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Is this the most pressing issue in feminism? No. Is it interesting or illustrative of how sexism works? Maybe. It is annoying? YES.

If you look at the ranges of bicycles offered by mass producers and compare their vital statistics with the UK population, you find that they do a reasonable job of providing touring bikes for more than 90% of men.

Bicycles come in different sizes because people come in different sizes.  If you look at high performance road bikes men have a wider selection than women. You could say that this is "the market" as men have more disposable income.*** You could say it's the old stereotype that men are just more "sporty." It's probably both, but there's also a re-enforcing cycle (ha ha get it?... oh never mind...) where the fact that there is poor selection keeps more women from being interested and then keeps demand low so there is no selection.

Fortunately for women who are tallish, or even medium height they can just use "men's bikes" -- short women (and very short men) are the ones who are left out. So, I've been trying to find a bike for a short woman and I've ran across this "common wisdom" about how people are built. "women have proportionally longer legs" -- every bike shop guy tells me this, but I just was sort of taken aback -- It's seems that women who are models might have "proportionally longer legs" but in general --- is that even true?

It turns out it's not true.

It is frequently stated that women have shorter torsos and longer legs than men of the same height. I've even repeated this supposition myself, but I'm afraid that the data do not support it. A general analysis of the adult population shows that big or small, man or woman, the average person's inside leg is some 47% of stature. Of course we are not all of average build, but men seem as likely as women to have relatively longer or shorter legs. Petite Test

But there are bikes built with this "fact about physiology"  in mind. The handle bars are closer to the seat but the pedals are way down low.

The more I look in to it, the more it seems that WSD (women specific design) is a load of bunk.  Too often it's just a bunch of features for smaller less aggressive riders-- women are smaller on average-- but, the notion that all women want to ride sitting up with their hands close to their body is just silly--  I spent the whole weekend talking to condescending bike shop guys and it was just depressing how many spouted tripe about, torso ratios and little crimpy handle bars. --then right after doing that they try to sell some bike that just too tall.

I mean, you make bikes for people who are between 5'7" and 6'3" and then SHOCKINGLY mostly men buy the product--  It's like being shocked that no vegetarians show up for your BBQ.

There is one bike manufacture run by women that makes bike for women.  Their bikes are quite expensive, but they solve some people's problems. (Short women with money.) That's nice, but shouldn't half of the manufactures be run by women making bikes for women? Or to be more precise bikes for people, not excluding women?-- Because that's what you're doing if you don't make them small enough for people who are say... 5'1".

Would it be great to be able to just go out a standard item and have it fit you.

*** The notion that bikes are purely "recreational" is something I rail against.  Depending on context they may be simply transportation. However for most people in the US and UK they remain mostly "for fun"--hence, the notion of 'disposable income' if your bike is your main transportation you're faced with the simple fact that you will need to spend more money to get a bike that fits. Many women just put up with bikes that don't fit and this is dangerous. --

Originally posted to futurebird on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:37 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Agreed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, Wolf10, wolfie1818

    Trying out women specific bikes have sucked for me than regular bikes

    Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

    by bvig on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:44:43 PM PST

  •  I have a good friend in the 5'" range who rides a (6+ / 0-)

    Giant. I believe it uses 24" wheels, but they may be smaller than that.

    I think your point is very well taken, futurebird. I hope you find something suitable, I agree it's dangerous to ride an improperly sized bike.

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:45:11 PM PST

  •  Do you really believe men have a greater (5+ / 0-)

    selection than women in the performance road category because men have more money? Also, where do you live? Here in Seattle you'd be fit for a bike with no problem at all. Maybe you just need to find a better shop.

    •  I live in NYC (8+ / 0-)

      We have a good number of bike shops-- but, yes there is a difference.

    •  I suspect it is for the same reason that (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raster44, Rogneid, futurebird, wolfie1818

      arenas and auditoriums usually have about the same number of rest room area for men and for women, where the ratio should probably be about four to one in favor of women. I have never designed such a facility, but that's what I would do if I did.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

      by BeninSC on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:56:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually worse than that. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raster44, BeninSC, futurebird, wolfie1818

        Or at least it was last time I used the can at a Chiefs game (at least ten years ago). Having not been in the ladies' at Arrowhead this is just supposition, but I'm guessing that they don't have a female equivalent to the urinal trough.

        Admittedly, there are a lot more men at a Chiefs game than women, but the difference in what the various restrooms can handle at one time way outpaces that difference, not to mention the difference in time spent in the loo.

        •  There is another aspect of the problem (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raster44, BeninSC

          My wife hates the ridiculous amount of time women spend in the toilet--she makes a point always to get out before me when we go in at the same time, I think just to prove it's possible.  And now even when I try to hurry, she's always waiting for me.  Not to argue against building facilities in proportion to usage--merely to add another side.

          Good diary, btw.  I'm sorry to hear about this problem.  Perhaps a lot more men ride than women, because I don't think many corporations would allow their undoubted sexism to get in the way of the bottom line.  It seems curious that no one is filling this need.

          Well MEANINGFUL Democratic majority that does things Democrats SHOULD be doing, it would be good. - DeFazio

          by geomoo on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 05:23:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  No, because they're taller (0+ / 0-)

      and therefore can find cheaper bikes that fit them.

  •  Heh (9+ / 0-)

    I have run into this problem and the stupid conventional wisdom.  It is a problem for my whole family, because we are short and especially short-limbed.  I had an REI Novarra mountain bike in high school and the salesperson told my dad they sell them mostly to women and Asian men.

    "As scientific knowledge advances, it does not mean that religious knowledge retreats." - horse69 on the bnet recon C&C board

    by lonespark on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:45:15 PM PST

  •  If they can design and (10+ / 0-)

    manufacture prostate-friendly saddles such as the Easy Seat for old guys like me you'd think they could cater to what I imagine to be an even larger demographic. Go figure.

    The frog jumped/ Into the old pond--/ Plop! (Basho)

    by Wolf10 on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:45:21 PM PST

  •  Try buying gloves in a hardware store in Alaska! (12+ / 0-)
  •  Your last point is pretty important (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, geomoo, Wolf10, wolfie1818

    I can't say I've had any bad problems checking around for used bikes and testing a lot.  Many are pretty adjustable.  

    "As scientific knowledge advances, it does not mean that religious knowledge retreats." - horse69 on the bnet recon C&C board

    by lonespark on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:47:13 PM PST

  •  What an interesting topic (12+ / 0-)

    easily overlooked, but certainly as an alternative mode of transportation that is eco-friendly, it seems peculiar not to make bikes to fit more than half the population.

    Any ideas about the frame size/proportion of bikes made for Asian countries?  Is there a market for someone to import bikes manufactured for the Asian market to sell to women and smaller men in the west?  Seems like an obvious market opportunity.

    I enjoyed your diary. Thanks.  

    "Out of Many, One." This is the great promise of our nation -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:48:06 PM PST

  •  I never pay attention to it (6+ / 0-)

    That is, whether a bike is "male" or "female" design. I jump on it and if it rides well I want it.

    I bought my ex a "woman" bike a couple of years ago and she liked it, but it had nothing to do with the design, it was just that it was the only one small enough for her.

    So, as for actual bikes, I don't pay attention. As for all the accessories and clothes, that is annoying as all hell. There are always five mens choices to one woman's, yet the ratio of shoppers in the store is usually 1:1.

    Go figure.

    I know theft is illegal, but look at all the cool stuff I got!

    by BoiseBlue on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:48:31 PM PST

  •  You're referring to Terry? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, Rogneid, kyril, Wolf10
    Back when we rode, my wife found a Terry Chrom (rec/road bike) sitting in the basement of Belmont (MA -- go Coakley!) Wheelworks.  She had tried a variety of bikes and looked unsteady on most of them -- then we found that Terry that had been sitting there for a couple of years that they had apparently forgotten all about.  It was like night and day -- all of a sudden she was rock steady and it obviously fit her perfectly.  It has very basic componentry, Shimano 105, but it's a sensibly designed bike.

    The bike does indeed have a very short top tube for its size.  On the other hand, I have a Specialized Allez Sport, and even though I got a Fit Kit I find I have to reach way too far forward for comfort; it hurts my neck and upper back and constricts my breathing.  If I were to ride again, I'd probably find a shorter top tube (or at least a very short reach, long rise stem) would help me.  These days I only use it on a trainer for cardio.  But given that I'm 6'5" I'm always going to have fit trouble.

  •  how about furniture in general????? (13+ / 0-)

    I am 5 foot tall and female and I have virtually no furniture that fits me.  Office furniture, home furniture.  Heck, the chair at the dentist office -- the dentist has to keep retrieving me because I keep sliding downhill.

    I go to the movies and get a backache.

    I go to a restaurant and my legs dangle.

    And beyond that, think about the length of my arms.  A box that would be easy for someone over 5' 6" to pick up is a struggle for me because my arms can't reach the dimensions of the box.

    And try buying a car you can see out of -- front, left, right, and back -- when you are short.

    I was nearly run down by a car at the office park where I worked because the hedges were just a bit too tall and I am short.  I contacted management.  Two very concerned men came out to examine the situation with me.  They couldn't see the problem.  The were both near 6 feet tall.  I finally had to tell them to get down to my level!!!  And then they saw the problem.  The hedges were clipped shorter.

    •  I am 5'2" and I have found that my (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      geomoo, kyril, JG in MD

      old Saturn was good for short people and I haven't had a problem with my Prius either (they have a back-up camera).  I hear you on the hedges...of course the up-side is that the top of the fridge is never dirty and cabinet doors never hit us in the head when we accidentally leave them open.

      Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

      by Sychotic1 on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:22:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I was shopping for a car in 1993 (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, Sychotic1, JG in MD, futurebird

        I looked at Saturns, because they were pitching their advertising toward women. I wanted a standard transmission. When I got the seat adjusted forward (I'm 5'1") the stick shift was behind me. I never drove the car. I just got out of the Saturn and wound up buying a Toyota.
        The Terry bikes have/had (back when the company was started, and I was still working in a bike shop) 24" front wheels/the usual 27" rear wheels. The frame is designed for the smaller front wheel, which permits the top tube to be shorter, as well as lower, enabling a short person to stand over it. It is not possible to design a diamond (men's) frame with two 27" wheels with a top tube low enough, or short enough for a person with much less than a 29" inseam, due to the size of the front wheel, and the need for clearance between your toes and the front wheel when turning.

        The market for bikes with different sized wheels would not be very large, thus I suppose the large manufacturers can't be bothered to supply them, much less in enough variety of choices for quality and style.

        To summarize: quality road bikes with a diamond frame, engineered to fit a person shorter than 5'2" is a niche market in our unisex/one size fits all, mass market economy.

    •  Things just aren't built for people... (7+ / 0-)

      ...who aren't of average height.

      I'm six feet tall, but I'm built like a retired football player. I find that I'm too tall and broad in the shoulders for everything.

      Meanwhile, my mom is a slightly-built five foot tall woman. You can imagine that there's not much here that's comfortable for me when I'm visiting. Also I seem to spend all my time changing light bulbs.

  •  Have you tried recumbents? (8+ / 0-)

     Have you looked at recumbent bikes? There a couple of models made that kids can ride. My friends son had one when he was 5' and rides it to this day.
    (Can I put brand names in my post?)

    "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

    by kevinpdx on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:00:20 PM PST

    •  Recumbents are so comfortable! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kimball Cross, kyril

      The ones with windshields are very nice.

      Who would Jesus let suffer? -7.50, -8.51

      by Rogneid on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:08:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I like the seats (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

          100 miles a day on a tour and I sit on my recumbent at the end while my friends bail off of their road bikes.
         Check out the Sun brand EZ-1. 5'-6,8' on the same bike.

        "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

        by kevinpdx on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 06:16:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, yes, yes (0+ / 0-)

      The difference in comfort between regular bikes and recumbents is the difference between night and day.

      Recumbents also have a much greater diversity of styles, giving you yet more options for finding something that fits your particular morphology and riding habits.

      If they give you lined paper, write the other way.

      by bread on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 08:17:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Exercise equipment is uncomfortable for me (4+ / 0-)

    in general, but then again I have a condition that doesn't help.

    I rode a friend's Terry once and it was comfortable, but it was just "small" (I'm 5'10"). It wasn't as comfortable as a Electra Townie, but it was handled better than most and the handlebars were more comfortable.

    If bikes were fit for individuals like clothing was I think people would bike more. It would also help if we had safer bike lanes, routes and racks to park.

    futurebird, do you know of a list of woman-owned sports companies? That'd be great to have.

    Who would Jesus let suffer? -7.50, -8.51

    by Rogneid on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:05:05 PM PST

  •  This subject sure hits home for me! (7+ / 0-)

    I hadn't ridden a bike for several years and got the bug last summer.  I started researching bikes online and thought the women's designed bikes would be great!  (I'm 5'2".)  I went to some stores and tried them out, and boy were the bikes uncomfortable!  Some were better than others, but I ended up not getting any of them!  Not sure where to go now.  I didn't want to spend a fortune, either, so where do I go now? Find a small men's bike?  Asian bike?

    Thanks for bringing this up!  I'll check the link to the women's manufactured bikes.

    Democracy is not simply the right to vote, it means our representatives do what's right for the people, not what's right for the corporations!

    by kathika on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:05:31 PM PST

  •  Don't get me going on motorcycles (9+ / 0-)

    The fastest growing segment of the motorcycle riding population is WOMEN, but the seat heights seem to get taller every year. I have screamed at manufacturers reps about this. They mumble something about ground clearance.

    Ergonomics is just as important on a motocycle as it is on a bicycle.

    •  I had the same problem with a Triumph (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Cassandra Waites, kyril

      Speed Triple, circa 1998 or so.  And I'm not a short guy - I'm 5' 9".

      Had to sell it - was inseam challenged and I couldn't keep the dammm thing upright. Newer Speed Triples have aftermarket parts for the need, but not the first gen ones.

      I was NOT happy.

      ". . there will be a temptation . . to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible. My advice . . resist the temptation." - W. Kristol

      by thenekkidtruth on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:37:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I had to lower the foot pegs om my BMW R800S (0+ / 0-)

      to accommodate my longer legs being 6'3".

      "These old Wall Street boys are putting up an awful fight to keep the government from putting a cop on their corner." - Will Rogers

      by Lefty Coaster on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 08:26:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Do you live in the UK? (0+ / 0-)

    And are you just interested in bike touring, or just going around town?

    I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places...arousing and persuading and reproaching you.-Socrates

    by The Navigator on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:39:37 PM PST

  •  Terry does not make bikes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Halcyon, geomoo

    Terry imports bikes. Once upon a time Georgena Terry did wield a torch but she is now purely a marketer and the product is woefully overpriced. And only sporadically well-designed. And ferchrissake if you're going to flog ERTRO571 wheels you are bloody well obligated to support them with a range of available rims and tires. Terry sells the bikes, won't do service parts.
    Find someone who loves bicycles. There are a lot of us. If you really want to ride and not just find things to complain about
    you will find that most any enthusiast and a surprising number of bike shops will spend hour after uncompensated hour finding or fabricating what you need.
    People walk into bike shops with severe orthopedic problems, with missing limbs, the good shops figure how to accomodate them. Breaks up the monotony. Gives the mechanics challenging and rewarding work.
    Yeah a lot of shops are slimy. Leave them alone.

  •  They do the same with skis and ski boots (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, futurebird, cai

    Too often it's just a bunch of features for smaller less aggressive riders

    Women's ski boots that are commercially available "off the shelf" are lower, softer, and less supportive than men's boots in similar price ranges. Even the best ones money can buy are completely unsuitable to (and unsafe for) competition because of the mushy imprecise movements they allow; even entry-level women racers need expensive specialized equipment. And only the very top-end women's models are at all suitable for aggressive recreational skiers.

    The skis they try to market to us have similar problems, but luckily the sizing on skis isn't dependent on fine anatomical details, so we can just choose men's skis. For boots, though, only the fery small-footed lightweight womwn (who can wear boys' boots) and the very large-footed heavy women (who can find men's boots that fit) have any luck.

    Speaking of which, I've often wondered: Don't boys exist in intermediate sizes between a boys' 13 shoe/18 clothing and a men's size 7 shoe/small clothing? The gap between those sizes is so huge that the overwhelming majority of women fit in it. Is that a deliberate choice on the part of manufacturers to keep us from choosing men's apparel? And what are the 14-year-old boys of the world wearing??

    Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

    by kyril on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 04:59:04 PM PST

    •  Boys between boys' 13 shoe and mens' 7 shoe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for about 2 weeks.

      I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.

      by ben masel on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:07:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's got to be an exaggeration (0+ / 0-)

        There are five whole women's sizes (5-9) between a boys' 13 and a mens' 7.

        There are several mens' sizes too, although it's harder to tell because the size that corresponds to the boys' 13 doesn't exist - but I'd say it would be about 4-5 sizes, because a mens' 5-5 1/2 (the range that would correspond to a women's 7-7 1/2 and thus fit most women if it were ever stocked) is about midway in between.

        I don't think even a teenage boy's foot bones can grow that much in a matter of weeks.

        Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

        by kyril on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 01:11:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Can you find a decent (0+ / 0-)

    chrome/moly frame and cut it down to size?  The welding is a little specialized I gather, but with some experimenting with a TIG welder it shouldn't be too difficult.  Might cost a couple hundred for the mod, before the paint job/reassembly.

    If you're anywhere near Montreal, ....

    Mark Twain -Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

    by Kingsmeg on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 06:20:46 PM PST

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