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Best Women's Road Bikes

Updated November 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 17 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 293 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best women’s road bikes

    Last Updated November 2018

    A good road bike can cut minutes off your commute and enable you to handle steep hills and sharp turns with ease. Riding a bike is a great way to not only get some exercise but also to experience the outdoors with a sense of freedom.

    Finding the right road bike for you means taking a good look at the kind of riding you want to do and how involved you are with cycling. Not sure what kind, size, or style of road bike you need? We prepared this shopping guide for women’s road bikes that examines the features that affect performance and comfort.

    Sit back, relax, and start picturing yourself atop the road bike of your dreams!

    Buy a bike at the top of your budget. Many cyclists find it more economical to spend more when purchasing a bike rather than pay for expensive upgrades later.

    Types of women’s road bikes

    Racing bikes

    Aerodynamics and lightweight design set racing bikes apart from all other bike styles. The slim frames are made of carbon fiber or aluminum to cut down on weight. Frame angles are designed for speed and aggressive turns. To improve aerodynamics, the rider is stretched out along the frame with the seat higher than the handlebars, which can be uncomfortable for some. These bikes are built for speed and the price shows it.

    Endurance bikes

    These bikes have many of the same features as racing bikes, but the frames have less extreme angles for better rider comfort. The frames also have more clearance for wider tires, which offer a softer, more comfortable ride. Some endurance bikes also have a straight bar design to put riders in a more upright position. These bikes can be used for commuting or weekend cycling.

    Cyclocross bikes

    Cyclocross bikes have lightweight frames but are more rugged and durable to handle tracks that may have dirt trails or grass. These feature wider tires with more traction to handle these different surfaces.

    Touring bikes (road and adventure)

    These bikes are intended for long-distance rides. A wide wheel base for a lower center of gravity makes them easier to control. Their sturdy frames are designed to carry the heavy load necessary for a long trip. They may come fitted with racks and most have attachment points for other gear.

    Casual comfort for easy riding

    The vintage look and design of this bike can be deceiving. The durable frame can stand up to commuting, and the tough, double-walled tires glide over sidewalks and city streets without a problem. The low step-through frame is easy to get on and off, and with the included basket, you’re ready to head to work or for a ride in the countryside.

    Women’s road bike features to consider

    Gearing and cranksets

    The crankset consists of the components turned by the pedals to rotate the rear wheel using the chain. Bikes have either a triple, double, or compact crankset. These terms describe the size and number of chainrings. Both double and compact cranksets are found on racing bikes because having fewer cranksets and gears cuts down on weight.

    • Triple cranksets have three chainrings with a nine-speed cassette, providing 27 gears. Triple cranksets have the most gear options. These are found on entry-level bikes and provide a good range of gear choices for beginning riders.

    • Double cranksets have two chainrings and are usually paired with a ten-speed cassette, making 20 gears.

    • Compact cranksets have two smaller chainrings and fewer gears. These are often found on women’s bikes because they’re smaller and a better fit for smaller riders.

    Wheel size

    Wheel size can have a big impact on a bike’s acceleration, momentum, aerodynamics, and handling. At one point, all adult bikes had 26-inch wheels. Today, the most common sizes are 26, 27.5, and 29-inch wheels. The 27.5-inch wheels are the middle ground, rolling over terrain better than 26-inch wheels, but they’re easier to accelerate and maneuver than 29-inch wheels.

    Suspension

    In general, road bikes don’t have any suspension. Suspension adds weight, and most paved surfaces are smooth enough that you don’t need it. However, you might see a model or two with front suspension to absorb bumps on the front wheel.

    Saddle

    The saddle, or seat, affects rider comfort. If you find a bike with a frame you like but an uncomfortable saddle, it can easily be changed out. Women usually have wider hips than men, so a wider seat might be more comfortable in the long run. In general, saddles with a center cutout can reduce pressure on the groin and be more comfortable for a woman’s wider hips.

    A rider with a short torso is usually more comfortable on a smaller bike frame. Longer torsos may need a larger frame simply for the extra length. You might also need to make some saddle adjustments for the best fit.

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    BestReviews

    Brakes

    Road bikes have one of two types of brakes: rim or disc.

    • Rim brakes: These brakes use pads to grip the wheel rims and stop the bike. These brakes are inexpensive and easy to replace. On the downside, rim brakes aren’t as powerful or effective in wet or muddy conditions, they require more hand strength to stop the bike, and they will eventually wear out the wheel rim.

    • Disc brakes: In disc brakes, brake pads grip a brake rotor attached to the wheel hub to stop the bike. Disc brakes are either hydraulic, which self-adjusts as the pads wear down and require less effort; or mechanical, which necessitates manual adjustments as the pads wear down. These brakes perform exceptionally well in wet conditions and steep terrain and take much less effort to stop the bike.

    Frame

    • Material: Road bike frames are made of either aluminum or carbon fiber. (A few road bikes have steel frames, which are less expensive but heavier.) Aluminum is lightweight and inexpensive compared to carbon fiber. Some aluminum bikes have a carbon fiber front fork to help absorb vibration from rough terrain. Carbon fiber frames absorb the most vibration, making them the most comfortable option. Carbon fiber is also the most expensive.

    • Size: Most manufacturers make frames in six different sizes, including frames specifically designed for women. When you get on the bike, a frame of the right size should feel comfortable and be easy to handle.  Because frame size and fit are so important, it’s best to try any bike before purchasing.

      The right frame size is determined by rider height, but depending on your body type, you might need a size larger or smaller. Even if a man and woman are the same height, a woman’s proportions are slightly different. For that reason, the top tube of women’s bikes is usually shorter to account for a shorter torso and arm length. That’s why, for example, a women’s size small bike frame won’t fit the same as a men’s size small bike frame.

    Handlebars

    If you want to know how comfortable a bike will be to ride, check the handlebar position in relation to the seat. For the sake of aerodynamics, many road bikes position the handlebars lower than the seat. However, for a more comfortable ride, the seat should be lower in comparison to the handlebars. The right balance between aerodynamics and comfort for you will depend on your fitness, size, and weight.

    Handlebars should be about shoulder width apart. Choose a women’s bike rather than a unisex bike if you have narrow shoulders. The most common handlebar types you’ll find on road bikes include drop, flat, and moustache.

    • Drop: These lightweight, aerodynamic handlebars are the best choice if speed is your biggest concern. Drop bars offer several riding and hand positions so you can shift as you ride.

    • Flat: Flat handlebars put the rider in a more upright position and take the pressure off hands, wrists, and shoulders. These are heavier than drop bars.

    • Moustache: These handlebars look like drop bars but with less “drop.” You still get a variety of hand positions but without the extreme angles of a racing bike.

    Pedals

    Entry-level road bikes come with platform pedals, and some include toe cages. However, more specialized, high-end models come without pedals. Serious cyclists usually have a pedal system they prefer to use with their existing cycling shoes.

    EXPERT TIP

    Unisex bikes usually have wider handlebars and a saddle designed for a man’s physique. However, depending on a woman’s body type, size, and weight, one could still provide a good fit.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Unless you plan to use the bike for triathlons or racing, you won’t need the extreme rider angles of a racing bike. You’ll probably be more comfortable on an endurance or touring bike.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Women’s road bike prices

    Depending on quality and features, you can expect to spend from under $500 to over $2,500 for a women’s road bike.

    Inexpensive: For less than $500, you can find a touring or endurance bike with drop or mustache handlebars (touring bikes may also have flat handlebars). You’ll see anywhere from 7 to 21 gears on these models.

    Mid-range: Between $500 and $1,000, you’ll find many endurance bikes with drop handlebars and aluminum frames and a few with carbon fiber forks. These can have anywhere from 8 to 21 gears.

    Expensive: In the $1,000 to $2,000 range are endurance, race, and a few cyclocross bikes. Many have carbon fiber frames and anywhere from 10 to 20 gears. Disc brakes are far more common in this price range.

    Premium: At over $2,000, you enter the range of top-of-the-line endurance bikes and some impressive racing and cyclocross bikes. Some of these bikes cost well over $2,500 and have the most aerodynamic features like stiff but lightweight carbon fiber frames, drop handlebars, and forks angled and tuned for the most responsive handling.

    One-speed commuting on flat terrain

    This bike is an excellent, economical choice for fairly level going. With tires that can handle standard road conditions in any weather and a sturdy steel frame, this bike offers a solid ride for the casual cyclist looking for a little speed.

    Tips

    • While road bikes are designed for multi-day events with vehicle support, they aren’t designed to carry heavy loads. Touring bikes are the exception and are designed to carry rider and supplies.

    • To reduce standover height, many women’s bikes have a sloping top tube. The difference in standover height isn’t as noticeable between men’s and women’s road bike frames it is with hybrid and mountain bike frames.

    • An ill-fitting saddle can cause you to sit in an upright position with a bend at the waist rather than the hips. This can make the bike feel longer and less comfortable on extended rides.

    Newcomers to the sport of cycling will probably be happier with a triple or compact crankset because it gives them more options when riding up steep hills. Strong, experienced cyclists can cut down on weight with a double crankset and still handle steep terrain.

    FAQ

    Q. What upgrade will give me the best return on my bike investment?

    A. In general, a wheel upgrade is considered one of the best investments because it reduces weight while increasing handling responsiveness. As long as speed is your number one concern, go with better wheels.

    Q. Can brake levers be adjusted to fit small hands?

    A. Some levers do have reach adjustment, but you should ask before purchasing if you think you’ll need it. When trying out bikes, be sure you can maintain a strong grip on the handlebars from all positions while braking and changing gears.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer

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