Numerous scenarios could occur where one may be looking to hit the trails, only to realize the bike choices available to them are limited.
Maybe your bike is currently in the shop, or you are visiting some family and decide to borrow one of their bicycles, quickly learning that there isn’t necessarily an option that will fit your “size.”
This article will examine the differences between a mountain bike designed for a man and one designed for a woman. Also, answering the question, can a man ride a women’s mountain bike? And vice versa.
Is There a Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Mountain Bikes?
The answer to this question is quite simple and that is there is a difference between men’s and women’s mountain bikes.
This is because the anatomy of a male and female usually differs in the same way. A female is usually much shorter in stature than a male and bicycle manufacturers have designed women’s mountain bikes to suit their female clientele better.
There are several differences between the two “sizes” of the bike, including:
- Stand-over height
- Reach length
- Handlebar length
Let’s take a better look at each one of these and how they differ between the two bikes.
The standover height is the distance between the ground and the bicycle’s top tube.
This dimension tends to be lower in female bicycles. The only viable reason that seems to be present is that when bicycles first became popular, a common outfit of the woman who rode them was long skirts.
The lower standover height allowed women to get onto their bikes in a more “modest” manner, and when they were riding, their skirts would not get bunched up on the top tube.
While this may have had its place in years past, it is hardly viable nowadays, but bicycle manufacturers continue to produce female mountain bikes with lowered-top tubes.
The reach length of a bicycle is the horizontal distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube.
For someone not familiar with all the technical names of mountain bike components, an easier way to envision this dimension would be to measure from the center of the pedal’s gear to the pivot point of the handlebars.
Women’s torsos tend to be shorter than men’s; this is why the reach of a women’s mountain bike is shorter as well. The idea is to make the position a woman rides in as comfortable and natural for their body size as possible.
Female riders have some complaints about the reach and stack measurements of a female’s mountain bike. The common complaint is that the adjusted dimensions of the bike make for a less aggressive riding position.
The handlebar length is exactly as it sounds; it is the length of the handlebars from tip to tip.
When choosing the correct handlebar length for you, the easiest way to figure this out is to measure your shoulder length. You want your handlebar length to be slightly longer than your shoulders are across.
As most women’s shoulders are not as broad as men’s, mountain bikes made from women usually feature a shorter handlebar length.
Quite similar to the handlebar length, the circumference of the grips on a female’s bike tends to be smaller as women’s hands are often smaller.
This minor adjustment can make a world of difference over long and strenuous terrain. Many bikes allow you to adjust the angle of your brake levers, which is extremely handy for both men and women.
The saddle or the seat of a mountain bike changes between male and female bikes. This is an attempt to match with the rider’s anatomy, making for as comfortable a ride as possible.
Women have pelvic bones which are wider than men’s; thus they also have wider hips. To account for this, women’s mountain bikes come with a wide and short saddle, whereas a mountain bike designed for a male will usually come with a long and narrow saddle.
These are the main differences between a male and a female mountain bike. As the popularity of mountain biking continues to grow and the range of people who participate in this activity becomes more and more diverse, the industry is quickly moving to unisex bikes.
This is because, as an overall rule, the size of the bike and fit for the specific person is most important. Each individual has a distinct body style and unique preferences for their bike and the male/female categories don’t define each individual perfectly.
Men can ride women’s bikes and women men’s; it all boils down to comfort and fit.
Numerous adjustments can be made to most modern mountain bikes which can further increase comfort and “fit” for the rider.
On modern mountain bikes you can adjust anything from the saddle and brake lever positions all the way to more complex features like tune suspension and bottom bracket position.
All of these adjustments can be made to the bike to make the rider as comfortable as possible, regardless of gender.
While there is indeed a large difference between male and female mountain bikes, it appears as though the industry will slowly be making the shift to a more “unisex” method of manufacturing.
A man may feel more comfortable on a woman’s bike and a woman on a man’s, this all comes down to numerous factors, with the most important being comfort and safety.
Before you make any decision on what type of mountain bike to ride, make sure to take all aforementioned circumstances into consideration.
When flying down a trail, it doesn’t matter what bike you are riding, as long as you feel good and are in control.
Find that bike that suits you perfectly and you will be more than content out on those trails.