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9 Best Entry Level Road Bikes For Women- 2022

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Road bikes have 3 gender-based classifications: men, women, and unisex. All leading brands’ road bikes for women have significant and subtle differences from the men’s and unisex versions. The innumerable options and variants of every popular model can overwhelm anyone. 

To find the ideal entry-level road bike for women, you need to consider the frame, width of the handlebars, and the type of saddle. Women sit slightly different than men, and a comfortable bike ride means having a seat that is comfortable for women. 

Below is a list of recommended entry-level road bikes for women.  Some are unisex and some are women’s-specific. Keep in mind, the more you spend on a bike, the lighter the bike and lighter, higher-end components. While there are road bikes you can find for less money, they will come with cheaper components and the bike will weigh more due to the frame and fork material.

*Prices as of February 7, 2022.

Specialized Allez

FEATURES

  • Frame: Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum
  • Fork: Specialized FACT carbon
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-32t cassette
  • Women’s Specific: No
  • Geometry: Specialized does not specify if the frame is an endurance or race, but does state the frame covers a broad range of positions.
  • Weight: 20.3 lbs (54cm)
  • Tires/Size: RoadSport, 700x26mm
  • Colors: Gloss Sky Blue/Tarmac Black, Gloss Raspberry/Metallic White Silver, Satin Black/Cast Battleship, Gloss Clay/Chameleon
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $1,000

Specialized makes quality bikes. $1000. Go to Specialized to learn more about this bike.

Liv Avail 3

Features

  • Frame: ALUXX-Grade Aluminum
  • Fork: ALUXX-Grade Aluminum
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-34 cassette
  • Women’s Specific: Yes
  • Geometry: Endurance
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Tires/Size: Giant S-R3 AC, 700x28c, puncture protect
  • Colors: Black, Slate Grey
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $860

A beautiful bike! Go to Liv to read more about this bike.

Liv Avail AR 4

Features

  • Frame: ALUXX-Grade Aluminum
  • Fork: Advanced-Grade Composite
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-34 cassette
  • Women’s Specific: Yes
  • Geometry: Endurance
  • Weight: 23.7 lbs (53cm)
  • Tires/Size: Giant S-R3 AC, 700x32c, puncture protect
  • Colors: Neo Mint / Rosewood
  • Brakes: Disc
  • Price: $1,040

Go to Liv to read more about this bike.

Trek Domane AL 2

Features

  • Frame: 100 Series Alpha Aluminum
  • Fork: Domane carbon, straight alloy steerer
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-32 cassette
  • Women’s Specific: No
  • Geometry: Endurance
  • Weight: 21.09 lbs (56)
  • Tires/Size: Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite, 700x28c
  • Colors: Gloss Mulsanne Blue/Matte Trek Black, Trek Black/Carbon Smoke
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $1,029.99

Note: There is also a Domain AL2 Disc for $1199.99. Go to Trek to read more about the Domane AL 2.

Decathlon Triban Aluminum Women’s

Features

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Fork: Hybrid Carbon
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Sora, 9-speed, 11-32 cassette
  • Women’s Specific: Yes
  • Geometry: Comfort
  • Weight: 22.5 lbs (size M)
  • Tires/Size: Triban, 700×28 tires nylon puncture protection skin wall
  • Colors: Black
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $899

Go to Decathlon Triban to learn more about this bike.

Tommaso Imola

Features

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Fork: Tommaso SST Steel with Aluminum Steer Tube
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-28t cassette
  • Women’s Specific: Yes
  • Geometry: Endurance
  • Weight: 23.6 lbs (small)
  • Tires/Size: Kenda K152, 700 x 25c
  • Colors: White, Orange, Black
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $974.99 Amazon $949.99

Go to Tommaso to read more about this bike. This bike can also be purchased at Amazon for $949.99.

Tommaso Forcella

Features

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Fork: Carbon fork with aluminum steer tube
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-28t cassette
  • Women’s Specific: Yes
  • Geometry: Endurance
  • Weight: 23.8 lbs (small)
  • Tires/Size: Kenda K152, 700×25
  • Colors: Black, White
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $1,024.99 Amazon $999.99

Go to Tommaso to read more about the bike. This bike can also be purchased at Amazon for $999.99.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 4

Features

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Fork: Full Carbon
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Claris, 8-speed, 11-30 cassette
  • Women’s Specific: No
  • Geometry: Race
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Tires/Size: Vittoria Zaffiro, 700 x 25c
  • Colors: Silver
  • Brakes: Rim
  • Price: $1,000

Go to Cannondale to read more about this bike.

Synapse Disc Sora

Features

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Fork: Full Carbon
  • Crankset and Cassette: Shimano Sora, 9-speed, 11-34 cassette
  • Women’s Specific: Yes
  • Geometry: Endurance/Comfort
  • Weight: 22.9 lbs (48)
  • Tires/Size: Vittoria Zaffiro, 700 x 28c
  • Colors: Sage Gray
  • Brakes: Disc
  • Price: $1,300

Go to Cannondale to read more about this bike.

Let’s discuss what you might want to look for in a new bike and how to determine which bike will best suit your needs. 

Like people, irrespective of gender, women have various body types, shapes, heights, weights, and individual preferences. Contrary to common perception, not all women have longer legs and shorter arms than men. This guide focuses on the metrics of road bikes for women. 

Unisex vs. Women’s Specific Frame

The fundamental differences between unisex and women’s specific frames are the reach and stack. If these measurements are not evident at a glimpse, it is difficult to tell the two frames apart without a close inspection. 

A flawless entry-level unisex road bike may suit you perfectly.

However, your individual requirements decide the specifications. You’ll need to measure the reach and stack or refer to the information provided by the manufacturers. Consider the possibility of slight differences between nominal sizes or dimensions and actual measurements. 

The Reach

Reach is the linear horizontal distance between the central point of the head tube top and the bottom bracket’s center. It is essentially about the torso span of a rider from the seat towards the handlebar. However, it is not the only aspect that decides the real-world reach. 

This video practically explains the real-world reach:

The Stack

Stack is the linear vertical distance between the central point of the head tube top and the bottom bracket’s center. The stack is essentially the leg span of a rider from the seat towards the crank and pedal. Again, it is not the only measurement that determines the actual span.

This Global Cycling Network video elaborates on stack and more: 

The Geometry of Road Bikes for Women

Traditionally, the frame size of road bikes was the length of the top tube. Contemporary road bikes don’t have the classic straight top tube parallel to the ground, but unisex road bikes have a slanted top tube. 

This slant or sloping may be greater for women’s specific road bikes.

Many road bikes for women have a step-through frame, so one can wear a dress or skirt and ride comfortably. Manufacturers keep tweaking their designs for uniqueness, and several other specifications complicate the geometry, thus choosing the right frame. 

The conventional frame size or the reach and stack are not the ultimate factors when other variables change the actual span of your torso, arms, and legs, the sitting or riding posture, and how you mount a bike.

Here are the specific attributes you must know to choose a frame:

  • Reach & stack 
  • Crank arm size 
  • Seat post height 
  • Handlebar width 
  • Stem length 

Generally, women’s specific bike frames have a shorter reach than unisex models, but the stack may or may not be identical. The crank arm size could be the same. 

The seat post is adjustable in most road bikes, so its height is not a preliminary or pre-purchase concern.

Unisex vs. Women’s Specific Frame Sizes

Manufacturers have distinct approaches to frame sizes. You will find most brands offering their full range of sizes for almost all their road bikes, be it for men, women, or unisex. 

Trek Bicycle Corporation has the following frame sizes:

  • XS: 13 to 14.5” (33 to 37 cm)
  • S: 15 to 16.5” (38 to 42 cm)
  • M: 17 to 18.5” (43 to 47 cm)
  • L: 19 to 20.5” (48 to 52 cm)
  • XL: 21 to 22.5” (53 to 57 cm)
  • XXL: 23 to 25” (58 to 63.5 cm)

Many best-selling road bikes like the Tommaso Imola Endurance on Amazon.com are available in several sizes. This 24-speed Imola Endurance’s size chart provides a height range for every level, except for the unavailable XXS designed for 4’10” to 5’2” (147 to 157 cm) rider’s height. *Here are the available frame sizes for Tommaso Imola Endurance:

  • XS: 5’2” to 5’6” (157 to 168 cm)
  • S: 5’6” to 5’8” (167 to 173 cm)
  • M: 5’8” to 5’11” (173 to 180 cm)
  • L: 5’11” to 6’2” (180 to 188 cm)
  • XL: 6’2” to 6’5” (188 to 195 cm)

How To Choose the Right Frame Size

Generally, your height and inseam length should determine the right frame size. This approach applies to women’s, men’s, and unisex road bikes. 

Let us consider a height of 5.3’ to 5.7’ (161 cm to 174 cm) and an inseam length of 27” to 29” (68.6 cm to 73.7 cm). According to the Trek road bike size calculator, you will need an S or 47 cm or 18.5” frame.

Manufacturers’ sizes are not identical.

Also, two frame sizes of the same brand’s road bikes for women may have some overlap. Sometimes, It is almost impossible to choose between two frame sizes for a particular height and inseam length. Such overlaps call for a bespoke fit. 

Handlebar Width

The frame size is a significant factor but not the endgame. Several apparently minor but crucial road bike features will decide your riding experience, not just comfort but also safety. One such component is the handlebar width. 

The standard advice is to choose a handlebar width that fits your shoulder span. Healthline says the average shoulder width for women is at least 14” (36 cm). Some women prefer a wider handlebar, slightly broader than their shoulder span, so choose per your convenience.  

Watch this bike fitting video to set your handlebar:

Stem Length

The stem length is a reason why the reach and stack or the frame size does not always decide the ideal fit for women. Women of identical heights and body types may have different arm spans. 

Also, your natural or preferred riding posture influences your actual reach.

Generally, women’s specific road bikes have a slightly shorter stem than those for men. Unisex road bikes of a particular size may have the same stem length as models specifically designed for women. Test a road bike and see if the stem length stretches your real-world reach. 

The stem is usually not adjustable in most road bikes for women. Hence, you must find the right fit for your height, arms span, and riding comfort. 

The following video explains the vital correlation between stem length and reach:

Saddle Type & Size

Many unisex road bikes have a wider saddle to suit both women and men. Ideally, you should choose a slightly wide saddle with a space between the two sides. This space relieves the perineum pressure. The seat post is usually extendable, and you can change the saddle later.

Prioritize the other features of the saddle and seat post, too. The angle of the stem causes a layback. You must be comfortable with a saddle, including its size, type, and layback. 

Check out this video guide to choose the correct saddle height:

Frame and Fork Material

Road bike frames are usually of:

  • Carbon fiber or composite material 
  • Aluminum 
  • Steel 
  • Titanium 

Forks are typically carbon or aluminum. Trek’s road bikes for women don’t have titanium frames. 

Aerodynamic frames are typically full-composite or carbon fiber. Aluminum frames are more affordable, but they are not as resilient as carbon to offer a comfortable ride. Steel is heavy, and most manufacturers don’t use titanium. 

Besides, titanium frames are costly.

You may choose either carbon or aluminum frames, depending on your preference. If you ride on rough roads, carbon fiber may be a better option, including for the fork. Aluminum forks may not absorb vibrations as effectively as carbon or composite materials.  

Cassette

If you have plans on conquering some hills on your ride, consider buying a road bike with a 11-32 cassette. The low-resistance gears will come in very useful. If you don’t see yourself needing the extra low-resistance gears, an 11-28 cassette has adequate gears and is most common on entry-level bikes.

Disk Brakes vs. Rim Brakes

Disk brakes are more effective than rim brakes or calipers. You may choose between mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes for your road bike. However, the latter costs more and may be expensive to repair should you encounter a glitch in the system. 

Disc brakes have better clearance and can also be fitted with a wider range of tire widths since there is more clearance between the fork and tires. A few drawbacks with disc brakes is that they are expensive and weigh more than rim brakes.  There is nothing wrong with rim brakes if a bike you are interested in comes with them.  I have two road bicycles with rim brakes, and I have no complaints about the rim brakes. Rim brakes are lightweight and cost less.  Keep in mind disc and rim brakes are not interchangeable due to the fork width difference.

Here is a head-to-head comparison of disk brakes vs. rim brakes.

AttributeDisc BrakesRim Brakes
Braking PowerExcellentSufficient
ConsistencyReliable, even on wet roadsReliable, subject to conditions
DurabilityLast longerDurable
AffordabilityExpensiveCheaper
MaintenanceComplex when requiredEasy but frequent
WeightHeavierLighter
ClearanceBetterRestricting
SafetyEffectiveEffective in optimal condition

Caliper or rim brakes don’t function properly with an out-of-true, misaligned, or wobbly wheel. Also, the brake pads may suffer wear & tear in due course. Disc brakes don’t have such problems. 

However, there is some significant concern.

The repair and maintenance cost is substantial if you have an issue with your mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes. Hydraulic disc brakes malfunction if air seeps into the system. You will need a professional mechanic to bleed the hydraulic disc brakes to eliminate the trapped air. 

Swapping Components on a Unisex Bike for Women

Today, you can swap most components on a unisex bike for women. You can: 

  • Replace the handlebar. 
  • Get a shorter stem.
  • Switch to a new saddle or seat. 
  • Adjust the seat post.
  • Opt for the type of pedals you prefer or are suitable for your feet and the shoes you wear.

You can also choose longer or shorter crank arms depending on the clearance you need. Some women have wider and longer feet, so they need better clearance to avoid overlapping with the road bike’s frame or the front wheel. 

Some women have smaller hands, and they may need more readily accessible shifters and brake levers. A few brands make road bikes with adjustable reaches so you can move the positions of shifters and levers to a more comfortable position. 

There are other options, too.

You may use handlebar shims or similar aftermarket solutions to reach and operate the gear and brakes conveniently. Shimano has this Reach Adjustment Shim Kit for Tiagra ST-4600 Shifters on Amazon.com. You will need something similar. 

Ideally, you should test road bikes for women to know if you are comfortable with all the essential features. 

Conclusion

If you don’t find an entry-level road bike for women that suits you perfectly, choose a fit technician and customize a unisex or women’s specific model. Don’t choose unique features in a road bike if you plan to change a few components. Swapping such parts may be expensive, and a few may not have universal replacements available. 

I have written an article entirely on the pros and cons of disc brakes if you would like to read more.

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