The ‘pink it and shrink it’ marketing ploy for women’s cycling equipment and apparel has been around for a few years. Thankfully, companies are now getting the message that this type of campaign doesn’t always work (we don’t all like pink!), and that developing ‘useful products for real women’ is a better objective.
Here is a look at some great women-specific functional cycling products out there:
Women's Toilet-Friendly Bibs
We used to joke about why there weren’t cycling bibs that were easier to get off when you needed to go to the toilet. To my surprise, there are now a variety of easy-access styles to choose from!
There are drop tail ones (with a flap at the back like the old long johns/union suit*), a zip off style, halter necks, or a magnetic clasp; all make it possible to pee without taking off your jersey.
1) Drop tail Pearl Izumi Women's P.R.O. Escape Bib Short, 2) Giro Chrono Expert Halter Bib, 3) Specialized SL Pro Bib Shorts with Hookups magnetic bib connection, and 4) Louis Garneau Women's Course Race 2 Bib Shorts with detachable clasped straps.
DID YOU KNOW?
*Long johns/union suits had a button-up flap in the rear covering the buttocks (colloquially known as the "access hatch", "drop seat", "fireman's flap"). Wikipedia
Our favorite toilet-friendly bibs are the Gore Bike wear - Power 2.0 Lady bib tights. They have a clasp in the front to keep the straps on the breastplate rather than directly over the breasts and a zipper solution for trouble-free toilet breaks.
Women tend to have smaller heads than men, so it’s important to get one that fits properly. The women’s specific helmets cater to this need, and some even come with a “hair port” where you can accommodate your ponytail to sit above the rear helmet adjuster system.
The Specialized Aspire helmet is the pick of the ponytail-ready bunch, with four height positions and a micro-adjustable dial.
For the gravity enduro ladies, make sure you wear a full face that fits your head. Try the Bell Super 3R MIPS-Equipped helmet from the Joy Ride women’s collection. It even has a removable chin bar to better suit the all-mountain experience (it’s two helmets in one!).
Women's Cycling Shoes
Women’s cycling shoes tend to be narrower than the men’s styles, so they fit better, are more comfortable and ensure you have a great ride. The Fi'zi:k R5B Donna ladies' shoes are lightweight, look fantastic and are specifically made for female riders.
Women’s Bike Chamois
We all know that the main difference between men and women is in our, erm… intimate area. ‘Lady parts’ are a completely different shape to ‘men parts.’ So, it’s fairly obvious that to minimize chafing and for a more comfortable ride, look for shorts/knicks or bibs with a women’s specific chamois tailored to the anatomy in question.
Women’s chamois tend to be wider in the sit bone area and shorter or rounder at the front section (we don’t need the extra padding out there!). They are also constructed with a softer flat pad for your private parts, without a groove or crease, which could cause pinching if you have ‘outie’ lady bits. This prevents any sensitive parts being irritated by the grooves.
We love the women's specific chamois of the Liv Signature Short.
Women's Chamois Cream
This may seem like an odd ‘gender specific’ item, but there are creams on the market that have a ‘tingle’ formula which can result in a painful experience if it gets near your sensitive lady parts.
Ladies-Specific Sports Drink
Ladies need different nutrition to men, especially around ‘that time of the month’ when our bodies' hormones are changing. When hormones are shifting, the energy metabolism during exercise changes. There is a smaller recovery window which means there is potential to train too hard. During the menstrual cycle there is a period (no pun intended) where estrogen reduces the availability of carbohydrate and increases the amount of fat used for fuel. There are also times where the high levels of progesterone increase our core body temperature and sodium losses.1 There is a whole lot going on.
Avoid “Premenstrual Performance Decline” and check out Osmo Nutrition’s women’s specific range of hydration and recovery products.
Women’s Bicycle Saddles
The ‘women’s specific’ saddle is probably the most obligatory item on this list.
Statistics show that the sitbone distance in men lies between 6 cm and 16 cm and in women between 9 cm and 17 cm.2 If you ride a typical saddle that's been designed for a man, your seat may be too narrow and your sit bones will slide off the seat; you lose power with each pedal stroke and it could also result in injury.
A women’s pelvic bone is also positioned in a way that it often presses onto the saddle nose of a standard men’s saddle, so you'll find saddles for ladies have shorter lengths.
There are lots of women’s saddles out there, so look to get a proper ‘sit bone’ test/fitting at your local bike shop to determine what size saddle you need and then ask to demo them until you find the right one for you.
Our favorite is the Specialized Ruby Expert Women's Body Geometry saddle, which offers three widths — 143mm, 155mm and 168mm — to suit most every lady cyclist.
Women’s Cycling Gloves
Gloves for women are narrower and have shorter lengths in the fingers. Many a woman will get by perfectly fine by simply buying a smaller men's size glove — and sometimes find those at a good discount because they don't sell through as much. But if you have smaller hands or haven't found the right fit, regardless of size, a women's speciific glove might be in order.
Women’s Cycling Jerseys
Thankfully, cycling jerseys to fit the shapes of female bodies are plentiful and not just pink. You can certainly get soft colors and 'girly' designs, but most manufacturers also make good fitting jerseys for women in fashionable and conservative styles. Three quick examples are:
Canari Breeze Women's Cycling Jersey, Liv Race Day Tri Top, and Fox Head Women's Switchback Cycling Jersey.