Best women’s road bikes: take to the tarmac with comfort and speed

Not every woman wants a women’s specific bike, but the best women’s road bikes should at least come with comfortable women’s specific contact points.

For years there’s been an ongoing debate over the need for women-specific geometry on bikes, which we discussed at length when we answered the question, ‘can women ride men’s bikes?’ Ultimately the answer is to ride the bike that best fits your body, and there are plenty of options available to women today, from women-specific bikes from the likes of Liv Cycling to unisex bikes with women-specific contact points from several other brands, like Specialized, Scott, Canyon, and more.

Women’s specific road bike frames are built around average body dimensions data, and tend to have a slightly shorter top tube and slightly higher stack at the front end (head tube). On average, women tend to have longer legs proportionately to men, and therefore a shortened top tube means a more comfortable and balanced reach to the handlebars.

Unisex frames, on the other hand, can offer more options when it comes to components, size and style, but making adjustments can affect the feel of the bike. For example, a too-short stem will lead to a twitchy-feeling ride, and a saddle too far forward can create awkward pedal strokes.

Everybody is different though and, as a starting point, we would recommend checking your current setup’s measurements from a comfort and fit standpoint. Use our comprehensive bike size guide, or, if you’re a first-time bike buyer, don’t underestimate the value of popping into your local bike shop to be sized.

As a brief disclaimer, while we’ve done our best to include a range of suitable bikes that are currently available to buy, with the huge increase in demand since the beginning of the pandemic, unsurprisingly stock levels are very low and some bikes are already sold out, but this doesn’t affect our opinion that these are some of the best women’s road bikes out there right now, and if you’re patient, they’ll come back into stock eventually.

Our picks for the best women’s road bikes:

(Image credit: Aoife Glass)

The Liv Langma Advanced 1+ Disc is a super aggressive road racer with a slammed front end that puts you in a speedy riding position. With a frameset created from Liv’s Advanced-Grade Composite layup, our review sample measured an incredibly lightweight 7.96kg and felt destined to fly up the most challenging climbs.

Built around Liv’s women-specific geometry, the sizing comes up small in the same way as the Avail listed above, with XS, S and M frames on offer. Our reviewer found it to have a noticeable amount of stiffness with exceptional balance, rather than feeling brittle.

It boasts exceptional handling that’s precise, intuitive and highly responsive without feeling skittish, and it feels surefooted and agile on descents. Despite being a stiff, performance bike, we reckon it’s comfortable enough to ride for long miles over long hours, thanks to the efficiency built into the frame that staves off fatigue. It doesn’t exactly feel plush – look to the Avail, listed below for more comfort – but it also won’t leave you feeling rattled from road chatter.

For full details, take a look at our Liv Langma Advanced 1+ Disc review.

(Image credit: Damien Rosso)

If the Langma above is too aggressive and racy for you, then you’ll probably prefer the Avail range, which is Liv’s endurance road bike.

Liv Cycling is a women-specific brand whose bikes are designed and built by women for women, with the input of female elite athletes. As such, the Avail’s geometry is relaxed and comfortable, putting the rider in a relatively upright position, and tailored to fit women with shorter torsos and longer legs.

Sizing stays on the smaller end of the scale, accommodating petite women from 5ft/152cm, up to around 5ft 10/178cm, so if you’re taller with a long reach you may find it a little cramped.

The Avail Advanced Pro 1 is built around Liv’s Advanced-Grade Composite frame with OverDrive steerer, it sports an Ultegra groupset – although the chainset is non-series Shimano RS510 – and Giant’s shock-absorbing SL D-Fuse handlebar and seatpost. This, plus the plush 32c tyres, make for an overall very comfortable ride for hours in the saddle.

From her brief experience of riding the Avail Advanced Pro 1 in Provence back when it was launched, Reviews Writer Mildred Locke confirms that it rides like a dream, with super comfortable geometry, plush vibration damping from the thicker tyres, and smooth acceleration.

(Image credit: Mildred Locke)

For anyone looking for an affordable entry-level women’s road bike, the Triban RC520 Women’s Disc offers exceptional value for money. The durable 6061 T6 aluminium frame is paired with a carbon fork and built with endurance geometry for a relaxed riding position, ideal for beginner road cyclists.

For the price, the build is pretty decent, sporting a full Shimano 105 drivetrain, hydraulic TRP HY/RD disc brakes, tubeless ready wheels, and mounts for a front and rear rack and mudguards.

The bike itself offers a comfortable ride on tarmac, and with 28mm tyres can withstand slightly rougher ground like fine gravel. However after a while on bumpy terrain or tow paths, the road chatter can cause quite a bit of arm fatigue, so it’s best restricted to the roads.

Reviews Writer Mildred Locke really rates it for the incredible value for money it offers, and the quality of ride you can get for under £850. Stay tuned for a full review soon.

(Image credit: Lapierre)

A stalwart of bicycles in France, Lapierre bikes – outfitter of both the Groupama FDJ women’s and men’s teams – delivers on the Xelius SL 600 Disc, with a women’s specific geometry. Lapierre has developed the Xelius alongside its pro riders and built a true climbers’ bike.

With the Xelius, Lapierre has reduced the top tube length by 15mm for the women’s fit, and increased the stack height at the front end. The fully carbon frame and fork are dressed in Shimano Ultegra, and the bars are sized down by 2cm compared to the men’s model. The additional components are stellar for the price range, with a Fizik saddle, Mavic wheels and Continental tyres coming standard. It weighs in at a respectable 8.4 kg. For a ready-to-ride mid-price point bike with a European heritage, the Lapierre is one of a handful of companies still creating a women’s specific geometry. Suitable for short-torsoed, long-legged women, like we all dream to be.

(Image credit: Scott)

One of the cleanest-looking bikes available, the fully internally cabled Scott Contessa Addict comes specced with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and weighs in at 7.6kg, making it a truly lightweight racing bike. Finished off with Syncros componentry, although the bike’s geometry is the same as the men’s model, the finishes are designed for a female body. While internal and integrated cabling gives the Scott a clean aesthetic, do note that it adds a layer of difficulty to some small adjustments and repairs, as the cockpit of the bike may need to be removed for disc brake cabling adjustments (luckily the bike comes fitted with Ultegra Di2, eliminating some internal cabling difficulty).

Its size chart shows some overlap in sizing, meaning if you are between sizes you can comfortably size up if you prefer a shorter stem and longer wheelbase, or size down for a more compact, snappier ride.

(Image credit: Canyon)

While Canyon is phasing out its WMN range, it is still putting a lot of effort into including huge size ranges and variable contact points on its unisex bikes so that there’s something for everyone. The Ultimate CF SL 8 Disc is highly specced, handles like a dream with surefootedness on challenging gradients, and looks absolutely stunning. The size range goes all the way down to XXS, and up to XXL, so anyone who sits on either extreme of the height spectrum should be able to get a model to fit them properly.

The advantages of buying directly from Canyon is a wide range of price points available on each selected frameset. The disadvantage? As a direct-to-consumer business model, Canyon only sells online meaning your local bike shop is less than likely to stock a full range of parts for it, and you lose the ‘first service free’ element of buying in person.

(Image credit: Ridley)

An all-rounder bike, the Ridley Liz SLiC Ultegra features the brand’s unique diamond-shaped carbon tubing, which is impact resistant and robust. The no-nonsense Belgian brand stays true to it’s racing heritage; as can be clearly seen this endurance bike is built for speed. Going down to a size XXS, Ridley has catered to a petite market, and the smallest size should be perfect for a 5 foot 1 inch height. It has a decently long wheelbase for some extra stability and comes fitted with a Shimano Ultegra groupset.

The Liz SLiC is the ‘women’s’ version of the men’s Fenix frame and is as equally responsive on the hills as it’s male counterpart. It is an aggressive race bike at a moderate price point, and easy to customise with different finishing kits.

(Image credit: Vitus)

A great entry-level kitted out road bike, the alloy frame features compact geometry and women’s specific finishes. Although some may find the top tube measurements a touch too long, for an entry into the world of road bikes it’s a great starting point. A carbon fork adds a bit of class to the setup.

The Razor W Disc is a women’s specific model, focused on the needs of female cyclists and comes with female-specific finishing kit. This includes narrower bars (38cm wide on XS and S), shorter stems, shorter cranks and a female-specific saddle. It comes in a bit heavier than the other models listed here at 9.75kg though. The gearing is 8-speed on the back, giving a bit of limitation on longer climbs or full out sprints.

However if you’re brand new to road cycling and want something that will do the job in most situations, then this offers good value for money.

(Image credit: Cannondale)

Cannondale, like most of the big companies, gives a variety of options of groupsets for each frame, but the Synapse Disc Tiagra hits a unique price point on the market.

Although the Synapse is one unisex geometry, the relaxed fit of the bike proves to be very comfortable for a variety of body shapes, and its female version comes with specific female touchpoint equipment. Equipped with FSA componentry and Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset, this alloy bike is road and light-gravel ready, promising a light, stiff and fast ride, and invisible ease. The carbon forks offset the alloy frame for exceptional smoothness.

Even when on the heavier side (10.3kg), the Cannondale Synapse diligently provides the rider with a consistent and pain-free experience. The disc brake setup, however, is mechanically actuated so it lacks the feel and modulation of a hydraulic system.

(Image credit: Specialized)

For the last few years the Specialized has been phasing out its women’s specific lines, the Amira and Ruby, and the latter has been brought under the similar-sounding moniker of Roubaix. Specialized punts this bike as a unisex model.

At the high end of the range, the S-Works Roubaix uses free-foil shaped tubing that has been wind-tunnel tested. Outfitted with Dura-Ace Di2, the company claims the aerodynamics rival its road-specific Tarmac. Add into the mix a Pavé seatpost and Future Shock 2.0 to create a variety of vibration proofing options, and you get great bike for rougher tarmac, and an ultimately smooth ride. At the price point, it comes outfitted with the best of the best Roval Alpinist CLX wheels.

The complaints of the softness of the old Roubaix is gone in the new model, as the tech team has paired stiffness with its unique damping fork. The smallest size for the model is 44 cm, and the frame weighs in at less than 900 grams.

(Image credit: Trek)

Another brand that has gone for a true unisex outlook, the Trek Domane is our pick for an all-round endurance-focused road bike. With its Project One online platform, it’s easy to customise your bike for specific saddles, colours, bars and componentry, building the exact bike to your needs. In the Trek range, the anagrammed names might all have a familiar ring to them, but the Domane is the all-round bike model.

It climbs well, descends well and pulls in aerodynamic features without overly focusing on a single element. With integrated cabling, the look is clean and sleek, and with wide clearance, a wider tyre can easily be put on for those looking to dabble in a bit of gravel or off-road adventures, without investing in a second bike.

The bike comes fitted with Ultegra Di2 electronic drive train (11-speed), and parts from Bontrager. The Bontrager Pro IsoCore handlebar promises to reduce vibrations from the road by 20 per cent.

(Image credit: Liv Cycling)

For points of difference, we had to throw in the fully aero, fully women’s Liv Enviliv bike. As many women’s offerings are more endurance-focused, the true aerodynamic prowess from this women’s specific brand is a one-off on the market.

The Enviliv boasts a women’s specific geometry to add comfort and power to an aerodynamic riding position, while the frame’s lateral stiffness and tube shaping offer high-speed efficiency for sprinting. It’s made from the brand’s Advanced-Grade Composite, which offers a sharp and snappy ride, and comes equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Giant SLR 1 Aero Disc wheels.

For women sprinting for signs, or dabbling in circuit racing, the Enviliv is unbeatable. The top tube length measures at 524 mm on the size small, and comes specced with 38cm handlebars. Internal cabling gives the bike a clean finish.

How to choose the best women’s road bike

How to choose the best womens bike