/ Women's specific bikes
I've got to by the missus a bike for her birthday. I assumed I would be buying a women specific bike, but having done a little reading around I am now not so clear this is necessary. Seems to me that other than the saddle, and possibly bar widths (which I could cut down anyway) there is not necessarily a clear cut case for women specific frame geometry.
Add to this that there is much less choice around and some grim colour schemes in 'womens' ranges, I am wondering if I should just by her a 'unisex' bike.
Looking at a purchasing hybrid with straight bars for general low mileage on/off road cycling with kids around the £500 mark (she will not contemplate secondhand BTW). The other half has with a fairly typical body proportion. She is no cyclist (at the moment). These factors suggest to me that bike geometry is not going to be desperately important (other than getting the size right).
Honestly, with 3 kids and limited time we are not in a position to try in the shop most likely. Any advice and experience appreciated...
Have a look at the Giant Liv bikes at Rutland Cycling, usually some heavily discounted models.
We have had two Liv MTBs from Rutland via mail order and they are great (Liv and Rutland). I know you are not after MTB, just a general comment about Liv quality and overall VFM (at discounted price) etc..
Bike geometry won't be that important from a performance perspective, but I think that for a relative novice it can matter a great deal in terms of feeling confident on a bike. Your partner may feel less comfortable on a bike that puts her in a more forward-leaning (rather than straight up) position. Some unisex bikes may have a longer top tube than an equivalent women's versions. This could force her to adopt a slightly more race-like position than she would on a female-specific bike. This might not be an issue, but possibly something to think about.
I own / have owned both womens and unisex bikes, my main issue with the unisex ones was that in both cases the break levers were too far away to comfortably grip. This can usually be adjusted (perhaps more easily so on hybrid bikes than road bikes?), but perhaps worth asking/looking into before buying a bike.
There are a few more differences than you might think, bearing in mind general physiological differences between men and women:
All of which might make a difference if Mrs H is petite, but not so much if she's not - certainly one of my sisters rides a men's mountain bike with a women-specific saddle on it.
Sizing is more critical on road bikes that you're likely to ride in the same position for hours at a time, but less so on hybrids and mountain bikes.
An advantage of women specific bikes (in common with clothing, boots and more) is that there are often some outrageous bargains to be had at the end of the season. I'm not sure why but the reductions can be far higher than in the men's equivalent.
If you are looking for a hybrid in the £500 range then there wont be much women's choice anyway, its all very standard.
I'd very much suggest looking at the Evans / Pinnacle range.
I would suggest taking her shopping, let her sit or test ride a few and buy whatever is comfortable, regardless of whether it is marketed as a women's specific bike or not. I know you said you are pushed for time, but I wouldn't buy a bike without doing this any more than I would buy hiking boots without trying them on.
I have had unisex bikes in the past and never had any specific problems with them, but my current commuter and road bike are both women's specific, and with both of them it was obvious after a short ride that they were more comfortable for me and felt more stable than the unisex equivalent - however for some people this difference is less clear cut. Also, my partner has the exact unisex equivalent of my road bike and if you put them together it is obvious that they really are quite different shapes.
Yes, I like Liv too. My commuter is a low-end Liv cross bike and my roadie is Liv/Giant (from before Liv completely separated their branding).
Forget the labels, just try them all.
I find that the saddles on women's specific bikes don't fit me, they are still too narrow. So try to ignore saddle comfort and just buy one which fits for whichever bike fits best. Each time I buy a new bike, I just move my saddle across to it.
The reach required to operate the brake levers on a unisex bike really could be quite a big deal, especially if your OH has small hands. Doubtless it can be fixed, but why buy a bike you're going to have to spend money modifying?
Surely the majority of these considerations are proportional to the bike anyway.
Considering that different sized bikes from any reputable manufacturer will come with proportionally sized bars, stems, geometry, and cranks. Specialized even spec different sized disk brake rotors for bigger sizes assuming that bigger people weigh more and need more stopping power.
Saying this as a man with short fingers , options for short reach brakes are usually only found on higher end groupsets.
The saddle is a fair point that the OP has considered.
As far as frame reach and position goes this is model specific, eg, my Giant TCR is much more stretched out and low than my decathlon commuter bike.
I agree with the OP in that a lot of womens bikes is just pink washing to corner another market.
My GF rides a XS mens frame and is plenty happy with it.
She is not that short about 5 ft 7.
> As far as frame reach and position goes this is model specific, eg, my Giant TCR is much more stretched out and low than my decathlon commuter bike.
I agree that some of this is model specific - the cross bike I use for commuting and my road bike have different geometries. The cross has a shorter wheel base and shorter cranks and feels a lot more upright compared to the road bike, but they are nominally the same frame size. However, I don't think it is the whole story. My Liv/Giant Avail from 2014 and my partner's Giant Defy from the same year were equivalent bikes at the time and are the same frame size, but when you put them next to each other, you can see that the geometry is quite different and they feel different to ride. I suspect you would find the same if you put your TCR next to the equivalent Langma from the Liv line. I feel comfortable on the Avail but I feel too stretched out and quite unstable on the Defy of the same size.
> I agree with the OP in that a lot of womens bikes is just pink washing to corner another market.
I agree that there is an element of this and some manufacturers are worse for it than others, but when manufacturers actually think about what they are doing and build for women rather than just making things smaller and changing their colour scheme, it can make a difference.
> My GF rides a XS mens frame and is plenty happy with it.
Sure - if a men's XS frame suits her, great! But that doesn't mean it will suit everyone.
Check the frame sizes in the range you need. Years ago my wife's mountain bike was smaller in men's xs than womens small. Most women specific bikes should have smaller components, especially crank length, but I've not seen that in catalogue specs.
I'd agree with the comments about confidence and the position of a women's bike vs a men's bike which is in theory the right size. Having ridden a men's bike in my size recently it took me a while to get used to the more aggressive position and the brakes/gears being a longer reach. I cycle a lot so I can imagine if you're a relative beginner it could be disconcerting. If you think your wife might get into cycling then something like the specialized amira could be a good shout - https://www.evanscycles.com/specialized-sirrus-disc-2019-womens-hybrid-bike-EV306280#modal__product-zoom-modal. Flat handlebars and a hybrid but you could swap out tyres easily having more nobby cyclo-cross style for trails with the kids and slicks for roads if she gets that too, but the frame won't hold her back feeling too heavy etc. I've got a specialized road bike which I've had for 5 years now doing a lot of mileage commuting and winter riding, it gets and real battering from the weather and is still going strong.
I bought the better half a giant unisex hardtail for riding around parks and lakes etc. Even though the recommended height range was spot on, she would always get sore shoulders and said she felt she had to reach a lot. I changed the stem and handlebars which helped somewhat.
Swapped it for a Liv Rove and the difference is definitely noticible in many aspects. Reach is the number one improvement and very noticible when comparing similar models.
The years of "shrink and pink" are gone for any bike manufacturer with a decent name
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