Bike manufacturers are to be congratulated for the impressive range of women-specific and gender-neutral models they have brought out in recent years. And there's nowhere that this applies more, than in the area of hybrid bikes.
You'll tend to find that the designers use identical components on their mens and womens models - wheelsets, gears, forks and suchlike, while tailoring the more relevant aspects to the gender of the rider.
It's evident that this tactic makes a great deal of sense, as this would enable the manufacturers to simplify their processes and profit from economies of scale in their buying. It also helps us to make sense of their otherwise quite complicated ranges. Making sense of model names, numbers and specs from numerous makers is tricky enough…
So the major features that vary between the two variants normally are:-
- Frame Geometry. Almost certainly the most noticeable difference. Women may no longer be wearing the long dresses that made a step-through frame indispensable at one time, but it's still a noticeable feature. It may not be so exaggerated, but a lower, more sloping top tube is evidently popular.
- A more padded saddle with more width is generally fitted. There's no getting away from the fact that we have differences when it comes to that part of our anatomy… As leisure use is the main aim of these bikes, it's vital that comfort is given the proper priority.
- The handlebar is frequently wider, along with more shape (more bend and rise).
As with many variations of the same model, there is frequently a different colour chosen as well - just for aesthetic reasons. It's definitely not a case of blue for boys, pink for girls....
When finding your way round the different ranges from various manufacturers, you’ll find that they will adopt different approaches to their marketing.
Some, like Specialized, have launched women-specific range names. The models within these ranges will have corresponding versions within the mens collections. So the Ariel is the sister range to the Crosstrail - bikes that those who enjoy getting off the beaten track will most welcome. In a similar way, the more road-going fraternity will favour the Vita range, sister to the Sirrus.
Other companies, such as Scott, have taken a different stategy. Their admired Sportster bikes, identified by model numbers - 60, 50, 55, 40 etc all have mens and womens variants within the one range.
There are some producers who have womens bikes in their range which have no close mens equivalent - the Dawes Duchess and Pashley Princess Sovereign are fine examples. Though these are probably better described as modern retros rather than hybrids.
So bike producers have realised that cycling is not just for men - in fact it never has been. Just get out there.
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Check out the Specialized Ariel or Dawes Duchess as great examples of womens bikes - in-depth reports from Tern Cycling Reviews.
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