When it comes to buying a ladies bike, the options are varied and it’s easy to come away without a clear idea of what’s important. Here’s our guide to clear things up a bit.
It's a pretty dated thinking, but bike frames are typically split into two categories - men’s and women’s, with the latter sporting a lower or angled top tube (the tube that goes between the handlebars and the saddle). This was originally designed to assist female riders who might be wearing long skirts, hence the gender designation. Today, however, all this really means is that a ladies frame is easier to hop on and off of. We find that our female customers choose both designs pretty evenly, and both styles are really comfortable for all sorts of riding.
We prefer not to gender stereotype our bikes. We think that anyone can ride a step through, and they should! They're great bikes.
Steel, aluminium or carbon?
The most common materials for bikes nowadays are aluminium and carbon fibre, but these aren’t the only options. You will find aluminium being used a lot as it’s cheap to produce, and easy to create a lightweight bike with. However, Aluminium frames tend to be stiff and unforgiving, transferring all the bumps and jolts of the road up through the saddle and handlebars, so no good for all day comfort.Carbon fibre is super lightweight and comfortable, but it’s unavoidably expensive and can be fragile, too. We suggest steel is the best middle ground, particularly since it’s been used to build bikes for over one hundred years. Good-quality steel is durable, lightweight and comfortable to ride, and is much more affordable than carbon fibre. A steel bike can also last a lifetime, whereas aluminium has a relatively limited lifespan.
The bike components world is dominated by one company, called Shimano, and with good reason. Shimano makes high-quality yet affordable parts, ones that can be repaired by pretty much any trained bike mechanic. When looking at a bike, keep an eye out for Shimano components around the gears and wheels. Lots of bike companies using Shimano gear mechanisms but try to save money by using low quality wheel hubs, which don’t tend to last very long. Tektro are another company to keep an eye out for, as they make a range of highly effective brakes and levers.
How many gears do I need on my bike?
This is very much dependent on where you live and how you intend to use the bike. If you’re in a hilly area, you will certainly want a good range of gears. We use wide-range mountain bike gears on our Ladies bikes, which is more than enough to tackle the steep slopes of Bristol where we’re based. However, you may decide to go for less, or even a single gear if you live in a flatter area. Remember, that more gears isn’t always the better option. Sometimes it simply means smaller increments between each gear, rather than a larger range of gears, and the more gears you have, usually means that more maintenance is required.
Tyres are another area where bike manufacturers try to save themselves a bit of money, to the detriment of you, the rider. The cheap tyres specified on most bikes are prone to punctures and don’t last as long as they should. Look out for quality tyres from a respected brand like Schwalbe or Continental. In terms of tyre widths, you ideally want something that is narrow enough to be efficient but wide enough to give you a level of comfort. We recommend anywhere between 28mm and 35mm is good for most city riding.
Last and most certainly not least are the accessories you choose to pair with your new bike. If you want to carry a laptop and a packed lunch with you to work, it could be worth considering a rear rack with at least one pannier bag. Mudguards are also a hugely underrated addition to bikes of all sorts - after all, the British weather is far from reliable, even in summer. Lots of bikes come fitted with baskets nowadays, too, but make sure that there’s some sort of support underneath, as otherwise you won’t be able to carry anything sizeable.
Now you’ve learned what to look out for when picking a ladies bike, why not check out the Temple range?