Cycling is one of the fastest-growing activities in the UK, and women's cycling specifically has grown at a rate of 9% over the past five years. Of course, we're not surprised - cycling is one of the best activities for your health, and is also a fantastic alternative to cramped and environmentally damaging modes of transport. With the right women's bike, you can level up your weekend adventures, keep fit and cruise past bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way into the office – it’s a win-win!
Whether you're searching for women's bikes for yourself or are wondering how to buy the perfect bike for a woman in your life, it can be tough to know where to start. When it comes to choosing specific bikes for women, there's a lot of choice out there. Whether you’re a joyrider, a newbie to cycling or a seasoned rider, the market for bikes 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. This handy ladies' bike buying guide will help you on the way, whether you're wondering what size bike you need, the difference between men's and women's bikes, or anything else.
So, if you're trying to figure out the best women's bike for you, you've come to the right place.
Women's Bike Sizes
Lots of the main questions people ask when it comes to choosing a women's bike are about sizing. Just like buying a new pair of jeans, each brand’s sizing is different, and it's really important to get the right size bike to get the most out of your ride and ensure you're comfortable.
If you’re buying online, always double-check the specific bike size guide and make sure you measure correctly. You'll probably need to know a few key body measurements ahead of time - such as height, inside leg, torso, and arm length. Having these stats to hand will help to find the right size for you. Every person's build and anatomy are different, so there isn't really a standard one-size-fits-all approach to bike geometry. For example, you might need to consider a longer stem or a different handlebar position depending on your height.
We recommend heading to yourlocal bike shop and trying a few different women's bikes 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. You’ll be able to figure out most minor adjustments for yourself, however having a professional bike fit can make sure your new bike is fit to your exact specifications.
Men's vs Women's bikes
When browsing the market, you will have probably seen that across most bike brands, there are frequently more bikes geared up for men, or models that are classed as ‘unisex bikes’. While these bikes are perfectly fine for most women to ride, there are generally a few differences between men's and women's bikes.
It’s worth noting that if you opt for a men's bike, you may need to tweak it 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.
Differences between men's and women's bikes
As a general rule, most women's bikes have smaller frames, a more narrow handlebar design, and a shorter stem. However, it's important to note that it's impossible to make generalisations on bike size (or anything else!), and what works for some female cyclists won't work for everyone. In some situations, it might be that you're better suited to a unisex bike than anything else, so make sure to check the measurements before you make any decisions. Having the right-sized bike for you and what you need it for is the main thing - whether it's a women's bike, men's, or unisex.
Smaller frame size
In general, women typically have smaller torsos and proportionally longer legs than men. As a result, many of the best women-designed bikes have shorter top tubes and overall smaller frames, with altered distance for the pedals.
Narrower handlebars can be a useful addition to many women's bike types - perhaps except for mountain bikes, where the wider handles can help with handling and stable riding.
The stem is the part of the bike connecting the handlebars, and shorter models can help female riders with shorter reach or torsos.
Though women's bikes are available in multiple styles and configurations, step through women's bikes are often popular. In the past, step through models were often marketed specifically at female cyclists, though the specific bike that best suits you will depend on multiple factors - including cycling style, location, build and more.
What type of women's bike do I need?
Best women's bikes for casual riding
If you’ll mostly be using your bike to get fit and to venture into a new hobby, then a women's hybrid bike will likely be an ideal option. Hybrid bikes are suitable for riding on smooth terrains 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. Our range of Classic bikes is a great option for heading out into the countryside and on casual weekend rides - designed with a convenient low step frame for easy access. Both the Raleigh Willow and the Raleigh Sherwood combine vintage style with modern comforts for the perfect casual ride.
Best women's bikes for commuting
Level up your commute with the perfect women's electric bike. A battery-powered e-bike will help get you from A to B without breaking a sweat. When it comes to choosing the best women's e-bike, you'll want to consider things like weight, manoeuvrability and durability. The Motus Tour is an electric hybrid bike that combines excellent power - reaching up to 100 miles on a single charge - with a lightweight motor that's been redesigned to be 25% smaller for portability.
Another option for city commutes and those short on space, folding electric bikes are often great choices for women cyclists. Smaller wheels and compact frames make bringing your bike to work or storing it at the office a breeze.
Similarly, for urban riding in cities and for commuting, hybrid models can be ideal bikes. The practical frame makes handling a breeze, and due to hybrid bikes' sturdy nature, you can get away with taking a more scenic route on your way to the office.
Best women's bikes for adventure riding
Here, we’re talking about the real thrill seekers. If you're looking for a women's adventure bike, start with a reliable mountain bike. If you’re looking at taking on the trails and rough terrain, a mountain bike's features 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, something like the Strada X might be just 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.
Customising Your Bike
How to choose a saddle for a women's bike
A saddle can make or break your ride. Bike 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, which is often perfectly comfortable and suitable for lots of women cyclists. However, you might want to try out a specifically designed women's bike saddle to find the right style for you, depending on your build, how you cycle, and more.
How to adjust a bike seat post and shorten the stem
Once you’ve got your bike, you will likely need to adjust the seat post for height regardless of whether you have opted for a women’s or unisex bike. In regards to the bike stem itself, you will probably be able to get away with not changing it too much if you’re around average height. However, if you're slightly taller, or shorter, you might need to make a small adjustment.
When dropping your seat post, aim to keep a slight bend in your knee to ensure maximum power through your leg drive when you're pedalling. Shortening up the stem also helps to make sure you’re not overreaching which can help avoid any injuries.
The best women's cycling accessories
Of course, one of the most essential cycling accessories is a good bike helmet. Raleigh's collection of cycling helmets contains a range of styles, sizes and colours so you're sure to find one that suits you.
Bike lights are also essential when the nights start drawing in, particularly during the winter months. Make sure you keep yourself safe and seen - you wouldn’t drive your car with no headlights, and your bike shouldn’t be any different! We’ve got a wide range of lights available, from beamer to LEDs, so there’s something for every budget and style.
Overall, choosing the right women's bike comes down to what you need out of it; if you’re looking for something to just nip into town on, or if you're looking for a bike for weekend trail rides, 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.