The number of female cyclists is growing exponentially. In previous articles we have already had the opportunity to discredit clichés and taboos that are often wrongly associated with female cycling.
We would now like to take a look at some notions regarding the best saddle position for female cyclists. As a matter of fact, women and men have very different anthropometric measurements and this obviously reflects on the construction of the frame, on the position of the saddle and even on their way of training. As a consequence, a woman’s bike must not only be painted pink in order to be defined as such.
Let’s start with body measurements: first of all, women have longer legs than men of their same height. This is visible even before birth: in an ultrasound scan between a male fetus and a female fetus, the lower limbs will most likely be longer in the latter. Usually, however, women are about 10 – 12 cm (on average) shorter than men due to their shorter torso; furthermore women’s arms are also shorter than those of men of equivalent height.
Fonte: Marco Compri, Federazione Ciclistica Italiana
Consequently, a woman bike or mountain bike frame, if made to measure, when compared to a male’s bike frame will be:
• Very similar in height, but shorter, due to their shorter torso;
• With a higher head tube due to their shorter arms, therefore reducing the reach distance between the saddle and the handlebar;
• With a greater inclination of the seat tube, given the longer length of the femur.
WHAT THE MARKET OFFERS
But are there bikes or components specifically dedicated to the female world? Of course, there are. Here are some curiosities regarding the components used by “boys” that were instead designed for women. But first things first.
As we mentioned earlier, do not be fooled by the colour of the frame. What makes the difference is the geometry; just think that still to this day, some manufacturers simply utilize graphic designs in order to sell bikes as those specific to females. Furthermore, do not be fooled by the bikes used by female teams: they almost always use male frames (please re-read what to assess when buying a second-hand racing bike).
Did you know that the compact crankset, used today by the vast majority of cyclists, was created and conceived for women? The project was born explicitly to facilitate the pedalling motion for women, but its success among men was such that nowadays producers are careful not to say that it is a product specifically made for women. On the other hand, the saddle designed by SMP for prostate problems has encountered a lot of success amongst female cyclists.
THE POSITION ON THE BIKE
Having ascertained the morphological structure and assessed which characteristics the frames and components female bikes must have, we will now discuss the position on the saddle. As mentioned above, the woman’s longer femur will require a more rearward saddle so as to maintain the right proportion between the knee and the pedal. Presumably, if a man 1.70cm high pedals with a setback of about 5.5 – 6cm from the bottom bracket, a woman of equivalent height will pedal with a setback of about 7cm.
This measurement, combined with the shorter measurements of the torso and arms, require a much closer handlebar, consequently a shorter frame and also a shorter stem. Finally, the handlebar must be positioned higher than that of men.
These measurements are indicative and are not to be considered as such only to obtain a comfortable position, but are also necessary when competing because comfort and performance always go hand in hand and one of the two never excludes the other.
Currently, the market is dominated by multinational distribution chains which sell very similar products; however, a woman’s bike requires a project in its own right, so much so that currently the real made to measure bike built in Italy is definitely the best choice for female cyclists who want to have the perfect bike both for competing or simply for healthy bike rides.