For years there's been an ongoing debate over the need for women-specific geometry on bikes, which we discussed at length when we answered the question, 'can women ride men's bikes?' Ultimately the answer is to ride the bike that best fits your body, and there are a plethora of options available to women today, from women-specific bikes from the likes of Liv Cycling to unisex bikes with women-specific contact points from several other brands.
Women's specific frames tend to have a slightly shorter top tube and slightly higher stack at the front end (head tube) to accommodate the average ratio difference of legs to torso on men and women. In layman's terms, women tend to have longer legs proportionately to men, and therefore a shortened top tube means a more comfortable and balanced reach to the handlebars.
Unisex frames, on the other hand, offer more options when it comes to components, size and style, but making adjustments can affect the feel of the bike. For example, a too-short stem will lead to a twitchy-feeling ride, and a saddle too far forward can create awkward pedal strokes.
Everybody is different though and, as a starting point, we would recommend checking your current setup's measurements from a comfort and fit standpoint. And of course, if you're a first-time bike buyer, don't underestimate the value of popping into your local bike shop to be sized.
As a brief disclaimer, while we've done our best to include a range of suitable bikes that are currently available to buy, with the huge increase in demand this year, unsurprisingly stock levels are very low and some bikes are already sold out, but this doesn't affect our opinion that these are some of the best women's road bikes out there right now.
Our picks for the best women's road bikes:
Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1
A super comfortable endurance road bike with a tropical paint job
RRP: £2,299.00 / $3,900.00 / AU$ | Best for: Long-distance | Sizes available: XS, S, M | Groupset: Shimano Ultegra
The Avail range is Liv's endurance road bike, with the Avail Advanced Pro 1 sitting at the top. Liv Cycling is a women-specific brand whose bikes are designed and built by women for women, with the input of female elite athletes. As such, the Avail's geometry is relaxed and comfortable, putting the rider in a relatively upright position, and tailored to fit women with shorter torsos and longer legs.
Sizing stays on the smaller end of the scale, accommodating petite women from 5ft/152cm, up to around 5ft 10/178cm, so if you're taller with a long reach you may find it a little cramped.
The Avail Advanced Pro 1 is built around Liv's Advanced-Grade Composite frame with OverDrive steerer, it sports an Ultegra groupset - although the chainset is non-series Shimano RS510 - and Giant's shock-absorbing SL D-Fuse handlebar and seatpost. This, plus the plush 32c tyres, make for an overall very comfortable ride for hours in the saddle.
Plus if you act fast, you can grab yourself one of these gorgeous limited edition Tropical paint jobs.
B'Twin Triban RC520 Women's Disc Road Bike
An incredibly affordable and decent aluminium women's road bike
RRP: £799.99 | Best for: Beginner roadies | Sizes available: XS, S, M, L | Groupset: Shimano 105
For anyone looking for an affordable entry-level women's road bike, the Triban RC520 Women's Disc offers exceptional value for money. The durable 6061 T6 aluminium frame is paired with a carbon fork and built with endurance geometry for a relaxed riding position, ideal for beginner road cyclists.
For the price, the build is pretty decent, sporting a full Shimano 105 drivetrain, hydraulic TRP HY/RD disc brakes, tubeless ready wheels, and mounts for a front and rear rack and mudguards.
The bike itself offers a comfortable ride on tarmac, and with 28mm tyres can withstand slightly rougher ground like fine gravel. However after a while on bumpy terrain or tow paths, the road chatter can cause quite a bit of arm fatigue, so it's best restricted to the roads.
Liv Langma Advanced Pro 0 Disc
A super aggressive racer with women-specific geometry
RRP: £4,799.00 / $5,600.00 | Best for: Multi-day racing / climbing | Sizes available: XS, S, M | Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
The Liv Langma Advanced Pro is a super aggressive road racer with a slammed front end that puts you in a speedy riding position. With a frameset created from Liv's Advanced-Grade Composite layup, it's incredibly lightweight at 7.1kg and destined to fly up the most challenging climbs.
Built around Liv's women-specific geometry, the sizing comes up small in the same way as the Avail listed above, with XS, S and M frames on offer.
The carbon frame use slender tubing to keep the weight down, while the downtube becomes thicker to reinforce the area immediately around the PowerCore bottom bracket. This creates a stiffer and stronger power transfer with each pedal stroke, enabling you to really accelerate.
At the top end of the Langma range, the Advanced Pro 0 Disc comes equipped with the electronic Ultegra Di2 groupset, and a Giant Power Pro power meter pre-installed on the crankset.
Lapierre Xelius SL 600 Disc
Great for whizzing up the hills and making sure your bike doesn't match anyone else's in the club
RRP: €2,999.00 | Best for: Climbing | Sizes available: S (46cm), M (49cm), L (52cm) | Groupset: Shimano Ultegra
A stalwart of bicycles in France, Lapierre bikes - outfitter of both the Groupama FDJ women's and men's teams - delivers on the Xelius SL 600 Disc, with a women's specific geometry. Lapierre has developed the Xelius alongside its pro riders and built a true climbers' bike.
With the Xelius, Lapierre has reduced the top tube length by 15mm for the women's fit, and increased the stack height at the front end. The fully carbon frame and fork are dressed in Shimano Ultegra, and the bars are sized down by 2cm compared to the men's model. The additional components are stellar for the price range, with a Fizik saddle, Mavic wheels and Continental tyres coming standard. It weighs in at a respectable 8.4 kg. For a ready-to-ride mid-price point bike with a European heritage, the Lapierre is one of a handful of companies still creating a women's specific geometry. Suitable for short-torsoed, long-legged women, like we all dream to be.
Scott Contessa Addict RC 15
Clean lines with internal cabling for a lightweight all-round good ride
RRP: $5,499.99 / €4,650.00 / £4,999.00 | Best for: Responsiveness | Sizes available: XXS(47), XS(49), S(52), M,(54) L(56) | Groupset: Shimano Ultegra
One of the cleanest-looking bikes available, the fully internally cabled Scott Contessa Addict comes specced with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and weighs in at 7.6kg, making it a truly lightweight racing bike. Finished off with Syncros componentry, although the bike's geometry is the same as the men's model, the finishes are designed for a female body. While internal and integrated cabling gives the Scott a clean aesthetic, do note that it adds a layer of difficulty to some small adjustments and repairs, as the cockpit of the bike may need to be removed for disc brake cabling adjustments (luckily the bike comes fitted with Ultegra Di2, eliminating some internal cabling difficulty).
Its size chart shows some overlap in sizing, meaning if you are between sizes you can comfortably size up if you prefer a shorter stem and longer wheelbase, or size down for a more compact, snappier ride.
Ridley Liz SL
Great value for price with a race position and legacy
RRP: €2,499.00 (Ultegra) / €1,949.00 (105) | Best for: Aggressive race position | Sizes available: XXS (48), XS (51), S (54), M (57), L (60), XL (63) | Groupset: Groupset (Shimano Ultegra or Shimano 105)
An all-rounder bike, the Ridley Liz SL is a rim-brake bike, for those looking for the weight-saving advantage of a more traditional braking system. Featuring Ridley's unique diamond-shaped carbon tubing, the frame is impact resistant, and robust. The no-nonsense Belgian brand stays true to it's racing heritage, as can be clearly seen, this endurance bike is built for speed. Going down to a size XXS, Ridley has catered to a petite market, and the smallest size should be perfect for a 5 foot 1 inch height. It has a decently long wheelbase for some extra stability and has options for Ultegra or one step down 105 Shimano groupsets.
The Liz SL is the 'women's' version of the men's Fenix frame and is equally responsive on the hills as it's male counterpart. It is an aggressive race bike at a moderate price point, and easy to customise with different finishing kits.
Canyon Ultimate WMN CF SL Disc 8.0 Di2
For the most petite women in a lightweight package
RRP: €3,299.00 | Best for: Shorter women, and those who enjoy climbing | Sizes available: 3XS (40.6cm), 2XS (43.6cm) XS (46.6cm) S (49.6cm) M (52.6cm) | Groupset: Shimano Ultegra
The Canyon WMN range features a variety of bikes and setups with female-specific geometry. The first thing we noticed when inspecting the range was sizing going down to 43 centimetres, and adjusted 650c wheelsets for these smaller sizes, opening the doors to many who were previously relegated to the children's section.
On a size small model, which will suit heights ranging from 172-178cm, the top tube comes in at 537mm against their men's model's 543. A slight increase in the length of the head tube ensures the head tube angle is the same, minimising handling discrepancies, although marginally. In that, you also see a small reduction of length of the wheelbase. The lightweight Ultimate comes in at 7.4kg with Shimano Ultegra Di2. Want to step it up? For €3k more you can opt for the eTAP version, shaving it down to 7.07 kg, and at the other end, with a Shimano 105 groupset the bike can be purchased at €2,099.
The advantages of buying directly from Canyon is a wide range of price points available on each selected frameset. The disadvantage? As a direct-to-consumer business model, Canyon only sells online meaning your local bike shop is less than likely to stock a full range of parts for it, and you lose the 'first service free' element of buying in person.
Vitus Razor women's
For ease of rim brakes and a value purchase
RRP: £699.00 / approx €750.00 | Best for: First time cyclists | Sizes available: XS (44cm), S (47cm), M (50cm), L (52cm) | Groupset: Shimano Claris
A great entry-level kitted out road bike, the alloy frame features compact geometry and women's specific finishes. Although some may find the top tube measurements a touch too long, for an entry into the world of road bikes it's a great starting point. A carbon fork adds a bit of class to the setup, along with the vintage-inspired gum walled tyres.
The Razor women's bike is focused on the needs of female cyclists and comes with female-specific finishing kit. This includes narrower bars (38cm wide on XS and S), shorter stems, shorter cranks and a female-specific saddle. It comes in a bit heavier at 9.75 kgs though. The gearing is 8-speed on the back, giving a bit of limitation on longer climbs or full out sprints.
Fuji Supreme 2.5
An aero frame with specific geometry, the Fuji Supreme 2.5 is a flat-road specialist
RRP: $1,799.99 | Best for: An entry level bike for fast and flat roads | Sizes available: 44cm, 47cm, 50cm, 53cm, 56cm | Groupset: Shimano 105
Fuji bike company seems to be in dire straights at the moment, but we can't remove from this list the bike that sees the most extreme changes for female-specific geometry. The company used its women's teams for research and designed the frame using its large bank of fit data from over the years.
On a size Large (56cm) model, the top tube is a whopping 30mm shorter on its women's specific supreme range. The headtube angle comes in a degree tighter but slightly longer ensuring a quick and responsive wheelbase. The bike uses Fuji's C10 carbon, a slightly heavier tubing than it's high-end C15. The bike falls closer into an “aero” model than most others on this list; the frame and fork are shaped in its Kamm airfoil (D-shaped) tubes for decreased wind resistance and equipped with a reliable Shimano 105 groupset and disc brakes, the carbon frame and fork promise speed and stiffness at an affordable price point.
You can have it in any colour you want, as long as it's black.
Cannondale Synapse Disc Women's Tiagra
Comfort and ease with a relaxed fit
RRP: $1,400.00 / £1,000.00 | Best for: Versatility | Sizes available: 44cm, 48cm, 51cm, 54cm | Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Cannondale, like most of the big companies, gives a variety of options of groupsets for each frame, but the Synapse Disc Tiagra hits a unique price point on the market.
Although the Synapse is one unisex geometry, the relaxed fit of the bike proves to be very comfortable for a variety of body shapes, and its female version comes with specific female touchpoint equipment. Equipped with FSA componentry and Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset, this alloy bike is road and light-gravel ready, promising a light, stiff and fast ride, and invisible ease. The carbon forks offset the alloy frame for exceptional smoothness.
Even when on the heavier side (10.3kg), the Cannondale Synapse diligently provides the rider with a consistent and pain-free experience. The disc brake setup, however, is mechanically actuated so it lacks the feel and modulation of a hydraulic system.
Specialized S-Works Roubaix
Comfortable, fast, light and bling, but boy it's pricey
RRP: $11,500.00 | Best for: Long rides and light weight | Sizes available: 44cm, 49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 61cm | Groupset: SRAM Red eTap
For the last few years the Specialized has been phasing out its women's specific lines, the Amira and Ruby, and the latter has been brought under the similar-sounding moniker of Roubaix. Specialized punts this bike as a unisex model.
At the high end of the range, the S-Works Roubaix uses free-foil-shaped tubing that has been wind-tunnel tested. Outfitted with eTap, the company claims the aerodynamics rival its road-specific Tarmac - and a Pavé seatpost and Future Shock 2.0 to create a variety of vibration proofing options, to make a great bike for descending, and an ultimately smooth ride. At the price point, it comes outfitted with the best of the best, Roval wheels, and full SRAM eTap.
The complaints of the softness of the old Roubaix is gone in the new model, as the tech team has paired stiffness with its unique damping fork. The smallest size for the model is 44 cm, and the frame weighs in at less than 900 grams.
Trek Domane SLR 7
IsoSpeed-decoupled ride and wide tyre clearance means road buzz is a thing of the past
RRP: $7,799.00 - $8,299.00 | Best for: Endurance rides | Sizes available: 47cm, 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 60cm, 62cm | Groupset: Shimano Ultegra
Another brand that has gone for a true unisex outlook, the Trek Domane is our pick for an all-round endurance-focused road bike. With its Project One online platform, it's easy to customise your bike for specific saddles, colours, bars and componentry, building the exact bike to your needs. In the Trek range, the anagrammed names might all have a familiar ring to them, but the Domane is the all-round bike model.
It climbs well, descends well and pulls in aerodynamic features without overly focusing on a single element. With integrated cabling, the look is clean and sleek, and with wide clearance, a wider tyre can easily be put on for those looking to dabble in a bit of gravel or off-road adventures, without investing in a second bike.
The bike comes fitted with Ultegra Di2 electronic drive train, (11-speed) and parts from Bontrager. The Bontrager Pro IsoCore handlebar promises to reduce vibrations from the road by 20%.
Liv Enviliv Advanced Pro 0 Disc
Speed delivered from the women's only brand
RRP: €6,599.00 | Best for: Criteriums and speed | Sizes available: XS (46.5cm), S (50cm), M (52cm) | Groupset: SRAM force eTAP
For points of difference, we had to throw in the fully aero, fully women's Liv Enviliv bike. As many women's offerings are more endurance-focused, the true aerodynamic prowess from this women's specific brand is a one off on the market.
While Liv as a brand might not sit in the 'sexiest' of positioning (like its sibling Giant) they are arguably the leaders in the market, and the largest global producer, ensuring great value for money as well as refined, tried-and-tested frames. For some female cyclists (myself included) it's hard not to shy away from Liv, in that constant desire to have the same equipment as our male counterparts, and there is an immediate thought that Liv is a brand 'relegated' to the girls. But the truth couldn't be further, as Liv is by far the biggest standalone women's bike company, perfecting its wares to a tailored market, and not simply adding in a 'women's specced' bike or two, dressing it in pink and leaving it on the back corner of the shop floor.
For those women sprinting for signs, or dabbling in circuit racing, the Enviliv is unbeatable. The top tube length measures at 524 mm on the size small, and comes specced with 38cm handlebars. Internal cabling gives the bike a clean finish and the SRAM Force eTap is finished with Cadex wheels.
Best women's road bikes: Summary
If you fall into the camp of women's specific geometry, your best for options are Liv, Fuji, Lapierre or Canyon.
For petite women, keep in mind cycling is a power to weight game, even at a recreational level. For an 80kg man, an eight kg bike adds 10 per cent to his overall weight. But if you are a small-framed woman, say for example 50kg, a 10kg bike will add 20% to your weight, so we do recommend keeping this in mind. Weight is more of an issue on hilly terrain though, whereas aerodynamics are more important on the flat.
For taller women, some of the women's specific frames will simply be too small, as many come in limited size runs, and recommend the men's or unisex version for taller women. If you are buying in person at a shop and fall into this category, work with the shop staff to swap out the finishing kit (handlebars, stem, saddle) for women's versions, and don't be scared to barter.
On the topic of sizing, it can be a minefield navigating the differences between bike brands. A 49cm in one brand can be the equivalent of a 51cm or a 47cm in another. This is because the measurement is based on the size of the seat tube, and the angle is not homogeneous across the brands. So a 50cm seat tube which is truly vertical on one bike is not the same as a 50cm seat tube at a five-degree angle. Some brands provide height recommendations and customer service departments are always there to help with size queries. If you have a bike already, check the stack and reach figures of your current model and use these as the all-important reference point on the geometry chart of your next bike.
When it comes to opting for the finishing touchpoints, you want your bars to roughly be your shoulder width and your saddle should be matched to the width of your sit bones - which can be measured in most bike shops. When looking at different saddle pricing, often the prices go up based on weight (carbon elements etc) over the fit, so we recommend if you are trying a new saddle it might be wise to go entry-level first, to make sure it's comfortable before you invest in the more expensive model. Another less discussed finishing point is the crank arm length. Generally, cranks come in 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm lengths, and a shorter crank arm means the circumference of the circle of the pedal stroke is smaller. If you are on an XS or S sized frame, a 165mm crank is probably best, and likewise, a 58cm frame or larger you probably want a 175mm crank.
If it's longevity you want, many (but not all) brands come with a lifetime guarantee, meaning if your frame breaks due to a manufacturer defect, they will replace it.
And of course, a lot of what factors into a purchase, besides the feel, is just a personal preference. It can be a visual choice or a brand allegiance. Ridley, Lapierre and Vitus could be classified a bit more as niche brands.
If you want to customise your ride, Trek offers the most colour options and different setups, and the Specialized and Cannondale ranges are vast.
The majority of the manufacturers on this list support women's professional teams, so it just depends on whether you fancy being the spitting image of Marianne Vos or prefer Lizzie Deignan.
When it comes to terms like, 'stiffness' and 'compliance', the stiffer a bike is laterally, the better it corners and handles. Vertical compliance is a bit of give in the seat tube, meaning the bumps in the road are a bit less harsh.
Disc brakes are becoming more and more the norm on road bikes, but they do tend to add a bit of weight, so remember if they offer a rim brake model, it can be a good option to shave some grams off. It does sacrifice some braking power though, and discs are the more responsive current go-to choice.
For a pure climbing set up and decent value, we recommend the Canyon or the Lapierre. For the best in aerodynamics and the fastest on the flats opt for the Liv or the Fuji. For great value the Ridley and Cannondale top the list. And for an all-out splurge, the Specialized S-Works Roubaix.
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