It was considered undignified for a woman to climb on to a bicycle, thus lifting her skirts. So, ladies bikes were constructed without the crossbar.
However, quite a few things have changed since then, especially the assumption that women will always be wearing a skirt.
It’s not all about the crossbar
These days, although most standard bicycles are still designed with men in mind, many manufacturers produce women-specific models which have been developed to suit the specificities in female anatomy, rather than their style of dress.
In fact, many modern ladies bikes actually have a crossbar. The simple fact of the matter is that the triangular shape of a gent’s cycle frame is exceptionally strong and can withstand plenty of punishment. For example, you will categorically never see a downhill mountain bike without a crossbar for that very reason.
However, many modern ladies bikes still don’t feature a crossbar, and as long as you are not hurtling down mountainsides or performing audacious jumps, they will be plenty strong enough and ideal for cycling. Plus, if you do choose to wear a skirt, it’s easy to jump on and off.
There are a number of differences that you will notice when you see a specially designed woman’s bike which adapt the standard bicycle to the female body:
- Smaller frame sizes
- A wider saddle, to accommodate women’s wider sitting bones
- A shorter crossbar, due to the women’s shorter upper bodies
- Narrower handlebars
- Brake levers with a shorter reach
- Shorter cranks
- Smaller wheels
Many of these alterations are made in order to keep the bike in proportion, even in smaller frame sizes. Hence the smaller wheel size, for instance. The differences may be quite subtle, so it’s worth trying a few out to see what is best for you.
Can I ride a man’s bike?
Of course, the vast majority of bikes out there, especially in the second-hand market, are men’s bikes. Choosing a bike should be about personal comfort, so pick your bike on how it feels to ride, not whether it’s a men’s or a women’s model.
The differences between men’s and women’s bikes are subtle, so if you try a men’s bicycle and it feels good then go for it!