Proper Bike Fitting for Women's Cruiser Bicycles

Choosing a Bike
December 19, 2016
Proper Bike Fitting for Women's Cruiser Bicycles
Proper Bike Fitting for Women's Cruiser Bicycles

No one goes jogging with shoes that only kind of fit, and no one should approach cycling with that mentality either. If you think some discomfort is something that's simply inevitable on women’s cruiser bicycles, think again. Cruiser bikes for women are not one size fits all. Besides offering a variety of adjustable features, they also come in many different configurations. Finding the proper women’s cruiser bike and correctly adjusting it takes time, but the result will be a more comfortable and efficient ride, allowing you greater enjoyment from your bike.

Men's vs. Women's Cruiser Bicycles

Traditionally, women’s cruiser bicycles sported highly sloped top tubes to accommodate skirts. No one bikes in a skirt anymore, but some women's bikes continue to feature them. Known as a “step-through,” these bikes are easy to mount and dismount.

However, the design is a little weaker than those with a horizontal tube. As such, many women's bikes have lessened or even eliminated the feature, particularly specialized bikes like road bikes and mountain bikes. Just because a bike lacks a sloped tube does not, however, mean it isn't made for a woman.

Proportionally, women have longer legs then men, while men have longer torsos. This means a man and woman of equal height fit bikes very differently. Shorter torsos force women to over-extend to reach the handlebars on men's bikes. The solution is to shorten the top tube, bringing the handlebars closer to the saddle.

Women, on average, also have narrower shoulders and smaller hands. To address this, women's cruiser bikes sport narrower handlebars and slimmer grips. Smaller brake levers are also available.

However, everyone's proportions are different. Some women are perfectly comfortable on men's bikes. Some are even more comfortable on them. If you're not comfortable on cruiser bikes for women, or available women's bikes don't offer desired features, absolutely try a men's bike.

Moreover, some women's models actually vary little from their male counterparts. The proportional differences are negligible, and the components are sometimes inferior. Women’s cruiser bicycles are sometimes painted in soft “feminine” colors to reinforce they're meant for women when, in fact, the label is nothing but marketing.

Sizing

The size of bikes such as road bikes and mountain bikes are measured in inches or centimeters. This measurement represents the length of the seat tube. Some are sized as small, medium and large, and the measurements those correspond to vary from bike to bike. Ask your sales representative for help interpreting these labels.

These measurements give you a rough idea of frames to look at. Every bike fits differently, so don't be surprised if you fit some 54 cm bikes but not all. The first thing you should do is a stand over test, where you straddle the top bar with feet flat on the ground, wearing whatever shoes you will use while biking. For top bars horizontal to the ground, you should have at least a one-inch clearance. Those which slope should have a minimum clearance of two inches, and possibly more depending on the degree of slope.

Our women’s cruiser bicycles are designed with simplicity in mind. Most of our bikes feature a 26” wheel which can accommodate a woman from 5' to 6' 2” in height. Models with a 24” wheel are meant for children or adults under 5'. This design makes it easy for you to order online with confidence. Our return policy also allows you to test ride your bike and return it if you aren't completely satisfied with the fit.

Positioning the Saddle

Once you've found a suitable frame, you'll need to adjust it to your unique measurements, starting with the saddle. Saddle positioning is the most important aspect of fitting a women’s cruiser bike. Its height influences leg and foot position. Poor placement encourages knee pain, while proper positioning increases pedaling efficiency, allowing you to ride faster for longer periods of time. Saddle position controls the distance between saddle and handlebars, which influences the degree of bend in the hips and arms. The placement of your sit bones is also dependent on proper adjustment of the saddle.

In order to properly measure your position on most bikes, you will need something or someone holding the bike while you mount it. Push one pedal to the bottom of the pedal stroke and keep your foot parallel to the ground. Your leg should be almost, but not fully, extended. If you're standing on tip toes or fully extending your leg, your seat should be lowered.

The saddle also slides back and forth. Place the front of your foot on the pedal and rotate it to the 3 o'clock position. If the saddle is correctly positioned, the knee will be directly over the front of the foot. Adjust accordingly if it is not.

Our EVRYjourney bike offers a unique posture in which the legs extend forward while keeping the body fully upright. It also places the body closer to the ground, adding stability. Although you will not be lining up the front of the foot with the knee, the leg should still be almost, but not quite, straight when fully extended.

Horizontal positioning also influences where your sit bones are in relation to the saddle. Sit bones are part of the pelvis and extend into the muscles of your butt. They should be taking the majority of your weight, and improper weight distribution can cause riders significant discomfort.

Unfortunately, adjusting the seat for proper positioning of the sit bones can throw off the positioning of the knee over the foot. Luckily, if you can't find a happy medium, there is another option.

Buying the Correct Saddle

The crotch is a very sensitive part of your body, and it will be supporting most of your weight. As such, proper weight distribution is vital, and the needs of men and women are very different.

Saddles are interchangeable, so if you can't properly adjust your current one, you can swap it out for another, which can be found at any bicycle store. Many saddles are designed specifically for one gender, and you should definitely start with a women's saddle.

Saddles have depressions or cut-out portions in order to relieve pressure in sensitive areas. They come in a variety of shapes to accommodate many different variations in anatomy. Women's saddles are also larger than their male counterparts. Women's sit bones are farther apart because they have wider hips, and that means they need a wider seat.

The farther forward you lean on your bike, the more acute this issue becomes as more weight is placed on the front of the crotch rather than the sit bones. Recreational bikes such as cruisers are designed to keep you fully upright, distributing most of your weight on the sit bones and allowing your legs to easily fall into a comfortable position.

Other Adjustments

There are a variety of other adjustments which can be made to fine tune a women’s cruiser bike to your unique body shape. Handlebars can be rotated, making the break levers and shifters easier to reach. The stem can be replaced, adjusting the height of the handlebars. Brake levers can be adjusted so they sit closer to the grips, allowing small hands to better grasp them.

Getting professional help

Cycling stores have personnel to help you properly fit your bike. If you're having difficulty getting the right fit, consider taking advantage of the service. Also, judging your own body position is difficult. An observer has a much better perspective on whether your body is in the correct alignment.

When shopping for women’s cruiser bicycles, keep your options open. Consider different sizes, configurations, adjustments, and whether you best fit a men's or women's bike. If it's not comfortable, even if the numbers seem perfect, either readjust or move on to another options. Cycling is not meant to be uncomfortable. A properly fitted bike should be easy to ride over long distances.

The shopping experience may be lengthy, but you'll be much more satisfied with the end product. Hobbies are quickly dropped if they're overly difficult or produce considerable pain. A comfortable bike will make it much more likely for you to continue cycling for years to come. Contact the experts at sixthreezero for more advice on choosing the right women’s cruiser bike!

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