Over 20 bikes, hundreds of cumulative miles, a whole load of climbing and descending, a smattering of sprinting, and a selection of BikeRadar readers. These are the magic ingredients that have gone into making the BikeRadar Women's Road Bike of the Year Awards.
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We set out to compare the most popular women’s road bikes on the market, head to head, to see how they matched up in terms of performance, comfort and value for money, and we'll be unveiling the results shortly.
Announcing the results – Women's Bike of the Year 2016
The results are in, and the winners have been announced!
- BikeRadar Women's Road Bike of the Year: the Specialized Ruby Comp
- BikeRadar Women's Road Bike of the Year: Best bike under £1000 - the Liv Avail 1
- BikeRadar Women's Road Bike of the Year: Best bike under £1500 - the Canyon Endurace CF 8.0 WMN
- BikeRadar Women's Road Bike of the Year: Best bike under £2000 - the Specialized Ruby Comp
Finding the best women’s road bikes – the process
Each bike was ridden extensively by the BikeRadar team, covering long distances and durations, sprints, climbs and descents, and on this basis a shortlist of 15 bikes, 5 per category, was developed. These categories are bikes under £1000, under £1500 and under £2000.
We were also keen to find out what our readers, the women who will be buying and riding these bikes, think about them. So we recruited a panel of five BikeRadar readers who joined us on a test weekend in the Mendip Hills in the Southwest of England.
Over the course of the weekend, all 15 of the shortlisted bikes were taken for a ride on the test loop, which included climbs, descents, and sprint sections. Each bike was ridden by at least two testers, who provided detailed feedback on every aspect of the bikes.
Our testers were all volunteers with a range of different riding experience who gave up their time freely, and we’d like to thank them for helping us put the shortlisted bikes through their paces.
While we know that there are more and more premium, high-spec bikes out there for women, we’ve concentrated our efforts on the most popular price points.
The end of 'shrink and pink'?
One thing that was noticeably absent on the vast majority of the bikes is the colour pink. Our reader panel commented that, while the bikes often did have what might be deemed feminine colours, only a handful feature the much-maligned shade.
"They weren't pink and the styling was really good with a mix of girly or not girly at all, so something for everyone," said Rebecca Smith. "The performance was really good and they were rarely too short.”
There’s also the question about whether or not women actually need women’s specific bikes. Most brands produce women’s road bikes that have a different geometry and spec to their unisex equivalents. In general, this takes the form of a more compact frame that gives a shorter reach, shorter wheelbase, lower standover and narrower handlebars, as seen in the bikes in this test. These bikes also generally run to smaller sizes.
Our test riders for the most part appreciated the fit, though in some cases found the bars a little narrow, particularly riders with broader shoulders. The shallower drops were also appreciated. That said, it’s also true that many women find the fit of unisex bikes suits them perfectly. Unsurprisingly, the human body varies widely on a spectrum, and while some women will find women’s specific bikes are right for them, others may get on better with unisex bikes.
This is a view that our panellist Jordan picked up on: "I think they are useful and a good idea, but can be marketed really wrong which make women feel like they have to, or should, have one. I guess I believe that in a perfect world, we would just have bikes, of different sizes, so you could make a decision regardless of gender.”
And whichever bike you go for, we’d always recommend you get a bike fit to ensure the every element of the bike is set up to give you the most comfortable and efficient ride possible.
Meet our test panel
Clockwise from centre top, our Reader Test Panel includes Jordan, Janine, Eleanor, Rebecca and our Women's Cycling Editor Aoife. We asked each of our testers to tell us a little more about themselves.
Jordan: "I began my sporting life as a runner, but quickly made the switch to two wheels after competing in duathlons and triathlons. As a rider for Velopost, my life revolves around bikes and I can always be found in the saddle, whether for work or play."
Janine: "For me, variety is the spice of road cycling. I love breathing in beautiful long cake-bound Audax miles, hanging onto the peloton in a road race and feeling the triathlon thigh burn. And you never stop getting better, getting braver and meeting people - I love that."
Eleanor: "I learned to ride in the Welsh hills and love to explore new mountain roads. Rarely seen on a bike without a massive smile across my face."
Rebecca: "My normal rides are exploring the Cotswolds with friends and finding new places to challenge each other. I love wildlife encounters, surprise views and the odd climb but being an off-road rider at heart, hooning down descents will always be my favourite whatever bike I'm on."