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Thread: Mens vs Womens models: is there really much difference??

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    Default Mens vs Womens models: is there really much difference??

    Good friend of mine is ready to start her bicycle adventure. She's 5' 11" and pretty fit. We've been looking at CL for a flat bar hybrid as a good starting point, but women's models like the Specialized Vita are unobtanium for such a tall woman.
    There are some nice mens models like the Specialized Sirrus in the right size, so the question is this:
    Are the differences between 'mens' and 'womens' frames anything but marketing differences? Can she buy a mens model without regretting it a month later?

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    DismalScientist is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Of course there is a difference. Women's frames are painted pink.

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    Perhaps the most important thing about buying a bike is to get one that fits well. The modern women's bike models are supposed to address this by having a slightly different geometry to account for the typical difference in body geometries, mostly the longer leg length for women compared to men of the same height. Otherwise, women who buy a men's bike have to resort to using a very short stem to be able to reach the bars. There may be a few other differences, such as narrower bars, and maybe a women's specific saddle. However, there are plenty of women who have been able to get a comfortable fit on a men's bike, so if she finds one that fits her well, then she shouldn't worry too much about it.

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    Theoretically, women's bikes are designed better for womens different body proportions (longer legs and shorter torso than a man of equal height). I know that while my GF and I are the same height, she finds my road bike completely unridable because her legs are so much longer than mine. She ends up having to reach much further for the bars and it doesn't work. Womens bikes also usually come in smaller sizes (since women are, on average, shorter than men) so they can be easier to fit to shorter ladies than small mens bikes (which are sometimes still too big).

    That said, there is really no rule about womens vs mens bikes. Not all women fit the "different than men" body proportions rule anyway. Best way to think of it is as an additional option to consider, but the test ride is the key. If she finds one she likes the fit of, thats what matters. At almost 6' tall, she probably will be fine on "mens" bikes as long as the TT length is proper for her.

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    Thanks all. Its worth a trip up there to take a test ride. It looks pristine and the seller claims 200 miles max on the thing! Hope it fits.

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    And yes, it's ridiculous that the marketing departments need to paint a bike pink and call it a "woman" bike instead of just having a couple of geometries available. Some women fit better on a "man" bike and some men fit better on a "woman" bike, and there's no clear reason that a triangle with wheels needs a gender.

    It's really horrible when you've got girls and boys, and it's almost impossible to find a bike that isn't heavily gendered that might actually work for all of the kids. But this is an industry that still has podium girls, so changing the culture to something a bit more gender-neutral could take a while.

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    I would guess that by the time a lady is 5' 11" the fit will not be dependent on some small tweek to the standard human formula but more based on frame size, saddle hight and setback, bar hight and stem length. I would also think that for a fit lady a road bike would be more comfortable in almost all conditions. Her regret might be the flat bar rather than a men's frame

    FYI Marcia was 5' 9"'. Her bike sounds like it would be one size down but usable for test rides if you can steal it from Becka'. T Bird's road bike is underused right now and I also have a 100% ready to ride SST that would be in range of fit. Welcome to use ether for fit and desire testing
    Last edited by Vicegrip; 05-28-2015 at 07:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vicegrip View Post
    I would guess that by the time a lady is 5' 11" the fit will not be dependent on some small tweek to the standard human formula
    There is no "standard human". Some people have longer legs, some people have longer torsos or arms. Ideally you choose seat tube and top tube lengths that are proportioned to the rider (that's what happens if you get a custom bike). If you get an off the shelf bike you get something that the manufacture will fit the most people in their target demographic and then tweak as best you can--but you'll get better results if you start with a geometry that's close to what you need. (If you have to start using disproportionate stems you'll affect handling.) Height alone has nothing to do with it, the important part is how all the body parts relate to one another.

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    I was referring to the formulas bike makers use to make off the shelf bike frames. Some smaller size frames require adjustments to compensate for the fact that things like the wheels are not going up and down in size along with the frame. My kids road bikes are built around 650 wheels to correct for toe overlap and the like for example.

    Also. We vary a lot less that you might think. Many things that we think are large variables are when examined in large samples are surprisingly small variables overall. To say hight as little to do with a bike fit is hard to agree with. Overall hight is the largest variable, age, fitness and body mass aside. We humans range from 4' 11" to 6' 5" in normal format with a small group of outliers beyond but the ratios vary less than people might think. Another misconception is that femails have longer legs to torso ratio than males. They don't for the most part. Male waist lines are not in the same place and this makes the torso look longer. The real difference is width of some areas such as shoulders and hips. The rest is surprisingly similar in adult men and woman with regards to vertical axis ratios. Men's and woman's saddles and handlebar widths are where the differences are best dealt with.
    As to bike fit most small ratio variances are often easily compensated for in all but the most high end requirements. Keep in mind we are discussing a new to riding rider, not a Cat-1
    Last edited by Vicegrip; 05-28-2015 at 07:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vicegrip View Post
    Also. We vary a lot less that you might think.
    And a maybe more than you think. If it's an upright bike it mostly doesn't matter. On a drop bar bike where a cm either way can mean the difference between a comfortable or uncomfortable ride, yeah, a the difference in leg length between two people at the same height can be pretty significant. If you fall into the range that's accommodated on an off the shelf bike then great, you've got nothing to worry about. (I'm in the same range and usually don't even have to touch the stem length.) OTOH, I know people who have to go the custom route to get something that fits well enough for them to ride comfortably, and that gets expensive quick. It is true that most people who ride aren't in that camp, but that's also somewhat self-selecting--the people who are uncomfortable from day one tend not to stick with cycling long enough to get a custom bike that actually fits them. Anyway, the original question was about "mens" and "womens", not "too weird for anything off the shelf". As an example compare the seat tube of the size 54 specialized roubaix -- 495 -- and ruby -- 457. For roughly the same top tube length, it's got almost 40mm less seat tube. For reference, that's about the difference between the size 52 and 56 roubaix models (skipping entirely past the size 54). Now it may well be that none of this really matters and that the manufacturers could just sell small, medium, and large frames. But if the difference between a 54 and 56 is significant enough to justify having both, then it seems that there's at least as much justification for having both the roubaix and the ruby.

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