You definitely want to check before you buy! How to choose a road bike for women

Posted at: Mar. 23, 2021

We have compiled a list of how to choose a road bike and parts for women to suit their specific pains and concerns. Please read this before purchasing a road bike.

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Road Bikes on the Market are for Men

The bicycle itself is a vehicle used by both men and women, but until the last decade or so, when the number of female road bike users increased dramatically, road biking and road racing were almost exclusively a man’s world.

As a result, most bicycle manufacturers are designed for men, so riding a road bike designed for men would be a “hard bike” for women to ride.


There are many differences between the body shapes of men and women, but from the perspective of a road bike, the three major differences are as follows

  • Arm length
  • Inseam length
  • Pelvic shape

On a road bike, the most energy-efficient form is one that allows your legs to turn naturally. In order to maintain this form, it is important to have a good road bike fitting, and the most important points to check are the arm length and inseam length. If you don’t have the right fit here, your body will hurt and you will not be able to exert yourself.

Understand the difference in muscle strength between men and women.

The muscle mass of men and women are different. In terms of muscle strength used in road biking, the following two are the main points.

  • Leg strength
  • Grip strength

Leg strength, needless to say, is the power to pedal. Grip strength is the power to brake and maintain posture, which may come as a surprise, but is quite important in road biking.

Points for women to consider when choosing a road bike

Choose the right frame size for women.

It is important for all road bike users, not just women, to choose a road bike that fits their body type. Body shape here refers not only to height, but also arm length, inseam length, pelvic position, and so on.

Women are often shorter than men, so pay special attention to the seat tube length. A seat tube length of 440mm or less is recommended if you are under 165cm tall. If the seat tube is shorter, you will have a wider range of size adjustment by moving the saddle up and down with the seat post.

The blue line is the seat tube of a road bike.

The seat tube length is especially important because if you don’t choose a road bike that matches your inseam length, it will be difficult to transmit power to the pedals and you will increase the risk of a standing injury.

650C is also an option for women of short stature.

If you are a woman of short stature, even a 440mm frame may not reach your inseam or your posture may be too tight. In this case, you may want to consider a 650C size road bike, which is one body standard lower (general road bikes are 700C size).

There are currently few categories of road bikes “for short women”, so if you look for a 650C or junior size, you can find a road bike in a size that fits shorter women surprisingly well.

Protect your breasts with a frame with a short seat tube!

One of the problems peculiar to women is breast swaying and pain.

Road bikes are sports bicycles, so it is a prerequisite to ride with a sports bra to hold them in place, but road bikes require an extreme forward leaning posture, so the breasts can be pulled downward and hurt, or vibrations can cause them to sway and hurt. Women with large bust sizes are especially prone to pain.

A deep forward lean pulls the breasts downward.

If you are in pain, you are at risk of stretching or tearing the Cooper’s ligament that supports your breasts. The Cooper’s ligament supports the breasts, and if it is stretched or torn, the breasts will sag. This happens to all women, regardless of their breast size.

If you want to solve women’s specific breast problems, I recommend riding a frame with a short seat tube and lowering the seat post to dare to lean forward loosely.

It is also a good idea to pay attention to the top tube length, as a shorter top tube length will result in a shallower forward leaning posture.

Prevent crotch sores with the best saddle!

Men and women have different pelvic widths. During pregnancy, women have a wider pelvis to support the weight of the baby in the womb.

Therefore, if a woman sits on a “long and thin” saddle designed for men, her pelvis will not be able to firmly support her upper body, and she will tend to sway from side to side, causing pain in her buttocks. In order to avoid such problems, choose a saddle with a wide back. The saddle is sold separately, so you can replace it yourself later.

Also, women tend to get crotch sores when the delicate area of their groin gets caught in the nose of the saddle. Most road bike saddles have a long nose, so it always digs into the crotch, causing crotch sores.

Short nose, wide saddle

The crotch sore itself is a “common road bike” problem that occurs in men as well, but women’s delicate zones are sensitive, so crotch sores should be avoided as much as possible. For this reason, the key is to use a short-nose saddle and lean forward in a shallow position.

Choose a handle that allows you to have short arms.

Compact handle with short protrusion

Since women often have shorter arms than men, they should choose road bike handlebars that have a shorter distance to the bracket position, called compact handlebars, to make their posture easier.

There are not many compact handlebars in the lineup, but the handlebars themselves are parts that can be easily replaced by amateurs, even after the road bike has been purchased.

Choose a lighter gear ratio that requires less effort.

Women have less leg strength and weigh less than men, so gear ratios designed for men will inevitably be too heavy for them to pedal. Women are at a disadvantage when riding a road bike because they have to put their weight on the pedals.

Therefore, if you are a woman riding a road bike, it is recommended to customize the gear ratio so that it is lighter. Even if the gear ratio of your favorite road bike is heavy, you can reduce the overall gear ratio by changing the chainring from the default 50T or 52T to a lighter one such as 40T or 39T.

Standard chainring and small chainring

Replacing the chainring is not a difficult customization, so ask the store for help.

Choose an STI lever with a small bracket

When riding a road bike, you are basically in the “bracket position” where you grip the top of the STI lever, so it is important to choose an STI lever with a small bracket that requires less grip.

ST-R2000 (left) and ST-2400 (right) with different bracket sizes

For Shimano’s STI levers, the latest R series has a compact bracket, so choose that one. For entry-level road bikes, the old CLARIS ST-2400 is often used, but the ST-2400 has a large bracket that makes women’s hands tired, so try to avoid it.

We have looked at how to choose a road bike for women.

Even if it is the same road bike, women have their own way of choosing a bike. It would be a shame if after you buy a bike, you find it painful to ride, or if it doesn’t fit you anymore.

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