15/06/2024 1:41 PM


Crackle Fashion

The Best Bikes for Women

Photo credit: Staff, Courtesy of Liv

Photo credit: Staff, Courtesy of Liv

Let’s be clear on one thing. If you’re a woman shopping for a bike, your choices aren’t limited to only women’s models (that said, some women’s bikes are a better fit for some men). The point is: If you love a bike, you love a bike. Simple. If it fits, it’s comfortable, and it makes you happy, you’ll ride it more often than one that doesn’t. We took into consideration that while some women truly benefit from the geometry and tuning characteristics of women’s bikes, others might not. That’s why our list includes women-specific bikes as well as unisex models we really dig.

Women’s Bikes Then and Now

Few bike categories have seen bigger shifts in the past dozen years than women’s bikes. When first introduced, the “shrink it and pink it” mentality reigned supreme, and “women’s bikes” often simply meant smaller frames with stereotypical paint jobs and a lower level of components than their unisex counterparts. Then women-specific geometry took over. Bike companies started cranking out frames with shorter top tubes to better accommodate the average female body’s tendency toward longer legs and shorter torsos. While some companies like Liv have stuck to that philosophy, others like Trek, Specialized, and Santa Cruz instead favor using the same frame for their men’s and women’s bikes, and adjusting some parts—primarily touch points like the bar, grips, and saddle—for the intended gender. Most women’s mountain bikes also come with a fork and shock that are tuned for lighter riders. And city bikes are often offered as step-over and step-through models, with the latter aimed at women.

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Know Your Fit

For city and mountain bikes, which generally run from XS or S to M or L, it’s easy to estimate the size needed based on your height. Road bike size can get a bit trickier. If you don’t know your bike size, getting measured at a bike shop—or even getting a professional fitter to assess you—can make an enormous difference in helping you choose a road bike that’s comfortable for you. Just remember, you can get a good fit on a women’s frame or a unisex one; it just depends on your body and riding preferences.

Other Features to Consider

With so many different options these days, it’s a great time to be a woman on a bike. In addition to choosing from bike style and fit, you also have frame material to look at: carbon, aluminum, and steel. All are strong options, though carbon is generally the lightest and most expensive, and steel is generally the heaviest and most durable.

You will also want to choose between rim brakes and disc brakes, which cost a little more but offer better stopping power. Discs are pretty standard on mountain bikes and are becoming more common on road bikes that cost more than $1,000. Rim brakes are still popular on city bikes, but discs are gaining popularity there as well because they offer more control and consistent stopping power in wet conditions.

How We Tested

Every bike on this list has been ridden and loved by women on our staff. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience riding these bikes to determine the best options. Our team of experienced test editors spent many hours and miles using these bikes for their intended purpose—from road races and trail rides to gravel adventures, commutes, and beach cruises. Then we evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, handling, value, fun, and—yes—looks (because the mere sight of your bike should get you excited, too).


Aventon Level

This class-3 e-bike will spin you up to 28mph through pedal assist or you can use the throttle and hit a max speed of 20 miles per hour. Those speeds sound fast for newer riders, but the bike has strong brakes and a balanced ride. The battery is housed cleanly in the downtube and provides 672 watt hours of power. The controls are easy to use, the dip in the frame’s top tuber makes getting on and off a snap, and the price is hard to beat for everything this e-bike fantastic city and commuting bike delivers.


Cannondale Quick CX1

We love the versatility of this lightweight bike from Cannondale. It’s got a little suspension, nice brakes, cushy tires with lots of traction in sketchy conditions and great parts from Shimano. The 1×12 drivetrain eliminates the finicky front derailleur and gives you 12 gears to shift through–enough to keep up on fast bike path sprints or to spin up the town’s tallest hill. It’s made for fun, but with all the features you need to be a practical city or town bike that’s capable of paved and dirt adventures.


Aventon Pace 350

The $1,000 price level is where e-bikes can get sketchy: Lithium-ion battery technology is still pricey, so corners must be cut elsewhere to keep costs down. At $1,199, the Aventon Pace 350 is one such bike, but our test revealed it’s not too cheap to be quality. The Class 2 e-bike tops out at 20 mph, whether you get there by pedal-assist or a throttle. There’s a 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain and five levels of e-assist, giving you various pedaling options. You don’t get lights or fenders, but the Pace 350 felt totally viable for daily commuting.


Co-op Cycles ADV 2.3

Co-op’s ADV line of adventu
re bikes have impressed us for years, whether we’ve tested their lower-cost paved-path models, or ones equipped for more ambitious rides, like this one. The 2.3 is made for gravel and dirt roads but handles itself well on paved paths and city streets, too. You get Shimano’s excellent 1×11 GRX drivetrain, 40mm tires, a dropper seatpost, and a carbon fork to keep weight low and take some buzz out of bad roads. Plus there’s plenty of mounts for racks, bags and other adventure gear should your trips extend into the next zip code.


Rad Power Bikes RadCity

Rad Power Bikes has become one of the most popular e-bike brands based on its great pricing, reliable customer servicer, and more recently, actually having products to buy. One of the brand’s latest offerings, the RadCity, comes in a traditional frame or this step-through model. Both are excellent options for spinning around the city, running errands, cruising on bike paths, or just getting from point A to point B as blissfully as possible. This model comes with a hub-mounted 750-watt motor, which saves cost over mid-drive options, hydraulic brakes, puncture-resistant tires, and a rear rack with a 59.5-pound capacity—enough for hauling groceries or a kid.


Cannondale Adventure Neo 4

In the world of e-commuter bikes, the Adventure Neo 4 hits a happy medium between a traditional townie and a larger, more cumbersome cargo model. With an excellent Bosch motor that assists you up to 20 miles per hour and wide, cushy tires, the Adventure is ideal for cruising along bumpy streets and bike paths. The alloy frame keeps weight modest, and the step-through frame makes it easy for anyone to hop on and start spinning. There are Shimano hydraulic disc brakes to slow you safely, and the 60+mile range means you can ride for hours before recharging.


Pinarello Paris

The name Pinarello may conjure images of very expensive bikes built for the world’s best bike racers, but the company also makes a hell of a midrange bike for mortals like us. The Paris has a smooth and damped ride but with a bit of spark, too, so it never feels sluggish. The handling is alert with good stability: entertaining enough for a fast ride and reassuringly predictable when you hit that last fast descent at the end of an all-day ride.


Specialized Aethos Comp Rival

The S-Works Aethos wowed us with its featherweight, 585-gram frame and equally stunning $13,000 price tag. But luckily Specialized makes a significantly more affordable Aethos that shares many of its premium sibling’s greatest features. This mind-blowing road bike has a 699-gram frame that’s one of the lightest around, plus SRAM’s new Rival eTap AXS wireless drivetrain and SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic disc brakes, among other well-spec’d parts. The bike is a bit of a paradox to ride: It feels swift and stiff on climbs but somehow still planted and stable on descents—with handling that puts our former Specialized road fave, the Tarmac, to shame. Our senior test editor was blown away by this version of the Aethos: As of April, he dubbed it “an early favorite in the race for 2021’s road bike of the year.”


Niner RLT 9

Our tester liked this aluminum version of the RLT bike even more than the acclaimed steel model. The RLT 9 is burly enough (and has the gearing) to put up with whatever challenge you could sling into its path. The bike is stiff, agile, and responsive no matter how much weight you packed onto it. With what Niner calls “fire road geometry”—longer chainstays, a lowered bottom bracket, and a slacker head-tube angle—the RLT 9 was comfortable enough to ride on gravel all day. Rack and fork mounts made multiple touring and commuting configurations possible, and the tire clearance of up to 42mm gives you the option of taking it as far off the grid as you want. A carbon fork, disc brakes, and dual thru axles complete the package.


Electric Bike Co Model R

With the Model R, Electric Bike Co gives you all the options you could want. Add a basket, or fenders, or a GPS-enabled smart lock. Their online tool allows you to select all the gear you want for a truly custom ride (or none at all if you like more simple setup). You can also pick from dozens of colors, which Electric Bike Company will paint in house. All their bikes are assembled in California, with many parts sourced from the USA. The bike’s cleanly integrated battery won’t disrupt the beautiful lines of your one-off creation and the wide, stout tires keep you rolling on rough roads with fewer flats. Just be careful: Adding parts can increase the weight—overindulge and you could end up with an 70- or 80- pound e-bike.


Specialized Fuse Comp 29

This hardtail 29er has a semi-slack setup and a 130mm RockShox Recon RL fork, making it a capable and maneuverable little ride. Adding to its ability to take on rowdier trails is the smooth-operating TranzX dropper post and the well-knobbed 2.6-inch tires. The grippy, wide tires are not quite plus-size (the frame accommodates 27.5+ tires and wheels, too), but they deliver handfuls of traction on rock, snow, and slick clay. On climbs, the combination of the steep seat angle and longer reach help keep the rear wheel driving you forward and the front wheel tracking where you want it to go. For the price, this bike has a huge range of capabilities and features, including hydraulic disc brakes, a 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle 1x drivetrain, and a 750mm-wide handlebar (780mm on sizes medium and up), which slows steering for a more stable ride. Whether you’re new to mountain biking or a vet, the fun-loving Fuse can turn every ride into a party.


Juliana Quincy

What started as a dedicated ’cross race bike has turned into a ’cross, gravel, and bikepacking beast that is one of the liveliest and most versatile “gravel bikes” we’ve ridden. On the spectrum between ’cross and gravel geometry (the former prizes agility and the latter tends to prize stability), the Quincy remains ’cross-biased—Santa Cruz wanted this to be a bike you could race in between your gravel adventures. It rides like a road bike on pavement and a gravel bike on dirt, and when it hits mellow singletrack, it transforms into a mini mountain bike. With its endless grip on long, fast, swooping fire-road descents and over gravel sections, the Quincy will encourage you to dive into turns faster, brake less, and test the traction of the 2.0-inch tires in corners. But its light weight and shorter wheelbase keep it nimble enough to dodge or hop over obstacles and washouts. Juliana sells two versions of the bike—this one and another with SRAM’s Force AXS electronic group and 650b wheels that runs $5,899. Both use frames made with the company’s premium CC carbon and accept 650b or 700c wheels.

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Electra Cruiser 1 Step Through

It’s hard to beat the simple, functional, stylish appeal of a cruiser. Made for boardwalks or rolling around town like it’s is a beach day in July, this one is full of summertime vibes. The Electra Cruiser ones has high wide bars for a relaxed riding position, and Electra’s Flat Foot technology, which places the seat further behind the pedals, so you can ride with it lower, making it easy to keep you feet on the ground when you stop. A single coaster brakes helps control your speed and a single gear means no fussing with shifts or keeping your derailleurs in tune—but also means that this one is best enjoyed on flat roads and sandy boardwalks.


n Pace 350

The $1,000 price level is where e-bikes can get sketchy: Lithium-ion battery technology is still pricey, so corners must be cut elsewhere to keep costs down. At $1,199, the Aventon Pace 350 is one such bike, but our test revealed it’s not too cheap to be quality. The Class 2 e-bike tops out at 20 mph, whether you get there by pedal-assist or a throttle. There’s a 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain and five levels of e-assist, giving you various pedaling options. You don’t get lights or fenders, but the Pace 350 felt totally viable for daily commuting.

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