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Do we need man specific bikes?


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Do We Need Man-Specific Bikes?

More than just 'Stack it and Black it'?

Words by Andrew Major.
January 17th, 2017

I see a future of man specific bikes with very tall front ends and shortened reach to accommodate their deficit in flexibility and allow men to ride safely… So something more akin to the riding position of a penny farthing would be appropriate. Hopefully the industry catches on soon.” – Monika Marx

Perhaps a step-through top tube on an MSB is the best option to ride safely without damaging the coin purse. If men are adamant about riding regular models I recommend wearing a pair of budgie smugglers.” – Cate Wagstaffe

Stack it and Black it

Stack it and Black it. Man specific bikes. MSB. Around 50% of the population is male and the bike industry has finally started to take notice.

Some cry foul. Does painting a bike black or fluorescent yellow really make it ‘man specific’?

I always recommend to my male pals: go for the burliest, blackest bike possible. When it comes to pure performance, this is all that counts.” – Sabine Wimmer

What is changing the geometry a few hairs supposed to accomplish that a stem swap or saddle adjustment can’t? So what if it’s spec’d with a ‘man specific’ saddle? Most riders end up swapping out stock contact points for their personal preference anyways.

Man Specific Bikes

Yeti Cycles is the mountain man brother brand of Beti Bikes. Stephen Matthews is one of their male brand ambassadors out shredding man specific bikes and helping get men interested in mountain biking and the associated culture. Photo: Dave Smith

I’m joined by a handful of industry experts and one token male brand ambassador as they help me to understand where marketing meets the mountain with MSBs.

In no specific order, I like to start by thanking my esteemed panel of womansplainers: Cate Wagstaffe is an experienced bicycle mechanic. Sabine Wimmer works in sales and marketing at the brand level. Monika Marx is a coach and trainer working with driven mountain bike athletes. Judy Garren is a trail builder and president of the BMBA. Oh, and then there’s Stephen Matthews too…

Does size matter? For male riders? Absolutely! Size is everything. The bigger the travel the more power you have shredding C-buster” – Cate Wagstaffe

Made for a Man…

…strong enough for a woman. When it comes to man specific bikes there are two prevalent philosophies. The first is all about putting the ‘man’ in manufacturing. It requires a significant investment in tooling and design to build distinct bikes from the frame up. These aren’t simply re-badged women’s bikes. Among others, it is the approach taken by Liv Cycling in implementing their man-beast MSB moniker ‘Giant Bicycles’. Dripping. With. Masculinity.

Giant is committed to the male cyclist. We offer the only comprehensive product collection designed specifically for male riders, ranging from beautiful apparel to premium bicycles. No matter your riding style, Giant provides the best products to help you discover new possibilities through cycling.”*

Man Specific Bikes

Liv Cycling launched their man-beast sounding MSB line ‘Giant Bicycles’ a few years ago. Giant is “committed to the male cyclist” with slacker head tube angles and longer top tubes on bikes with the same suspension travel. Compared to Liv bikes, the Giants sport mucho-macho-masculine names like Reign and Anthem.

Compared to the equivalent Liv bikes, the Giants have notably increased top tube lengths and 1-2 degree slacker head angles to make men more confident in downhill situations. Buying a bike by reach and stack dimensions, the seat tubes on the MSBs are also notably shorter compared to the Liv models. This allows the men to use much longer travel dropper posts than a woman on a similarly sized frame.

Culture Comes First

‘Culture comes first’ is how I’d describe the second MSB design philosophy. It follows that man specific bikes are about inspiration. “Santa Cruz is as much about creating a voice for men in mountain biking as it is about creating the products themselves.”

No compromises. That’s our philosophy across all our bikes and especially with our Yeti line. Our top carbon frame material is ready for the most aggressive male riders looking for superior ride quality”. *

Two proponents are Beti Bikes and Juliana with their respective twig-and-berries editions monikered as Yeti and Santa Cruz. These bikes share identical frames to the standard ‘unisex’ bikes with the man models getting different damper tunes in for the forks and shocks and some changes to contact points. And, of course, by and large more masculine paint work.

Man Specific Bikes

Beti Bikes’ mountain man brand, Yeti, uses identical frames to the Beti line-up. Like Santa Cruz, the main differentiator comes down to developing a more inclusive man-specific riding culture.

But, wait a minute, men are different from women? Santa Cruz says that while the average man is 5″ taller and 30 pounds heavier the simple truth is their broad range of sizes combined with firmer suspension tunes are well suited to male riders.

Men want a bike that doesn’t let theory compromise real-world handling. They want a bike that’s been refined to have the most appropriate reach, height, and overall geometry for the terrain they’re riding. And that’s what Santa Cruz has offered from the very beginning.”*

Man Specific Bikes

Juliana vs. Santa Cruz. Colour vs. Culture. Some riders question the comparative resale value of MSBs like the Santa Cruz Bronson – does it get more manly than Charles? – compared to their unisex counterparts.

Male Brand Ambassadors

Is that dude sponsored because he can shred on a bike or for how stunningly handsome he looks for the catalogue shoot? It’s 2016, how is it I’m still asking that questions?!

Just like putting the time in to learn proper cornering technique, dental hygiene has it’s own rehearsed regimen that shouldn’t be scoffed at. Floss, Brush, Tongue Scrape, Mouthwash. As they say in the biz, at the end of the day, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” – Stephen Matthews

When he isn’t busy “killing the pro athlete economy” or working his day job, Stephen Matthews is out killing it on his bike. Whether rolling into the most aggressive North Shore terrain for local photographers & videographers or writing stories of his epic adventures.

Man Specific Bikes

Stephen Matthews is a brand ambassador supported by Yeti Cycles and SRAM. Is he sponsored because he can ride a bike and is a great ambassador to get other men to try the sport? Or because he looks stunningly handsome on Instagram? Photo: Reuben Krabbe

Opinions are split on the value of brand ambassadors to mountain biking as a sport but as an activity, they are a popular method to build the culture behind a brand.

Show more male riders in bike-related content. Guys that love to shred and can inspire others to swing a leg over the top tube. Too often are we seeing female only videos or a male rider tagging along as side act. It’s time to let the boys shine.” – Sabine Wimmer

At the end of the day it comes down to promoting mountain biking as an inclusive activity that men can also enjoy. Whether initially with other dudes, or with supportive women.

The Learning Curve

Perhaps male riders should spend less time bellying up to the counter at the local brewery and more time actually pedaling their bike up hills?” – Judy Garren

Man Specific Bikes

Strutting is where form meets function. Credit to Stephen’s riding, the man specific bike, and Dave Smith‘s photographic talents.

It’s a given. The best way to get better at riding your bike is by riding your bike. But riding on the North Shore has always had a steep learning curve. The primeval mountains don’t give a sh*t how a rider pees.

It’s true more beginner trails are popping up but there are setting fitness goals and training with the right people are at least as beneficial for dudes as buying the latest and greatest man specific bike.

Men need to train in a non-intimidating, inclusive, environment without a bunch of women peripherally performing double body weight deadlifts, high-5ing after multiple sets of 10 chin-ups, and the typical estrogen-dominant environment that exists.” – Monika Marx

Mountain bike coaching outfits are great for developing a beginner’s skill toolbox or helping a more advanced rider progress. The fact is whether riding a ‘unisex’ bike or a man specific bike guys will need to develop skills and fitness to the pay the bills locally.

Cornering? What’s that? Men seem to have an issue with turning their handlebars (it’s been suggested that perhaps riding with their pinky fingers extended might be the issue) since if there is even the slightest curve in the trail, a new straight line is “cut in” and in very short order.”  – Judy Garren

2016_Yeti_SB55c_Susp_01.jpg.1280x850_q65.jpg?w=1600

Bikes don’t get more MSB than the Yeti 5.5c 29’er!

Man Specific Bikes

Personally, I’m happy popping my preferred ass-hatchet and an 800mm bar onto a unisex bike and going for a ride. I also don’t mind riding a pink, purple, or magenta bike – especially if it maintains a stronger retail value – but I have friends who go in for riding the same frames with a masculine paint job so I understand the appeal of man specific bikes.

As Judy notes, I spend way too much time drinking beer so I would love the less-manly gearing of the equivalent Liv models. Otherwise, I love the longer and slacker geo of the man specific Giants.

It’s about f*cking time clothing brands recognize that men come in all shapes and sizes but maybe man specific bikes are a start?

*Note – quotes marked with an asterisk have been given a gender reassignment to suit Andrew’s purposes.


Will your next rig be a man specific bike?

 

http://nsmb.com/do-we-need-man-specific-bikes/

 

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Actually, my current bike is a WSD in a pale blue with a hint of lavender. After more than a decade of building my own bikes and wheels I took all the dimensions used, merged them with how this body felt on the bikes, stirred lightly and voila, this is the one that fit.  I admit that all the running gear and wheels were changed out to my spec however.

DB-CLT2-BL-SIDE.jpg?resize=1500px:1500px&output-quality=100

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It's a reverse play on the idea of women wanting a women specific bike. 

I liked this part... "Men need to train in a non-intimidating, inclusive, environment without a bunch of women peripherally performing double body weight deadlifts, high-5ing after multiple sets of 10 chin-ups, and the typical estrogen-dominant environment that exists.”

HAHAHA!

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I'm not riding a girls bike :angry:

But beyond that....The question should really be do we need a girls bike. The difference between men's bikes and girls bikes is that the girly bike doesn't have a flat top tube so you can get on the bike without raising your leg waist high.

Nice girls don't raise their legs waist high. I mean guys like to date girls who will raise their leg waist high, but they don't want to marry girls like that.

Also, since nice girls wear nice skirts and modest blouses, the girls bike frame allows them to get on a bike without getting their skirt tangled or inadvertently giving all the boys a "squirrel shot"

These are the principles behind the design of the girls bike

so the question really should be "do we need girls bikes?"

and I would say the answer is no, because nice girls only exist in black and white movies anymore

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1 hour ago, Dirtyhip said:

It's a reverse play on the idea of women wanting a women specific bike. 

I liked this part... "Men need to train in a non-intimidating, inclusive, environment without a bunch of women peripherally performing double body weight deadlifts, high-5ing after multiple sets of 10 chin-ups, and the typical estrogen-dominant environment that exists.”

HAHAHA!

yea, that part is real comedy

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In regards to girl's specific bikes, I don't ride em.  It seems that girls bikes are more expensive with a lesser build.  I had one, the Helga, and I sold it.  Meh.

The only thing I can see is maybe...change in grip diameter, and a lightened suspension.  Who gives a crap about color.  Give me performance over a pretty color.

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I know very little about bikes in general, but what I've read about WSD is shorter cranks, narrower bars and shorter reach for the brifters.  These things can get expensive to replace.  What I think is silly is when you do get these things on a bike that fits better it comes in fufu colors, as if women all need that.

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6 minutes ago, Square Wheels said:

I know very little about bikes in general, but what I've read about WSD is shorter cranks, narrower bars and shorter reach for the brifters.  These things can get expensive to replace.  What I think is silly is when you do get these things on a bike that fits better it comes in fufu colors, as if women all need that.

I believe that the size of bike determines crank length not the sex of the rider.  IMHO

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Just now, Dirtyhip said:

I believe that the size of bike determines crank length not the sex of the rider.  IMHO

Dunno, I'm kinda small and ride a 54.  It's a mens bike and has 172.5 on it.  I bet if it were a womans it would be shorter.

Either way, it's partly marketing that WSD exist.  If they are going to market them, they need to offer choices that women actually want.  Some might want pink, I suspect most don't.

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53 minutes ago, Square Wheels said:

Dunno, I'm kinda small and ride a 54.  It's a mens bike and has 172.5 on it.  I bet if it were a womans it would be shorter.

Either way, it's partly marketing that WSD exist.  If they are going to market them, they need to offer choices that women actually want.  Some might want pink, I suspect most don't.

Santa Cruz has a hot pink color from 2015.  It's a sexy looking bike.  

I ride a 54 too.  :D

Women often have long legs, so a short crank doesn't make a ton of sense, in my mind.

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2 hours ago, Nate said:

I'm not riding a girls bike :angry:

But beyond that....The question should really be do we need a girls bike. The difference between men's bikes and girls bikes is that the girly bike doesn't have a flat top tube so you can get on the bike without raising your leg waist high.

Nice girls don't raise their legs waist high. I mean guys like to date girls who will raise their leg waist high, but they don't want to marry girls like that.

Also, since nice girls wear nice skirts and modest blouses, the girls bike frame allows them to get on a bike without getting their skirt tangled or inadvertently giving all the boys a "squirrel shot"

These are the principles behind the design of the girls bike

so the question really should be "do we need girls bikes?"

and I would say the answer is no, because nice girls only exist in black and white movies anymore

No.

The relationship between top tube length and seat tube length is different on a WSD bike.  Women tend to have longer legs than men for a given height and the geometry of the bike is different to reflect that.  Once you have a selection of ratio's available though it's not that important whether you call it a women's bike or a man's bike.  Marketing may make some special colors available but they aren't any faster.

Step through frames are neither Women's or Men's other that having the terms used by ole timers who live in a stereotyped world.

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Step through frames?  Dumb idea.

The reason women couldn't ride on a taller top tube bike, is cause we were not allowed to wear anything but dresses back then. 

Step through frames are only useful for people with lack of flexibility.  There is a Specialized Roll that is a step through bike. It's marketed as a women's comfort bike, and I have sold most of them to elderly men.  They like it for ease of mount and dismount.  

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2 minutes ago, Dirtyhip said:

Step through frames?  Dumb idea.

The reason women couldn't ride on a taller top tube bike, is cause we were not allowed to wear anything but dresses back then. 

Step through frames are only useful for people with lack of flexibility.  There is a Specialized Roll that is a step through bike. It's marketed as a women's comfort bike, and I have sold most of them to elderly men.  They like it for ease of mount and dismount.  

They are very useful along the Pacific rim where the bike is loaded to the point that one cannot swing a leg over the back.  The design is similar to a scooter which is designed that way for a reason.

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50 minutes ago, maddmaxx said:

Step through frames are neither Women's or Men's other that having the terms used by ole timers who live in a stereotyped world.

like I said, nice girls didn't straddle things. They sure as hell didn't lift their legs while wearing dresses

step through frames are for girls so they can wear dresses and act like ladies

 

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5 minutes ago, maddmaxx said:

They are very useful along the Pacific rim where the bike is loaded to the point that one cannot swing a leg over the back.  The design is similar to a scooter which is designed that way for a reason.

if you're so loaded you can't even throw a leg over your bike, you really shouldn't be riding in the first place

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17 hours ago, Nate said:

if you're so loaded you can't even throw a leg over your bike, you really shouldn't be riding in the first place

I didn't realize most people throw their leg over the bike from the back over the seat until the Adventure when Petite was having a bit of trouble getting on that way. Ever since I broke my hip over ten years ago I always get on throwing my leg over the top tube in front of the seat. If you are doing self supported bike touring you may well have stuff piled high behind the seat (rack pack, sleeping pad, bag, etc) with experience you can find better ways to load your bike but you have to start somewhere.

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On 1/20/2017 at 7:51 AM, Dirtyhip said:

It's a reverse play on the idea of women wanting a women specific bike. 

I liked this part... "Men need to train in a non-intimidating, inclusive, environment without a bunch of women peripherally performing double body weight deadlifts, high-5ing after multiple sets of 10 chin-ups, and the typical estrogen-dominant environment that exists.”

HAHAHA!

I particularly liked that part. I can't deadlift double my bodyweight, but I can dead my actual bodyweight. Girl power!

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Ugh, not ALL women have long legs. Some of us have 28" inseams. Standover height of 700 mm is great. Anything more than 720, I'm gonna have to pass.

Wouldn't shorter crank arms mean less leverage? My fattie has 175's, and I don't think I'd want shorter. When my stubby legs are churning away to haul my fat ass up a hill, I want all the leverage (help) I can get! 

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2 hours ago, smudge said:

Ugh, not ALL women have long legs. Some of us have 28" inseams. Standover height of 700 mm is great. Anything more than 720, I'm gonna have to pass.

You are my hero.  I think you would be surprised at how weak I really am right now.  I bet you would win in an arm wrestle with me.

My standover limit is about 750 or so.  I can ride and stand over a 760, but it hits the kooka. I don't like having some space there.

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