How to Choose a Women's Bike
bike image by Dubravko Grakalic from Fotolia.com
Cycling provides an excellent cardio workout for both serious cyclists and recreational bikers. When it comes to choosing a bike however, women face a number of special challenges compared to men. With most bikes built to fit a man's body, women may have trouble finding a comfortable bike due to their longer torsos, shorter arms and legs, or smaller size and weight. As you compare bikes, try different models to find one that fits, or look for bicycles designed just for women.
Visit bike shops that offer a variety of women-specific designs (WSD). Bikes marked WSD are custom-made to fit a women's body, while bikes without this designation are often built using a modified men's frame.
Sit on several different bikes until you find a comfortable seat. Women need a wider seat than men because of their wider hips and other anatomical differences. Choose a seat that you can sit in for several minutes without experiencing numbness, pain or discomfort.
Check the width of the handlebars. According to Team Estrogen, men's bikes tend to have handlebars as long as 40 centimeters, which is too wide for most women. Look for handlebars measuring 36 centimeters to 38 centimeters to enjoy improved stability and comfort. The smaller your shoulders and frame, the narrower your handlebars should be.
Try different bikes to compare reach. Reach is the distance between the seat and the handlebars and should be chosen based on your height and the length of your arms. Look for a reach distance that allows you to sit comfortably on the bike and reach the handlebars without slouching or stretching. Your elbows will be slightly bent when the reach measurement fits just right.
Test the gears and brakes. A common complaint from women cyclists is that the gears are too large for their hands. Sit on the seat of the bike, and make sure you can comfortably activate the brakes and engage all gears without excess strain.
Adjust the seat height to ensure it will fit your body. Have a friend or the bike seller help you make adjustments as you sit on the bike. The seat should be placed so your knee is slightly bent when the pedal is at the lowest point. If the seat cannot be adjusted to this point, move on to another model.
Ask about lightweight or portable bike models. Choose a foldable bike that you can fit in your car, or a titanium or carbon fiber unit that you can easily lift up onto your bike rack. Avoid bikes that are too heavy for you to move or transport safely and comfortably.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.