Wednesday 3 April 2013

Is there any such thing these days as a "gents'" or "ladies'" bicycle?

Over in France for Easter, I have perforce had to revert to riding a “gents’ bike” – that is to say, one with a diamond frame instead of a step-thru.  Having recently traded in my Dawes CityVision7 gents bike at home for a Fahhrad Manufaktur “ladies’” bike with a  step-thru frame, because I could no longer swing my leg over the top tube when I had two large baskets hanging off the rear rack, here in Brittany  I’m having to cope again because this is what I have here.

Most of the time, it is not so hard – if the baskets aren't there to get in the way, you can swing your leg around from behind in a wide arc around the rear wheel, there is no need to lift it up over the top tube, but I am going to have problems when I next visit my local Hyper-U for shopping.

Either that, or I could dust off the load trailer I haven’t used for some years.  It’s a neat piece of kit, attaching to a special fixture which you bolt to the rear forks of the bike.  The trailer folds flat for storage  and can take a decent load.  There was an exchange of tweets about these last week, highlighting the fact that you can buy them new from some of the retailers on Ebay for about £60, or perhaps a little more via Amazon.   My only concern is that part of the route to Hyper-U from here is quite bumpy, and I wonder how my groceries will fare.
My British Eagle "Cambridge", in trailer mode

We bought two of these British Eagle “Cambridge” bikes, a gents’ and a ladies’, several years ago in a  clearance sale.  They are essentially modern renditions of the classic English Roadster – mudguards, chainguard, hub gears etc – but with an aluminium frame and a Shimano Nexus 7 speed hub.  They have served us well and are very versatile.  But, the so-called ladies’ version, like most bicycles in fact, only came in smaller frame sizes which were unsuitable for my 182cm of height.  
Certainly in the UK it is difficult to get step-thru versions in large enough frame sizes to accommodate taller men.  The Fahhrad Manufaktur s300 comes in three sizes up to 55cm, which was just large enough for me to have the seat adjusted low enough to benefit from the upright riding position I was seeking, but many of the models I have seen available in the UK stop at around 50 or 52.  Pashley ladies’ models come in up to 22.5” (57cm) but these are at the higher end of the price range and most of the less expensive makes only get to about 20” – the Raleigh Superbe and Real Classic models sold at Halfords, for example.

Why is it that we label step-thru frames as for the ladies?  Do the Dutch or the Danes have the same hang-ups about this?  I know that there are many excellent German and Dutch brands of utility bicycle, with more modern styling and components like a 7 or 8 speed hub, now available through specialists in the UK, but should you have to hunt them out this way?

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