The Women’s Mountain Bikes Scam

Here is exactly why you should not specially buy a women's mountain bike!

Do you need to specially buy a women’s mountain bike? NO! You do not need to buy a dedicated woman’s mountain bike if you are female. Seriously. It’s a myth that men and women need gender-separated bicycles. I have been riding my husband’s Turbo Levo 29 for over a year now and to be honest, I don’t think there is much difference. I have always preferred to ride the male models!

There is no anatomical reason why men and women should ride different types of mountain bikes. The only real difference when it comes to men and women choosing a mountain bike is that, on average, women do tend to weigh less and be shorter than men, and have some obvious anatomical differences in the seating department. Some truths about bikes are universal regardless of whether you are male or female. What you need is a bike that fits your body properly, feels comfortable to use, and is fit for purpose.

Couple riding mountain bikes

Men Vs Women Mountain Bikes- The Main Differences

So just what are the main differences between men and women-specific mountain bikes? Not very much as far as abilities, features, and usability are concerned.

1. Difference Of Comfort

The differences are mainly comfort-orientated. Some women’s mountain bikes are built with shorter distances between the top of the frame and the seat of the bike based on the short torso/longer leg generalization.

2. The Frame Is Lighter 

Ladies’ mountain bikes also sometimes have thinner tubes and thus lighter frames. In some cases, the difference in weight is completely negligible, but it may still be something worth looking at.

Are you curious about the differences between men’s and women’s bikes? Check out our article on women vs men’s bikes to learn more. We’ll cover everything from frame geometry to saddle design

3. The Saddle Is Wider 

Dedicated woman’s mountain bikes usually have a different saddle from their male counterparts. They tend to be wider to accommodate the difference between female and male anatomy. If you don’t know what the difference is then I strongly recommend getting your hands on some sort of medical textbook and researching it.

However, if this is the only reason you are considering buying a woman’s mountain bike, then you could just buy a female saddle. They are not that expensive.

4. The Handlebars Are Shorter 

The only other difference is that the handlebars may be shorter in both length and diameter for a more comfortable grip.

Are you unsure about what size bike to get? Check out our women’s bike size chart to find the perfect fit for you.

Woman on mountain bike

How To Choose The Right Mountain Bike 

So how do you choose the right mountain bike for you? That’s a very good question  Before you even think about handing over your money, there are a few important things you should consider.

Where are you going with your bike and your life?

Before you rush off to the nearest bike shop you really should take a step back and have a realistic think about what type of biking you intend to be doing, and where you see yourself riding in 6 months. This advice is especially true if you’re just starting. If you’re thinking about buying a mountain bike to commute into and out of the city, you should at least consider a Hybrid or even a folding bike.

That doesn’t mean a mountain bike won’t do the job. I commuted on a mountain bike for a long time, and I can tell you it was effective as a mode of transport. I’m just saying it is worth thinking about.

Can I use a mountain bike for commuting?

Oh God, yes! That is the defining characteristic of a mountain bike. You can ride a mountain bike virtually anywhere and in any weather. You can cut across fields and parking lots with ease and go from road to dirt trail without losing a beat, which is perfect if you have the option to avoid rush hour traffic. Even if you can’t avoid the traffic those big fat tires are great for gripping and balance for weaving in and out of traffic. Mountain bikes are tough. They’re built for barreling down rough trails at speed so trust me, they can handle potholes and gravel along Main Street.

Whatever you do, don’t buy a bike for the skill level you have at the moment

Instead think about where you might realistically be in 6, 12, and 18 months. The last thing you want to do is buy a single-gear hardtail mountain bike and then find a few months later what you need is a full suspension disc brake behemoth championship-level mountain bike. Riding a more advanced bike never slows anyone’s improvement, and if anything helps you develop your mountain bike skills faster!

Getting the right fit for you

I can’t recommend going to an outdoor center or someplace similar and hiring a bike and an instructor, or bringing a friend/partner/lover/sibling/BFF/frenemy/colleague/parent who has mountain bike experience along with you. Use their knowledge, advice, and experience to your advantage so you have a better idea about the exact type, size, and setup that works best for you. Of course, you don’t have to do this. I didn’t when I bought my first mountain bike, but I ended up with a bike that was too small and weighed more than a small island.

You can just buy a bike straight from the shop, but make sure they let you test ride the bike before making a purchase. Sure, riding a mountain bike around a parking lot isn’t the same as being out on a trail, but you will at least get a feel for the bike.

You must choose a bike that fits properly. A bike that is too small is harder to pedal and breathe efficiently on and is more difficult to steer. A bike that is too large is harder to control in a safe manner, and easier to lose control of, which is never good.

If you’re looking for a mountain bike that’s perfect for women, check out our list of the top 10 mountain bikes for women. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, we’ve got you covered

Womens mountain bikes

Apart from this, here are some more points to keep in mind while you are making a decision:

Feature What To Keep In Mind
Frame Material Choose a frame that allows you to stand over it comfortably with feet flat on either side. Aluminum and carbon are common choices—both are light and durable. Steel frames are less common and often considered niche or low-budget.
Frame Type
  • Hardtails: Budget-friendly, front suspension or rigid, suitable for various terrains except extreme descents. Good for budgets around $500 or less.
  • Full Suspension: Shock absorbers at both ends. Generally, all work well unless the bike is very low budget (< $700), where a quality hardtail might be a better option.
Suspension Travel Hardtails have front suspension, typically 75mm to 100mm. Full suspension bikes have shock absorbers at both ends. Consider the type of terrain you’ll ride on; more travel provides better control on rough trails.
Suspension Type Focus on the type of suspension (air shocks are preferable for adjustability) rather than specific linkage or pivot points. Correct suspension settings are crucial for ease of maintenance and long-term adjustability.
Gearing Mountain bikes have closer-spaced gears than road bikes, aiding hill climbs and stop-and-go commuting. Consider your intended use; mountain biking on varied terrain benefits from this gearing setup.
  • Rim brakes: Affected by rain and mud, but effective.
  • Disc brakes: Closer to the inner edge, efficient, and strong. Consider budget; cheaper disc brakes may be heavier and less accurate. Trustworthy brakes are essential for confidence in riding.
Wheel Size
  • Choose between 26″, 27.5″ (650B), and 29″ wheels.
  • 29″ wheels offer stability and smooth rolling over obstacles.
  • 27.5″ combines elements of both.
  • 26″ is the traditional size.
  • Consider the type of riding you’ll be doing and personal comfort with each size.

Mountain bike sunset


Does gender matter in mountain bikes?

No, the only thing that matters is getting the right bike fit. 

Can a man ride a women’s mountain bike?

Yes, a man can ride a women’s mountain bike if it is the right fit.

Should a woman ride a man’s bike?

Yes, a woman can ride a man’s bike if she wants to. 

What gender rides bikes more?

In the United States, 72% of bicycle commuters are Men. According to a survey by the 2019 American Community Survey census. In European countries, this ratio is 50-50.


That said, most bike makers do create specific bikes for females. There has been a trend in recent years for bike designers to modify bikes and mold frames to try and fit the female body better. Some modify their bikes under the idea that females have longer legs, but shorter upper bodies. Other brands change how female cyclists attach to the bike, i.e. modified handlebars, seats, and pedals. No one approach is more right or better than another.

It’s like I said at the start: Choosing the right mountain bike for you comes down entirely to what feels comfortable for you. When I began my search for the perfect mountain bike, I was convinced I wanted a dedicated ladies’ mountain bike. It was only after testing several different models that I realized I didn’t need one. My only regret is that it didn’t come in pink!

Also Read

Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Euan Viveash by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

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Euan McKenzie

Euan McKenzie

Euan McKenzie – an avid cyclist with an unyielding competitive spirit. With several years of national-level cycling experience under his belt, Euan's passion for biking has led him to pursue a career in writing. As a writer for, Euan imparts his extensive knowledge and expertise on all things cycling – from training and nutrition to gear reviews and more.

Euan's fervor for cycling is contagious, and his articles never fail to inform and captivate readers. He has a remarkable ability to simplify intricate concepts, making them accessible to both seasoned cyclists and beginners alike. With Euan's articles, you can be confident that you'll gain valuable insights and tips to help you achieve your cycling aspirations.


34 thoughts on “The Women’s Mountain Bikes Scam”

  1. Steel is a great material for making a bike, it’s weird to see that things have switched so badly round–i raced when aluminum was seriously (and stupidly) questioned by idiots that seemed to forget that this is a popular material for building airplanes, jets, etc.

    I agree that a good fit is pretty important for any rider. Usually it can be achieved with time in the shop or with good help, adj, stem, saddle, seat height etc.

    But nowhere in the article do you mention how the mfgr are changing things so much that it befuddles many novices, and more importantly, there are big issues with q-factor and bike GEOMETRY (which are determined alas by a) cheapness of manufacture in the first case, and b) fashion and cheapness of mfg in the second).

    My husband Charlie Cunningham (a builder and creator of the earliest truly modern mtn bike) have ‘pillow talk’ about these things, because I teach mtn biking for women, ever since 1984 when i decided the bike world was a boy’s club.

    Women’s bike as scam is sort of true–it’s a marketing scam, but it might have put more women on the bike.

    Cars are marketed to women, and trust me, the body geometric diff’s between men and women are irrel. when it comes to a car. BTW I think of cars as expensive wheelchairs.

    • Really like your views on things – and personally I wouldn’t be afraid of a steel bike + I hate cars, so I guess I agree with you that they are kind of expensive wheelchairs 🙂

  2. Wow, the Jacquie Phelan…I am truly humbled. I’ve seen your films! Remarkable.

    I agree with you on almost everything you write. It was however not the intention to denigrate steel bikes. And I don’t believe I have.

    But that said, below a certain price point I would have to argue that a steel frame is not a good choice for most people. So in that respect I would contend from the viewpoint of this article which is mostly guided toward riders who don’t have high level of experience or knowledge of MTB, steel is very much a ‘niche’ product.

    My main contention was that the idea of dedicated woman’s mountain bike was not the only choice available, and that in reality it’s whatever you think suits you best is the bike you should get.

    Me and buddies used to charge down MTB trails on our BMX’s when we were kids, and regularly had people dressed up like dayglo Popsicles telling us to get lost, and get the proper gear, as they overtook us climbing to the top of the mountain.

    I can’t remember exactly what they shouted as we made our way down the trail, as by the time they had normally stopped shouting we had overtaken them and their really expensive bikes and were into the next set of curves. Sometimes we waited for them at the bottom, sometimes we just went home.

    My point is that this idea of segregated categories of MTB is wrong. Don’t believe the hype.

    But then I’m not about to argue with the woman who drove Otto into battle. So I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

  3. I prefer the bike which aluminum frame, it’s light. Anyway, thank you for awesome article with details information. Now I can choose right bike for my wife and we can ride together at the weekend 🙂

  4. I will say that your basic premise that women shouldn’t always be fit on a women’s mountain bike is true. I think that it would be fair to say that there are just as many men that would fit better on women’s designed mountain bike as there are women. Within our industry, there has been a general rule of thumb that as long as you “pink it and shrink it” women will buy it. However, there are several of us ladies who have worked within the industry and who have long argued that this concept is bogus. Some PEOPLE need the higher front end, shorter reach and lower standover than others do – male and female. However, with the better understanding of bike geometry in general, it is easy to change out some items to bring about a superb fitting bike that is not gender specific.

    I highly recommend to women that they DO NOT cut the wide handlebars. Short stems and wide handlebars bring more stability and balance to a mountain bike. Saddles are highly specific to each rider. Some women don’t need a wider saddle at all, some men do.

    And, seriously, the LAST thing a person should do is bring a friend, boyfriend who rides, husband who knows it all, or whoever to give you advice over that of a bike professional. Granted, there are some bike shops that employ those who know nothing or who are just learning. However, most shops try their best to fit people appropriately on a good bike. If you, as a buyer, brings your friend (hubby, s.o. or whoever) who ‘thinks’ they know whats best for you, you will more than likely end up with a bike that fits THEM perfectly.

    • well, I am a man riding a women specific bike, instead of buying the giant anthem, i decided to buy liv intrigue for one reason is comfort and it fits my stature being an asian

  5. I see your point, but I am all for companies making bikes for women. It shows their support of women and makes women feel special and separate from the guys. If people buy women’s specific products and they are happy with the performance, then they are saying YES to companies supporting women.

  6. Hey there – As far as fit goes, it is incredibly important to make sure that the seat is at the right height and angle, otherwise knee injuries are on the horizon.

    As for women specific bikes – I’d never purchase one as I’ve read, and been told by experienced female mountain bikers, that the components are generally cheaper than bikes marketed for men.

    • Never heard about the components being different, but I think it’s more important to buy a bike that fits instead of worrying about male/female models.

  7. Im a 32 year old male & i ride a females specialized myka. For the fact that the top bar of the frame is low enough that if or when i bail lol. Its low enough that i dont loose any man parts.

  8. Thanks everyone for all the information. I am currently looking at buying a mountain bike, and wanting to spend about $2-3000 on it. After reading this site im now not shy to go back and look at mens bikes before i head to a shop.
    I once bought a mongoose mountain bike (10years ago) from a shop without any info and bought a bike that is so heavy and i hate it. Its now in my shed and its name is Betty and is ready to die.
    I am still very confused about pedal ratio ?
    Most of my riding will be on trails, long distance, and some foot path riding. Also some days will be adding a bike trailer to it with two kids!
    Any help would be great.
    Would love to be a experienced biker one day !!!!

  9. This is a load of rubbish. Womens bikes are definitely required- whoever weote this article has no idea what they are talking about.

    • Totally agree. A few years ago, I actually had a Yeti employee guy tell me, rather bitterly, that there’s no difference between men and women’s geometries, thus no need to even look at design issues. I was stunned. Later, I asked him if he’d ever ridden a women-specific bike and he said no. Chagrined, he said that he’d at least try it. Gee, thanks.

      After trying many women’s and men’s mountain bikes, I purchased the women’s specific Specialized Rumor Expert 29er. It isn’t just a “pink it and shrink it” either. At 5’6″ with a typical women’s body type, the geometry of this bike fits me perfectly. The thinner tube makes this bike lighter, which really helps when I’m cranking uphill. I’m a fairly aggressive, technical trail rider and this bike can handle most stuff. I’d like a little more headset slack, but it’s good enough.

      Lastly, you sure don’t need a “medical textbook” to understand the difference between the need for wider (women’s) or skinnier (men’s) seats. Since women bear children, we typically have wider pelvises and sits bones (the bones that bear the pressure when we sit). If we sit on a seat that isn’t wide enough, the sits bones don’t connect vertically to the seat so they stretch apart. This can cause extreme discomfort. Your local bike store should be able to measure you for proper seat sizing.

  10. So what about the top tube? That’s the main difference between men’s and women’s bikes that I notice. With most of the men’s bikes that I’ve tried, it’s really hard to swing my leg up and over the tube when I fall and have to get back on.

  11. Hi well I’m in shock.darlings all this talk about gender specific mtbs and here I am in a panic I’m unable to go mtb riding as there is still not a mtb for transgender cyclists I’m not risking whatever I am until there is the right mtb for me let’s hope it’s ASAP

  12. Now a days women is very important part of our life. They are developing their skill in everywhere. So Should help them every place and sector. Mountain Bike Reviewer guides written for all levels of women’s cycling. Whether you are a beginner cyclist looking to keep fit, or a dedicated rider looking for in-depth training guides on technique and endurance.

  13. After having been away from serious wrenching on bikes since the ’90s, I recently decided to build up a pair of bikes for my son and his lady friend. Although I had some technical catch-up to do, it was rather like riding a bicycle. I’m of the opinion you can build a much better bike than you can buy off the rack. The young lady in question is petite — 5’1″ and under 100 lbs. The process took some thought. For one, 650 and 29er wheels seem impossibly large on a 13″ frame. I was fortunate to find a quality old stock 26er woman’s frame, and I’ve been searching for parts that match in compact sizes. Unfortunately, a lot of smaller components are geared for kid’s bikes, and are of marginal quality. It’s tough to find a fork that will perform correctly for a sub-100 pound rider. Small hands will be much happier with slender grips and slightly narrower bars. It’s not about gender. Although it’s fun to be able to put together a bike with color-matched components, painting something pink has no effect on function.

    Back in the old days when I was a part-time bike wrench between college classes, the guy that owned the shop had a frame custom-built by the late Francisco Cuevas. It was tailored like a custom suit of clothes. Steve would commute 45 miles morning and night when the weather was at all suited to riding, and it was always perfectly tuned. I drooled over that bike, particularly as I was flogging a very indifferent Fuji — which was all I could afford. After I’d been working for six months, Steve trusted me enough to let me take the Cuevas for a spin. It was dripping with exotic Campy parts that only existed in my fevered fantasies. The seat alone cost half the price of my bike. So I rode it. It was superb — you could tell there was rare magic in it — but it was also wrong in a way. Although we were similar in size, it was built to fit Steve, not me.

    Since I’ve been out of the game a while, what’s the fastest color for a bike? It used to be black, but that was quite a while ago.

  14. I really appreciated this article. I saw it as completely fair. the gentleman was very clear about IF bringing someone with you to help you out it be someone who has good bike knowledge.
    I am a small woman under 120lbs fully kitted. I am looking for a new, lighter mountain bike. I am not feeling a great deal of difference between aluminum and carbon frames (so far). I am being pushed (gently) towards a woman specific, carbon frame. I ride a lot on mixed trails that have lots of ups and downs. Although $ is not really an issue for me I’m careful with it so wonder if carbon is truly necessary? I am never going to race or do the high tricks etc. I would appreciate any good advice. Thanks

  15. I suggest we aproach it like the functional outdoor clothing industry; we should be grateful that the industry has clued in to the possibility of a gender specific market. It means more possibilities for comfort and efficiency to the riders. If a female specific bikes fits a male; then that is the one he needs to ride and vis versa; overall I really don’t believe the manufacturers went ahead and engeneered a product without asking questions to those concerned. If the shoe fits, wear it; if its name bothers you, then get a pair of shoes appropriate with your image; then get blisters, knee and hip and back problems and suffer the tension in your mind.
    That being said; the warning about the hype is correct. Remember: only buy the shoe if it fits. Oh, and about colour; it affects us more than we care to acknowledge. If it is aluminum, why bother painting it at all? A drab colour is just as inefficient as a lovely colour.
    Enjoy the ride

  16. Most of my 25 years of bike riding have been on a men’s bike. Until this year when I began to have back and hip problems. You are correct about fit, it matters greatly. Just so happens that seems to be what makes women’s bikes a better fit in my case personally. To say its a “scam” might be a little harsh. It’s just a different group of options and if it encourages more women to feel included in Mt Biking then I think that may be an added bonus.

  17. Very important post for the mountain bike for women. In my point of view, every woman should buy a “unisex” type mountain bike.

  18. The title of this article is absolutely ridiculous. I agree with the main point in this article that the most important element of a great bike is a great fit. However, to say that Women Specific Bikes are a scam and that no one should buy one, goes against the “fit is most important” element. You even state in your article that most women are shorter and lighter and have different leg:torso ratios than men and that women specific bikes address that. So why shouldn’t a woman who falls into this category and who feels that a women specific bike actually does fit her better, be scammed by buying one? While a women’s bike may not be necessary for all women, it is certainly a better fit for many, my 5’2″ self included. I love my Liv and am happy that so many bike companies are actually addressing the differences between men’s and ladies builds.

  19. I agreed with you. There is no major differences between men’s & women’s mountain bike. Women can use men’s bike easily if they fit the size. But ya, there is minor differences like manufacturer provide extra priority on making bike frame for women’s bike to make riding more comfortable. Hope you got my point.

  20. My Wife and I own and operate a small bike shop since 1992. We are both avid trail and XC MTBers. Our thoughts on the women’s specific thing…it is a way for the industry to acknowledge, appeal, and expand options to women. As previously said, everyone has a different body with different proportions, so your best bet is talk to a bike shop with experience and try every bike at and above your budget. Be ready to test ride some bikes! We usually spend 1-3 hours with each person talking/testing bikes; we ask every client a lot of questions to help us understand who they are, where they ride, their experience level, physical shape and their riding goals.
    So is a women’s specific bike necessary? Its just another option, and options are good.

  21. I am still not sure what the so-called scam is. So a woman who is 4’11” with a 26.5″ inseam can find a mens mountain bike to fit her? What rubbish! I have been down that road for many years. In the 1980s when I first started riding there were no mens bikes to fit me! None! Along came Terry Bikes for women my size. And then Cannondale offered one bike that fit me perfect and I was hooked and became a serious MTB rider. Today its better, finding an xs bike frame with a standover height under 26″ is still a challenge but I can find them. There are still quite a few manufacturers whose smallest frame is an S with standover heights in excess of my inseam. And from a pricing standpoint I find no difference between mens and womens bikes. The bikes with the frame geometry that works for a woman my size are in the category of womens bikes. Cannondale, Trek, Liv (Giant), and Specialized make bikes that fit someone my size. My best friends owns large bicycle shop that has been around since the 1980s and sells reputable good brands. He says there has never been a “scam.” Reputable bikes shops stress fit and what one is comfortable riding first. If a mens bike frame fits and works then that what works. He says the smaller the woman the more important frame geometry is, period. And today mens and womens bikes are also the same or almost the same in weight.

  22. I agreed with you. There is no major differences between men’s & women’s mountain bike. Women can use men’s bike easily if they fit the size. But ya, there is minor differences like manufacturer provide extra priority on making bike frame for women’s bike to make riding more comfortable. Hope you got my point.


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