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Why are Mens bikes different from Women's?

women mtb differences

Better late than never. At least that’s our opinion when it comes to the steady increase in special bicycles for women. Especially in the past few years, manufacturers have recognized the potential of a bicycle market only for female customers and are steadily increasing their range. But can the ladies’ bikes really offer added value, or is it all just a sales strategy to attract new buyers?

In this post we answer all questions about bikes for women. What are the differences to the men’s bike? What makes it special? Do you even need special bikes for women? If so, how can you find out which one is right for you?

Anatomical differences between women and men

Before we look at the differences between bikes for men and women, let’s look at the physique of both genders to better understand why this distinction is necessary. After all, it is obvious that the physique of a man is very different from that of a woman, regardless of gender.

In general, manufacturers make the following main differences when developing their bikes for women: women are smaller, have wider hips, narrower shoulders and a shorter torso compared to the stride length. Of course, these statements are not generally applicable, but describe a very reasonable basis in the search for the perfect bike for women.

The wider hips result in a larger quadriceps angle (angle between the direction of the patellar tendon and the direction of the quadriceps) and wider sit bones. This results in different requirements for the sitting position on the bike, which the manufacturers are currently serving with an adapted frame geometry. Some brands do not bother with a new frame and rely on a small unisex frame paired with a special women’s saddle and a narrower handlebar.

Frame geometry for women

Since the female gender is smaller on average, the frame height for women bikes starts with smaller sizes. Of course, this also applies to the large frame heights, which are not as large as those for men.

For the shorter upper body and the relatively longer legs, many frames then have a shorter reach, a longer stack and a lower standover height. The reach describes the horizontal distance between the bottom bracket center and the center of the top edge of the head tube, the stack the vertical distance. The overhang height describes the height of the top tube above the ground in relation to the step height of the driver.

The lower reach is usually achieved with a shorter top tube and a shorter stem. In combination with a longer stack, the sitting position on the bike is much more upright and comfortable. The top tube also drops more than the men’s version to reduce the height of the overhang and to make it easier to get on and off.

With a unisex frame, sporty women often complain about problems in the shoulder and neck area, because the reach is too long to reach the handlebars at all. This leads to tension and pain, which worsen while driving. In addition, you involuntarily slide forward on the saddle, which in turn leads to sitting problems.

Contact points between rider and bike

Contact points are the components of the bicycle that are touched by the body when riding. Of course, this includes the saddle, the handlebar and the pedals. The latter are usually not included when buying a road bike, which is why we will concentrate on the other two at this point.

Sitting problems are one of the most common annoyances that women complain about while cycling. An uncomfortable fit, too much friction, high pressure on the bones – a wrong saddle is often to blame. A special women’s saddle is needed here. As already mentioned at the beginning, the sit bones are wider in women than in men, and the Q angle is larger. Therefore, the contact area is usually larger for a woman-specific saddle – the saddle is wider overall. Although not specifically for women, saddles with a cut-out in the middle are recommended to take the pressure off the sensitive soft tissues, improve blood circulation and prevent numbness. A too stretched geometry of the bike can further exacerbate such problems.

In the front of the bike, everything revolves around the handlebar. This should be narrower in comparison and easier to reach with a shorter stem. Furthermore, the handlebars are often adapted so that the brake levers are easier to reach, since women generally have shorter fingers.

There are also special adjustments in the bottom bracket to make the women’s bike even more efficient. The crank length is shorter, for example, to enable better power transmission and at the same time to achieve more comfort and performance. However, this does not differ too much from unisex frames, which are also equipped with shorter cranks in smaller frame sizes.

Other factors

Brake levers: As already described, the brake levers on women’s  bikes are often placed closer to the handlebars and shaped so that they are easier to reach. Some manufacturers also equip the levers with set screws so that the distance can be individually adjusted.

Frame design: In addition to geometry and size, some manufacturers also change the material composition of their premium carbon frames to include the low body weight. With good execution, the flexibility of the frame is ideally increased and weight is reduced.

Style: For many, the most obvious difference between women’s bikes and unisex bikes. The color scheme and design are often more colorful and garish, just not as staid as the often only black or white bikes for men. In the past, the coloring was the only difference between women and men.

Final question: Do women need a dedicated women bike?

The diplomatic answer: it depends. The main advantage of a dedicated bike for women is that you can get started straight away. The bike is in the right size and under the right conditions exactly adapted to the female body and you have a better riding experience from the start and thus more fun biking. On the other hand, the generalizations of the female body made above must of course also apply to you so that you benefit from the special geometry and the adapted contact points.

Otherwise, one has to take a sober look at the fact that almost every unisex racing bike can be adjusted so that it fits your body perfectly. Here, however, the principle applies: the more you change your bike, the further you move away from the original driving experience that the manufacturer have worked towards. A women’s bike is already equipped with the appropriate geometry and matching components, so that fewer individualizations are required in comparison.

If you are looking for comprehensive bike buying advice, take a look at our Mountain Bike for Women Buying Guide or our Beginner Guides for Road Bikes and Mountain Bikes.