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Bicycles intended for men have a top tube that always hits me on that embrassing part when I brake.

enter image description here

Conversely, women's bikes often don't have a top tube. Why is this?

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    I'm totally leaving the tag for bearings. – Criggie Jul 17 '16 at 4:17
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    The question that strikes me is... exactly how are you nutting yourself on the top tube when braking? Nearest I've come was my front wheel stopping in a pothole while braking, and I was insufficiently braced, slid forward and struck the stem. To hit the top tube you'd have to be moving forwards off the saddle and then downward. Can you please expand? I suspect your braking technique could be better. – Criggie Jul 17 '16 at 4:20
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    I suspect he's braking to a stop and putting one or more feet down. – andy256 Jul 17 '16 at 5:33
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    Unless you're in Scotland, men don't wear skirts. And if your bike is properly sized you should have few problems with it striking you in an unpleasant spot. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 17 '16 at 12:09
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    Men also ride bikes that have "step through" geometry. Calling such a geometry a women's bike is kinda silly but understanable. This geometry is popular for city/utility bikes because it makes mounting/dismounting slightly easier because you don't have swing your leg over the seat from behind. Obviously this becomes more important for riders who are wearing a pencil skirt but it can be appreciated by folks wearing pants too. – Angelo Jul 18 '16 at 19:34
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Frames designed for women do have that part - its called a top tube.

Historically women wore skirts, so a lower frame in the middle made it easier to mount and dismount, and was less likely to accidentally show an ankle.

This picture shows a modern "woman's frame" with the top tube paralleling the downtube, and attaching to the seat tube lower down.

enter image description here

Positives:

  • Skirts
  • Ease of mounting

Negatives:

  • Bike is flexier because of fewer triangles
  • Bike is built heavier to reduce flex

Another frame designed for with these positives is the Mixte frame, where the top tube is replaced by two separate tubes similar to chainstays and seatstays. These pass around the seattube and terminate at the headtube and the rear dropout, increasing the stiffness of the bike. They're still heavier than a normal Diamond Frame bike.

enter image description here

Here's a photo of a Peugot showing the twin tubes.

enter image description here

Finally - there's absolutely nothing wrong with a woman riding a DF bike frame. The main differences now are about proportions, not whether the rider wears a skirt. There are situations where a man fits a "woman's frame" better than a "man's frame"

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    Actually, the Mixte is only marginally heavier than the equivalent diamond frame. The main problem with the design is that it's too stiff. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 17 '16 at 12:11
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    Of course there's also an in between frame (common on women's MTBs) with a single "top" tube on a similar angle to the twin tubes of the mixte (sloping but not as much as a step-through) – Chris H Jul 17 '16 at 12:26
  • Not just historically. Plenty of women still wear skirts. – vsz Jul 18 '16 at 8:08
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    @ChrisH True - all variations on the same concept of "lowering the top tube" – Criggie Jul 18 '16 at 20:12
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    @ChrisH Why it is too stiff? Or how can it be stiffer than men's diamond-shaped frame? – Crowley Jul 19 '16 at 16:09
37

Back in the day, women primarily wore dresses, and getting the dress over the top tube was difficult and awkward. So the women's bike was developed with a slanted or sloped top tube so women could step though with their dresses and ride without their dresses coming up.

Although the top tube shouldn't be hitting you in that "embarrassing part" when you're braking, regardless of it being a men's bike or women's.

enter image description here

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    This woman must be doing an impressive track stand, considering how long photograph exposures were! – Criggie Jul 17 '16 at 4:32
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    @Criggie Good point! And all this while looking totally relaxed... Or it was some early occurrence of Photoshop ;-) – Benedikt Bauer Jul 17 '16 at 9:26
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    The first "snapshot" exposures were around 1878, but she might be bolted to the wall I suppose. – Steve Jessop Jul 17 '16 at 10:38
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    @BenediktBauer: yeah, but it wasn't that easy back then... that's clearly a greenscreen backdrop, but they couldn't be bothered to edit it out completely. – leftaroundabout Jul 17 '16 at 22:28
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    There are wires and anchors holding the bike up; you can see the left-side anchor in the background immediately behind the front wheel. You can see where the right-side wire was painted out (because they were hardcore then and did the “photo shop” directly on the originals!) by looking for the line of fuzziness between the rear hub and the fold in the dropcloth nearest the left edge of the photo. – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '16 at 15:15
2

Women's bicycles have the front tube designed to curve down for their skirts, else while moving fast against the air may cause embarrassment whilst in public.

  • 1
    What does that even mean o.O – ABcDexter Jul 18 '16 at 20:07
  • A girl with short skirts on a bicycle ( men's design with straight front tube) against heavy wind may be embarrassed. – Narasimham Jul 18 '16 at 20:43
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    Similarly, men should avoid excessively loose fitting shorts (or indeed skirts or kilts) when on a recumbent. Especially near bees. – armb Jul 19 '16 at 14:40
  • @armb oh how I wish I could +100 that response! Gold! LOL – Fandango68 Mar 7 '18 at 23:41

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