Women’s body shapes, dimensions and muscle composition differ significantly from men’s. A number of bike companies are starting to recognise this and are moving away from ‘unisex’ options to designing and manufacturing female-specific bikes. We’ve had a look through the latest 2017 models and come up with what we deem the best women’s endurance road bikes for AU$3,000 or thereabouts (in no particular order).
Not everyone fits these criteria (and the jury is still out regarding specific research into some of these areas), but the generalisations many bike manufacturers work off are that women are more flexible, lighter, shorter, have wider hips, narrower shoulders and shorter arms comparative to a given torso length. A number of bigger bike companies have started to tailor frame geometry and bike design with common changes including; a lower standover height; shorter effective top tube length and stem; narrower and more compact handlebars; specific saddles that are wider with a cut-out channel; and frame sizes starting in much smaller sizes. For a better understanding of women's road bikes, read our What Makes a Women’s Road Bike? article and read our How to Use Bike Geometry Charts and What They Mean article to better understand frame geometry and what impact it has on your ride experience.
Endurance road bikes differ from a traditional road bike with a more relaxed geometry, engineered compliance and general focus on comfort. In addition to a greater stack height and reduced reach (that female-specific bikes already have), endurance road bikes have a longer wheelbase, 'slacker' headtube angle, additional clearance for larger tyres, wider range gearing and often come with disc brakes. Aside from out and out racers, endurance bikes are created for every type of road cyclist, focusing on comfort, efficiency and practicality.
If you are considering jumping into the next price bracket and wondering what the extra expense will provide, improvements in weight, durability and comfort are the three most notable hallmarks. Weight of the drivetrain, frame and wheels come down as the materials used become higher quality alloys and/or carbon fiber. With such improvements in materials, engineers have more freedom to further design additional comfort features into the bikes too.
To find out more about endurance bikes and what makes them special, our Aero vs Endurance vs Lightweight Road Bikes Explained article which will explain everything you need to know. And if you want a better understanding of road bikes, then our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Road Bike will help you sort through all the information and find the perfect place to start.
Trek Silque S 5 - AUD$3,199
The Silque WSD (Women's Specific Design) was spawned from the Domane range, a bike originally created to smooth out the rough cobbles of Northern France. At the heart of both bikes is Trek's unique IsoSpeed decoupler at the seattube junction that aims to improve comfort by allowing the seat tube to move independently of the seatstays and toptube. The mechanism acts like a sort of leaf-spring suspension allowing a controlled amount of frame flex to soak up the worst road vibrations.
The Silque S5 also features a female-specific saddle in the form of the Bontrager Ajna Comp that comes in three widths, with soft padding and a cut-out channel Trek refers to as 'Contour Relief Zone Plus'. There are six size options starting at 44cm and extending to 56cm, an extensive range considering most other manufacturer's limit their production to 3-4 sizes.
The whole package is capped off with the 11-speed Shimano 105 groupset featuring an 11-32 cassette at the rear and compact chainrings at the front, Bontrager tubeless ready rims and durable 25c tyres.
Specialized Ruby Elite - AUD$3,300
Specialized overhauled the 2017 Roubaix and Ruby ranges with McLaren Applied Technologies, (yes, that McLaren), making the latest iteration of its endurance classic race machine smoother and faster than ever. A big revelation at the time of release was the inclusion of the 'future shock' technology, effectively putting suspension directly below the handlebars. The new system allows for 20mm of travel (movement), which in collaboration with the bikes other comfort features, such as the he ‘CG-R’ (CobbleGobbler) seatpost and the new ‘Drop Clamp’, aims to produce an exceptionally smooth ride.
Impressively, there are six sizes to choose from starting at 44cm and extending to 58cm. The women's specific Lithia Expert Gel saddle with a cut-out channel comes as standard, along with the 11-speed Shimano 105 groupset, 26mm tyres and it's one of the bikes in our list to feature confidence-inspiring disc brakes.
Liv Avail Advanced 1 - AUD$3,299
At the end of 2016, we gave our first impressions of the Liv Avail Advanced 1 and were impressed with its compliance (comfort), power transfer and handling. The flagship endurance bike from Liv (an independent, women's specific, arm of Giant Bicycles), was redesigned in 2015 using a global body dimension database, pro rider feedback, and extensive consultation with focus groups and retailers.
With an 11-speed Shimano Ultegra groupset, this model reads well on paper as it's a step above the 105 gearing all other models in our list have. Additionally, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are given to provide easy stopping and control in all weather conditions. To aid comfort, the Avail features a proprietary “D” shaped composite seatpost and ultra-thin and flattened seatstays to help dampen road vibration at the rear of the bike. The saddle is the female-specific Liv Contact Forward, which offers a subtle cut-out channel and long profile.
There are only three sizes available - XS (43cm), S (46.5cm), and M (50cm) - which approximately cover heights ranging from 153cm to 174cm.
Cannondale Synapse Women's 105 - AUD$3,199
The Women's Synapse is an endurance bike unencumbered by add-ons or other vibration damping systems we're used to seeing on endurance bikes. The uniquely shaped forks are said to offer greater control over rough surfaces, as do the 'flattened and helixed shapes' of the rearstays, essentially providing extra comfort without additional features, thus reducing the bike's weight.
The low standover over height and reduced toptube length are typical of female-specific bikes but aside from that, the geometry is similar to the unisex Synapse with consistent wheelbase, headtube length and headtube angle numbers. The four size options start lower with a 44cm frame on offer, and all models come with the Selle Royal Seta S1 Women's saddle. An 11-speed Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic rim brake aluminium wheels round out what is the lightest bike on our list.
Merida Scultura Disc 4000 Juliet - AUD$2,499
Strictly speaking, the Scultura is more of a typical road racing bike, but it would be remiss of us not to include it given it has many features we'd normally associate with endurance bikes. For starters, it features secure braking disc brakes and the Shimano 105 groupset is a traditional compact set-up with a 50T/34T front crankset paired with a wide 11-28 cassette for all day riding.
From there it gets a little sportier with Continental Ultra Sport 25c tyres and a slightly more aggressive geometry. There are four sizes available - 44, 47, 50, and 52cm - all with an attention-grabbing chrome and mint green paint job.
Fuji Brevet 2.3 - AUD$2,899
There's a lot to like about the Brevet 2.3; disc brakes, large tyres, compliance features, endurance geometry, and even fender mounts of all-weather riding.
The frame features 'VRTech' (Vibration Reduction Technology), which according to Fuji, is said to reduce road vibration by 24.6% (compared to a frame without it), and also features 'wave' seatstays that further reduce road vibration. The bike features a mixed groupset with Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs, Oval Concepts 300 compact crankset, and TRP Spyre twin-piston mechanical disc brakes. These brakes mean the smaller mechanical brake lever is featured, compared to the slightly larger brake hoods found on hydraulic-braked models. The high-volume tyres are from Vittoria measuring 28c, the largest on this list. And like every other bike on this list, this bike includes a women's specific saddle – this particular one from Oval Concepts.
There are five sizes available starting at 44cm and extending to 56cm.