For Women

Is a Women’s Specific Mountain Bike Right for You?

June 12, 2015

By Kris­ten Gross, Sacred Rides contributor

There was a time when choos­ing a women’s spe­cif­ic bike meant choos­ing some­thing sec­ond best. The frames were heavy, built up with low­er-end com­po­nents, and the geom­e­try put women in such an upright posi­tion, it was hard to take the bikes seriously.

Those days are over.

With the pop­u­lar­i­ty of moun­tain bik­ing grow­ing among females, for the first time, man­u­fac­tur­ers have the demand they need to cre­ate bikes that help women of all abil­i­ties make the most of their ride. Women have dis­cov­ered moun­tain bik­ing as a way to con­nect with each oth­er, have adven­tures, chal­lenge them­selves, see beau­ti­ful things, and trav­el the world. And they have the full atten­tion of the bicy­cle industry.

“The women’s mar­ket is just now matur­ing to the point where we can have greater dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion,” said Ross Rushin, Trek’s assis­tant brand man­ag­er. “We’re def­i­nite­ly see­ing it’s a big dis­ser­vice to women to lump us all into one category.”

Whether a rid­er is a begin­ner, with a small­er bud­get, who is pick­ing out a bike for the­first time; or she’s an expert shred­der, look­ing for a race-wor­thy bike that comes with all the top-end com­po­nents, she can find a bike that works for her. So is a women’s spe­cif­ic bike the right choic­es for you? Here are a few things to look for to help you decide.



Trek is one brand that is push­ing the enve­lope on what makes a bike women’s spe­cif­ic.  On its pop­u­lar Lush trail bike, it has includ­ed a cus­tom ver­sion of its new RE:aktivshock, com­plete with a high­er lever­age ratio, mean­ing small­er rid­ers can more eas­i­ly acti­vate the sus­pen­sion. “Lighter-weight rid­ers don’t have to run low­er-than-ide­al shock pres­sures, which is what usu­al­ly hap­pens when you put them on a reg­u­lar bike,” explained Ross Rushin, Trek’sassistant moun­tain bike brand man­ag­er. “It’s not the PSI the shock was designed for, soby hav­ing that high­er lever­age ratio, we’re able to use aver­age shock pres­sures for the best performance.”Having a shock that works for a rid­er as intend­ed helps increase their con­fi­dence as it soaks up the bumps and rocks on the trail; with RE:aktiv and its regres­sive damp­ing, the rear wheel sticks to the ground.


Liv—the new women’s only brand that was once a sub-brand of Giant—not only cre­at­ed a frame with women’s spe­cif­ic geom­e­try, they built it using a spe­cial car­bon lay-up process that allowed them to cut unnec­es­sary weight. The Lust Advanced 0 comes in at just over 22 pounds—an impos­si­bly low fig­ure for a full-sus­pen­sion bicy­cle.  For women, this is an espe­cial­ly big deal. It’s a ques­tion of biol­o­gy, math and physics: women devel­op less pow­er to weight than men, so the lighter the bike, the more she’ll feel like she has the con­trol she needs to gain con­fi­dence.  That means, if you’re a woman choos­ing between two bikes, and one is lighter than the oth­er, choose that one.


The trick with frame geom­e­try is to select a bike that fits you because you’re you. Not because you’re a woman. Part of the joy of shop­ping for a bicycle—especially if you’re about to take it on a buck­et-list wor­thy adventure—is find­ing the one that works for you and your rid­ing style.

Bikes with women’s spe­cif­ic frames have some stan­dard fea­tures based on uni­ver­sal aver­ages. For exam­ple, a short­er top tube, and a short­er stan­dover work to bring a woman’s cen­ter of grav­i­ty for­ward, com­pli­ment­ing the way women tend to ride: more from the legs, than by muscling the bike with their upper bod­ies as men tend to do.

One of the things that will help your han­dling is to bring your cen­ter of grav­i­ty down. The low­er you can go, the more sta­ble you will be. Nat­u­ral­ly, the laws of grav­i­ty apply equal­ly to men and women. One of the ways you can get low­er is to get longer, so an expe­ri­enced woman, even with an on-aver­age short­er tor­so, will ben­e­fit from being length­ened over a reg­u­lar top tube.

How­ev­er women’s spe­cif­ic or oth­er­wise, there is no “one size fits all” so it’s cru­cial that you spend time try­ing out bikes—and yours might not be from the women’s side of the cat­a­logue! It’s espe­cial­ly effec­tive if you can rent one for a trail ride, trip or try one on a demo day.


For some rid­ers, all that’s need­ed to make a bike more female-friend­ly are a few small changes. The think­ing is that all of us—not just women—have dif­fer­ent body shapes so it’s not nec­es­sary to design a frame that caters to women specif­i­cal­ly, but includ­ing those small­er touch­es can make the ride more com­fort­able for her. 

Man­u­fac­tur­ers like Scott and Nor­co (who car­ry the women’s spe­cif­ic “Con­tes­sa” and “For­ma” mod­els, respec­tive­ly) know this and besides adding fem­i­nine paint jobs to pop­u­lar “men’s” frames, they add women’s spe­cif­ic sad­dles and grips. They also spec a nar­row­er han­dle­bar, though again, this is some­thing you’ll want to test for fit.



Juliana, the lit­tle sis­ter brand to San­ta Cruz, is the world’s first women’s only moun­tain bike brand. The bikes are renamed, repaint­ed ver­sions of pop­u­lar San­ta Cruz orig­i­nals like the 5010 (Fur­ta­do) and the Bron­son (Roubion). 

“The Juliana brand gives us our own plat­form to ral­ly behind women in the sport and to bring groups of rad women togeth­er over the thing we all have in common—bikes,” says Juliana Brand Man­ag­er, Katie Zaf­fke. “It gives us some­thing big­ger to be a part of—a bike, an adven­ture, an expe­ri­ence, a com­mu­ni­ty, a spir­it, and an allure that is just for us, unique­ly our own.” 

While some might dis­miss it as mere­ly mar­ket­ing, the women’s‑specific focus—when exe­cut­ed genuinely—serves as both an inspi­ra­tion and an invi­ta­tion. The Juliana web­site and brand­ing are visu­al­ly beau­ti­ful expe­ri­ences. For the first time, we’re see­ing images of women jump­ing out of heli­copters, expe­ri­enc­ing adven­ture, and rip­ping big, sweet lines. 

The images, col­ors, and even logos, help more women see them­selves in the sport and feel like they belong—an impor­tant part of bring­ing more women into a sport that’s been dom­i­nat­ed by men for so long.


For women in moun­tain bik­ing, there has nev­er been such a wide range of choic­es, or as many oppor­tu­ni­ties to get a bike that’s as close to a cus­tom fit as you can get with­out hir­ing your own team of engineers. 

As more women come to the sport, the resources devot­ed to women’s spe­cif­ic tech­nolo­gies and equip­ment will only increase to keep up with demand. Engi­neers are work­ing every day to find improve­ments that will help make women’s rid­ing even more enjoy­able. The momen­tum is here. And it’s an excit­ing time to be a woman in moun­tain biking.

About Kris­ten

Kris is a Canuck liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia who loves bicy­cles, all sorts. She com­bines her pas­sion for writ­ing and rid­ing by work­ing as a free­lancer for clients in the cycling and out­door indus­tries, and as a con­trib­u­tor for pop­u­lar sites like, and She is also an XC rac­er, coach and skills instructor.