Let’s face it, despite the fact that a man and a woman of the same height are likely to be proportioned quite differently, bikes have traditionally been designed with a male rider in mind. Now that we have more women riding bikes (yay!), some manufacturers are paying attention and making quality performance bikes designed to better fit women.
WSD (Women Specific Design) is an approach to building bikes that considers female proportions to produce a bike more suited to a female rider. Far from just being a marketing fad, female-friendly bike design comes from a position of genuine concern for the user experience and a desire to provide a well-fitted, appealing bike for female riders.
More and more Australian women are taking up cycling so Women’s Specific Design (WSD) is here to stay, and that’s a great thing.
How to Choose a WSD Bike
WHAT MAKES A BIKE WOMEN'S SPECIFIC?
To understand this, let’s first look at the typical physiological differences between male and female bodies.
For the most part, women are proportionally longer in the leg, and shorter in the torso, than the average man. Their sit-bones are wider-set, and their shoulders are narrower. On average, women are also shorter than men; a small men’s bike will, in many cases, still be too tall for a woman to comfortably handle.
So, with such differences in average physiology between the two genders, what does this translate to when we’re looking at WSD bike design?
Well, there’s two factors that come into play - the frame, and the components that are fitted to it, both serving an important role in fine-tuning a bike’s fit and making it more suitable for the average female rider.
Starting with the frame, the top tube is shorter than on a men’s bike, making for an easier reach to the handlebars. WSD frames are usually scaled down somewhat to account for more petite female riders, with sloping top-tubes to give more standover clearance in smaller sizes – allowing you to reach the ground when the bike is stopped. A sloping top-tube also has the flow-on effect of a shorter seat-tube and more exposed seat-post, giving a little extra comfort through the rear end of the frame, as well as lighter frame weight.
Generally speaking, women have greater flexibility than men, so the head-tubes of a WSD frame tend to be shorter to give a natural position for the torso and hands.
In addition to a completely fresh geometry on a WSD frame, the parts mounted off a women’s specific bike are likely to be differently proportioned as well.
The contact points are quite different. To accommodate differences in pelvis shapes, women’s specific seats are wider, giving better support for the sit-bones, and shorter in length. The saddle category illustrates the differences between and men's and women's seats.
The same applies to the front end of the bike, where the handlebars are narrower, aiding control of the bike and better matching the narrower width of female shoulders. Stems are also usually shorter, both as a further measure to keep the reach to the handlebars manageable, but also to sharpen the bike’s handling in smaller sizes and counteract relaxed head-angles which can be necessary to avoid toe-overlap with the front wheel.
Crank lengths also tend to be shorter on female bikes, again based off a proportional scaling down to factor in smaller sizes.
Every woman is different, so these guidelines may not apply to everybody – and the benefits are likely to be most appreciated at the smaller ends of the sizing spectrum where women are going to struggle most to get a suitable fit on a men’s bike. Nonetheless, for a majority of females, there is a real benefit to a WSD bike.
In practical terms, differences in length of key components like the cranks will improve your climbing ability and pedalling efficiency, as you’ll be able to maintain a more comfortable cadence with reduced strain on the hips and knees. So when you roll up to the office or the end of that trail, you won't experience any unnecessary pain or soreness.
The handling of the bike will also be easier to control, granting more confidence at higher speeds and whilst descending; you’ll be able to more easily reach the brake levers and steer the bike more fluidly. This is especially great for fast-paced cycling. In short, it’s a win-win.
BENEFITS OF WSD
You may read all of the above and wonder, ‘why does this matter to me?’. If you’re only riding a couple of kilometres at a time, or you’re comfortable on an existing non-WSD bike, maybe it doesn’t. But if you have any underlying injuries or a poorly sized bike, discomfort has a funny way of making its presence felt as you spend more time in the saddle and as your distances increase. So if you're thinking about training for your first 100km, a WSD bike will make it even easier.
A correctly fitting bike means that you’re less likely to suffer from discomfort in your back and neck, reduce your time to fatigue and enjoy your time on the bike more. Rather than feeling stretched out along the bike and overreaching for the bike’s controls, you’ll be poised and comfortably positioned to get through the ride with a minimum of discomfort. There’ll also be substantially reduced strain on your core.
YOU'LL NOTICE A DIFFERENCE
Once you’ve gotten past the first jitters of riding a bike, you learn and then start to crave the moment where you’re carefree, your body and bike are working in perfect unison and the kilometres roll effortlessly past beneath your tyres.
That feeling is much harder to attain if you’re not comfortable on your bike. The human body varies and will fit a bike differently from one woman to a next, but in many cases WSD significantly enhances the rider experience. Loving your ride is the first step to loving cycling. You'll find yourself getting fitter faster once you find the passion for pedalling.
SHOP REID CYCLES, AUSTRALIA'S BEST VALUE BIKES
If you’re getting more involved in your riding and are looking for a potential increase in comfort and performance, test a bike that is designed specifically for women – you might find it’s just what you need, but never knew you wanted.
For all new bikes we offer FREE servicing for 12 months, lifetime warranty on frame and forks and 2 years warranty on parts.
If you’d like some more information, give us a call or come into one of our stores for a warm welcome and some friendly advice. In the meantime, check out our full range of WSD bikes