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. --