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Women’s specific bikes are a fiercely debated topic in the cycling industry. Should women’s bike have different geometries and carbon layups than men’s bikes? Or should we just change the touch points — like the saddle and handlebar — to suit the female physiology?
While we haven’t landed on an answer yet, we do know that a new generation of exceptional women’s bikes has arrived. This includes a host of high-performance bikes that are just as light, stiff, and comfortable to ride as men’s bikes, and they almost always have better paint schemes.
Of all the women’s bikes we tested in 2016, whether they were built from the ground up specifically for women or if they differ only in the details from the men’s versions, these were our favorites of the year.
Specialized S-Works Amira SL4
Overall Score: 91.8/100
Women who demand the best, lightest, and most race-worthy bike available can thank Specialized for delivering. The big, red “S” didn’t cut any corners when designing this much-needed top-of-the-line option for women who ride hard. Built with Specialized’s Fact11r carbon layup, the company’s highest quality carbon, the Amira delivers a stiff and nimble ride at a staggeringly light 14.84 pounds (size 56cm).
Trek Madone 9.9 Women’s
Overall Score: 89.7
The new Madone is cycling’s Bugatti Veyron — an exotic beast that looks like it’s moving fast even when it’s standing still. This bike begs for high-speed sprints and fast, twisty descents. And just because the women’s 9.9 edition is built for the ladies doesn’t mean corners were cut or lower-end components were added. For women who race, and who race fast, the Madone is the ultimate speed machine.
Liv Envie Advanced Pro 1
The choice of world champions Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the Envie borrows the wind-tunnel-proven tube shapes of Giant’s Propel aero road bike but changes up the bike’s geometry for a women’s specific fit. A size medium Envie has a slightly shorter top tube (55cm) and taller head tube (16cm) – shortening the reach by nearly a centimeter — compared to its Propel counterpart.
Bianchi Intenso Dama Ultegra Di2
Overall Score: 87.3/100
Dripping with Italian style and panache, Bianchi’s Intenso Dama is drool-worthy. It was the surprise of the 2016 Buyer’s Guide, wowing testers with a silky smooth ride that transforms into a race-tuned steed when pounding on the pedals. The Italians label it as an endurance bike because of its longer wheelbase (1,002 millimeters) and big tire clearance (enough for 28-millimeter tires), and this led to a distinctly comfortable ride over rough terrain and kept us feeling fresh on long test rides.
Overall Score: 85.5/100
Straddling the line between race machine and comfort ride, the ZW2 brings together the best of both worlds for a versatile take on women’s specific design. A longer wheelbase (1,002-millimeters, size 50cm) and longer 417-millimeter chain stays make for a stable ride, especially at high speeds. It does require a little extra work to get through tight corners and isn’t as lively or snappy as a purebred race bike, but the heavy and fairly flimsy Fulcrum Racing 5 LG wheels probably have more to do with this than the frame itself.