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Frequently Asked Questions About Women’s-Specific Design

There are more options than ever before for female cyclists. From bike gear, to rider gear to the bike itself, more products are being made with women in mind. Let’s be honest – we like being catered to! Different companies have different ideas on what women want and need when it comes to cycling. At Liv, we want to be clear on our philosophy and the research we put in to get there. Simply put: We make bikes from the ground up for women. Still have questions about women’s specific design?

Yeah, we figured! Scroll down to read our most frequently asked questions about how we make women’s bikes.

Question: Aren’t Liv bikes just Giant frames with a different paint job and components?

Nope! We love our big brother Giant, but each new Liv bike starts with a blank sheet of paper. We have a team of designers and engineers who carefully crafts each tube length and each angle to specifically fit the female anatomy. Each bike is designed to maximize comfort, balance and handling for the type of riding she will be doing. That isn’t to say there aren’t a few perks of being part of the awesome Giant family. For instance, we get to share tried and true technologies like Maestro Suspension in our off-road bikes, Advanced-Grade Composite Technology to make our carbon frames, and more to bring top-notch bikes to all women.

Question: Why can’t women ride men’s bikes?

Women can ride bikes made for men, but according to our research, she will not be as comfortable or as efficient. When we looked at the data, basic differences in the anatomy of women and men lead us to the conclusion that most women need a bike option other than men’s or unisex bikes.

Question: Where does the data that you base your research on come from?

We gather information from a global body dimension database, PeopleSize Anthropometry. This database includes over 250 individual body measurements from men and women of nine different nationalities. From this data set, we gather information on things like stature, inseam, torso length, shoulder breadth, arm length, hand length, hip breadth, ischia (sit bone) distance, weight, and strength that allow us to uncover fundamental differences between men’s and women’s bodies based on averages.

Question: How are men’s and women’s bodies different?

The most influential measurement we look at for frame geometry is the torso to leg length ratio. Instead of focusing on height alone, we have learned this ratio has the biggest effect on how a woman rides and how she is balanced on the bike. The data from the global body dimension database shows women tend to have shorter torsos and longer legs than men. That means, if you put a woman on the correct size men’s frame, she will likely be bent too far over the bike – resulting in an extreme back angle – and be too stretched out – resulting in an extreme armpit angle.

Question: I am a woman, but I do not have long legs! Are women’s-specific bikes for me?

Even if you are a woman that does not have “average” torso to leg length proportions, there tend to still be differences that affect the way you ride a bike. We have found that a larger percentage of women’s strength comes from their lower bodies, while the opposite is true for men. This directly effects weight distribution and how men and women are balanced over the bike. We can use this knowledge to our advantage when we design women’s-specific frames. Not only do we create a geometry that balances the rider over the bike, we also tune stiffness and compliance by adjusting the layup of our Advanced-grade composite material in our carbon frames.

Question: Can’t I just buy a men’s bike and change out the components?

Women’s-specific components are an important part of making a bike comfortable and efficient for female riders. Unisex and men’s bikes generally come with components that are suited for male riders: wider handlebars, longer cranks, longer stems and men’s saddles. While you could certainly change out these components to suit your preferences, the balance point, reach and angles of the frame cannot be adjusted by merely changing parts on the bike. Liv bikes are thoughtfully built with women’s-specific saddles that complement the position the rider will be in on the bike, crank lengths that match the size of the frame, handlebar widths that are appropriate for the average shoulder breadth to height ratio, and stem lengths that offer the best handling for female riders. Our goal is to make a bike that is as close to perfect as possible, right out of the box.

Question: I know I am too stretched out on the men’s bike I’m riding, but can’t I just add a shorter stem and move the seat to make the reach shorter?

While you could shorten the reach of the bike by 10- 50 mm (depending on the length of the current stem) by using a shorter stem, it will affect your position on the bike and how the bike handles. When you add a shorter stem to a bike, your body weight shifts back slightly and takes some weight off the front wheel. On a road bike, a short stem will create a twitchy feeling while descending and make it harder to get over the front wheel while climbing. While shorter stems are sometimes added intentionally to gravity-oriented mountain bikes, a super short stem on a mountain bike that is intended for cross country will affect how well you can climb.

Moving the seat forward on the rails to reduce the reach to the handlebars is not an appropriate solution. The fore/aft adjustment of the seat should be set for pedaling efficiency to place your knee properly in line over the pedal. If you move the seat forward, then your knee will track too far over your toe and cause knee pain.

Question: Does Liv make bikes solely based on average numbers from the “global body dimension database?”

No, we realize that building a bike solely based on statistics isn’t enough. Testing prototypes with our professional athletes and select riders is a big part of our design process at Liv. With multiple rounds of testing, we are able to fine tune geometry, adjust the stiffness and compliance on our composite frames and choose the best components for each bike.

Question: What about the color of women’s bikes?

I hate pink! We know that every woman has different tastes when it comes to aesthetics. At Liv, we try to accommodate all women and offer bikes that you will fall in love with. We take special care to offer a wide variety of color options for each bike line: pinks, purples, reds, greens and blues – and designs that range from conservative to wild!

Question: I do not want to ride a women’s-specific bike because they are not built as well as men’s bikes and the components are not as good.

Alright, maybe this isn’t a question, but we do hear it a lot! For a long time women’s bikes were not made with the same quality as men’s bikes because the industry didn’t think women would want to spend big money on a nice bike. Thankfully, that is changing and Liv was one of the pioneering companies driving this change. We believe women deserve the same variety of choices men enjoy when it comes to buying a bike. Heck, if she wants a full carbon mountain bike with top-of-the-line spec, she should be able to find that bike with a women’s-specific geometry that will make her more comfortable, confident and fast. That’s why Liv was there, making the first truly women’s-specific 27.5 carbon XC bike with SRAM’s XX1 group set, released in July of 2013. Earlier that same year we made the first aerodynamic carbon road race bike, made specifically for women. In 2016, we launched a complete line of carbon off-road performance bikes featuring the first composite enduro bike with 160 mm of travel made with geometry tailored for women. We will continue to push the boundaries to create bikes that are made to fit the female body, fit her style and perform at the highest level.