Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The 'Lady's Bicycle': Descriptive, Offensive, or Merely Obsolete?

[an unsuccessful attempt at parody]

There has been some discussion lately about how appropriate it is to refer to diamond and step-through frame bicycles as men's and ladies' bikes. After all - gender roles are flexible these days, women are no longer expected to wear elaborate skirts, and a low standover height can be convenient for everyone. So why use gender specific terminology? Am I just intentionally being quaint?

Well, not exactly. You see, when a bicycle model exists in both diamond frame and step-through designs, the latter is usually not just about lowering the standover height. It is also about taking the female anatomy into account. For example, have a look at the pictures below and see whether you notice anything interesting.

[image via Gazelle USA]

These are the Oma and Opa versions of the current production Gazelle Toer Populair bicycles. If you look closely, you will notice that the Oma on the left has a considerably higher headtube than the Opa on the right. This is done in order to set the Oma's handlebars higher, so as to accommodate the typically shorter torsos and arms of female cyclists. The bikes are named "Grandma and Grandpa," because they are, in fact, gender-specific. The expanded headtube tactic is used by many manufacturers on their step-through models, while others use the alternative tactic of shortening the virtual top tube. Either way, more often than not the step-through version of a given bicycle model is designed for the female body. This is not to say that men cannot or should not ride step through frames, but only that step-through frames are typically optimised for female proportions.

Of course, one could ask: Why confound gender-based anatomical differences with preferences for standover height? After all, some women may prefer diamond frames, while some men may prefer step-throughs. That is where statistics and market research come in. Most manufacturers cannot afford to make two versions of diamond frames and two versions of step-through frames within the same model. And statistically, women are considerably more likely to wear skirts and are thus more likely to prefer a step-through transportation bike. Therefore, it makes more sense to optimise the step-through design for the female anatomy, while optimising the diamond frame design for the male anatomy. Naturally, there will be some females who prefer the diamond frame and some males who prefer the step-through. Furthermore, not every woman has a short torso and not every man has a long torso. But when it comes to manufacturing decisions, it's all about tendencies and probabilities - not about individuals.

And speaking of statistics, perhaps we could indulge in another poll (a weekly tradition?). No purpose for this other than my own curiosity, and possibly yours:




In my own vocabulary, I use terms like "lady's bike" or "woman's frame" when I am referring specifically to the bicycle's suitability for females - be it anatomically, or in terms of their ability to accommodate skirts. On the other hand, I use terms such as "step through," "loop frame," and "mixte," when I am describing frame geometry. And while some worry that referring to bicycles as "women's bikes" makes them seem inferior or less valuable, I am not on board with that line of thinking. After all, what is considered "standard" frame geometry in the industry, is in fact optimised for the male anatomy. We are female, we are wonderful, and we need bicycles designed for us. To me, that is neither offensive nor obsolete - it's just common sense.

99 comments:

  1. Okay, so this is a major annoyance of mine:

    You can wear a skirt on a diamond-framed bike. You do NOT need a step-through frame unless you like pencil skirts.

    (I even made a whole post about this subject on my blog, because it bugs me so much.)

    The step-through frame was invented partially because getting onto a diamond-framed bike with a skirt on means that you might show people your undergarments, which was a big deal in, oh, 1896. Putting your leg up that high was just not ladylike. Nowadays all anybody sees of mine (when I get on my diamond-frame bicycle) is petticoats, as I get on the bike fast enough that they're extremely unlikely to see my undies.

    Matter of fact, I sometimes find my diamond-frame bike to be *more* practical in a skirt, because (depending on the amount of fabric we're talking about) it can hold up the skirt a little, keeping it out of my spokes/brakes. (I really need to crochet/sew a skirt guard.)

    I'm not a fan of pencil skirts, thankfully, but I have worn everything from a tiny miniskirt to a square-dance skirt with a petticoat, on my diamond-framed Miyata.

    Oh, and while you don't make this mistake (hurrah!) other people do: Mixtes are not lady's bikes. Mixte means unisex. They are unisex step-through frames.

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  2. April - You may be able to wear a skirt on a diamond frame, and that's awesome. But I can't comfortably do it. I have a lot of trouble mounting and dismounting a diamond frame in a skirt and don't feel safe doing it. The majority of females I've spoken to about this seem to feel the same. Is it time for a poll?

    Mixtes... Having lived in Europe, and asked quite a few French friends about it at this point, my impression is that, while technically the term does mean unisex, in reality it is perceived as a women's bike even in France. If a French person wants to contradict me, please do!

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  3. ^ poll added. Not about skirts per se, but just to get an idea of who rides what.

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  4. The poll wouldn't work for me, because I have multiple answers. I ride both a lady's frame bike and a diamond-frame, for different purposes. (And I used to ride a mixte.)

    I have a lot of female friends who ride diamond-frame bikes and, while I haven't quizzed them, I've seen some of them wear skirts on them. I've never had anyone say it's uncomfortable.

    How is it uncomfortable? I know you ride diamond-frame bikes too, so it's not, like, a hip rotation issue or something.

    (You're a worse night owl than I am! It's almost 1am on the west coast!)

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  5. I put in that I ride a diamond frame bike, that is my main ride. I will ride anything that I can get to fit. I own step through as well as a mixte and ride them too.

    The main reason I ride diamond frame is sizing, they don't make step through or mixte in the XL sizes (25.5"/64cm).


    Aaron

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  6. I have noticed recently how most modern women specific bikes (due to the shortened reach) are diamond framed but on the whole, among non-bike bloggers, if you start talking about diamond or step-through frames you'll get blank looks - they're still conventionally known as men's and women's bikes. Even my old mixte (which used to be my Dad's) used to raise questions as to why my father rode a lady's bike.

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  7. I never figured out what the big deal was about men's/women's bikes.

    In China you'd often see men on Step through frames. Same ride comfort as a diamond frame with a low stand over height...what's not to like?

    http://www.flyingpigeonproject.org

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  8. I have no real opinion on this one way or the other but I tend to use gender-neutral language when it comes to just about everything, including expletives (90s holdover). When it comes to bikes, I say "mixte" or "loop" and if its someone not into bicycles, I then invariably end up saying "you know, 'ladies' bike" to clarify. Language it a tool, I don't think these terms are necessarily condescending or limiting but I do believe them to be antiquated. Sure, women typically aren't built exactly like men physically, but I don't think it prohibits women from leaning into the handlebars a little bit. I believe its probably more due to gender specific dress.
    On a somewhat unrelated note, what I'd really like to know is why most blogs by women seem to have the top tube/stem/handlebar/crank/taken-while-pedaling photo. Is it me or are many female bloggers not watching the road?

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  9. I notice, in stills and videos from Amsterdam and Copenhagen, that a lot of loop frames are being ridden by men. Do you suppose they don't know they are riding a "woman's" bicycle? ;-)

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  10. It is amusing that "men" associate anything womanly, i.e. a step through, mixte, loop frame as "sissy".

    just recently i went with my father to purchase a bike for riding to the gym, around the neighborhood, to the coffee shop, etc.

    he is in his sixties and has lost range of motion in his hips, a bit overweight.

    he took one look at the step-through and said, "oh no, that's a girl's bike."
    i encouraged him to test ride them both (diamond frame and step-through models of the same specialized)

    low and behold he could not hurl his leg over the diamond frame comfortably to get on it, so he rode the step through and decided it was right for him. he turned to me and asked "is it okay if i get a girls bike? is it a girl's bike?" all the while the salesperson was telling him "no, it's a step through and it is the right choice for male or female who is looking for ease on and off the bicycle."

    i waited til he stroked the check and we were leaving the store to call him a sissy in jest!!

    he loves it, he rides it a lot. it's approachable for him, had he bought the diamond frame out of gender biases, he'd never ride because it would be uncomfortable.

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    Replies
    1. "It is amusing that "men" associate anything womanly, i.e. a step through, mixte, loop frame as "sissy".

      And it's usually women who tell them they are and embarass the hell out of them ;)

      Delete
  11. I'm a guy and am a proud owner of a step though 70's lady's Raleigh that I ride often and have named 'Girl Bike.' Yet I do still take issue with people referring to all step-through bicycles as lady's bikes by default; not because of some quasi-political gender role reason, but because it is inaccurate. The term 'Lady's bicycle' should be used for any and all bicycles that are designed around female geometry, be they diamond or step-through. The term is being applied to the wrong attribute, as there are plenty of non-gender specific step-through utility bikes out there, and plenty of diamond frame lady's race bikes out there as well. Given the current performance oriented market I would suspect there are more lady's diamond frames sold today than step-through's. Any quick browse of the Trek and Specialized websites will show you that.

    Where this drives me a bit crazy is when I'm talking to a female friend who likes to ride bikes occasionally as part of an exercise routine. She owns a lady's mountain bike, that is built around female geometry, with a ladies saddle, yet she thinks she is riding a men's bike and says she prefers men's bikes (it's an aesthetic preference for her, as she perceives 'lady's bikes' as not serious and nonathletic, as exemplified by their step-through frames). No she doesn't. She prefers diamond frames. It isn't really her fault that she is using confusing and incorrect terminology. She isn't bike person and she is using the confusing and incorrect terminology that is standard in our society.

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  12. So even the French consider mixtes to be women's bikes. I don't care. I've got a nice lugged mixte sitting unused in my garage that I plan to start riding. I built it up for my wife but she can't use it right now due to medical problems. It's too nice to just sit there.

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  13. I ride both a mixte and a step-through, although I voted for the Mixte, because that is the one I ride the most often.

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  14. Great poll, it reveals what I suspected all along about guys who wind up riding step through frames... (which I do).

    I started riding my wife's step through because it's 4 times a better bicycle than my awful diamond frame. But after more than a decade I don't think I've ever gotten used to it. Something of a 'stigma' remains. Yes, women can wear pants and ride diamond frames, but guys riding step through frames somehow is not equally appropriate. I'd think the stats of this poll bear this out.

    But finally I'll be shopping for a new bike, and it won't be a step through this time.

    :0)

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  15. I've been thinking a lot about this issue of terminology in regards to non-cycling subjects recently, specifically about how it relates to "Women's Literature", "Women's Sports" and that sort of thing.

    Sometimes there is so much emphasis put on "fighting" for gender neutral terminology that we end up wandering way off the path of practicality and find ourselves using language that may satisfy us, but pokes a finger in the eye of some other group(which is useful and fun sometimes but, jeesh, all the time?) and creates conflict where there wasn't much before.

    As a man, I think my role is not to get involved in deciding what terms should be used but I do want to say this, "Ladies bike", "Women's frame" and the variants of same do a good job of conveying what they are and people immediately understand what you mean. If we need to start calling them something else("Freedom frames", or "Liberty bikes" anyone?), that's cool, but the confusion and animosity from some of the people we are going to annoy might be worse than the irritation women feel now(I don't know, you tell me).

    I absolutely do not feel like this discussion is off on the crazy end of the continuum and I'm not sure I have much to contribute, except to say that people in general seem to be more and more aware of these things today, and even when they use terms that are not ideal, there is less of the condescending and belittling feeling to the language. I think this trend is non-reversible in our culture(in gender terms, if not race and class). The Oafs who still use terms like "Girls Bike" in a mean-spirited way are just going to find some other way of being offensive if we succeed in depriving them of this. That's not going away. Some of my women friends agree about this trend and some think I'm deceived and am a closet oaf. I don't hear men use some of the old pejorative terms for women much anymore but the jerks that used to still manage to be offensive.

    And for what it's worth, I see just as many male kittens on "girls bikes" riding by my house as I see female kittens on diamond frames. My Border Collie mocks them all.

    Spindizzy

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  16. I've never tried a diamond frame, but I'm VERY clutsy and generally impractical, and one reason I prefer a step-through to my lovely mixte for ordinary transportation rides is because I find that full skirts, if they're knee length or longer, are another thing to get tangled with/trip over when mounting and dismounting, and also make it hard for me to see the derailleur (I'm still learning to friction-shift and often have to stop and see whether it looks the way it feels!) So on the mixte I generally wear leggings and a mini-skirt/dress of some kind (do we still call them miniskirts these days?). I'd guess that diamond frames would exacerbate all this still more? So maybe skirt-wearing depends on general levels of co-ordination/confidence/skill, etc.?

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  17. I'm with Aprillikesbikes... I did answer the poll question, however, it's not exactly a precise truth because the reality is, it depends on the day, the circumstances, etc. I answered "diamond frame" merely because that is the slightly more used bicycle.

    As for the skirt on a diamond frame portion... I will say I have done it, but it's not a habit I make. I am personally uncomfortable with it because I am incredibly clumsy and end up attempting to constantly pull the skirt down while riding (cue scene of woman falling in the intersection b/c she's not paying attention), or if it's longer, I've had it get caught in the wheel while riding. I do see many women around Denver riding in skirts on diamond frames, so I suspect that it is my inborn klutz that causes such issues for me. :o)

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  18. I've restored and sold several mixtes and introduced bike coop customers to them. I always describe mixtes as uni-sex. Perhaps meant for women, they work just fine for men as well. I consider a loop frame something like a Breezer with a large diameter monotube. Breezer calls them "low-step" frames. A step-thru is like a mixte, but doesn't have the twin top tubes of a proper mixte. I do not currently ride one, but I would. The Rivendell Yves Gomez is a very nice men's mixte.

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  19. When my kids were toddlers, I could only afford the one diamond frame bike. I would have cheerfully ridden a step through frame as it took some tilting of the bike and a few (risky) contortions to mount with a child in the child seat behind me.

    There are still times, 18 years later, that It would be really nice just to "step through" though most of the used frames on the market down here in Texasland are too small and, as you observed, not suited to my torso/arm length.
    Love your blog
    Michael

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  20. I love my step through, it's so comfy.

    April (aprillikesbikes) I admire your speedy skirted bike mounting technique - I don't think i could manage that without either flashing the world or falling over. Or quite probably both!

    Interesting poll, I say each to their own.

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  21. I (a man) ride an omafiets and now regret ever riding a diamond frame. I mean, it's not like I'm a racer or serious mountain biker where ultimate strength-to-weight ratio matters. Instead, what's important are:
    1) Ability to carry a ton of stuff on the rear rack and still easily mount and dismount
    2) Easy bailouts when the conditions are slippery and windy (like right now in Chicago)
    3) Easy transitions between riding and walking in the urban environment.
    4) Kilt compatibility (OK, that was useful just once)
    5) Class

    Its not a "girl's bike", its a "grandma bike"!

    Dan.

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  22. aprillikesbikes said...
    "How is it uncomfortable? I know you ride diamond-frame bikes too, so it's not, like, a hip rotation issue or something. "


    No, it's specifically a skirt issue. As several others have written here, I tend to get tangled in the bike when getting on and off and lose my balance. My skirt (or long coat) will catch on the top tube and on the saddle as I swing my leg around back. It's crazy, because I then have to freeze with my leg in mid air - looking like a deranged ballerina or figure skater whose back went out mid-maneuver - and carefully disentangle myself from the bike so as we don't both go toppling down. At that point I could not care less who sees my underwear, so it's not even a modesty issue. I just want to dismount without falling over!

    When riding not for transportation, I actually prefer diamond frame roadbikes for a number of reasons. But I don't usually ride them wearing skirts.

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  23. How to mount a diamond frame bicycle if you are wearing a tight skirt or have stiff hips: tilt the bike over until you can easily step over the top tube. Step over. Straighten bike.

    I learned this after a temporary hip injury many years back.
    The real problem for many older people is that it is too hard to jump onto the seat after doing this - either due to strength or balance problems. Feet-flat bikes are a good solution for this. I expect to need a step-through/feet flat bike one of these days if I expect to ride into my dodderhood.

    Regarding step through bikes and optimization for gender - it seems like these days with adjustable handlebars they could make one bike that could be adjusted for longh and short torsos. Am I wrong?

    Final note. As a kid we would ride any bike laying around. I didn't care if it was a step through, diamond frame or banana seat. What I noticed, however, was that the old Schwinn step-throughs ( we're talking 60s here or possibly 50s, a lot of these bikes were pretty old) did not handle heavy weight on the rear rack (typically a 50 pound friend) as well as their equivalent diamond frame. A LOT more sway than the diamond frame so much poorer handling at speed such as going down hill.

    So I still have in my head that a bicycle used to carry loads is better off being a diamond frame. But that may not be true with modern materials or bikes built heavy and tank-like such as the Dutch ones.

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  24. I don't mean this to be inflammatory at all (and not in the way you had a couple posts ago, that "I don't mean to be offensive but..."), but it's hard to gauge someone's tone over email, and I am not sure I totally agree with your view on why manufacturers make the women's bike as step-through, and the men's bike as diamond.

    I think this is probably a reflection of the reading I've been doing recently (a lot about Title IX) - but I wonder if manufacturers made diamond frames more suitable to women's proportions if more women would ride diamond frame bikes. It's the "if you build it, they will come" argument, right? I mean, back in the day, people justified not offering women's sports programs on the grounds that women weren't interested in sports - really, it was the other way around: women "weren't interested" in sports because there were no (or very limited) programs. Once the programs existed, women's participation increased 10-fold in like 2 years (I don't have the data on hand, but it's something like that). So while manufacturing limitations might be behind why the "women's" frame is the step-through and the "men's" frame is the diamond, there's no reason not to make diamond frames that would better accommodate women's proportions.

    Secondly, I totally agree with you that there is no reason to see a "woman's" bike as inferior or less of a bike - in fact there is a huge problem with associating femininity with being second-class or otherwise lesser. It would be great if gender/sex terms could be value-free.

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    1. The problem with that is, old fashioned "women's" frames are inferior to the diamond frame when it comes to weight capacity and durability. It's not the most efficient way to build a bike frame. The diamond frame evolved because of functionality. The step-through frame evolved to accommodate society's forcing women to wear long skirts at all times. As it turned out, the step-through frame has other benefits, particularly for seniors or people with limited flexibility. Still, if you're able-bodied and looking for an efficient bike that you can either maximize your speed or your cargo capacity with, you probably want a diamond frame.

      Delete
  25. Peter - Chic Cyclists has a nice demo of the leaning maneuver you describe. But, not everyone can do it. I, for one, can't do it.

    That is interesting to know about load carry capacity of diamond frame vs step through Schwinns. I have never ridden a Schwinn, so no experience. The Dutch bikes seem to be rated for equal amounts of weight.

    Bob B - The Rivendell Gomez may be very nice, but it does not sell very well, while the Betty Foy sells like hot cakes. Seems to me that the majority of men "aren't buying" the idea of mixtes being for them.

    Spindizzy - I've never liked the idea of a forced, self-conscious gender sensitivity that interrupts the flow of language, stilts communication and distorts meaning. If a bicycle is designed with female anatomy in mind, why should we strive to disguise that with gender-neutral terminology? I don't get it.

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  26. LBJ - No doubt what you describe ties into it as well. But I think that if you ask a manufacturer or a bike shop, they will tell you women go for the step-through frames just for the step-through factor alone, more so than men, citing their clothing choices as the reason for their preferences. In fact, recently there has been an increase in step-through designs on the market, and many women whose previous bikes were diamond frame are now switching to the step-through options. That is the impression I get both from speaking to bike shops and manufacturers about overall trends, and from some of my readers.

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  27. hi..
    if you want to do film like photos I would recommend you the photoshop plugin alien skin exposure 3
    has a ton of presets of real film settings (color and black and white).. it is a lot of fun to play around with : )

    http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/1854/5403240650e92e62a7aaovi.jpg

    by the way you inspired me to build up my own bicycle. going in the direction of your "Rivendell Sam Hillborne".. already bought a old frame.. pretty excited : )

    greetings from germany

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  28. BYW - love your "pardody". I think it makes you and the bike look elegant

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  29. "Its not a "girl's bike", its a "grandma bike"!"

    Considering how formidable most grandmothers can be, that's a powerful turn of phrase!
    And I do agree with Daniel about the classiness of an Omafiets for the male rider.

    I too chose diamond frame in the poll, but I ride a step-through a bit, too.
    If I had the room, there'd be a loop-frame roadster or Omafiets *and* a mixte here already.

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  30. I´m a little astonished that you all take it for granted that a diamond frame is more difficult to mount than a step-through frame. In a skirt, yes, that´s natural but in trousers?

    I´m male, 67yo, and during the years I have ridden my mothers 1932 Rambler with both downtubes in elegant curves for many a mile. A nice and comfortable bike. Not built for all-out sprints, but who cares? Unfortunately also no good at carrying things back, not stuff, not children and that´s truly a disadvantage with a utility bike.

    However, I´ve found that with some hip and knee troubles it is easier for me to mount a diamond frame. My crotch is already over the saddle, my other leg is already almost behind the bike, I just let it glide in place on the other side of the bike with legs parted. Almost no motion in hips or knees whereas with a step-through frame I have to bend both knee and hip to almost 90 degrees and lift them. With panniers the swing is a little wider and more cumbersom but no big deal. With a child, on the other hand, there is always some trouble with both frames. But pleasant anyway ...

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  31. These days, I almost always ride a bakfiets (transporting kids or cargo on most trips). It's even more of a step-through than a loop-frame or a folder. I've seen a few different long john designs that have a top tube, and I wouldn't want one for that reason. When the bike is loaded, especially if there's something (e.g. a child) on top of the rear rack, I think it would be ridiculous to want a top tube to have to get over. I almost always dismount on the fly, because it's so easy, even with a full load.

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  32. Talk about Lovely!

    http://ridesabike.tumblr.com/

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  33. Velouria said...
    "We are female, we are wonderful, and we need bicycles designed for us. To me, that is neither offensive nor obsolete - it's just common sense"

    Very true! Some women ,in their zeal to become full equals with men, forget that there are a whole host of reason that evolution made their bodies different from men.

    Many of these evolutionary differences control bicycle design to accommodate the female body & the male body.

    Since there was no "Cruiser" bike style listed in the poll I had to choose "other" which is sad since the "cruiser" is the grandfather of many bike styles today. The mighty "Cruiser" get no respect at all! :((

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  34. So I just tried to mount my diamond frame bicycle with my night-robe on, which is long and not very full, (i.e. not a lot of maneuvering room.) to see what I'm doing, since it's automatic and I don't think about it very much.

    I face the bike, handlebars to my left. I hold the handlebar in my left hand, and swing my right leg up. I grab the excess material in my right hand when I swing my leg over the saddle. And this is a rather tall bike--700cc wheels on a 48cm frame! So getting my leg over isn't an insignificant task.

    The bike I've been riding has friction-shifting, and I know I sometimes hold the skirt away so I can see where I am in the front.

    In any case, I'm a huge klutz myself. As in can't balance in yoga class, walk into door jambs, trip over my own feet. But it never occurred to me that I *couldn't* ride a diamond-frame bike in a skirt because plenty of my friends do it. And I'm girly enough to refuse to change my clothes to suit my bicycle unless I absolutely have to.

    It's kinda like friction shifting. My first bike with friction shifting was a Huffy ten-speed I got when I was eleven. Nobody told me friction shifting was hard, so it wasn't. I figured it out on my own.

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  35. I am a short male and own a pair of Raleigh DL-1. I have been using the loop frame one as my main bike as I can't get clearance on the male one with both feet on the ground. I own several other stepthrough and diamond framed bikes as well. What surprise is that the loop frame DL-1 is the only famle bike that I feel as fast as my other diamond frame bikes. I thought it was just me but my wife can only catch up with me without out of breath when she is on the loop frame DL-1. I can't figure out why but it just happened. It feels more propelling on the loop frame DL-1 than on other female bikes. I wonder how the frame designs affect the speed or efficiency. Perhaps some smart cyclists can come up with the answer.

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  36. Walt D said...
    "Some women ,in their zeal to become full equals with men, forget that there are a whole host of reason that evolution made their bodies different from men."


    I think that women don't need to "become" full equals with men in the sense of human worth and so on; they always have been. But equality need not be at odds with structural differences. It would be like saying that an apple and an orange need to either become identical, or one must be better than the other. There are some features an orange has that an apple does not, and vise versa. But neither is objectively "better."

    aprillikesbikes - All my derailleur bikes have friction shifters, I prefer that too.

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  37. I have a vintage mixte with drop bars, a step through and a diamond frame road bike. I ride them all in skirts, leggings and jeans (sometimes). I ride my road bike in a skirt because I want to improve my riding and mounting skills. I ride my mixte with drop bars because I want to improve my skills riding on the hoods and I ride a step through because I can carry loads on it. I'm not always as successful or as comfortable as I might be but I'm still learning.

    It was only when I bought my step through and started cycling every day that I realised that I wanted different bicycles for different reasons. I bought a step through because that was what I had in my mind. I'd always thought that they were easier to mount and ride and it's true to a certain extent. The position is less aggressive and I'm more able to signal when I'm riding my step through. I find I'm still a little unsteady on the drops to do much one-handed riding, but that will come. I had the step through in my mind because I didn't realy know how to cycle for anything other than a sunday afternoon jaunt and I'd never ridden a diamond frame before.

    Most of my non-cycling women friends wouldn't dream of buying a 'man's' bicycle. Step through hybrids are where it's at for them.

    I think that bicycle advertising has a lot to answer for in the debate over why we find step through bicycles, mixtes and loop frames too 'girly' for comfortable male use. Women are always pictured looking pretty but stationary, inert in a sense, while men are picured looking sporty and with purpose. Women's cycles are portrayed as fashionable accessories, men's cycling is performance, sport and purposeful recreation. Is it any wonder that men don't want to be seen on such a bicyle?

    And is it any wonder that manufacturers sruggle with female geometry in diamond frame bicycles when the rate at which they sell is far outweighed by the sales to men. It's also a shame that step through bicycles don't very oftem come in large sizes.

    My partner lives in Antwerp. They don't seem to have any problem with bicycle gender there. They seem to ride whichever bicycle is more suitable for the job. Almost all city cycling is done on a step through or a lowered top tube, and a diamond frame for sport when they are emulating Eddy Mercx.

    All we can do is keep up the dialogue, persuade manufacturers to try and disuade advertisers from doing what they do. Your collaboration with Bella Ciao is the first step to Lovely Bicycle's world domination and lovely bicycles for all of us.

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  38. I'm a 45 year old woman. Before I developed chronic sciatica, I rode a zippy diamond framed Bianci road bike, mostly for sport. Now, the only way I can ride painlessly for transportation is when I sit in a bolt-upright position. My upright bike happens to have a loop frame. Your blog helped me to love the bike that suits me best.

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  39. For those of us who--ahem--have more than one bicycle representing more than one class...how can we possibly vote? like picking amongst our children...

    loop frame is the most fun
    diamond frame better for some uses but if I had a similar mixte or loop frame I'd be as happy if not happier

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  40. ^ I can relate : ) Pick the bicycle that you truthfully use the most for transportation.

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  41. BTW, in terms of seeing various kinds of step-through frames as "lesser":

    Depending on the frame style, they are. The diamond-frame by its very shape is stronger, which means they can make it lighter without risking frame failure. A "women's" frame is either going to be less-strong, or heavier, or both.

    I'm under the impression that mixtes were invented to make a step-through frame that was as strong as a diamond frame without adding a lot of weight. They're still a little heavier, though.

    However, for most people's uses, for day-to-day riding, that doesn't matter. Most of us are not going to break frames (although it does happen). Most of us are probably riding fairly heavy bikes because we're transportation cyclists. Yeah, I like a lighter bike given a choice, but I also like to put on a rack and fenders and lights and a u-lock and all that, and those add weight.

    I also think that, for a long time, women's bikes just weren't as well made, which also gives them a stigma.

    As a side note: my first transportation bike is my 1961 Raleigh. At an office where I used to work, a male coworker who was Dutch saw it and gasped and said, "Oh, I have a bike just like that at home!"

    "You have a women's frame bicycle?"

    "Yes! They were great for going to the bars. So much easier to get on and off. And it was old and junky, so I didn't care if it got stolen."

    LOL!

    OKAY. I promise I will stop commenting on this post. Probably.

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  42. Re : mixte. It doesn't really mean gendre neutral
    (unisex) but rather mixed (for both gender). And, yes they are considered as girl's bikes.
    My bikes are diamond frame s, since I'm very tall. I also find them more convenient to hold the frame between my legs or to lean the bike against a pole. But I don't care that much. And m'y daugther (8) use to throw her leg over the rear wheel of her step-through bike. Shall I worry ?

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  43. april - As I understand it, the "either not as strong or heavier" issue comes into play only on road/touring bikes that you will be subjecting to stress at high speeds (20mph+). On a city transportation bike it does not make a difference. Based on the bikes I've owned and encountered, step-throughs tend to be lighter, not heavier than their diamond frame counterparts.

    As for differences in quality, my impression is that this is mainly an issue rooted in (post-WW2) American bicycle history - which fits with the Schwinn story told by Peter above. In Europe, step-through frames have historically been of equal quality.

    Interestingly, many mainstream bike manufacturers have now begun to make "WSD" (woman specific design) diamond frame roadbikes, which basically means that the frame is made available in smaller sizes, with shorter top tubes, and usually with altered front end geometry to compensate for toe overlap. Some women complain that these bikes tend to be fitted with lower end components than the same manufacturer's standard line of roadbikes.

    Philippe - I suppose the proper translation would be "mixed gender," though this term is not often used in English.

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  44. "WSD" (woman specific design) " - Exactly, which I strongly suspect have a larger share of the lady's bicycle market than step-though bicycles. Hence, why I think the terminology is obsolete.

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  45. My wife's commuter is a vintage Raleigh Sprite step-through frame, her original going-to-college bike. I proudly take it for a spin to the food co-op because I like the way it rides and it's just plain cool. Her "rough stuff" bike is a diamond frame mountain bike with suspension.

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  46. Huh, that's so interesting and depressing about "WSD" and diamond frame road bikes with lower quality components. Suck it, manufacturers!

    I've sometimes wondered if the American women roughly my age (30s) who stayed interested in bikes after high school did so because they could find a comfortable one -- ie, they had short legs and long torsos that better allowed them to ride bikes designed for men. I never really understood how comfortable I could be on a bike until I started riding an Italian city bike when I lived in Paris during grad school.

    It's very hard for someone like me to find a diamond frame that works because my legs are long yet I am shorter than almost all men and don't have the reach needed to deal with most men's frames that work with my inseam length. I would be a good candidate for a custom road bike, if ever that fancy strikes.

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  47. As someone who tries to work towards progress in my own tiny way whenever I can, I tend to shy away from "separate but equal" situations for all things. However, here in the USA, I realize that most ppl will cling to the ladies' bike/men's bike nomenclature. As others have pointed out above, there are many parts of the world where they don't do this. (Often, in the countries where they've come far closer than the USA to gender equality, too.)

    I answered the poll honestly (male/diamond frame), but I have to say that the majority of women I know who ride are on diamond frames. Also, the 2 very-old-guys I've known who ride alot were on step-thru frames, as a nice lady mentioned above in her anecdote about her dad.

    I can see how step-thrus are conducive to skirts, but i don't know any ladies who regularly ride in skirts. I can also see how a higher headtube might be appreciated by ppl with shorter torsos, but I own at least one bike with a technomic stem. I think my toros is "regular"; is it girly to have my bars up so high?

    I'm jus' sayin'.
    -rob

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  48. Right now, I'm far too broke to purchase a new bike, though I really, really want a step-through.

    I'm currently riding a diamond-framed bike that was my dad's.

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  49. Rob - Most women I know, especially in academic, political and corporate environments, wear skirts at least half of the time. That's the trouble with generalising one's experiences and friends to "how things are" in general. Your friends do this and my friends do that. Not only that, but we are more prone to noticing things that conform to our own world view and not to an opposing world view. But how is it overall? That's where research is helpful.

    What parts of the world don't use the men's/ladies' bikes nomenclature? The Dutch use Oma and Opa. The Italians use Donna and Uomo. If you look on the websites of pretty much every European manufacturer, from the English Pashley to the Danish Velorbis to the German Retrovelo, they use gender-specific terminology to describe the diamond vs step-through frames.

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  50. Adam said...
    "WSD" (woman specific design) " - Exactly, which I strongly suspect have a larger share of the lady's bicycle market than step-though bicycles. Hence, why I think the terminology is obsolete.


    I don't follow, or maybe I am misinterpreting you. Are you saying that you just don't like the phrase "lady's bike" and prefer WSD as a synonym?

    Because when it comes to transportation bikes, Trek labels their step-through and mixte models as WSD.

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  51. re: WSD. There are all shades of it, from 6k slopers from Specialized to the aforementioned entry level marketing gimmicks.

    When engineered properly they can be a revelation. My wife said, "They get it!"

    Jim

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  52. "I think that bicycle advertising has a lot to answer for in the debate over why we find step through bicycles, mixtes and loop frames too 'girly' for comfortable male use. Women are always pictured looking pretty but stationary, inert in a sense, while men are pictured looking sporty and with purpose."

    I just flipped through three bike magazines lying around my house. I can't find any photos depicting women in the way you describe them. They're riding bikes all the hell all over the place.

    Now, however, I see that I have to clean up my house.

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  53. So, it sounds like it's cool for us to keep calling them Lady's bikes(or as my niece would say, "durls bikes",(without her 7 year old derisive sneer))and riding them if we want regardless of our current gender affiliation. Words are fun but bikes are funner

    I have an old Raleigh "twenty" folding bike that I like to ride that is sorta step-through. It is definitely the easiest thing to ease on and off of on the fly if you have something bulky on the rack. Plus it looks dorky enough on it's own that nobody has to resort to unfortunate gender terms to make fun of it.

    Velouria, I think you are injecting just about the right amount of interest and emotion into this discussion. As a man I try to defer to my female friends on some of these issues but it's a lot easier if there seems to be an undercurrent of common sense to the discourse. Thanks.

    Now can tomorrows post be about something cool like how to build monster long chopper forks for vintage Schwinn Stingrays? THAT'S a subject where I really have something to say...

    Spindizzy

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  54. Spindizzy - Unfortunately, I've never ridden one of those bikes - so i don't think such a post is even on the horizon : (

    Christopher Fotos - I agree with both you and Nicole, and I think it depends on the type of bike. I have seen adverts where a young woman is portrayed as if she is really just modeling next to or with the bike, rather than riding it. On the other hand, I recently got a trainer that is supposed to be what all the men use. And the packaging depicts a sweaty, determined (not sexy) looking woman tensing her muscles whilst very actively riding a roadbike.

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  55. Great post! I hadn't ever noticed that my step through doesn't have the same geometry as its diamond frame counterpart. The handle bars are much higher than the seat, which I like, but wheels are much closer together. Also, compared to the Gazelle, the pedals are more under the seat instead of forward. I'm not loving my bike right now. At some point I hope to be able to trade it in, so I really love the explanations about how all these things fit together and why.

    Feel free to call noob, but I really appreciate all the things I learn from reading this blog. Even if the comments are frequently over my head.

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  56. Velouria, I'm saying I have no issue with the term 'lady's bicycle' as long as it it correctly applied specifically to frames designed for female geometry - be it step-through or diamond frame. I'm saying whether or not a bicycle is a step-through is a false identifier to its intended gender. As far as I can tell "WSD" is Trek terminology. Specialized does not use it. They handle their gender marketing the same way Rivendell does it with the Betty Foy/Yves Gomez, by giving boy and girl names to the comparable models. Regardless, Trek WSD's and Specialized's various diamond frame women's bicycles are all "lady's bicycles." My point is that it would make more sense if when people said "lady's bike" that our minds would go directly to bicycle geometry instead of whether it is a step-through or not, as that identifier has become obsolete now that step-throughs are most likely a minority share of the American lady's bicycle market, and gender non-specific utility step-through bicycles are a burgeoning market.

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  57. I had a recent predicament that seems somehow analogous. I ordering a very fancy, very beautiful wind jacket from Rapha's newly created womens' line of cycling apparel. Well, much to my dismay, the jacket was too short and flared out to ridiculous proportions at the bottom! According to Rapha's definition, I must be a "man!" :(
    -Jen

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  58. Jen - I tried on a Rapha women's jacket some time over the summer and it didn't fit me well either, though I forget in what way. At the same shop they had the new line of Campagnolo jackets, and those fit me wonderfully (and are magically waterproof, while being paper thin).

    Adam - I agree. But what I mean is, that in their non-roadbike lines Trek also pairs the "WSD" label with the step-through and mixte designs. For example, the Trek Belleville diamond frame is considered to be the regular bike, whereas the Trek Belleville mixte is "WSD".

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  59. Hi all,

    I did a search for information regarding male vs female body proportions and how that relates to bike fit and found an article by Gale Bernhart that suggests the differences are not very great at all.

    I've copied and pasted a couple of the significant paragraphs below. Bernhart says:

    "Notice in the discussion about average male and female dimensions in previous paragraphs that I use the phrase "original data set." I am now in the process of reexamining anthropometric data using "The Measure of Man & Woman," published in 2002. What I found in this more recent collection of data is that the difference between the average U.S. male and female, in the critical dimensions affecting bicycle fit, is very small. Proportional to height, the male and female dimensions of leg length, hand length and arm length are very close in this more recent data set.

    While U.S. men are, on average, five inches taller than women; the proportions of the two groups are very similar."

    You can read the complete article at:

    http://www.active.com/triathlon/Articles/Finding-the-Perfect-Bike-Fit-and-Frame-Dimension.htm

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  60. frozen prairie - This is a can of worms, scientifically speaking. There is no 100% correct answer, and as usual, researchers disagree with each other, each submitting their own evidence. But it is typically accepted in the field of human physiology, than men and women have different skeletal proportions. Another can of worms, is that some suggest that among US populations, these differences are smaller than in other geographical regions.

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  61. I see nothing wrong with 'lady bike' defining the classic lady specific frames whilst WSD frames are often designed by men and not much better than the regular frames of such bikes. Nor is there anything inferior about 'lady' frames. The notion that only diamond frames are real serious bikes is slammed down our throats all the time. In fact mixtes are meant to be road bikes.
    Another reason step through/loop/mixte frames are good options is that they can get a woman or man on a slightly bigger bike that fits better because stand over height issues put them onto a smaller diamond frame bike that is too small. My surly lht is a 46 cm for example and looks like a child's bike. I know I am short, but at least my 'lady' frame bikes look like grown up bikes. The lbs at the shop swore up and down that it was the right size and I wouldn't be able to stand over the 50 cm. And there was never a 50 cm in stock to try so... needless to say the bike is actually too small for me! I have been given an old touring bike that I can just barely stand over and once I get it rebuilt I will find out if it fits better. This is why I prefer my step through and mixte any day because they fit although none of them have the components or gearing for long distance road riding.

    This is also why the rivendell's betty foy and boyfriend Sam Hillborne are different even though advertised as being the same. Betty foy is meant for upright riding with the female geometry in mind while the Sam Hillborne is meant for drop bars and hence the very different ride.
    heather

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  62. Step thro frames are marketed towards female riders & I really don't have a stigma with that.

    I'm male, but have chosen to ride a ladies Dutch bike because the step thro frame makes getting on & off the bike when it's loaded far far easier.

    I haven't ridden a gents version so cannot compare headstock heights, but have set the handlebars as high as they will go for comfort and again for safety when riding loaded - one handed cornering & braking is as safe as houses when you aren't supporting any of your bodyweight on the handlebars.

    Call them whatever you wish - mines affectionately named the Wimmins bike & for it's purpose, I've ridden nothing better :>)

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  63. "What parts of the world don't use the men's/ladies' bikes nomenclature? The Dutch use Oma and Opa."
    Not in the general sense. Oma stands for loop frames like the Gazelle Tour Populair. All other step-through frames are called damesfietsen or damesmodellen, so ladies' bikes (diamond frames are herenfietsen = gentlemen's bikes). But everybody buys the bike he/she likes best, without thinking twice about the gender specific nomenclature. A herenfiets has a top bar, that's it. And when you are buying secondhand you couldn't care less anyway.
    I noticed on www.omafiets.nl (you never stop learning) that the term "omafiets" came up around 1980, so if you had uttered the word omafiets before say 1940 nobody would have understood as they were known as ladies' bikes. The majority of ladies' bikes were twin parallel frames then (my sisters never had loop frame bikes), and the girls of the time referred to the models their grandmothers rode as granny bikes. In a deprecating way, until they found out that those old bike shapes were eminently suitable for their purpose. So now they are back.
    BTW opafiets is a black old-fashioned monster you should preferably not be seen on. This perception may, of course, change too.

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    Replies
    1. I want a Gazele Toer Popular Export soooo bad. I'm a man and I'm 5ft 4in. I doubt I could comfortably (if at all) ride the opafeits. Not surprising. The Dutch are the tallest people in the world and I'm short by American standards. I was worried about riding a bike designed for a woman. Not so much because of embarrassment, I just didn't think a man could ride a "ladies" bike comfortably. It does anger me slightly that they don't make the opafeits in my size and I wonder if especially tall women have the same issues. You've eased my resignations about the omafeits and I thank you.

      Delete
  64. Sorry, "top bar" should be "top tube".
    As for women riding diamond frames, there's a movie called Wedding Crashers (2005) in which Rachel McAdams goes for a bike ride with Owen Wilson. Both on beach cruisers, hers with a drop tube, his with a top tube. Halfway, they get off and turn around. Owen is quickest, so in order to catch up Rachel takes a few running steps, puts her left foot on the left pedal and very routinely swings her right leg over the saddle, in a wide skirt. Noticeable, to Dutch eyes. And telling.

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  65. Velouria, yes on the Bellville, but they also use the "WSD" designation on their lady's diamond frame mountain bikes and some of their sportier 'Bike Path' bikes as well. Basically, all of their lady's bikes that are marketed as sport models have diamond frames, which makes perfect sense. I just wish they called them all lady's bikes if they are designed for the ladies, along with all the other bike manufacturers. It'd be hella a lot less confusing.

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  66. Velouria said...
    The Rivendell Gomez may be very nice, but it does not sell very well, while the Betty Foy sells like hot cakes. Seems to me that the majority of men "aren't buying" the idea of mixtes being for them.

    Could be the $200 higher price for the same bike as the Betty Foy with a different color and head badge.

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  67. I like the idea of keeping the women's and men's bicycles distinct. Culturally, we've begun blurring the lines between gender-specific things so much that there are very few things where it is comfortable or acceptable to say "this is ideally for men" or "this is a better option for women". The frames and geometries of the gender-specific bikes were clearly originally designed for very different uses and needs and that's perfectly fine.

    If we try to deny this and push for an androgynous bicycle then we would just end up with a generic "hybrid" bike that would make both genders unhappy and take a lot of the enjoyment out of cycling and experiencing the bike that seems to be made just for you.

    So yes, generally, the women's and men's frames are adequate to address people's needs.

    I would suggest that if there are women or men who do not fall into those categories that would be happy with a "women's" or "men's" style bike that they might consider adapting a different type bicycle or commisioning a custom bicycle, however trying to change the distinctions for everyone just seems like a huge mistake.

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  68. WSD is such an ugly and pointless designation. Has political correctness really gone so far that we can't use "Lady's" instead?

    I believe very strongly in social justice, but I think that entails celebrating and exploring the differences and boundaries between man and woman rather than pretending that they don't exist or at the other extreme, treating them as sacred, impenetrable walls.

    I'm a guy and I ride a lady's bike (most of the time) because it's more comfortable and feels safer than the other bikes I have.

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  69. Frits - I'm confused. So you're saying that currently Omafietsen are in, but Opafietsen are out?

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  70. I really appreciate your viewpoint on this and on the sexism issue brought up in a recent comment thread - I think something which gets really lost here is that men and women are in fact different in very notable ways (on the average, of course there are exceptions). It has become offensive to note the differences or to assume that the differences in one may predispose them to being better at a particular task than the other or may predispose them to a particular type of behavior more than the other. I think this is really silly, as I think it leads to a lot of mis-communication, and a lot of conflict that doesn't need to exist.

    We don't have to be treated as equivalent, we just have to be treated as equal. It's actually quite a benefit that different people are well-suited for different things.

    In any case, I am a male and ride a diamond frame bike most of the time, though I fairly regularly ride my wife's step-thru, and eventually we will be buying a WorkCycles Omafiets as well to be the primary load-hauling bike in the house (which will primarily be my job). So, how's that for a mix? :)

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  71. Dave - A new WorkCycles Omafiets? Very exciting! Hopefully there will be numerous blogposts and pictures involved!!!

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  72. Iyen: don't count on it in the near future, but that's the eventual plan.

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  73. Iyen said...
    Frits - I'm confused. So you're saying that currently Omafietsen are in, but Opafietsen are out?
    No, it's a matter of linguistics mostly. Omafietsen are instantly recognizable, it's a shape. When bicycles started their revival, some 40 years ago, loop frames were the ones ridden by the grannies of the new riders, and that jocular term stuck as a generic description (helped by manufacturers who were only too keen to emphasize their good old-fashioned quality). We have them in bright colors, and ranging from very poor to very good quality. The word "opafietsen" as a description never made it that far, as they are really just sombre black versions of city bikes with top tubes. And of course, most actual opa's = grandfathers prefer omafietsen or step-throughs anyway :-), for the same reasons you mention. But not in pink or mint green, and definitely not with bright baskets or panniers.

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  74. portlandize: You don't feel tempted by this offering?
    http://www.workcycles.nl/home-producten/special-deals-and-clearance-items/demo-ex-rental-fr8
    I am, but I have no medical clearance yet ...

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  75. "But not in pink or mint green, and definitely not with bright baskets or panniers."

    Are you saying that pink or mint green are somehow female-specific? Shame on you : )

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  76. Frits B: That is a great price for a Fr8, but unfortunately I just don't have that amount of money right now to spend on anything, even if I viewed it as a priority. I think the Omafiets will be a good compromise once the time comes, because we will still be able to haul more than on either of our current bikes, and then my wife can easily and comfortably ride it as well, even if I ride it most of the time.

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  77. "And of course, most actual opa's = grandfathers prefer omafietsen or step-throughs anyway :-), for the same reasons you mention. But not in pink or mint green, and definitely not with bright baskets or panniers."

    Heeheehee. Thanks for the image!

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  78. I don't mind the terminology, but I try not to use the term "lady's bike" to avoid offending men. Of the men I know who ride Dutch-style bikes, at least of half of them ride step-through frames. I think this is because they choose a Dutch bike for its optimal utilitarianism and a step-through is an important aspect of that utility (getting on and off easily, especially with a heavy load).

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  79. @Dottie: speaking personally, I wouldn't be offended in the least. I realize that riding a bike that was designed with women in mind does nothing to change the fact that I'm a man - that is, it isn't threatening. I would fall into the category of people who would ride a step-thru for utilitarian reasons.

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  80. As I was getting him ready for bed this evening, my four-year-old son asked to see a picture of a bicycle just like his (he keeps saying he wants it to be springtime so he can ride his bike). I came across this:

    http://www.mielebicycles.com/main+en+06_200+Modele_Velo_Kids_BB14_2011.html?CategorieID=44&BikeID=901

    There are two models at each of the smaller wheel sizes for these bikes; one for boys and one for girls. Obviously, they are painted different colors, with different decals to indicate the target gender. What I find really interesting, though, is that they went to the trouble of making two separate frames! They both appear to have the same standover clearance, so they're functionally no different. This strikes me as really bizarre. Why on earth would they do that?

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  81. I like the Fr8 and other Workcycles bikes, but I wish they made crowned forks. The Swan frame is my favourite.

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  82. You could just not call it anything: http://www.rei.com/product/808786

    Jim

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  83. ^ That's true. Unless you are a woman and find yourself too stretched out on the frame, at which point you would call it "a bike that doesn't fit right." That's the problem with unisex fit: there is no such thing. If it's not called anything, that usually means the geometry has been optimised for male proportions.

    But more importantly, I want to know what they mean by "midnight brown"...

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  84. For me the most important measurements are setback and reach for a particular bike or riding style. Setback determines where my butt is, the type of seat determines torso lean angle, virtual tt w/stem and bar the reach.

    A carefully designed uniperson bike can indeed fit a lot of peeps, but not all. Riding style has a lot to do with how well a bike fits too. I can take a too small bike and, as long as its wheelbase is long enough, convert it to an upright and be good.

    A fr8 is a good example of unifit, with its adaptive seat tube. I believe MF of ANT has licensed it for his cycle truck. BTW the fr8 rides like a friggin' truck and climbs like a one without a transmission.

    re: midnight brown. I prefer "dachshund."

    Jim

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  85. "There has been some discussion lately about how appropriate it is to refer to diamond and step-through frame bicycles as men's and ladies' bikes."

    I think it depends on the person you're talking with.

    For people who aren't into bicycles it's appropriate.

    To enthusiasts, it's generally not.

    To a custom frame builder, a diamond, and a step though frame are designs that are not exclusive to men or ladies.

    In my opinion there's really no such thing as a men or ladies bicycle. I think it's just something marketing created. The term “men” or “ladies” may only be used to determine what they will name the bike and what decorative designs to add to target a particular gender.

    Most gender specific mass produced bicycle can be tuned to fit a man or a women comfortably. If you're that hard up on a perfect fit for your male or female anatomy, your only option is a custom built frame.

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  86. I've just refabbed an old Miyata 112 Mixte for my wife and Centurion Accordo mixte for my neighbor's kid. I really admire the craftsmanship regardless of whether it's a "mixte" or a "ladies' bike". As get older, my hip hurts more and more when I lift my leg over the top tube and I'm seriously thinking of building up a Soma Buena Vista for myself (too hard to find a big enough vintage mixte). Maybe we should call them "old guys' bikes" instead of "ladies bikes".

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  87. No sooner did I write the previous post than my boss walked over and looked at the white Peugeot mixte I had as my computer screen background and said, "I'm sure that's an expensive bike but I wouldn't ride a girl's bike". I explained that it's an old Peugeot and not an overly expensive bike. I then explained about the hip related issues but neither my boss nor the co-worker sitting next to me (who's kinda purty) thought it appropriate for me to ride a mixte. Co-worker said she was just kidding but I don't believe her. Although there really shouldn't be men's bikes and ladies' bikes, there's not much you can do to change that perception. Like I said in another post, the more you think things change, the more they stay the same.

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  88. I am learning about bikes from this blog and others like it. Now that I am starting to look for bikes and parts, I am amazed at how many dealers and manufactures still refer to them as men's and women's bikes. I think that is where the public perception is coming from.

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  89. I have 2 Lady's bikes both were given to me. I am a guy and I love riding them main reason I don't have the money to buy a new one but even so I am slowly restoring my "new" bike a vintage Panasonic Sport 1000 Lady's frame fastest bike I have ever owned. As a guy riding one yeah I get snickered at when I tell friends online it's a Lay's bike ya know what? Don't bother me in the least. I really dig the ease of getting on it when my body is a bit stiff plus the fact i am a bit shorter. I use her as a commuter also carry stuff on the back and it just makes so much sense to me to have that kinda frame for the ease of getting off and on.

    So for me yeah don't bother me what people say about it. :)

    I have to say to this is one of my favorite blogs your Mixtes are some of the nicest bikes I have ever seen and I would so much love one of those than a new bike LOL
    Cheers Jim

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  90. This is simple
    Do you use your bike to run errands, grocery, stuff in a basket? Then you need a step thru frame. That is unless you like picking your stuff off the ground after you have leaned over a bicycle because you couldn't swing you leg over your load, only to dump it all out......
    It not sissy, it's practical.

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  91. i ride a female bike for work and shopping because i have a basket on the back and i can get on and off without tilting it over too far. practicality. simple as that. and its comfortable to ride.

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  92. I read in a pretty good book on women and cycling (which I unfortunately forget the name of) that there's really no difference in the average ratio of torso length to leg length between men and women and that WSD bike manufacturers are misguided in designing women's models for short torsos/long legs. As a woman with a particularly long torso for my height (I'm 5'7" and was recently sitting next to a man who's 6'2" with long legs for his height and realized we were the same height sitting down), there is no WSD bike in the world that fits me properly. Fortunately I also have fairly big hands so I don't need smaller handlebars/brake levers or anything like that, but it is annoying that I basically can't get a bike that comes with a women's seat standard (since there are very real differences in the pubic bone that make gender-specific seats better for men or women if you're going on long rides).

    Even if I could fit WSD bikes, I'd be skeptical of them. Anyone who has ever bought a pair of jeans knows that marketers are notorious for creating an inferior, less durable product for women and then having the audacity to charge them more for it. Fortunately at least most bike manufacturers don't charge extra when they create a WSD version of an existing men's line, but if you look at some of the older "ladies'" bikes there's certainly a history of many of them being less rugged, practical, or speedy than similarly priced men's versions.

    One last thing... on those "Oma and Opa" bikes, Oma is going to be in a decidedly less efficient pedaling position because of the upright-ness. That could be a real problem if grandma and grandpa live in a hilly town and want to go for a ride together on their matching bikes.

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  93. I can't think of why in God's name anyone would want to wear a skirt on a bike... I guess that's a separate matter though!

    I don't know a thing about any bikes but road bikes. Let's just make that clear. That said, a "woman's specific geometry" bike doesn't look a ton different than it's male counterpart. The top tube may be angled downward slightly, but it is much more subtle these days. Personally, I think it's a bunch of hype, to sell bike to more women. They are told that it is so good for them and specialized to their body... Bull. Ok, I think I read up there somewhere that "statistically women shorter torsos...blah blah blah," and that is true. :) The bottom line however, imho, is that anyone who wants to, CAN ride a "men's" bike, AND do so comfortably, because there is no issue that cannot be solved with changing out a seatpost or stem, etc, and by getting a proper and professional fit, done by a fit specialist. :)

    I personally ride a men's bike. The company that makes my bike does not make "women's bikes." I ride very aggressively. I have found that woman's bikes, because of the whole short torso thing, leave me sitting far too upright. I feel like a dang wind sail! On a men's bike, I can get into a much more aggressive position. So if I were to really label them, I'd label them as aggressive and less-aggressive geometries. Maybe then some men wouldn't feel so shy in buying something that might work better for them, and some women wouldn't be falsely led to believe that this chick bike is doing them a big favor, when it just might not be.

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    1. On a road bike, you would be nuts to wear skirt. I can't see myself riding a road bike, no problem with those that prefer to. I ride a one speed cruiser, which I will be replacing with a Dutch bike of some sort. What's important to me is that I can haul groceries and stuff and ride comfortably. I ride in normal cloths, and I don't usually wear a helmet (walking downstairs is more dangerous than biking, I wouldn't wear a helmet to walk downstairs). If I were a woman, I would probably ride in a skirt. I just want to get there, and not have to change cloths when I do.

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  94. I just picked up my first step through bicycle, and I'm a guy. It's a beautiful Schwinn World Tourist from the 80's. I have already received compliments from my neighbors on it. The upright frame geometry is a change from the diamond frames I'm used to riding. Then again, my field of view is greater because I'm sitting upright and my nose isn't pointing towards the asphalt constantly.

    I think assigning a gender to any frame design is a big mistake. Even though there are bicycles which both men and women might feel more comfortable riding on, that doesn't mean that these styles can't be interchangeable between the two. It limits the market and makes men shy away from riding a bike they might really be comfortable with.

    I wrote a blog post about this recently. Subscribe to me and check it out.

    http://bicyclepointofview.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-fell-in-love-with-step-thru-my-1980.html

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  95. I've been witnessing dutch bicycles become more popular in the UK. Often men seem to prefer the traditionally women's style frame.

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