Basic Guide: Women's Cycling Gear
It should be pretty obvious to most that men and women are different, and therefore have very different needs when it comes to clothing design, bike geometry, and more. For years, however, most of the bike industry simply took a “shrink it and pink it” approach to women’s cycling. They simply took the men’s version, made it smaller, produced it in a feminine color, and called it a day. For a lot of women, this made getting into cycling feel like a challenge, since finding bikes that fit or clothing that looked good was difficult.
Fortunately, things have changed quite a bit in the last few years. Manufacturers finally wised up, and have begun introducing new designs and products that take into account women’s needs and preferences. From bikes, to clothing, to accessories like shoes and helmets, there are now many women-specific options that are extremely comfortable, fit great, look great, and help riders feel and perform better on the bike.
Firstly, bike brands like Fuji, GT, and Diamondback have taken a different approach to designing women’s bikes. Using new geometries that are built with a women’s body in mind, this new breed of women’s bikes take into account the proportionally longer legs and shorter arm reach of most women by incorporating taller headtubes, shorter, sloping toptubes and a taller standover height to achieve a fit that is more comfortable, and optimizes the bike for the best performance possible.
Additionally, there is now a wider range of women-specific saddles that are designed for performance and comfort. With special attention paid to the wider sit bones and pelvic geometry of women, these new saddles offer better support, minimize friction and position riders for an easier and more powerful pedal stroke.
Clothing is another area that has seen significant development. Jerseys now come in a slimmer, more flattering and feminine fit that both improves performance and usually look great on almost any rider. Made with technical fabrics in a wide array of colors, these jerseys enhance performance and help you stay comfortable during a ride. But the real story when it comes to clothing is shorts. Nothing can make or break a ride like shorts can, and for years, women had to make do with shorts that weren’t exactly made with them in mind. Fortunately, again, times have changed. Now, many women’s shorts feature an anatomical cut that offers a great mix of compression, support and ease of movement to keep you more comfortable on the bike. New chamois shapes have also come along lately that, rather than just being smaller and wider versions of whatever the boys got, have been designed from the ground up for women. Since women obviously have different chamois needs than men, new designs had to be built from the ground up. Padding has been moved to new areas in the sit bones area of the chamois to improve comfort, a different shape at the front with differentiated padding thickness helps reduce irritation and chaffing, and some models also use Ph-balanced fabrics to improve feel and reduce irritation. So say goodbye to numbness, chaffing and all that other bad stuff.
And it hasn’t stopped there. After all, you wouldn’t expect women to shop in the men’s shoe department for a pair of office shoes, so why should women buys men’s shoes for cycling? Many companies now offer women’s specific shoes, built off of a smaller last (the model of the foot that a shoe is built around) with a narrower heel than men’s shoes, and women-specific helmets as well that run slightly smaller than men’s. These improve the little aspects of the ride, by eliminated helmet wobble, addressing shoe hotspots and more. Bear in mind, however, that some riders may still find men’s shoes or unisex helmets more comfortable, it all just depends on your foot or head shape.
With more women riding now than ever, there are more options available now than ever. So stop settling, and get ready to discover a whole new world of fit, comfort and selection that’ll keep you riding harder, longer and faster than ever before.