As a women who started out in the cycle trade in the mid eighties, I’m still here thirty years later and delighted to have been asked to share my opinions on this matter with you. When I was 35, I decided to retrain as an Occupational Therapist. I progressed quickly to Senior 1 but I always felt quite nostalgic about my years in the cycle trade. When faced with completing an 81 page Social Services assessment with a client, I decided enough was enough, handed in my notice and re-entered the cycle trade. So, this article is written by probably the only woman framebuilder with an OT qualification in the world.
Je ne regrette rien, as time in the NHS and social care had given me a really good understanding the human anatomy as well as the reasons why we struggle to mount and dismount, why it takes some children longer to learn to ride than others and all the little things that translate into confidence when riding.
Essentially, ‘women specific bicycles’ are designed around the proportions of an average woman. The term ‘woman specific’ is used when describing a road bicycle or hybrid that could potentially be mistaken for a man’s bike – dreadful expression I know! But you know what I mean – a frame that features a cross bar or top tube.
Historically, a bicycle is sized according to the length of the seat tube. However, this became more ‘fluid’ when the sloping top tube/compact frame design became fashionable. We now often talk about ‘virtual top tube length’, which must be very confusing if you didn’t grow up with an understanding of horizontal top tube lengths as seen on classic frames from 1900 – 1980. But during the nineties, we switched to t-shirt style sizing for frames, which was perhaps more helpful to the layperson. Women’s specific sizing would range from XS S M L, but there’s no getting away from it, we still vary enormously in leg length, shoulder width, back length and hip width let alone overall height, age, confidence and flexibility!
What is Women Specific Design and why does it matter?
Well, it all starts with the average woman – Ha! I hear you cry, what’s average? Exactly. For the purposes of getting a few differences flagged up and examined in more depth, let’s look at some general physiological differences but I know as well as you, that we are all on a huge continuum in reality.