When women-specific bikes first came on the market, I was disappointed to see that the components were always the lowest spec, yet they seemed to be the same price as the ‘men's’ bikes equipped with better parts. At 165cm (5ft 5in), a fairly average height for a woman and not 'short,' I figured I could fit just fine on a small sized men’s bike. In my 15 years of bike riding, I must admit; I have never owned a women-specific bike. It was when I recently had a professional bike fit, that I really noticed the difference in using a women-specific saddle. I suddenly had a big ‘ah ha’ moment, where I realized that I could be missing out on something big by not having a women-specific bike and components.
Today, ladies' bikes are no longer simply offered in smaller sizes in ‘pretty colors,’ the bikes also come with equal level components to men’s bikes and other female friendly features. There are now a variety of women's bikes on the market which exhibit attention to detail in providing the right components, such as women-specific saddles, shorter stems, narrower bars, shorter crank arm lengths, lighter gear ratios, or shorter wheel base and other geometry modifications to suit the cycling discipline.
Here is a selection of women-specific bikes we like for a variety of riding types/styles.
Women's Road Bikes
The Liv range offers a huge variety of road bikes for women. The bikes are available from an XXS to L, which gives ladies as small as 144 cm the chance to get a superb looking light bike. The Envie Advanced 2 is a mid range bike which can be used for racing, triathlons, hill climbing or everyday riding ($2,799). The team at Liv have done a lot of research into women’s bikes and the whole range provides bikes for different disciplines with different specs and price to suit a wide range of buyers.
The Ridley Jane uses the exact same mold as the more expensive Jane SL model, but with differences in the lay-up of the carbon. The Jane model weighs slightly more than the SL but comes in at a lower price, making it the better value. (The Jane and Jane SL are the women-specific equivalents of Ridley's Noah and Noah SL.)
The Jane has the option of stems between 80-100mm across the size range, bars between 38/40/42, a wider saddle and crank lengths of 162.5mm and 165mm. There’s enough variety to fit any woman!
Women's Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bikes
Aussie mountain bike champion Rebecca Henderson has changed bikes for 2017 to ride a Scott Spark. Although hers is pimped out to fit her perfectly, mere mortals like us can get our hands on the women-specific Scott Contessa Spark. The dual suspension bike comes in a variety of models with the top level RC 700 (shown) weighing in at a super light 10kg and equipped with a SRAM X01Eagle drive train, Shimano XTR brakes, and a women-specific saddle and handle bars.
For a hardtail mountain bike, the Trek Superfly 6 Women’s bike offers decent components and a price that won’t break the bank ($1,789 USD).
Women's Downhill (DH) Mountain Bikes
A few years ago Orange Bikes released a women-specific downhill bike called the Alpine 160 Diva. It had the same great features and components as the men’s model, but sized accordingly for women in the frame, saddle, and grips. Unfortunately, this bike is no longer available and there don’t seem to be any women-specific downhill bikes catching our attention for 2017, though there are some options available for downhill girls or smaller women.
The M16 is a downhill racing machine with 9.5 inches of rear travel you could ride off anything. Intense team rider and downhill champion Claire Buchar helped to develop the bike. It offers smaller sizing suitable for riders 5” - 5’5” in both M16 Pro and Factory builds.
Commencal have released a range of downhill bikes for kids, starting at a 20 inch bike for 5-6 year olds, through to a 24 inch and 26 inch model for juniors. Although these are not technically ‘women-specific,’ the 26 inch Supreme Junior model caters to ‘smaller people’, which could suit smaller ladies.
Women's Gravity Enduro Bikes
The Yeti SB5 Beti is one of my favorites as noted here. It's the big sister to the Yeti ASR XC race weapon. It offers 5 inches of travel on a carbon frame, has customized women-specific components, and is perfect for gravity riding. The Yeti SB5 Beti comes in Shimano XT/SLX and SRAM Eagle builds, and upgraded TURQ carbon models are also available.
The Juliana brand refers to the Roubion as being “capable of anything”. It comes in a small frame size for riders 5” - 5’5” with low standover height and women-specific geometry. The Juliana brand has hit the right market with women-specific bikes. The bikes are designed to offer suspension tuned for a typically lighter rider than a “normal” mountain bike would. Women tested and approved, the Roubion is offered in several build kits and C and CC frame models, with CC being the lighter, more expensive version.
Women's Single Speed Bikes
The hunt for a women-specific single speed was difficult. Giant used to do a bike called the Giant Chixie, which had narrower bars and cafe style riser bars however it looks like this one is no longer on the market.
With a lack of women-specific single speeds available, there is always the option to custom build your own bike!
The team at the Mission Bicycle Company allow you to custom design your own singlespeed via their website. You can choose your own handle bar style, frame size, and color of every component. There's even a frame choice called Lumen that is reflective, making your bike stand out in the dark! If too many choices scares you, pick from their popular builds like Valencia One and East Bay.
Women's Cyclocross Bikes
The Super X Women’s Force from Cannondale is an ultra light weight and stiff bike with disc brakes to help you stop when you go through mud. It comes in small frame sizes and with different componentry than the men’s bike with a women’s saddle and a compact handlebar.
Women's Cruiser and Utility Bikes
Norco's Rio Vista Women’s bike is a cruiser design that comes with rubber pedals, a full coverage chainguard, and balloon style cruiser tread tires for a classic look. It’s got built in fenders to stop water flicking up at you while you ride through puddles.
The Alibi Sport EQ bike has puncture proof ‘airless’ tires and an anti-rust chain. It has a step-through design that makes it easy to get on and off — a nice looking bike similar to old style ‘women’s bikes.’ It also comes with a rack and fender mounts so you can carry extra items while cruising around the city.