Women Take Center Stage!
Step aside, men. Today’s spotlight is on the ladies! I’ll be reviewing five entry level road bikes for women. Although I’m not a woman (my wife can attest to this!) I’ve reached out to some female cycling friends for better insight.
In this roundup, we’ll take a look at the following entry level women’s road bikes:
- Giordano Aversa Aluminum Road Bike
- Schwinn Phocus 1600 (Unisex)
- Cannondale Synapse Women’s Sora
- Liv Avail AR3
- Specialized Women’s Dolce – Top Overall Pick
Before we get started, let’s take a look at how to choose a road bike that fits your needs!
Ladies, when it comes to selecting a road bike, there is a lot of misleading information to sort through. Therefore, we need to debunk these myths which is why I turned to my fellow USAC female coaches for help. Here are some classics to bust:
- “Be sure you get a woman’s bike.” This statement is like handling a live grenade! First, if the person who said this is proposing that women only ride bikes that have a step-through frame, then they obviously haven’t seen the women’s Tour de France or Olympics. If you find (and like) a men’s road bike and it fits you, then go for it! The key here is if “it fits you.” More on that in a bit.
- “One bike size fits all.” Again, only an idiot would say this. Like us men, you ladies come in every shape and size and will need a bike frame size suited for your height, weight, riding style, etc. Check out our bike sizing guide here.
- “Women have long legs and short torsos.” Sure, if you’re a supermodel! This myth is no doubt created by the same MAMIL (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) that came up with “one bike size fits all.” Every woman is unique so you’ll need a bike that’s unique to you.
- “Road bikes for women are different than men’s road bikes.” Yes and no. Some bicycle manufacturers realize that in general, women need a smaller frame size and narrower handlebar. But as I’ve established, this really comes down to your body type and riding style. Some women’s bikes have “girly” colors like teal, pink, baby blue but the frame itself (per material, weight, components) is identical to the men’s model. So it once more comes back to…you! What do you want and like? Let that be your starting point guide.
Check out this great video on the subject:
You Gotta Be Fit To Be Fit
You probably noticed how I kept mentioning getting a road bike that fits you. This goes light-years beyond the old school method of straddling a bike to see if it fits. Be sure you find a local bike store that offers to fit you and if possible, has a female fitter. When it comes to talking “woman,” no one does that better than another woman.
Here Are Some Things To Consider When Shopping For A Women’s Road Bike
- What type of riding will you be doing? If it’s racing or triathlons, then you need a different style than someone who merely wants to do club rides. Maybe you’re eyeballing touring or long-distance riding. Let your LBS (local bike shop) know your intentions and they can steer you toward a bike best suited for your adventures.
- How flexible are you? Again, this was pointed out by my fellow female coaches and it makes sense. If you’re a stretching Yoga Goddess then you can tolerate (and probably enjoy!) an aggressive frame that stretches your upper body into a more aerodynamic position. If on the other hand, your idea of stretching is picking up a dropped handkerchief, then you’ll want a road bike that has you in a more upright position. Let your body and fitness levels guide you on this point.
I hope that simplified the selection process and gives you the knowledge to shop with confidence.
Now let’s review those 5 road bikes!
The Best Entry Level Women’s Road Bikes
Starting us off at a good entry-level price is the Giordano Aversa. The women’s model has a more relaxed top tube than the men’s version which makes getting on and off the bike easier. Aside from that, and the blue color, the bike is identical to the men’s.
Made from aluminum, the Aversa has a steel fork to help absorb road shock and make for a more comfortable ride. Be advised that with only 2 sizes (and the fact that you buy it online) the bike may not truly fit your body type. So be sure to measure yourself up and check the manufacturer’s specs before you hit buy!
The Schwinn company has been around since 1895 and has created iconic classics over the years. The Phocus is a step above the Giordano Aversa in quality but costs more, too. Labeled a “unisex” bike, it is designed to fit a man or a woman. But as we discussed above, I think they tossed in the word “unisex” more for marketing purposes than for fitting purposes.
The top tube isn’t as relaxed as the Aversa and the frame is built of aluminum while the fork is carbon fiber. This should translate into a smoother ride than the Aversa plus make it lighter in weight.
My first road bike back in the ’80s was a Cannondale. It was fast, lightweight, and responsive. This was also back when fat aluminum frames were scoffed at by the “steel is real” community so I got a lot of laughs and looks. Funny how those scoffers ended up with a Cannondale of their own!
The Synapse is by leaps and bounds superior to the Giordano and the Schwinn. One look will make your eyes pop; it’s a beautiful looking machine. Toss in the disc brakes, Vittoria tires, the better components, the women’s seat, and this bike will handle anything the road gives you. The aluminum frame with the carbon fork is designed for endurance and comfort, and weighing in at 21lbs, is the lightest model so far. Plus, you’ll purchase from a Cannondale dealer who will be able to properly fit you as well as handle any warranty issues you may have.
Liv, an offshoot of Giant, brings to the fray this gem: the Avail AR3. With its aluminum frame, carbon fork, and sloping top tube, the Avail will give you a smooth, comfortable, and confident ride.
The tires are wide (32mm) so many owners use the Avail for gravel and off-road. Whether you ride road, gravel, or bikepacking, the wider tires will give you a smooth ride. If you’re interested in bikepacking, the Avail has built-in eyelets to support racks both front and rear. And if you want a cool color, check out the Avail in “lemon chrome.”
Top off the bike with Shimano components and disc brakes and it makes the Avail a versatile entry-level bike. It’s a wee cheaper than the Cannondale at around $1,000 but weighs about the same: 21lbs.
Last but not least is the Dolce by Specialized. Like the other bikes I’ve reviewed, this too has an aluminum frame and carbon fork with one difference: Zertz inserts. These are built into the carbon fork and improve shock absorption that much more.
Concerning how it rides, reviewers claim the Dolce is very comfortable, is rock-solid on descents, and nimble enough for climbing. It also comes with a women’s saddle and handlebars, but as previously stated, don’t rest on those features alone; be sure you’re fitted.
The only negative is the gearing is 16-speeds. Some riders found they couldn’t find the ideal gearing for their cadence, especially in the flats. The Dolce has less expensive components and wheels but at a steal for around $840, those are items you can upgrade down the road.
The Final Rose
Okay, so I’m feeling like I’m on The Bachelor standing before five attractive women, or in this case road bikes, and I have to select one. I quickly ruled out the Giordano and the Schwinn for being too heavy (“Did he just call that bike fat?” Remember ladies, these are bikes, not humans! 😜) Plus, purchasing online means you can’t be fitted and returns or warranty issues are a headache.
That left Synapse, Avail, and Dolce. I’ll admit that I couldn’t take my eyes off Avail in her “lemon chrome outfit” while the Synapse, whose details were simplistically stunning, reminded me of my first love…a Cannondale. But in the end, I gave my rose to…
Now don’t get me wrong, the other four ladies, I mean bikes, are amazing machines, but the keyword is entry-level. The Dolce is a steal at $840. Yes, she has cheaper components but this is a win-win. If you fall in love with road cycling, which I’m confident you will, you can improve Dolce’s performance with upgrades here and there.
On the other hand, if you absolutely hate cycling, which would totally befuddle me, then you’re not out much money and you should be able to sell your bike rather easily.
Remember, ladies, find a bike that is as unique as you are and fits not only your riding style but you!
Looking for some apparel to go with the new bike? Check out the best women’s cycling shorts!