Women's Bike
Buying Guide

2020 saw us girls lead the cycling charge and this is something we want to keep going. We’ve pulled together our top tips and advice for when you’re looking at buying a new bike. Whether you’re getting back in the saddle, or simply treating yourself, we’ve got you covered.

Pedalling for Our Future

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of us cycling has rapidly increased, and there are no signs of it slowing down. According to Strava, 2020 saw more women recording activities than men, plus doubling the number of cycling activities logged by women in the UK and Ireland. The growth of cycling in the UK is also being supported by Government as a way of getting people more active and to clamp down on our environmental footprint. Boris Johnson announced plans to step up the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy by investing £2bn to help make our streets and roads safer and more accessible for two wheels.

Not only does cycling have incredible health benefits, but it also offers an alternative for cramped, and environmentally damaging modes of transport. With the right bike, you can level up your weekend adventures, and cruise past bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way into the office – it’s a win-win!

But, where to start? Whether you’re a joyrider, newbie, or a seasoned rider, the market can seem overwhelming at first. But once you know what you need, whether that be a road bike, mountain bike, or a mix of the two, it’s much easier to navigate and this handy guide will help you on the way.

What type of bike do I need?

Casual Riding

If you’ll mostly be using your bike to get fit and to venture into a new hobby, then a hybrid bike will likely meet your needs without a problem. Hybrids are suitable for riding on smooth terrain such as roads and pavements but can also handle the rougher stuff – just don’t expect to be claiming QOM on Strava or hitting the mountain bike trails with one.

You can also get away with not being kitted out head to toe in Lycra; think weekend adventures, exploring new areas, and days out with the kids. We love taking our Pioneer (https://www.raleigh.co.uk/gb/en/bikes/pioneer/) out to see the countryside in a different way.

Urban Riding and Commuting

Again, for urban riding and commuting, a hybrid women’s bike can do the job admirably. The practical frame allows you to ride effortlessly on flat surfaces. Plus due to their sturdy nature, you can get away with taking a more scenic route on your way to the office with the right hybrid bike. Additionally, folding bikes are a great option for this one, especially if you take the train to head into the city.

Level up your ride with an eBike to help get you from A to B without breaking a sweat. We think the Raleigh Array is one of the best eBikes for women, and scores points for being effortlessly cool and perfect for cruising past the traffic on your commute.

Road & Racing

Road bikes are designed for covering distance and speed on the road (funnily enough). Their lightweight frames, large wheels, slim tyres and dropped handlebars allow for greater speed on smooth surfaces. They are also super lightweight and responsive - meaning getting up hills is that little bit easier - and perfect for exploring the countryside from a different angle.

Adventure Riding

Here, we’re talking about the real thrill seekers; if you’re looking at taking on the trails and rough terrain, a mountain bike will likely tick a lot of your boxes. There’s no real surface a mountain bike can’t handle, so if you’re wanting to see the countryside and dramatic landscapes from a new perspective, this is the one for you.

Gravel and adventure bikes have a similar set up to road models (think dropped handlebars), but also have the ability to veer off the tarmac onto more exciting terrain – perfect for gravel and unpaved dirt tracks.

Choosing the Right Size

Just like buying a new pair of jeans, each brand’s sizing is different. If you’re buying your bike online, always double check the size guide and make sure you measure correctly. Knowing body measurements such as, height, inside leg, torso, and arm length, will help determine the right size for you. We recommend heading to your local bike shop and trying one before you buy if you can. If you are in between sizes, the people in the shop will be able to talk you through your options and offer any advice for tweaking your fit.

Most tweaks you’ll be able to figure out for yourself, however, you can go for a professional bike fit if you are experiencing some little niggles.

Men’s vs Women’s Bikes

When browsing the market, you will have probably seen that there are more bikes geared up for men, or ones that are classed as ‘unisex’. While these bikes are perfectly fine for women to ride, it’s worth noting that you may need to tweak a little more than you would with a dedicated women’s bike. However, if you have a taller frame, a unisex bike will probably fit you no problem without needing too many adjustments.

Choosing the Right Components

The last big things to consider when buying your bike, are what components come with it. Components on your bike are everything from the frame up and are essential parts to make your bike run. If you’re new to cycling getting your head around the differences might be confusing. Luckily for you, we’re here to give you a run down of what components to look out for, and which ones might suit your needs better.

To keep things simple, let’s start with the two main components to consider: Gears and brakes.

Gears

Does the number of gears really matter when buying your bike? In short, the answer is no, but it’s still a good idea to gain a better understanding of the benefits of having a few gears to choose from. There are bikes that have no gears and run on one big cog (known as single-speed, or ‘fixies’), and some that have up to three chainrings offering more gears than you might know what to do with.

Most bikes’ gears are made up of a front chainring and back cassette. The front chainring can range from a single gear to up to three. The rear cassette is usually made up of 10 or 11 speed but there are different variations on the market. The crucial element of gears is not the number, but the ratio. Understanding the ratio can get complicated very quickly, so to keep things simple, your gear ratio essentially determines how far you’ll travel per turn of the pedal.

To help determine your level of gears, you should take a look at what you actually need out of your bike. If your route is short and flat, you can get away with a single speed. However, if your route is likely to involve hills and you’ll be taking on a fair distance, opt for a few more gears to help make the ride that little bit easier. If you’ve got your heart set on a particular model, but its gearing doesn’t quite meet you needs, you can tweak and alter components to help make the bike work for you. There are plenty of options available so it’s worth spending some time thinking about what will suit you best.

Brakes

Brakes are essentially split into two different variants – rim and disc.

Rim brakes are the more traditional brakes and are split into two different types – calliper and cantilever. Calliper brakes are one mechanism which is attached by one bolt, whereas cantilever have two arms mounted to either side of the fork.

Disc brakes are found in the middle of the wheel – like those found on a motorbike – and have long been used on mountain bikes, and more recently introduced to road bikes. Disc brakes are less likely to be affected by dirt and grit that may be found on the wheel, are more responsive, and can last longer than their rim counterpart.

Bikes are designed for either rim or disc brakes and feature different elements depending on which brakes they’re geared up for. Some models have rim brakes as standard, and feature disc brakes on the more expensive ranges. In comparison to other components, it isn’t a simple switch over, so make sure you are happy with what’s on the model.

Customising Your Bike

Finding the right saddle

A saddle can make or break your ride. Saddles are completely personal – one saddle might work for one person and be awful for someone else. Most bikes will come with a unisex saddle, however there is no harm trying a female specific one to find the right style for you. Do some research and check out your independent bike shop as they might let you try a saddle out before you commit to buying a new one.

Tweaking your seat post and opting for shorter stem

Once you’ve got your bike, it is likely that you will need to adjust the seat post regardless of whether you have opted for a women’s or unisex bike. In regards, to the stem, you will probably be able to get away with not changing the stem too much if you’re average in height. However, if your slightly taller, or shorter, you might need to make a small adjustment.

When dropping your seat post, aim to have a slight bend in your knee to ensure maximum power through your leg drive. Shortening up the stem also helps to make sure you’re not over-reaching which can help avoid any injuries.

Essential accessories

When riding, we would strongly recommend riding with a helmet. You can be the most confident rider however, anything could happen when you’re out and wearing a helmet might just save your life. We have a whole host of helmets available, from sleek helmets to the cooler urban style, we’ve got something that will suit you.

Lights are also essential when the nights start drawing in. Make sure you keep yourself safe and seen, you wouldn’t drive your car with no headlights, your bike shouldn’t be any different! We’ve got a wide range of lights available, from beamer to LEDs, there’s something for every budget and style.

Overall, choosing the right bike comes down to what you need out of it; if you’re looking for something to ‘nip into town’ on, or if you’re wanting to experience the countryside in a new way, your choice of bike is totally individual. Don’t forget to consider the differences between a unisex and women’s frame, and of course the different components that might come with it. If you find a model that your heart is truly set on, but aren’t 100% sold on what comes with it, you can also tweak these to make your bike perfect for you.

Whatever bike you choose, we’re absolutely positive that you’re going to love the joy of cycling.

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