With the major bike manufacturers, including Trek, Giant, Specialized, and Cannondale, targeting the female market, what you don’t know could cost you hundreds of dollars. Women specific frames are even targeted to both the mountain bike market and the road cyclist. But is the extra cost for a women specific bike frame worth it? That depends. If you’re under 5′-3, the answer is maybe. If you have long legs and a short torso then the shorter frames of the women specific bikes may fit you better. If you’re over 5′-3, odds are you can save the cash and buy a standard frame. Minor tweaking by using a shorter stem will effectively “shorten” the bike some if need be.
When you buy a bike already assembled (called a complete bike as opposed to just the frame), keep in mind the handlebars are set up for average shoulder width of a man. Women’s shoulders are generally narrower. As a result, your hands may be wide apart when placed on the proper spots on the handlebar. Mountain bike handlebars can be easily cut down. Road bike bars are available in narrower widths. Don’t be afraid to change this out!
Some articles in support of spending the cash on the women specific bike frames are quick to add cranks to a what they present as a long list of items that are different between a generic frame and a women specific frame. Truth is, the cranks are usually fine. The cranks that are assembled on pre-built bikes are set up with a length appropriate for the frame size and the general height the frame size is designed for. This is not going to change because you’re a women or a man.
Bike seats are as personal as the bike shorts you wear. When you find a seat you like, you can change it out from bike to bike as you upgrade frames. Most sites advocate “wider” seats for women. Indeed, even the seat manufacturers try to push the sales of the plush gel seats with the wide back to the female cycling market. What you want in a bike seat is not soft and cushy. Gel seats and squishy seats create more pressure where there’s contact and that creates soreness and rubbing. Whatever sex you are, you want a firm bike seat. As for the width, try the standard narrow seat that comes with the bike first. Buy bike shorts to avoid chafing.
Giant, Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Titus and a myriad of other major bike manufacturers and the WSD bike frame supporters are also quick to tout that women specific bikes also come with smaller shifters. Unless your hands are exceptionally tiny or you intend to shift every few seconds continually, this is unnecessary. The difference in actually shifter size is minimal. If you seriously have issues, an adjustment of where the shifters are located will solve the problem.
WSD Frame Bike Geometry
Women specific bike frames are built with what the industry terms as a different “bike geometry”. That means that top tube is shorter (for lesser reach) which then changes the angles all the tubes composing the frame. You’ll see talk of head angle, etc. It all means that the top tube is shorter despite all the wonderful jargon.
The one thing that women specific bikes have that the generic or men’s bikes don’t are the pretty paint jobs. You won’t find any flowers on the frames unless their women specific. Usually you won’t find frames in pink or purple either unless you buy a women specific frame. You can always pay for the paint job.