Image courtesy of @wolf.girl.mtb
The term ‘Mountain bikes for women’ is a bit of a strange one. You may be thinking that there is a definitive way that bikes are made for women that is different to men’s mountain bikes. Unfortunately, this is not the case and there are many approaches manufacturers design mountain bikes for women.
Different approaches of design to mountain bikes for women
The demand for mountain bikes for women is growing, and manufacturers have had to come up with ways to sell bikes to women of all abilities.
Shrink it and Pink it
In the past no matter what you are buying, manufacturers had a habit of taking a product designed for men and making it smaller and pink, to make it “feminine”. This lazy approach, just took the notion that women are smaller than men, and like pink. This resulted in mountain bikes for women, to have a lower specification and poor quality components However, this didn’t necessarily bring down the price of them.
Short and High
This approach is still used to some extent today, where manufacturers assume that women have short bodies and long legs. This give the bike a short reach with a more upright riding position. This isn’t all bad, but after riding a bike like this for a while, your progress may plateau. Also, the geometry of a bike like this means that when descending steeper terrain, the bike can feel unstable, as your weight will be further forward.
Unisex Frame with a women’s finishing kit
Manufacturers that use this approach, don’t see that the difference between men and women are sufficient to design gender specific frames. Instead, they use a unisex frame, but use a finishing kit to ensure the best fit. A great example of this is Juliana. These bikes use Santa Cruz frames that are re branded for women. To make them the best fit for women, they fit them with women’s specific components and women’s specific suspension tuning.
These women’s specific components are mainly your contact points. They will come with saddles, and grips designed for women. They will generally come with narrower handlebars too.
Mountain Bikes Specifically Built for Women
Some companies design and build mountain bikes for women from scratch. Manufacturers that use this approach, believe that the difference in ergonomics between the genders is sufficient to build frames specifically for women. These differences include arm length, torso length and leg measurements. These manufacturers also take in to account a woman’s flexibility and body position.
Great examples of these bikes are:
This obviously isn’t the definitive list, but a short simplified overview of how manufacturers design mountain bikes for women. It is a much more complicated subject than this, because of the human element involved. Bikes (as with all products) are designed around average statistics from a huge database of measurements, and trends. We are all different so a woman’s specific mountain bike may suit your riding buddy, but not you.
Image courtesy of @Bromblegram
What is wrong with riding a mountain bike designed for men?
In short…absolutely nothing. It is not essential for a woman to ride a women’s specific mountain bike. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned shredder, the decision process for buying a new bike is the same. But, main things to ensure you get the correct bike for you to consider are:
Type of riding – You need a bike that is capable of taking on the terrain you ride. Additionally, if you are ambitious, your bike needs to be able to cope with what you plan to ride in the future. It is best to buy a bike that you can progress with, rather than halt your progress, because it isn’t suitable for what you want to do.
Fit– It needs to fit you properly. If it doesn’t, it will have a negative effect on your riding and enjoyment. It can also be dangerous. This is not because you are a woman, it is because you are a mountain biker and it is the same for everyone. Ideally you will try out lots of bikes before you commit to buying. However, some of these bikes (or even the one you choose) may not be designed exclusively for women.
There has never been such a huge choice for mountain bikes for women. This means that there are many more opportunities to get a bike that is as close to a custom fit as possible.
As more women enter the sport and as technology evolves, manufacturers of mountain bikes will need to keep up with demand. These technological advances are happening all the time, making the mountain biking an even better experience. It is actually a really exiting time for female mountain bikers (even if they don’t buy a women’s specific bike).
What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the MTB-Threads newsletter!