Is The Dolce For You?

It's about the time that everyone on the Boston to Santa Barbara route is starting to think about getting their bicycles. I wanted to write a brief article detailing the differences between men and women, with respect to buying a bicycle.

I agree with what Joe Friel, author of The Cyclist's Training Bible, says about female cyclists. Compared to their male counterparts, women tend to be shorter, have smaller hands, have longer legs in proportion to their body height, have narrower shoulders, and have a lower center of gravity. (They also tend to have higher body fat, less muscle mass, and be iron deficient.) Granted, these blanket statements are not true of all women - such as Libby, the All-American rower who stands at 6'0", or Jane, who has a longer torso than me despite being shorter than I am. The trend, however, does seem to hold.

In light of the aforementioned observations, I think that many women should at least take a look at bicycles designed specifically for women. Many women who are below about 5'5" tall should at least give a women's specific frame a test ride, if they have the chance. Moreover, many mass-produced bikes only go down to a 49cm frame size, which is still too large for some women.

If you're in doubt, find your local bicycle shop and go for a test ride. Do it today!

Women's bicycles tend to address the basic anatomic differences between men and women. These bicycles will offer narrower handlebars with shorter drops, shims to reduce the reach to the brake levers, longer seat tubes, and shorter top tubes, than men's bicycles of the same size. They also come with saddles designed soecifically for women; these saddles tend to be wider, and account for the more obvious differences between the genders.

Please note that when I refer to "women's" bicycles, I am only referring to bicycles which were designed for female riders' dimensions. I am not making any assertions about the bicycle's top tube! Once and for all, I'd like to put to rest the connotation of a "women's bike" having a severely dropped top tube. The best bicycles, for men and women, within most reasonable price ranges, have a double-diamond frame.

In the end, the only way to know that your bicycle truly fits you is to have an experienced cyclist take a good long look at your riding position. I can only help so many people, so this is yet another plug for visiting your local bike shop: in addition to performing a tune-up on your ride, your LBS can make sure your bicycle is the correct size, and swap out saddles and stems to help you get the right fit.