"Ladies" bikes?

Larry lives in a retirement community in my town. He had hip replacement surgery a while back and likes this old Dahon because he can step right into the frame without swinging a leg over a top tube. “And it doesn’t look like a girl’s bike,” he tells me.

Larry's folding bike

The German Redhead at my office tried the Urbana Bike I’m evaluating for Commute By Bike. She told me this bike looks very feminine to her, not because of the color, but because of the U frame design. “Of course this is a women’s bike, Richard. It’s obvious!” she said with her European accent, emphatically pointing into the open frame.

Urbana Bikes

I personally don’t think of step through frames like these as “women’s” or “girl’s” bikes these days. They’re obviously advantageous for those wearing longer dresses and skirts, but they’re also fantastically practical machines that my stiffening joints can easily handle. Sun Bicycles, for example, markets this ultra low step through cruiser specifically to aging boomers of either sex.

Sun step through cruiser

Alan @ Ecovelo recently posted a survey showing his readers mostly think step through frames are gender neutral. I’m curious in what you think as well — when you see a step through bike frame (exclusive of other elements like flowers or feminine colors), do you think of it as a Ladies’ bike, or not? Let me know!

[poll id=”2″]


  1. I, a male human, like my two “Ladies'” bikes. I think they should be gender neutral since they are so convinient for getting on and off – especially when i have the back rack packed with stuff (like months of recycling to bring to recyling center).

  2. I bought a step-through bike in February 2009 (Specialized Globe Carmel), not because I'm a woman or because I wear skirts while I ride, but because I had just had hip surgery and couldn't swing my leg over a road or mixte frame!

  3. =v= Your German coworker doesn't know about the classic European U-framed folding bike? Perhaps I could show her a thing or two.

    Arbitrary gender semiotics have too much power. Years ago, my brother and I were bike shopping, and a salesman suggested some Mixte frames, which he called “unisex.” The geometry was compelling, of course, but we knew that our fellow male prepubescents would tease us mercilessly. We would surely be seen as hermaphrodites by our peer group.

  4. I've got a mixte and it is constantly referred to as a “ladies' bike,” and for the most part, I usually don't feel like explaining that the mixte was originally a gender neutral bike with a lower step-over height that retains a lot of frame strength of the diamond shape.

    People should just ride whatever they are comfortable with. As long as they're riding, who cares what they're riding?

    Oh wait, what about those wacky triangle bikes (the Stridas). I think that design kinda blows this whole thing out of the water!

  5. I have a road bike for longer rides, but for bumming around, I have a Specialized that is almost a step-through. My right knee was broken 3 years ago, and it is so much easier to get on and off of these bikes. Sort of learned to bike again on this one, using it kind of like scooter until my knee was able to bend enough to rotate the pedals. Ride whatever works for you!

  6. I picked out a step-through old Schwinn from Working Bikes for a guy friend of mine. I first asked him if he was okay with being seen with that kind of frame, because I thought it could be an issue. Thankfully it wasn't and he got a great bike for only $50.

  7. When I see a U frame, I think women's bikes. I think it's because that's how I see women's bikes advertised. I certainly don't have a problem with guys riding them though. Whatever is comfortable and gets your across town without burning gas is fine by me.

  8. I have just purchased (8-31-2010) and Giant Simple 7 with no bar in the middle. I bought not only for the looks, but because at age 50 I can't always swing my right leg over the seat- I have fallen over a couple of times this year (2010).The gender thing is widely over rated-if the bike fits-ride it!!! One size fits all!!!

  9. I’m short, but I always use to ride road bikes that were bigger then what I should be riding when young.   I found jumping on and flipping my leg over the top cross bar was easy while the bike was moving back and through my early 50’s.   Now at 60 my flexibility is not there anymore, and even though I do own a men’s road bike for my height I have no desire in flipping my leg over the top cross bar anymore.  I don’t see anything wrong in purchasing a women’s bike, as I have seen many that look like a men’s bike and basically the only difference is the top cross bar.  I am going to purchase a women’s bike so that I can continue to do what really is important, “Riding”.

  10. It’s outright stupid to go for something if you are not comfortable in it!
    I use a u-frame marilù pieghevole 24 in Turin which I bought for about 30 Euros from the Porta Palazzo Flea Market and I love it. I find the diamond frame unsuitable for be because:
    1) I wanted one which could be folded
    2) Being short, i hated the diamond frame.
    3) In a diamond frame while peddling out of the seat, many a times I had a chain slip and crushed my balls in the process.
    4) It has a more relaxed stance (I could ride without bending like they do on super bikes)
    5) Its convenient when you are wearing a long trench coat.

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