Cross-country mountain bikes designed specifically for women are not simply girlie-colored (pink), smaller versions of men’s bikes any more. Most larger bike manufacturers offer at least a basic selection (one or two models), and the big manufacturers offer a very wide range of cross-country bikes for women. Examples of the big bike manufacturers that offer the best deals and choices for women are Trek and Specialized. Both companies have fully embraced the women’s market. This is good news for all women whether they are beginners or racers, on a tight budget or an unlimited budget!
Women’s cross-country bikes are different from men’s bikes in that they have a more compact frame – that is, the top tube is shorter, which makes the reach from saddle to handlebars shorter and more suited to a woman’s generally shorter torso. Brake levers are smaller and often adjustable for women’s smaller hands. Saddles are female-specific and handlebars are narrower. Other than that, there is no difference between women’s and men’s bikes except for color and graphics. Some high-end “boutique” brands (Yeti, for example) offer frame geometry that is very female-friendly, even if they don’t offer a women’s model.
Cross-country bikes come either as hardtail (suspension for only, with a rigid rear end) or full-suspension, with further choices of wheel size (26″ or 29″). Women who are strictly recreational riders may prefer a full-suspension cross-country bike for its comfort and confident, stable handling. Racers, riders on a budget or riders who prefer climbing over descending may opt for a hardtail.
Currently there are no cross-country bikes with 29″ wheels (29ers) that are designed for women. This is due in part to frame geometry which has to be large enough to accommodate the 29″ wheels. Some women can ride 15.5″ or 17.5″ 29ers, but shorter women will find it impossible to fit a 29er.