When you’re shopping for a new bike, the possibilities are enough to make you cross-eyed. Do you want a black cruiser with hybrid tires and a blue cup holder or a white city bike with semi-slick tires and a basket? And then there’s the type of frame.
Some bikes are unisex, but you’ll find that most options are divided into men’s and women’s categories. What’s the difference? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Men and women can both choose from a wide array of bikes, ranging from easy single-speed cruisers to complex mountain bikes, but the styles are tweaked to accommodate varying needs. Let’s take a look.
The characteristics of bikes for women are largely informed by the fact that women tend to be shorter than men (the average height of a woman in the US is 5’4”). While tall women may find a men’s bike to be more accommodating, women’s models are ideal for most female frames. Here are some of the ways women’s bikes differentiate themselves:
Stack: The stack is the distance from the center of the frame’s bottom bracket to the middle point of the head tube (at the top front of the bike). On women’s cruisers, hybrids, and other bikes, the stack distance is relatively short. This allows women to easily reach the pedals and achieve full leg extension. When the stack is too long, women may not be able to pedal comfortably – or at all.
Reach: Reach distance represents the number of centimeters between the seat and the handlebars. Because women’s bodies tend to have short torsos, a modest reach length makes it easier to reach the handlebars. In other words, as a woman of average height, you won’t have to lean forward to the point of discomfort while you ride.
Step-Through: A step-through frame has a downward leaning top tube. This feature dates back to when women rode in skirts, but it still comes in handy even though most female riders aren’t saddling up wearing an ankle-length dress anymore. A down sloping tube creates step-through mounting, so getting on and off the bike is easier.
Saddles: Bike seats are easy to swap, so women who prefer a narrow seat can easily get one before they leave the shop. As a standard, however, women’s bikes have wide and low saddles. These seats are more comfortable and allow you to comfortably sit back while you ride without experiencing back pain.
Handlebars: Narrow shoulders call for a narrower handlebar setup. Bikes for women tend to have handlebars that are not as wide as the bars on a men’s model. Of course, if you have wide shoulders, you can adjust the handlebars to your needs. For most women, however, placing the grips closer together means easier maneuvering.
Bikes for men come in the same basic styles as women’s rides: popular bikes include cruisers, hybrids, city bikes, and mountain bikes. Yet, there are distinct qualities that set men’s bikes apart from women’s bikes. For one, they’re designed to handle a taller body and more weight. The frames on men’s bikes also have a different construction and some of the parts are installed and/or adjusted with taller bodies in mind. In addition to longer reach and stack measurements, the following feature specifications are typical of men’s bicycles:
Stem: The bike stem is a relatively small part, but it makes a big impact for rider fit. Men’s bikes often call for a longer stem to increase the height on the handlebars and make tall riders comfortable. Increasing the stem length affects the reach; for tall riders, a longer stem means not having to lean down at an uncomfortable angle during a ride.
Grips: Men’s hands tend to be bigger, and their fingers longer. As a result, the grips on a men’s bike are often wider and set farther apart. This allows men to maintain a stronger grip on their handlebars, and, by extension, more control over the bicycle. Grips are easily customized to the specific reach and hand size of the rider.
Brakes: The brake levers on men’s bikes may also be wider and more accommodating to large hands. Relatedly, the suspension on a men’s bike will be tweaked to handle a larger body. Suspension absorbs shock, and heavier bodies may have unique needs in this department. While men’s and women’s bikes have the same brake and suspension set up, bikes for larger riders are designed to handle more compression.
Cranks: The crankset on a bike is what drives the chain and turns the wheels. While a crank might seem uniform across all bicycles, the reality is that the length of the crank may differ on men’s and women’s bikes. Men’s bikes have a longer crank to accommodate longer legs. Specifically, a men’s bike has an average crank length of 170 mm, as opposed to 165 mm on women’s bikes.
Tube Angles: The angles of bike tubes are another differentiator between men’s and women’s models. On a men’s bike, the bike tubes are less sloped and push the front wheel farther forward. This creates a longer reach and extends the wheelbase to increase stability. The tubes are often longer on a man’s bike as well.
If you’re ready to hit the pavement, check out our women's bikes for sale and men’s bikes for sale. Whether you prioritize comfort or speed, sixthreezero has a bike that offers what you need. Even better, our custom bikes mean you can build a bicycle that works just for you. If you’re a woman with long legs or a man with narrow shoulders, your men’s or women’s bike can be adjusted to match your body.
Do you want to find exciting places to take your men’s or women’s bike? There is always a new adventure on the horizon, you just need to find it. Join our Journey Club to uncover biking locations around the world and connect with other cyclists.
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