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I'm shopping around for a cheap, cruiser-style bike for my commute. As an example, AroundtheBlock from sixthreezero seems like it would fit my needs. However, the colors of their men's bike are really boring. The women's version has better colors, and I'm wondering, why don't I just get that one?

I had always heard that the primary difference with women's bikes is that the top tube is lower to accommodate skirts, and otherwise there isn't really a difference. While I don't wear skirts and don't have trouble stepping over a men's bike, I don't see how it would hurt either. Presumably it alters the mechanical properties of the frame in some way, but would that be noticeable enough for my intended use?

My commute is 2.5 mi long and completely flat. I am also an experienced rider and have no significant joint pain or problems associated with biking. I'm an adult man of average height and weight.

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    I wouldn't call it a downside, but women's bikes made from steel are typically much less stiff than the equivalent man's bike: The diamond shape is about the stiffest shape there is, the lower the top tube, the more the bike will flex, giving it a feel of a slight suspension. With all the pros and cons. I would stay away from single tube frames (Y-shape and the like) though: Every tube that is a single point of failure can lead to a horrible crash when it fails. But if the tube's got a backup tube, you'll extremely likely be able to still stop safely (down tube fails, top tube saves the day). – cmaster - reinstate monica Sep 23 '19 at 1:07
  • I've always heard that a (standard) women's frame is stiffer and more "jarring" to ride. And heavier. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 23 '19 at 1:52
  • @DanielRHicks Well, for the model I've linked, the 7-speed version is listed as 35 lbs for men's and 36 lbs for women's. Interesting. – Forges Sep 23 '19 at 7:21
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    A related question and answer are here: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/63988/… – Weiwen Ng Sep 23 '19 at 13:25
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    Since you mentioned you're buying online and an experienced rider, have you ever ridden a Townie/Townie-knockoff before? It's very odd if you regularly ride "normal" bike geometry, might want to try one out at a store. – Affe Sep 23 '19 at 15:35
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If the bike fits, ride it.

The average woman has different dimensions to the average man, so the make bikes with different dimensions to better suit the avenge woman and call it an womans bike (and, as you have noticed, they paint them a different co lour). Problem with all these averages is very few people (if any) are average and the range of sizes of men is significantly more than the difference in size of the average man and average woman.

Probably the biggest difference is an easy one to change, the saddle. You may want to go for a narrower saddle than the bike comes with.

  • Re first line: Yes, indeed! I am wondering, however, if a women's bike will be a worse fit. I am unfortunately unable to test it as I am buying online (and would rather avoid the hassle of returning). – Forges Sep 23 '19 at 7:16
  • Re average size: I think the relevant comparison here is men and women of same height and weight - would they still experience a difference in fit and comfort? From my research, it seems that limb length proportion is practically identical for men and women, but I dunno how many manufacturers are aware of this. – Forges Sep 23 '19 at 7:17
  • And for the saddle, I am planning to get as big a saddle as I can find - I've had seats like that in the past and always liked them, but they are not practical without an upright stance. – Forges Sep 23 '19 at 7:18
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    I would also dispute your contention about the problem with averages, although this is getting into semantics (and I'm a statistician). Very few people may fit an average, but for frame fit, what matters is really how far off your ideal frame dimensions are from the frame size. If the conventional wisdom about frame sizing is correct, then the average male rider will still be better off on a men's bike. However, many of them may be able to get a women's bike to work, and some men will be closer in fit on a women's bike. – Weiwen Ng Sep 23 '19 at 13:50
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    @WeiwenNg: the point is that there is so much variation within each sex, that the signal-to-noise ratio of mens vs womens frames is pretty much useless. In my experience, it pretty much is. – whatsisname Sep 23 '19 at 18:04
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I'm only going to focus on this part of the question. The rest of it has been covered by @mattnz.

I had always heard that the primary difference with women's bikes is that the top tube is lower to accommodate skirts, and otherwise there isn't really a difference.

You are referring to mixte or step-through frames (link goes to Wikipedia). Those were definitely designed around women wearing skirts. That's no longer true of modern women's performance frames. [Edit: earlier, this post made a comment about step-through or mixte frames no longer being common. This isn't correct.]

Apart from that, this question and its associated answers discuss that in some aspects, modern women's and men's bikes may have some frame differences, and some component differences. Two fundamental properties of every frame are the stack, or how tall it is, and the reach, or how long it is. Hat tip to Bike Radar for this graphic:

enter image description here

As alluded to in the SE post above, many women's frames have shorter reach and higher stack in the same frame size. This may be based in an older paradigm of design, and some manufacturers are committing to unisex frame sizing. They do need to add sizes on the small end, as there's no dispute that women are shorter on average than men and that among shorter people, women are going to outnumber men.

Additionally, women's saddles are designed differently. I'm not as familiar with the design issues there. Women may also have narrower shoulders at the same height as men, which would require narrower handlebars in the same frame size if true.

Out of curiosity, I Googled the men's and women's versions of the bikes. The women's version is indeed designed as a mixte frame. Its top tube isn't dropped as far as others I've seen. I'm not an engineer, but it seems like this design would reduce the lateral stiffness of the bike. In hard efforts (e.g. at least your functional threshold power, or the power you can sustain for about an hour), you might notice the women's frame flexing more side to side. This energy might be wasted and you might be slower on the women's frame. Then again, this doesn't sound like anything that would matter in your use case. It's hard to think of design parameters where the women's frame would put you at a material disadvantage for a 5 mile round trip flat easy commute.

It's not really possible to tell if the other specifications materially differ, because the manufacturer didn't provide enough information. Even the saddles look almost identical! Both of them seem to be one size bikes. It's possible the women's bike will be smaller (i.e. shorter stack and reach than the men's). But the site doesn't provide enough information.

Basically, from what little we can tell on the Internet, there doesn't appear to be a substantive reason not to get the women's version.

  • That's not a mixte ;) and being a townie knock-off has such wildly nonstandard geometry who knows what they do or don't do for the 'women's' model ;( – Affe Sep 23 '19 at 15:38
  • Mixte frames are still regularly available. Several hip North American brands still make them (Kona, Soma, etc) – Paul H Sep 23 '19 at 16:12
  • "It may still be possible to buy a mixte frame, but you might have to look." - Mixtes are abundant, and virtually every bikeshare system uses bikes with a mixte-style frame design. – whatsisname Sep 23 '19 at 18:12
  • Perhaps there's a regional thing? In NA mixte (anglicized to miks-Tee) refers specifically to a frame where the top tube is split around the seat tube and connects to the hub, so the bike looks like it has three sets of stays instead of two. But google image does indicate there are at least a few European brands that use it to refer to any step through frame that isn't marketed specifically to women. (Linus on the other hand definitely uses it to refer specifically to the three-stay design...) – Affe Sep 23 '19 at 20:39
  • @Affe: You are correct about the technical aspects distinguishing it from other step-through frames, though I have found "mixte" has been generalized to mean any step through frame. – whatsisname Sep 24 '19 at 4:58
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The actual bike you linked looks like more or less a knock-off of the Electra Townie and its cousins. These are bikes where the saddle is low and back and the crank is forward with the intention that you can put both feet flat on the ground without getting out of the saddle. This relatively novel geometry means standard details about the subtle differences some manufacturers may make in a "women-specific" bike aren't likely to apply.

While any BSO will get you 2.5mi, if you're used to riding a 'regular' bike you might find the way these bikes steer at speed unpleasant.

It's not clear from your question if by "Cruiser-Style" you actually want that kind of bike or you just mean features like built in fenders and rack and a more upright torso. You can get those features without the flat-foot crank positioning, such as https://www.momentum-biking.com/us

(If that was just a random example and the question was actually about why decent color selection and step through frames are still gendered products in 2019, ride whatever you like!)

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