The debate surrounding women’s specific bicycle frames has been ongoing for several years. Women’s specific bikes have been around since the early 2000s, but some of the major brands have started phasing out the practice of designing bikes specifically for men or women.
Specialized in particular is aiming to gender-neutralize their bikes. New for 2019 / 2020, we are seeing several women’s models being dropped and replaced by the more neutral frame design. Specifically, the Specialized Ruze (a 27.5 plus tire hardtail mountain bike) and the Specialized Ruby (an endurance road bike) will no longer be manufactured. This follows the gender-neutralization of the Specialized Diverge, Stumpjumper, Tarmac, and Sirrus in the past couple years. So why, after fighting so hard for women’s bikes, are these manufacturers deciding to do away with women’s specific frames?
The answer lies in basic human physiology. Data collected by Specialized through 7,750 Retul fits over the past 11 years (1) indicates that the difference in body geometry between two men can be just as large as the difference between a man and a woman. In addition, there is no indication that there is consistently a more significant difference between the man and woman than the two men or two women. Apparently humans come in all shapes and sizes! As a woman who stands at 5’11”, this makes a lot of sense to me. Most women’s specific products don’t work all that well for me. However, I also empathize with the struggle of women at the other end of the height spectrum.
Specialized is in the process of changing their line-up to gender-neutral models, but this does not mean they have forgotten the basic differences between men and women. They will still be manufacturing women’s specific saddles and clothing. They will begin spec’ing smaller sized bikes with a 155 width saddle to account for the higher percentage of women riders in that range. As a brand they will continue to make an effort to spec bikes with components that will work for the widest variety of riders, but emphasize the fact that most riders need to swap out stock parts to achieve the most comfortable ride. A full bike fit will always be a huge benefit for the rider.
Many of our other brands also adopt a gender neutral approach to their frames, but are less vocal about it. A women’s Cannondale Synapse will have the same frame as a men’s, but there is a simple change to the handlebar width and stem length. A Juliana Furtado has the exact same frame as a Santa Cruz 5010 and again, touchpoints are the variable factor. A different saddle, smaller grips and a lighter-weight tune on the shock aim the Juliana towards a female rider.
Ultimately, it comes down to how the bike feels to you. There are no rules that say a woman can’t ride a man’s bike (which I do regularly) and also nothing to say that a man cannot ride a women’s bike. If you feel great on the bike, you want to get out and ride, and it just makes you smile, then it doesn’t matter what the manufacturer classifies (or doesn’t classify) the bike as. Just go out, have fun, and we will be here to help tailor your bike to your ideal experience - regardless of gender!
- Marisa Rorabaugh,
Former Skirack Bike Specialist
References: Jett, R., Chabra, S. and Carver, T. When to Share Product Platforms: An Anthropometric Review. p.2