Men’s and women’s bikes used to be vastly different, with men’s bikes being sportier and having better specs while women’s bikes were smaller, lighter, and more aesthetically pleasing.
However, today, women’s bikes offer the same level of performance and components as comparable men’s models, leading some to question the necessity of gendered bikes.
Generally, the differences between mens vs womens bikes are muddied by marketing, and whether the advert indicates one gender or the other holds little importance over whether the bike would ergonomically accommodate your body type.
Even so, manufacturers have designed some specific differences relating to the anatomical differences between men and women. In this article, we’ll look at what those differences are, and what they might mean for you when purchasing a bike.
We’ll be covering:
- Mens vs Womens Bikes: Why Is There Any Difference?
- Difference Between Mens And Womens Bikes: 6 Key Points
- Mens Vs Womens Bikes: The Summary
Let’s dive in!
Mens vs Womens Bikes: Why Is There Any Difference?
Effectively, the majority of bikes on the market are considered unisex.
This is particularly true for intermediate to high-end bikes. The reason for this is that cyclists make a decision to buy a bike based on whether it fits their specific anatomy.
That’s why in many bike shops, you’ll find that they’ll often ignore any sort of male vs womens bikes marketing and focus on bikes that fit your specific body measurements.
However the minor differences that exist are due a few areas in which men’s and women’s anatomies tend to differ. For example, bike manufacturers look at the fact women tend to have longer legs, shorter torsos, narrower shoulders, and smaller hands.
These contributing anatomical factors influence the frame design, crank length, saddle shape, handlebar width, brake levers, and overall fit into the below generalizations:
- Wider frame
- Longer top tube
- Horizontal top tube/crossbar
- Longer crank length
- Longer and narrower saddle shape
- Longer handlebar and wider grips
- Wider brake levers
- Smaller frame
- Shorter top tube
- Shorter crank length
- Shorter and wider saddle shape
- Narrower handlebar and shorter grips
- Shorter brake levers
So what are the specifics of these differences, and how might they impact mens vs womens bikes?
Difference Between Mens And Womens Bikes: 6 Key Points
#1. The Top Tube
Traditionally, the main difference between male and female bikes was that a woman’s bike would have a step-through frame, with a slanted or omitted top tube, and a man’s bike would have a diamond frame, with a horizontal top tube.
The top tube is the part of the bike that connects the seat to the handlebar.
This comes from an era when women were typically expected to wear long skirts, and so bike manufacturers developed slanted top tubes so that they could mount and dismount modestly.
Nowadays, step-through frames are suited more to cyclists that want to purchase bikes for the intent of relaxed travel, as opposed to it being a gender-informed decision. You’ll still see step-through frames on lots of casual bike options, but it’s generally for aesthetics.
One difference that is still common in mens vs womens bikes, however, is that the top tube tends to be shorter irrespective of whether it’s a diamond or step-through frame.
The design difference here is intended to accommodate the anatomical differences between men and women, with women typically having longer legs and shorter torsos compared to men.
The frame design can affect the overall weight and stiffness of the bike, more so on cheaper models where you can expect slightly heavier materials.
A sloping top tube or any sort of step-through frame can make a bike more flexible, whereas a horizontal top tube on a diamond frame can make the bike stiffer, and therefore more responsive.
With this in mind, it’s going to be down to your own personal preference – will you want the comfort and convenience of a step-through frame, or the sturdiness and reactivity of a diamond frame?
#2. Crank Length
The distance between the center of the bottom bracket and the pedal is known as the crank length.
The market offers cranks ranging from 165mm to 180mm, with the most common sizes being 170mm, 172.5mm, and 175mm.
Crank length is adjusted to accommodate the height and weight differences between men and women. Typically, men’s bikes have longer crank lengths, while women’s bikes have shorter ones.
The length of the cranks affects torque and cadence in opposite ways. Longer cranks generate more torque but typically reduce cadence due to the larger action required.
Conversely, shorter cranks produce less torque but increase cadence because of the smaller pedaling action.
#3. Bike Saddle
One key difference between men’s and women’s bikes is in the saddle.
Saddles are crucial for both male and female cyclists, as having the wrong one can make the ride unenjoyable or even cause lasting damage.
Men’s saddles are typically longer and narrower, while women’s saddles are often shorter and wider due to the broader separation of their pelvic bones and hips.
Women’s saddles may also feature a longer hole in the center to reduce pressure on soft tissue areas and support the sit-bones.
Cheaper brands may offer unisex saddles without any specific anatomical design, whereas high-quality saddles for both genders often incorporate a space between the two sides to relieve perineum pressure.
Choosing which type of saddle to go for is totally down to you and your individual needs. It’s essential to experiment with different saddle designs to find one that offers optimal comfort and support.
Fortunately, saddles are really easy bike components to replace, so if the original one isn’t suitable, it’s easy to switch to a better option.
Handlebars are another main area where men’s and women’s bikes differ.
Men’s bikes typically have wider handlebars, while women’s bikes typically have narrower handlebars.
Men’s road bike handlebars usually measure between 42 and 44 cm wide, whereas women’s road bike handlebars are between 38 and 40 cm.
This difference accounts for variations in upper body strength, arm length, hand size, and shoulder width between men and women.
A wider position provides a stronger grip and better overall control of the bike, which is particularly important for men’s and women’s mountain bikes when navigating tight turns on the trails.
Also, the handlebar stem on men’s bikes is usually longer to accommodate a longer torso and arms, while women’s bikes typically have a shorter stem to ensure comfortable and safe reach.
However, these components can all be adjusted or swapped, so ultimately you can customize the feel and fit regardless of gender.
#5. Brake Levers
Occasionally, brake levers can vary between men’s and women’s bikes, with women’s bikes sometimes being set up with lighter levers for easier control for riders with smaller hands.
The levers themselves can also sometimes be larger or smaller depending on the gender the bike is being marketed to.
However, very few good-quality groupsets feature any gender differences, regardless of whether they’re fitted to mens vs womens bikes.
#6. Overall Fit
Ultimately though, the most important factor to consider is the fit to your body. A bike that doesn’t comfortably suit your dimensions can be irritating, destabilizing, and even dangerous.
Bike makers are now super advanced, and use vast end-user data that goes into the science of frame geometry for bikes.
So for the overall fit choosing frame design, crank length, saddle shape, handlebar size, and brake type should come down to your height, weight, and body proportions.
Simply standing over the bike and taking rough measurements won’t necessarily suffice. It often takes a few miles of riding to truly understand how a bike feels. Take the time to measure your body proportions at home and compare them with online charts.
Additionally, we highly recommend considering a professional fitting from a decent bike shop if you’re going to be spending a substantial amount of time on the bike or riding competitively.
This will ensure that your bike is adjusted to your unique body dimensions, optimizing your comfort, performance, and safety while cycling – not just based on your gender.
Mens Vs Womens Bikes: The Summary
All things considered, most bikes can be ridden by anyone, regardless of gender. But, depending on your body type, some bikes may fit you better than others.
As we’ve seen, there are some gender-specific bikes that are designed to account for anatomical differences, but everyone’s body is unique.
So, don’t be surprised if you find a bike made for the opposite gender that feels just right for you – and don’t let that impact your decision.
Whether you are a commuting road cyclist or an adventurous mountain biker, it’s important to find a bike that suits both your body and your needs. So, don’t limit yourself to bikes made specifically for men or women, and choose a fit that is right for you.