I suppose that I’ve always realised that this cycling lark, like sailing, is a bit male dominated,… but with heroines like Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott, the popularity of womens’ cycling is on the rise.
To my delight, my darling daughter who is living in Australia, has asked me to give her some advice to help buy a road bike. She has a city hybrid bike (male or ‘unisex’ frame/size) at the minute and her big event is the annual charity ride (220kms, but with several much shorter options which she chooses!) around the Bay of Melbourne. I think the group she rides with are all on drops, and she finds it very hard to keep up. She starts with the not unreasonable position of “I’ve no idea what I want, or what I want to spend…. What should I do?”.
I thought this would be cinch to figure out, but you know all the online materials and websites are appallingly male oriented. It’s not easy – many female bikes are not even reviewed anywhere. I think I have the first fatherly advice right….. which was “get a bike fit first”… They have one of the five new Guru systems currently in Australia about 15 minutes from her flat. That’s a lucky break.
The next thing that worries me is that at 5′ 10″, the same as Naomi Campbell (?!) she may be beyond the height that most female geometry bikes cater for. Did you know that most of them are not available about size 54?? Blimey – that’s no use. She is 4″ shorter than me but her legs are 1″ longer than mine. So what’s going to happen?? I have half a feeling the bike fit will say to use a smaller “unisex” geometry frame, but with a short inclined stem or something. We’ll see. The GURU fitting session is booked for this coming Saturday morning….
In the meantime, I list below the information I have dug out for her. (Some dedicated womens cycling websites are listed , by the way…)
The way you’ll get the most choice at a bike shop is to choose a shop and a manufacturer with large scale product lines. There are zillions of companies making bikes (mostly very limited ranges), but probably the very big market leaders are
- – Cannondale (stocked by SBR in Windsor)
- – Specialized (stocked by Total Rush in Richmond)
and the other three brands I’ve listed are
- – Trek (making my new bike)
- – Giant (your existing bike made by them)
- – Bianchi (as you mentioned having seen an attractive one – was it pink??!!)
- – Scott
The issue will be whether your body shape is best suited to female or “unisex” geometry frames. Many manufacturers dont do female geometry frames but these big four do special model designs to suit the female shape. At the SBR shop, they said that you being of Naomi Campbell stature, you may find that womens frame geometries wont go big enough for you, so they may look to the unisex ranges and need to understand what stem length, and seat post adjustments they need to make for you to get the same effect as a female frame. Proportionately ladies legs are longer and arms are shorter than the same height male. But that is the expertise of the bike fitter (and probably the GURU machine) that should tell you the answer. I notice that ladies riding mens/unisex geometry frames often use much shorter stem lengths than men, and this shortening the seat to handlebar distance. The seat also has 2-4 cm of lateral adjustment on a road bike.
(stocked by SBR in Windsor, who allegedly have the guru system of bike measurement)
This is their long distance geometry bike, (type=”endurance road”) which is probably more what would interest you. Called the Synapse,…There are two versions of the Synapse. B y the way, the Synapse 2014 model was “Bike of the Year” this year, so it should be very good :-
(i) Carbon Womens Synapse
A guideline UK Price from Evans for one of these with Shimano 105 is £1699. Probably cheaper here.
(ii) Synapse Womens alloy (less price)
A UK Guideline price for this is £850
The difference between the two will be largely, (i) possibly the alloy gives a harder ride quality – but relative to the UK, you have very smooth roads in Melbourne!! (ii) the carbon will be a bit lighter
If you end up going with the unisex geometry alloy frame, then there are a couple to look at
the daringly feminine colour scheme on the Synapse 6 Shimano Tiagra Model (there are two cheaper models I think) which is £949 in UK at Evans and I think a brilliant $A899 here!! As such, with its smart colours, possible sizing for you and good price is quite likely to be a bike you end up choosing….
and the 105 equipped bike with disc brakes This is double the price of the Synapse 6 Tiagra.
(stocked by Total Rush in Richmond)
Specialized Womens Website
They have lots of models but what you want is their Endurance bike
(ii) their carbon Endurance bike (much more what you would want) is called the “ruby”
The Ruby 105 in Richmond is $2249, and there is a carbon Shimano Sora equipped bike for $1899 and the carbon Dolce Elite with Tiagra groupset is $1299.
I think the alloy version of this is called the “Dolce”
The 105 equipped Dolce is $899 and the Sora geared bike is $999 in Richmond
Trek are the people currently making a bike for me for endurance road cycling (sportives, charity rides etc)
They have a womens range called WSD – women specific designs
The ladies and unisex models have the same name, and the one that is for endurance is called “Domane” and pronounced “doe mahn ay”
The optimum series of the domane to think about is series 4 WSD (I think they are all carbon) The Evans price in UK is £1800 – but this is for carbon, remember!!
Their alloy model for endurance is called the Lexa
Might be worth looking at but Evans only lists one Lexa, and at £450 it wont be very good at all
The last of the major manufacturers on my list is Giant. The Giant Defy was bike of the year in 2013…..
Their Womens Endurance Road bike is called the Avail
Their alloy (aluminium) model is called Avail 1
I think the carbon base model is called the avail composite
Their carbon range medium model is called Avail Advanced
Their carbon premium model is called the Avail Advanced SL
Scott have a ladies geometry range called Contessa for “Endurance Road” class of bikes
This is the aluminium one, but there are several models of it
This is the carbon one
This might be the low position race model
A lady colleague of mine who cycles, switched from an alloy Contessa to a titanium frame bike (a bit like mine) and said that the titanium gave a much smoother ride. Carbon is probably between the two, but on the smooth roads of Melbourne, would you be able to tell?
This is the Bianchi Impulso Dama which I think is the endurance bike for ladies. This one with Shimano 105
Been to two prospective bike shops today.
1/ SBR in Windsor.
Come out of the station and turn right down the street with an osteopath sign – Peel St I think. Walk two blocks to Punt Road, then turn right and the shop is a little way up on your right hand side.
Very informed and switched on staff. They stock cannondale and cervelo.
Their big thing is the guru bike fit system. Already programmed in are all the frame geometries for simply all the leading brands.
Because of this, in the shop they stick to one example of each model so you can see the product, then when guru decides the best fit, they order it in. I’ll write more about the very good discussion there in a moment.
2/ Total Rush at Richmond.
Well, this is a huge Specialized dealer with lots of models in stock plus a nice cyclists cafe called rush! It is situated on the road (Stewart) on the north side of the station on the corner with punt road.
If you buy a bike there, they adjust it to fit but there is only one proper bike fit, which costs $349 and is not refundable. It takes about three hours but I guess assumes
Summary of Bikeradar Reviews of Bikes Most Relevant to You
I list below the reviews from Bikeradar of bikes relevant to you at the first scan of the market. Of course, with bikes as everything else, the more you pay the better the reviews get. Also the tests only show of course, that carbon frames tend to score more highly than alloy (i.e. aluminium) – but you have to decide what you want to pay.
The review of the Specialized Dolce with bike fit (gets five stars) is an interesting read, as it is as much a review of getting a bike fit done BEFORE you buy instead of, as most people do it, afterwards – and it says it’s a great idea.
Five Stars – Cannondale Synapse carbon (they only tested the male geometry, but at your beautiful height you may need this). The alloy has the same geometry and claims shock absorbing technology, even on the alloy models.
Five Stars – Specialized Dolce combined with BG Bike Fit experience
Four and a Half Stars – the Cannondale Synapse 6 Tiagra (alloy) – Quite a likely final candidate in unisex geometry for you….
Four and a Half Stars – Trek Domane Series 4
Four Stars – Specialized Ruby
Four Stars – Giant Avail 1 carbon
Three Stars – Cannondale Synapse 5 with disc brakes
Three Stars – Giant Avail 2 alloy
Three Stars – Scott Contessa alloy
Three Stars – Bianchi Impulso
Cannondale Synapse (this for the unisex geometry models) – this got Bike of the year 2014 award and five stars – which maybe what GURU fitting suggests for you…
Here is a very positive review of the Synapse 6 Alloy Tiagra (gets four and a half stars)
Cannondale Synapse 5 with Disc Brakes (only gets three stars)
Specialized Dolce with BG Bike Fit (gets five stars)
Specialized Ruby (gets four stars)
Trek Domane 4 Series (four and half stars)
Giant Avail 2 – alloy (gets three stars)
Giant Avail 1 – carbon frame (gets four stars)
Scott Contessa (three stars)
Bianchi Impulso (only gets 3 stars)
Interesting Womens Cycling Websites
Also found this which is quite good – total womens cycling
This also written by a lady
Bike-Shop Girl – a 5′ 10″ lady cyclist !!