Best women's road bikes: take to the tarmac with comfort and speed

A white woman wearing a Canyon Team kit standing over a Canyon Endurace bike
(Image credit: Canyon)

Not every woman wants a women's specific bike, but the best women's road bikes should at least come with comfortable women's specific contact points.

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 plenty 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, like Specialized, Scott, Canyon, and more.

Women's specific road bike frames are built around average body dimensions data, and tend to have a slightly shorter top tube and slightly higher stack at the front end (head tube). On average, 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, can 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. Use our comprehensive bike size guide, or, 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 since the beginning of the pandemic, 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, and if you're patient, they'll come back into stock eventually.

Our picks for the best women's road bikes: 

Why you can trust Cyclingnews Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Liv Langma Advanced Disc 1+ Review

(Image credit: Aoife Glass)
A super aggressive racer with women's specific geometry

Specifications

Best for: Multi-day racing / climbing
Sizes available: XS, S, M
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight, fast, climbs well
+
Packed with aero features
+
Noticeably stiffer chassis
+
Comfortable over distance
+
Women's specific geometry

Reasons to avoid

-
Size large not available in the UK

The Liv Langma Advanced 1+ Disc 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, our review sample measured an incredibly lightweight 7.96kg and felt 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. Our reviewer found it to have a noticeable amount of stiffness with exceptional balance, rather than feeling brittle. 

It boasts exceptional handling that's precise, intuitive and highly responsive without feeling skittish, and it feels surefooted and agile on descents. Despite being a stiff, performance bike, we reckon it's comfortable enough to ride for long miles over long hours, thanks to the efficiency built into the frame that staves off fatigue. It doesn't exactly feel plush - look to the Avail, listed below for more comfort - but it also won't leave you feeling rattled from road chatter.

For full details, take a look at our Liv Langma Advanced 1+ Disc review.

Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1

(Image credit: Damien Rosso)

Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1

A super comfortable endurance road bike with a women's specific carbon layup

Specifications

Best for: Long-distance
Sizes available: XS, S, M
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2

Reasons to buy

+
Designed for comfort over long distances
+
Relaxed, endurance riding position
+
Takes 32c tyres for winter stability
+
Shimano Ultegra Di2
+
Women's specific geometry

Reasons to avoid

-
Carbon models can feel harsh over rough surfaces for long distances

If the Langma above is too aggressive and racy for you, then you'll probably prefer the Avail range, which is Liv's endurance road bike.

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.

From her brief experience of riding the Avail Advanced Pro 1 in Provence back when it was launched, Reviews Writer Mildred Locke confirms that it rides like a dream, with super comfortable geometry, plush vibration damping from the thicker tyres, and smooth acceleration.

Triban RC520 Women's Road Bike

(Image credit: Mildred Locke)
An incredibly affordable and decent aluminium women's road bike

Specifications

Best for: Beginner roadies
Sizes available: XS, S, M, L
Groupset: Shimano 105

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for money
+
Comfortable, relaxed riding position
+
Impressive spec for the price

Reasons to avoid

-
Don't take it off road for long

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.

Reviews Writer Mildred Locke really rates it for the incredible value for money it offers, and the quality of ride you can get for under £850. Stay tuned for a full review soon.

Women's road bikes - Lapierre Xelius SL 600 Disc

(Image credit: Lapierre)

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

Specifications

Best for: Climbing
Sizes available: S (46cm), M (49cm), L (52cm)
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra

Reasons to buy

+
You will probably be the only one in your club on the bike (as long as it's not a French club)
+
Women's specific geometry

Reasons to avoid

-
Only three sizes available

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 15

(Image credit: Scott)

Scott Contessa Addict RC 15

Clean lines with internal cabling for a lightweight all-round good ride

Specifications

Best for: Responsiveness
Sizes available: XXS(47), XS(49), S(52), M,(54) L(56)
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra

Reasons to buy

+
Five size options starting at 47cm
+
Overlapping sizes means there should be something for everyone
+
Super responsive handling

Reasons to avoid

-
Pressfit bottom bracket and integrated cockpit aren't great for home mechanics

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.

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 8 Disc

(Image credit: Canyon)

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 8 Disc

A huge range of sizes in a lightweight package

Specifications

Best for: Women on the extreme ends of the height spectrum
Sizes available: 2XS - 2XL
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra

Reasons to buy

+
Huge size range
+
Balanced and planted handling
+
6-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Direct-to-consumer sales structure adds complexity to test riding and after-sales support

While Canyon is phasing out its WMN range, it is still putting a lot of effort into including huge size ranges and variable contact points on its unisex bikes so that there's something for everyone. The Ultimate CF SL 8 Disc is highly specced, handles like a dream with surefootedness on challenging gradients, and looks absolutely stunning. The size range goes all the way down to XXS, and up to XXL, so anyone who sits on either extreme of the height spectrum should be able to get a model to fit them properly.

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.

Ridley Liz SLiC Ultegra

(Image credit: Ridley)

Ridley Liz SLiC Ultegra

Great value for price with a race position and legacy

Specifications

Best for: Aggressive race position
Sizes available: XXS (48), XS (51), S (54), M (57), L (60), XL (63)
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra

Reasons to buy

+
Respectable 2-year warranty period.
+
Hydraulic disc brakes
+
Large size range for women of all heights
+
Women's specific geometry

Reasons to avoid

-
Mid compact front chain rings
-
Slightly rigid
-
Lacks vibration damping

An all-rounder bike, the Ridley Liz SLiC Ultegra features the brand's unique diamond-shaped carbon tubing, which 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 comes fitted with a Shimano Ultegra groupset.

The Liz SLiC is the 'women's' version of the men's Fenix frame and is as 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.

Vitus Razor W Disc

(Image credit: Vitus)

Vitus Razor W Disc

A disc brake road bike with great value for money

Specifications

Best for: First time cyclists
Sizes available: XXS - M
Groupset: Shimano Claris

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for money
+
Powerful disc brakes at this price point
+
XXS size starting at 156cm

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 8 speed

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.

The Razor W Disc is a women's specific model, 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 than the other models listed here at 9.75kg though. The gearing is 8-speed on the back, giving a bit of limitation on longer climbs or full out sprints.

However if you're brand new to road cycling and want something that will do the job in most situations, then this offers good value for money.

Women's road bikes

(Image credit: Cannondale)

Cannondale Synapse Disc Women's Tiagra

Comfort and ease with a relaxed fit

Specifications

Best for: Versatility
Sizes available: 44cm, 48cm, 51cm, 54cm
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra

Reasons to buy

+
Great comfort
+
Price point

Reasons to avoid

-
Weight
-
Sub par disc brakes
-
Only four sizes

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.

Women's road bikes

(Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized S-Works Roubaix

Comfortable, fast, light and bling, but boy it's pricey

Specifications

Best for: Long rides and light weight
Sizes available: 49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 61cm
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2

Reasons to buy

+
Super light weight

Reasons to avoid

-
Price point

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 Dura-Ace Di2, the company claims the aerodynamics rival its road-specific Tarmac. Add into the mix a Pavé seatpost and Future Shock 2.0 to create a variety of vibration proofing options, and you get great bike for rougher tarmac, and an ultimately smooth ride. At the price point, it comes outfitted with the best of the best Roval Alpinist CLX wheels.

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

(Image credit: Trek)

Trek Domane SLR 7

IsoSpeed-decoupled ride and wide tyre clearance means road buzz is a thing of the past

Specifications

Best for: Endurance rides
Sizes available: 47cm, 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 60cm, 62cm
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2

Reasons to buy

+
The only bike you will ever need
+
Great vibration reduction

Reasons to avoid

-
Smallest size frame is a 47
-
Confusing range structure

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 per cent.

Liv Enviliv Advanced Pro 0 Disc

(Image credit: Liv Cycling)

Liv Enviliv Advanced Pro 0 Disc

Speed delivered from the women's only brand

Specifications

Best for: Criteriums and speed
Sizes available: XS (46.5cm), S (50cm), M (52cm)
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2

Reasons to buy

+
True aero bike
+
SRAM Force eTap at a slightly lower price point
+
Lifetime warranty
+
Women's specific geometry

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 3 sizes, XS, S, M, which is a bit limited from a women's only brand

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. 

The Enviliv boasts a women's specific geometry to add comfort and power to an aerodynamic riding position, while the frame's lateral stiffness and tube shaping offer high-speed efficiency for sprinting. It's made from the brand's Advanced-Grade Composite, which offers a sharp and snappy ride, and comes equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Giant SLR 1 Aero Disc wheels.

For 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.

How to choose the best women's road bike

How to choose the best womens bike

Do you need a women's specific road bike?

We've answered this in detail in Can women ride men's bikes? but to summarise, you can ride whatever bike fits you best. 

Many brands are moving away from gendered frames, and are instead offering more size ranges and multiple options for contact points, like adding one of the best women's road bike saddles.

Cycling is, at a performance level, a power to weight game, and for petite riders the bike makes up a greater proportion of system weight than it does for a larger rider. For a 50kg rider for instance the difference between having a 10kg bike over an 8kg bike is an increase of 3 per cent - not insignificant, but also not the be all and end all. Unless every ounce of performance needs to be wrung out we'd go for comfort over lightweignt.

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.

Of course, if you do want women's specific geometry, your best options are Liv and Lapierre.

What size bike do I need?

Much like when you buy clothes, when it comes to 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. 

If you're not sure, check out our comprehensive bike size guide.

How can I make sure a unisex bike fits me properly?

If you're buying a unisex bike, you can make tweaks to suit your individual body dimensions. 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, for a 58cm frame or larger you probably want a 175mm crank. 

Mildred joined as Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews and BikePerfect in December 2020. She loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike, and does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors.

Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall. 

Height: 156cm (5'2")

Weight: 75kg

Rides: Stayer Groadinger UG, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Marin Larkspur, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike

With contributions from