Last updated: October 20, 2016
Let’s begin by clearing up one common misconception: Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to ride a women’s specific design (WSD). If you’re struggling to find a bike that fits, trying a WSD model is a great first step. After all, companies try to design the best bikes for women to address their specific needs like a shorter reach and torso. Remember that it’s always best to find a bike that fits well over one that was chosen just to save a few bucks. You want to buy a bike you’ll still love to ride years later.
Though some women’s specific frames are the same as the men’s version, just repainted or with slightly different components, a true women’s specific bike is more than just a pink version of the men’s and those true WSD bikes are the only ones I’m recommending here.
To find the best bikes for women, look for a varied frame geometry and components that are specific to a woman’s smaller hands, narrow shoulders and shorter reach. Whether you’re looking for an entry level road bike or a bike fit for racing, you’ll find the cream of the crop here.
Best Entry Level Women’s Road Bike Under $1,000
Fuji Finest 1.0 LE
$1529.99, but often on sale at Performance for $949.99
Fuji has been a major supporter of women’s racing since the 1970s, so it’s no surprise that they offer one of the best bikes for women at an entry level price. While the frame is still aluminum, Fuji provides a nice component upgrade to Shimano 105 11-speed with a compact 50/34 crankset and a 11/32 cassette. It’s also equipped with disc brakes, which help instill confidence in beginners.
This bike wins for versatility. With 28mm tires and a more relaxed women’s specific geometry, this ride is perfect for longer centuries and gran fondos, where it offers a blend of performance and comfort. Swap out the tires for something narrower and you’re ready for your first race.
Best Women’s Road Bikes for Beginners
Specialized Dolce Sport
If you’re looking to get your feet wet with cycling, but don’t have a lot to spend, the Specialized Dolce Sport is a solid platform for beginners. An aluminum frame and Shimano Sora 9-speed drivetrain are expected at this price point and a 50/34 crank gives beginners a climbing advantage. Unlike most entry level road bikes, the Dolce is designed for women, with a modified geometry and components (like a women’s specific saddle and bars with a shorter reach) designed with comfort in mind.
If you’re a road riding novice or need to save some cash, check out my list of top road bikes under $1,000.
For more of an upgrade and a bike that’s fit for training and racing, Liv, an offshoot of Giant, offers three bikes in their Avail Advanced line with composite carbon fiber frames and upgraded components. Liv/Giant is entirely run by women who believe women specific bikes should be designed from the frame up with a woman’s unique needs in mind.
The Liv Avail Advanced line
The Avail Advanced 1 ($2,600) comes equipped with a full Shimano Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain. Each Avail Advanced comes with an electronic-ready carbon composite frame and an 11×32 cassette and 34/50 crank, giving you plenty of options to crush it on climbs and bomb down descents. This bike is light and ready to rock whatever you throw at it.
The Advanced 2 ($2,100) is similar, but with a Shimano 105 11-speed drivetrain, which features enough trickle down technology from Ultegra that there won’t be a drastic difference in the shifting. Finally the Avail Advanced 3 ($1800) is equipped with Shimano Tiagra 10-speed and is limited in available sizes (XS, S, M), whereas the other Avails also offer a large size. My advice is to step up to the Avail 2, if possible. It’s worth it for the upgraded drivetrain.
Most Budget Friendly Women’s Racing Bike
Diamondback Airen 4 (2017) $2,200
Diamondback delivers a killer value for women seeking a compact geometry frame that’s light, stiff and fast. Specs include an 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain with a full carbon frame and fork and hydraulic disc brakes. Best of all, this bike and comfortable without sacrificing speed.
Other bikes to check out
Focus offers two models of the Izalco Donna (check prices with your local dealer). If you’re interested in racing —or just riding really fast— and need a bike with more aggressive geometry, the Izalco Donna is the perfect place to start. The position sets you a little more forward and less upright. Both the Izalco 1.0 and 2.0 are full carbon fiber, but the 1.0 has an Ultegra drivetrain (the 2.0 has 105), a FSA Gossamer crankset and lighter tires.
Hovering at just under $2,000, the Scott Contessa Solace 35 also made the list of race-worthy women’s steeds. An oversized bottom bracket transfers power quickly, a characteristic of Scott Cycles, while still delivering a smooth, comfortable ride on a carbon frame. The setup of the Tiagra drivetrain presents some shifting issues, so an upgrade to the Contessa Solace 25 might be well worth your while.
These are just a few of our favorite WSD bikes. Share your list of the best bikes for women in the comments.
Looking for your first bike or ready to upgrade? Start here for an overview of what to look for in an entry level road bike. You can also read my 5 best tips on how to navigate the bike shopping process.