2022-01-06 – I’m looking to possibly buy a girls bike.
I bought my current bike five years ago. It is a Specialized Allez, which is a road bike. If you’re not into bike types, a road bike has thin tires, turn-down handlebars, and a skinny seat. I never ride in the racing position, but even the upright position on my bike is bent over.
I was 65 when I bought the bike and the salesperson at one of the stores I went to suggested I might want something more “age appropriate.” But even their age-appropriate bike was a road bike.
The kind of bike I’m looking for now is variously called a hybrid bike or a comfort bike. These bikes have wider tires and wider seats and the handlebars are straight (-ish) and mounted higher than the seat so you ride in a more upright position.
I’ve gotten great use out of my Specialized Allez, putting more than 16,000 miles on it in five years. But the bent-over posture puts too much pressure on my wrists.
And, although I can ride the damn thing up to 100 miles at a go, I have a bit of a hard time getting on and off of it.
Which is why I’m thinking of getting a girl’s bike.
They don’t call them “girl’s bikes” anymore. They call them “step-though” bikes, but they do still market these bikes mostly to women. The reason I am interested is because they are easier to step through. I don’t have to get my leg over a top tube to get on or off the bike.
I’m in pretty good shape, but I’m not as flexible as I used to be. It’s a bit of a stretch (literally) to get my leg over the bar. My strategy for the last five years with my road bike has been to get on or off while the bike is moving. I stand on the left pedal while I swing my right leg over the seat. It gives me a couple of extra inches, making getting on or off easier. But there are situations where you can’t do this easily.
So why struggle with that when there is a perfectly good frame design that gets rid of the problem?
You wouldn’t have caught me on a girl’s bike when I was a boy. But I thought about it. It didn’t make sense to me that bikes would have gender.
Girl’s bikes existed because girl’s wore skirts and it wouldn’t be sufficiently modest for girls to try to swing their skirted leg over the top tube of a boy’s bike. Orthodox Jewish girls and women in my neighborhood still ride bikes in skirts. Few others do.
To be honest, in the early days of the modern bicycle, the idea of a girl riding a bike at all was problematic. The development of pants for girls was partially motivated by the need to give girls a riding costume. That development was not well received.
When I first started thinking about riding a girl’s bike, the impediment (or so I told myself) was that bicycle frames are less strong without the top tube. Boy’s bikes are made out of two triangles, which is the strongest shape possible.
This argument falls short in two ways.
The first is that bike frames are not made out of cardboard or plastic. They are made out of steel or aluminum or carbon and are quite strong, even if they are not constructed as “two triangles.”
The second is that there actually is a step-through bike frame design that is constructed as “two triangles.” The tubes coming from the top of the fork simply go straight to the rear hub instead of being connected just under the seat.
Either way, they are plenty strong.
This may not have always been true. Early bike factories might have been slipshod building girl’s bike. I don’t know why they would do this, but it’s possible. It’s certainly not true today.
And manufacturers are beginning to see that the high top-tube is actually kinda ridiculous. As I’ve been shopping around, I’ve noticed that many of the boy’s bikes on the market have squished down the two triangles to make the top tube lower—more like a girl’s bike.
I expect to be riding this next bike for thousands of miles. I want it to be comfortable and efficient. If that means getting a step-through bike, I’d have to be an idiot to turn down the idea for the spurious reason that the bike is the “wrong gender”!
I’ve been an idiot long enough.
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