with Trek and Eddy Merckx (see my previous review) road bikes, Northside Cyclery at Chatswood and Jet in Sydney city which are Specialized dealers, JT Cycles in Adelaide which is also a Specialized dealer.
You should also look out for demonstration days and bike expos where you can sometimes test ride a range of bikes. In fact that’s how I decided to buy my Specialized by test riding it at a demo day at Sydney Olympic Park. I know for example that Trek is running a demo day on Sunday, 9 September 2012 from 8 am to 12 noon at Manly Dam in Sydney’s north.
I think women’s specific bikes are particularly important for shorter women like me (I’m 160 cm or 5’3”) but perhaps not as important if you’re taller. The way I look at it is if you decide on a unisex or men’s bike and you need to change the handlebars, cranks, saddle, stem and put spacers in the gear levers than you might as well buy a women’s specific bike which already has all these things.
I really like the Trek explanation of why you might consider a women’s bike but rather than reprint it here you can read it on Trek’s website.
I also read a 2012 round up of some women’s bikes compiled by US cycling magazine on bicycling.com. These bikes might not all be available in all markets but it gives you an idea of which manufacturers make women’s bikes. It’s good to see that most of them (other than the Pinarello) have avoided the obvious ‘pink’.
A brand that I noticed isn’t included is Bianchi but I think they are worth a look.
I’d love to hear some other views on this subject. Comments are welcome.