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Bikes Designed for Women
by Liz Kinloch

Remember in the old days the difference between women's racing bikes and men's was the top tube position?  Women's bikes were designed so you could ride them in a dress and didn't have to "stoop" to throwing your leg over a top tube!  Well things have changed over the years, yet we still have a way to go.

Did you know that there's a good chance that you're riding a bike that doesn't fit you properly? Perhaps you do and just put up with it because of your love for cycling or maybe you don't even realize there's something you can do about it. Well, there are simple, inexpensive adjustments that can be made to your bike to improve the fit.

The Problem:
Why is it so hard to find a bike that fits? If you haven't noticed yet, most bikes are built to fit the average man. Women tend to have longer legs and shorter arms and torso than a man of the same height.  The average size of a women is smaller and women usually have smaller hands and feet.  Ever found it frustrating that you can't squeeze the brakes easily because your hand span in not large enough?  Even when the seat tubes are shortened, many bikes still have the same length top tube as the larger bikes, and therefore even this "shorter" bike won't fit. 

The Solution:
Shorter stems are the first option to try to give you a more comfortable reach. Also smaller brake levers, narrower handlebars and shorter cranks are also common on women's bikes. You can buy these smaller components from any reputable bike store and adjust your current bike to suit. 

For some these simple fixes will be all that needs to be done.  For others you might consider splurging on a new bike specifically designed with women in mind.  It is not just a matter of putting smaller components on a regular framed bike, it is about redesigning the frame to suit a woman's (or just plain smaller) body geometry.  Georgena Terry was the first to develop alternatives for women and many bike companies have followed her lead by building bikes especially designed for women.  When I first wrote this article back in 1999, finding smaller framed bikes for women was limited to only a handful of bike manufacturers.  Finding these bikes in the stores, even specialist ones, was near impossible.  The bike makers are still behind the times, offering only limited sizes for women specific designs, but at least they are taking a step in the right direction and you can see the bikes being stocked in stores!!

Note: Not all women need to buy a bike with “women’s geometry”  as they are primarily designed for a shorter riders (men & women) with relatively long legs compared to their arms and torso.  The key factor is whether a bike fits you. This isn’t a gender issue, it’s a fit issue. Buy the bike that gives you a comfortable, efficient riding position regardless of who it’s being marketed to.

Here are some options if you are looking for a new bike.  Visit the Compare Bikes page for more info.

LeMond bike geometry is such that people with shorter legs and a long torso find these bikes very comfortable.  LeMond also makes women-specific bikes with narrower handlebars, shorter crank arms, shorter stems and a "woman-specific geometry".  In 2002 they have released 2 models in sizes:
45, 49, and 53cm. 
LeMond Tourmalet - approx $1,200
LeMond Zurich (pictured right) - approx $1,800
Visit the LeMond website for more information.


2002 Bianchi Eros Donna
Retail: $1,100
Size: 46cm only 
Frame/Fork: Double-butted Bianchi Reparto Corse SL Chromo Lite MegaPro. Bianchi unicrown double-butted CrMo fork.
Components: Campagnolo Mirage / Veloce mix. 27 speeds. Deda Elementi 4Girls anatomic women’s handlebars. Selle Italia Lady Genuine Gel leather saddle.
Visit the Bianchi website for more information.

Trek has come out with 3 Women Specific Designs - "WSD" for 2002
Sizes:  43, 47, 51 & 54 cm - one more size than in 2000!!

Trek 2000WSD
Frame: Alpha™ SL Aluminum
Fork: OCLV Carbon Classic.
Wheels: Aurora
Components: Shimano 105 crank and Tiagra/105 9-speed shifting. Triple chainring.

Trek 2200WSD
Frame: Alpha™ SL Aluminum
Fork: OCLV Carbon Classic.
Wheels: Bontrager Select
Components: Shimano Ultegra crank and 105/Ultegra 9-speed shifting. Triple chainring.

Trek 2300WSD
Frame: ZR 9000 Alloy.  A new frame material is lighter than titanium & stronger than steel.
Fork: OCLV Air Rail.
Wheels: Bontrager Race Lite
Components: Shimano Ultegra

Visit the Trek website for more information.

It took Cannondale a couple more years than most manufacturers to figure out that more women's geometry bikes were needed in their product line.  In 2002 they are offering three bikes in 5 sizes - 40, 44, 47, 50, 53 cm.  Sizes 40, 44 & 47 come with the smaller 650c wheels while the 50 and 53cm frames come with "standard" 700c wheels
R500 Féminine
R800 Si Féminine
R2000 Si Féminine
Visit the Cannondale website for more info.

While Giant does not carry a women-specific range of bikes I have included it here as traditionally women and smaller sized men have found their frame geometry comfortable.  Giant only produces 3 frame sizes - small, medium and large and have an complicated way of determining the correct frame size for you.  To tell truth, as a layman, I personally can't work it out at all but it does suggest the ability to custom the bike for you.
Giant OCR 2
Small, Medium & Large

Visit the Giant website for more information.


Georgena Terry was the original women specific bike manufacturer.  Her bikes are a little harder to find but check out her Terry Bicycle website for information.

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