Why Men’s Bicycles Have a Horizontal Crossbar and Women’s Bicycles Typically Don’t

women's bikes vs men's bikesToday I found out why men’s bikes have a horizontal crossbar and women’s bikes typically don’t.

It would seem that having a slanted crossbar like on women’s bikes would make much more sense for men’s bikes, decreasing the chance of racking the guy if he slips off the pedals or the like.  However, there is actually a really good reason to have a horizontal crossbar on a bike; namely, the horizontal crossbar ends up adding quite a bit of strength to the frame of the bike.  This was particularly important in some of the early bikes, which were often made of significantly weaker materials than modern day frames, occasionally even being made of wood.

The problem with this horizontal crossbar was that women all used to wear dresses.  So when a woman wanted to get on a bike, she’d have to lift her leg over the bike frame’s crossbar, which was quite scandalous for the time as it often exposed quite a bit of leg and possibly some underwear under her dress.  Thus, bike makers began making bike models just for women that slanted the top crossbar down so that the women could mount and dismount the bikes without lifting their legs very high.  Modifying the crossbar like that significantly weakened the frames of the bicycles, but this was considered acceptable as it wasn’t very lady like for women to ride their bikes as roughly as some men anyways.

This tradition has continued to this day, even though most women don’t go around riding bikes in dresses or skirts anymore.  For the most part, on modern bikes, this weakening of the frame by slanting the crossbar isn’t significant enough to cause any concern for bikes, even on rough terrain, given modern materials that the frames are made of.  Indeed, many BMX bikes for men are now designed with the slanted crossbar to reduce the chance of injury while doing tricks.

However, among higher end bikes made for women, this tradition of not having a horizontal crossbar is starting to go away, even though the added strength from a horizontal crossbar isn’t typically necessary anymore, particularly with carbon fiber frames.  On these high end bikes, the differences between the men’s and the women’s bikes now tends to be reflected in the design by accounting for shorter torsos and arms on most women; modified hip placement; modified seat design; and the like.

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Bonus Facts:

  • The highest speed ever achieved on a bicycle with the rider in an upright position with no external help, such as going downhill or wind or the like, was 51.29 mph (82.52 km/h); this record was set by Jim Glover in 1986.  He maintained close to this speed for about 656 feet (200 m).
  • The highest documented speed reached by any vehicle powered solely by a human without any external help, was 82.29 mph (132.449 km/h); this record was set by Sam Whittingham in 2008.
  • The ball bearing, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets, spoke tensioned wheels, and several other technological advances were originally invented for the bicycle, but many of these advancements played important roles in the eventual development of automobiles, as well as contributed to other manufacturing fields.
  • There are about one billion bicycles in existence world-wide.  For reference, there are “only” about 500 million automobiles in the world today.
  • The first model of bicycle that is principally the same as modern day bicycles was created by J.K. Starley in 1885 and was called the Rover.  This bike featured the first successful implementation of a chain drive, which mounted to the rear wheel.  This got around the problem found in many bikes of the day where the pedals were directly attached to the front wheel, which made it difficult to steer and pedal at the same time.
  • The first practical pneumatic tire was invented by John Boyd Dunlop in 1888 and very quickly became standard on all bikes and eventually ubiquitous on all automobiles.   Dunlop created this type of tire for use on his son’s bicycle.  His son had previously had a lot of trouble with headaches when he rode his bike.  The pneumatic tire made for a significantly smoother ride than wheels of the day, so the hope was that creating this smoother ride would decrease his son’s headaches when riding.
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  • Kind of an interesting article, but one thing really bugs me: If you’re writing about bicycle design, couldn’t you actually use the proper terminology? It’s called a “top tube”, not a “crossbar”. Actually the only reason I even clicked through was because I was wondering what a “crossbar” is.

    • In Australia its called a crossbar — never heard of a “top tube” in all my years of cycling

    • You’re the top tube here lad

    • Yes, top tube is consistent with other tubular parts of a bike frame: down tube, head tube, and (part of the, often acute, triangle supporting the rear wheel, aka chain stays) seat tube.
      Crossbar accurately describes any non-rotating component attached at a 90 degree angle to the frame (or to swivel on top of the head tube – turning the fork – therefore best used for handlebar nomenclature).

  • It’s ‘ladylike’, not ‘lady (two words) like’

  • Daven,

    You might want to give words like actually and basically a rest. These words along with literally, virtually and like have become the Valley Girl Speak of the 21st. century. They are considerably over used and often misused.

    As with Matt G. above one does not ‘actually use the proper terminology’, one just ‘uses the proper terminology’. The word actually does not contribute anything to the sentence.

    His last sentence does not need actually either. To use actually there suggests that somewhere in the preceding sentences there has been a question raised as to why he was on the site, which there has not been.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Kip: Yep, I have a tendency to fall in love with certain words randomly and then you’ll note maybe 20 or 30 articles later I stop using them completely in favor of some other new favorites. I used to not notice this, but in more recent articles I try to root out the words when I spot them, with mixed success. At some point, I’ll have to hire a copyeditor, but for now I like to spend any funds on more content. 🙂

    • It doesn’t have to necessarily contribute to the sentence. Language is not only about using the minimum number of words.

  • kip, people like you are just annoying. If you have a comment about how he writes why dont you just email him? Or read a science journal or whatever. I really love these articles and the way they are written. Thank you

  • I didn’t come here to witness a literary enlightenment. I ACTUALLY came here to read about the difference between gender specific bicycle frames. Great article. Thank you for writing it

  • Wow! I am71 years old and only now have foundout the difference between the bikes! Makes me wonder what else I have missed….

    TIFO Forever!!!

  • I loved the article and it answered my question perfectly. ( Googled why men’s and women’s bike’s are different and it brought this article up) I always wondered and today I found out! As for the commenter who suggested you use the “proper” terminology, I am so glad you didn’t use top tube or I wouldn’t have had a clue what the heck you were talking about and I don’t think the majority of the general public would have either. I have never heard it called anything but a crossbar . As for the attention seeking , anal retentive, grammar Nazis , no one likes you so just stop already. Yes , I do know I have a lot of grammatical and/or spelling errors in my comment so don’t bother enlightening me, take that time to make a large incision on your left wrist or throw yourself out a 16 story window instead. Seriously, stop! We, the people of the internet are fed up with you and your constant need to correct everyone. We get it! You are perfect, smart and oh so wonderful.

  • That’s been a big deal since I was a kid – apparently they’re afraid that a female will “enjoy” the extra bar a little too much, so they omit it. Yes, our society is dumb, we’ll waste time and money removing a bar from a bike to prevent a female from enjoying it, meanwhile they leave corners on furniture (desks, tables, filing cabinets) that females habitually impale themselves on.

  • Kip. Davens article is about bicycles, not about writing perfect grammar. It reads well, the way you state things is difficult and does not reflect the way most people write, talk and think.

  • Daven, thanks for your article. I am a writer and had no problem with your style and I’m quite critical (though I would never have left comments like the others who I think should stick to critiquing academic journals). You have an easy way of expressing your topic and that makes for more enjoyable reading.

    P.S. You have a neat name.

  • Not very practical for men who like cycling in women’s dresses these crossbars,

  • The cross bar of a man bicycle is troublesome in countries where men wear sarongs (instead of trousers) most or some of the time eg Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia. So a woman bicycle is more suited. I use a Japanese retro ‘woman’ bike because I wear a sarong cycling to the mosque near my home

  • It won’t be long before the SJWs are accusing bicycle manufacturers of assuming their gender, and demand a range of ANTIFA models that pander to the whims of the “gender fluid” (read “insanely stupid”).

    • You must be really rotten inside – Jerry Rotten.

      If gender was the only reason for making these bikes different in the first place and not logic, then yes it’s called a progress that we work towards gender fluidity. Don’t hold humanity back in 19th century mate.

  • Progress? You progressives want to make us all the same, how is that progress? I just bought my little girl her first bike with a “non horizontal” crossbar. Why? because thats what she wanted, she’s a young lady and thats her choice to feel distinguished as such. When you’re able to inject sperm with an orifice tube of some sort, then you can become a man, until then you’re just a woman who likes to do manly things. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you start walking, talking and acting/thinking like a man in the name of fluidity then we got a problem. The logic is that men and women are different and in almost every way and thats how it should be. I didn’t marry my wife because she has straight hips and a flat chest, nor short cropped hair and rough skin, and for all the opposite she didn’t marry me. Dont erase thousands of years of normality, for your little SJW temper tantrum.

    • Hafeez Mohammad

      Vive la différence, eh? (pardon my canadianism, s’il vous plait). The facts (or should I say FACTS, a la Trump?) is that we are all much more alike than we are different (this includes “race”, gender, sexual orientation, and so much more). This is neither a progressive or a liberal bias, but rather science, plain and simple.

      Much of what may seem like choice or style or just being “comfortable” is rather culturally engendered, and to advocate away from such conditioning is only to champion a greater freedom for all.

      What is to complain about there?

      One is reminded of the hue and cry of “historical inaccuracy” whenever Jesus or some other Biblical or mythological figure (see the recent Troy tv series) is depicted by someone other than
      Charlton Heston (or a clone).

      Of course all the complainer sees is the color of skin or some other non-white ethnicity. They care little for the inaccuracies of height or eye color or hygiene or clothing or so many other things…what is all important to these people is skin color. Jesus is white, Santa Claus is white, etc. etc. etc.

      All of which pretty much proves the underlying racism, sexism and bigotry behind such fervently held views.

      Pointing this out is not to make us all generically “the same” but just to make us all equally worthy of respect and opportunity.

      Why should anyone be afraid of that?

      You say you did not marry your wife for those seemingly male characteristics. Would you still have married her if she had evidenced some…or all…of those? Was she something you bought at Amazon or Walmart, after checking all the reviews? What happens when your wife…or daughter…gets older, and loses those traits you so desire? Will you then discard them? Will they discard you when your beer belly doubles in size or your hair falls out?

  • What about the massive portion of the world’s population that doesn’t identify with these oppressive social constructs? It’s such a shame that we haven’t included Neuter restrooms, clothing (e.g. button-up shirts) and sizing scales thereof, sports equipment, professional sports leagues, personal care products, and most especially bikes.

  • It’s called the top tube, not “crossbar”

  • What’s wrong with people these days? Everything’s an argument-Can’t we just read a nice article about bicycles without it changing into articles about everything else? By the way, I very much enjoyed the bicycle article-

  • Amusing comments but off topic for me.
    I think the cross bar/ tube is inconvenient and makes getting on and off the bike more inconvenient. Oh, and there is the hazard of damage to the family jewels.

  • James E Palmisano

    I’m 61 years old and I agree with the 71 year old guy that just learned something new. Its about Bikes but still, new knowledge. Gives me hope. I would like to point out that there’s no lack of moral indignation on the part of judgemental human beings. Slim picking’s here, so they picked on Gramer. I thought it was going to clear up the obviously stupid idea of putting a nut buster, and call it a mans bike. But no! Its because moral humans don’t want to get a glimpse of a womans cooter. So it’s ok if the girl gets killed on a broken bike as long as the moral humans dont have to see a covered cooter. “Everything old is new again”. Did I convey that Wright, did you no what I meant?

  • Why do some boys remove the saddle from their bike?