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"It's good that all the bikes are women's bikes (do women's bikes still need the lower top bar in this day and age, or is like buttons on the left? I honestly don't know, ladies?)"

The "woman's" bike thing is pretty much just another great job of marketing by the bike industry here in the States.

The proper term for the bikes with a low bar is "Step-Thru". The Step-Thru makes it much easier for ladies to mount and dismount the bike while wearing dress.

If you ever travel outside of the US to Europe, you'll just as many men riding Step-Thru bikes as women.

Now that you mention it, my ciao is a step-thru.

About top bike bars and women...

I ride everywhere, on a raleigh mixte frame. I wear skirts frequently, and high heels, so the lower bar is very useful. Have you ever tried to ride a "men's" bike in a tapered, knee length business skirt? I wouldn't recommend it!

Plus as a short woman (5'2", 29" inseam), I find it very difficult to fit most bikes that have the straight across bar.

Regarding women's bikes.

At my local bike shop (new Specialized Tricross, wooot!), they had women's bikes.

The nice thing about it is not the bar, but some more subtle shift in geometry of the frame. Basically, some recognition that women's and men's bodies stack a bit different in proportion. (For instance, women tend to have longer legs than men for the same height.)

Good occasion for me to plug Bikes for the Rest of Us.

[Boo. C'mon, no links? http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com]

That looks like a Dutch Azor brand. Outside the USA, many still consider that a "standard" bike, or otherwise call it a classic, or traditional model. The more lightweight standard design bikes are called often called Modern Bikes. The ergonomics is completely different from "comfort" and "cruiser" bikes. By comparison, the Classic ergonomics of the "dutch position" will "impose no upper-body stress at all; you sit with your spine, neck and head as neutrally balanced as a column of acrobat’s balls, with your arms quite relaxed, elbows at your ribs. Yet your feet are far enough forward to enable reasonably efficient pedaling" This position leaves the handlbars unweighted, and a regal posture.

Dutch position isn’t even exclusively Dutch. Older English, Danish, Chinese and Indian utility bikes: same deal—this is simply the most popular way to sit on a bike, ever, in terms of numbers, but it’s barely known in America. The Chinese call the posture “holding the bedpan,” and the free upper body poise there implied works for sipping coffee and hunting open wi-fi spots, too. Shimano’s latest modern internal gearing systems these designs work almost anywhere.

Ergonomically, the US-style "comfort bikes" and their antecedants the "cruisers", are sort of a disaster. They have the steep-ish seat tube angle of a mountain bike, and simply bring the bars much closer and higher. The designers would appear still to buy into "the myth of KOPS." (Knee Over the Pedal Spindle) The KOPS rule seems sensible enough; it puts the knee in line with the pedal at maximum pedaling force, which must help, right? Wrong. The KOPS rule of thumb has no biomechanical basis at all. It is, at best, a coincidental relationship that puts the rider somewhere near his or her correct position. It is better to look at the rider's leg and its attachment to the pedal and crank as a system of levers and pivots, and to consider how the pedaling forces and joint torques act on this system.

I hate the term "comfort bike". It implies that all other bikes are uncomfortable. Which they are not.

I prefer the term "utility bike".

I hate the term "comfort bike". It implies that all other bikes are uncomfortable. Which they are not.

I prefer the term "utility bike".

I specifically hunted for a step-through frame because I like riding in skirts and dresses, and that was difficult even with my half step-through mountain bike frame. I also required fenders and an upright position, because my old bike hurt my elbows from having them extended and locked the whole way anywhere I went. I wound up with the Bianchi Milano (click my name for the Commuter Page link with a pic). The distance between the seat and the handlebars is less than the old bike, which has me nice and upright. And the step-through frame makes it infinitely easier to mount than a triangle frame would be. Since that back crate is usually on there, I can't exactly swing my leg up and over it all the time.

What do people with triangle frames AND cargo on the back do to get onto their bikes? It seems it would be particularly awkward.

This is the right configuration for me, but I know not everyone likes what I like. I've had friends who are getting into biking to work now, and they're asking what they should look for in a bike. I recommend getting an inexpensive second- (or third-, or fourth-) hand bike and riding it daily for a few weeks to figure out what you like. Do you like the drop handles or do you want to be bent over less in your work shirt in the mornings? Are the gears too many or too few? I think it helps make a more informed decision when you go to buy new. If I hadn't had a bike that I didn't like to ride, I wouldn't know about what I actually wanted in a bike.

Ditto to what Bike Jax said; I was just going to chastise you for the same mistake. It's actually kind of a shame that Step-Thru bikes are not as well appreciated here in the U.S. If you are carrying a heavy load such as big boxes, they are significantly easier to mount, and one step-thru frame can be ridden by people of many heights simply by adjusting the seat; no need to worry about the top tube or stand-over height. I commute everywhere by bike, and I've been wanting to build a guest bike from a step-thru frame that guests could ride around town when they come to visit me. Unfortunately, since they are looked down upon, there are very few companies that make step-thru frames that are serious bikes, which means that your only options are usually comfort bikes, which are heavy and clunky. It's true that the step-thru shape requires the sloping top tube to be reinforced with more steel and thus produces a heavier bike, but with today's technology, we could make step-thru frames that rival the steel diamond frames of the 60's and 70's in terms of weight.

The only reason such bikes are "women's" in the US is manufacturers don't make them large enough for many men. If you have mobility problems, the low bar on a step through frame is a godsend. I've had more than one fall where I crumpled to the ground after putting all my weight on my bad leg... not fun at all. A step through frame eliminates that. You do lose a bit of frame strength in theory, but a good design will be reinforced and handles more cargo than the average road bike can.

The "average" step through frame rarely is small enough for the smallest women, and is never large enough for a 6 foot tall guy. So if they're for women, bike manufacturers are doing a great job of not designing to suit their market... The average US woman is 5'3 or 5'4, and most step through designs barely come small enough for her. If you're a woman and genuinely on the short side, you're stuck. (it's ok tho, a 6' tall guy with a hip replacement is just as stuck)

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