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Episode 34
  • Sunny Ape

    I’ve never really understood why there needed to be a woman’s specific version of a road bike. Sure, there are general physiological differences between males and females that result in generally different ratios of limb to torso lengths, but all those differences can be easily accommodated for within the scope of The Things That Can Be Adjusted on the bike, such as…. Saddle type, height, setback and tilt. Stem length, height and angle. Crank length and Q factor etc. Given that all those things can be adjusted equally for either males or females once the underlying frame size has been selected, you can feminise or masculate any bike via adjustment.

    When I look at the so called women’s bikes by some manufacturers, it’s just the men’s bike with a wider saddle, maybe a shorter stem, different paint job and maybe restricted to the smaller frame sizes. To me, that doesn’t make sense…are they saying there are no tall women with a narrow arse and long arms? Are there no short men with a wide arse and short arms who like purple bikes? Of course not… you get the bike in the size that’s right for you, adjust those things that can be adjusted and that’s it.

    Only those bikes that have a super low top tube so that they can be ridden with a long dress or skirt are what I classify as a woman’s bike, given that it has been made to accomodate a style of clothing preferred by some women in some circumstances. Now consider the Scotsman in his kilt… what’s he supposed to ride?

    • Agreed. We have saddle type, height, setback, and tile, Stem length, height and angle. Crank length and Q factor etc.

    • DaveRides

      Agree. A women’s-specific component set (and the feminine colours that the market demands) is all that’s needed, not a separate frame.

      Anyone who really cares about the fit will be getting a proper bike fit, not just sticking with the T-shirt size component set you get when you buy a standard bike in a box. That applies to men and women equally.

      It’s worth noting that many of the female professional riders on Specialized bikes were riding a Tarmac frame with fake Amira stickers on it for marketing purposes rather than actual Amira frames, and the same goes for Giant/Liv models too. This applied to the gold medal rides in the women’s road races at both the Olympic Games and UCI World Championships last year.

      On the topic of the ‘ladies bike,’ these are usually called a ‘step through frame’ these days – most likely for the benefit of the Scotsman who is humiliated enough by smart alecks asking about his dress that he doesn’t need the final straw of needing to ask for a ladies bike ;-)
      Step through frames are often specified for city bike share schemes (so everyone can use the same type of bike) and are recommended for the more elderly cyclists out there.

  • Neil

    Listened this morning. TBH, I feel like Spesh need some kind of marketing gimmick each time they release a new Tarmac. Last one was about rider specific geometry, which most other brands seemed to think was standard practice. This time, it seems to be reducing production costs by creating a new frame that’s halfway between two old ones, and coming up with a marketing strategy to suit. I’m not a Spesh hater by the way, but it’s hard not to be sceptical of this one.

    • Cruz er

      Specialized marketing is horrible. When you step back, it’s just nonsense. I agree, they lay it on thick for each new gimmick. That recent fiasco with the faked headset shock that snapped in half during the classics comes to mind amongst a litany of marketing scams.

      Canyon seems much more realistic with their womens’ specific range and the sizing options and research they did. Going so far as to add 650b sizes for smaller riders, for example, makes a lot of sense.

      This new “revelation” for Specialized seems more like a cost cutting measure than true customer gains.

    • Cameron

      The last one wasn’t about ‘rider specific geometry’, which as you said is standard practice. I do think Rider First was a tough sell as a ‘big improvement’, but the RF/SL5 Tarmac was far more iterative than this SL6. Visually it was so similar to the SL4, people had a hard time believing RF was as big of an ‘innovation’ as Spesh touted it to be, and maybe rightly so. It’s difficult to market lay-up improvements, and Spesh gave it a big crack with RF, but that seemed to fall flat with customers. ’45 seconds faster’ is easier to understand than ‘probably rides better’.

      On the podcast above, I don’t think explaining the reasons why you’ve done away with one of your most popular and identifiable models is as a gimmick. Customers are going to question it and they’re attempting to influence the conversation around it proactively, which is good PR.

      I think Spesh and other companies’ relentless, one-note positivity about everything they do wears thin to the point of unpalatability. The above conversation has that tone, but Kaplan puts forward some cogent reasoning to support her/their choices with the new range. She actually describes the design process as the opposite of what you’ve said.

      Sure, having one model just makes economic sense, and that’s enough of a reason to do it if you can get away with it. But she’s specifically explaining that this wasn’t a retroactive ‘decide-then-justify’ process. I suppose it’s anyone’s right to simply not believe her.

    • Bert

      ^^^This. There was a lot of talking in circles in the interview. I think most folks will look past the smoke and mirrors and see this for what it is – SKU rationalization a reduction of mold costs.

  • TC

    I love Specialized and the geometry has always fitted me well. My question however is will bike dealers selling these ‘unisex’ bikes offer the slight differences to Women and Mens riders so that it works best for the individual rider. Ie will they fit a shorter stem or replace the handlebars with wider or narrower ones as and when required. It somehow however does feel a bit like saving costs etc, which I can understand, but then be open about it. Slightly disappointing when you have bought a women specific bike and am raving about it and want to tell others about it, but it is not available anymore.

    • Cameron

      Economically this is a very difficult thing for most privately-owned bicycle shops to offer. You end up with boxes and boxes of 100mm stems, 44cm handlebars, 143mm saddles etc. whose replacements cost you real money, yet you will never recoup the costs on, because not many people are heading down to their LBS to pay full price for a 100mm stem with ‘Specialized’ or some other complete-bike-brand specific logo written on it.

      Every set of bars you replace requires re-wrapping with new bartape, possibly replacing cables, re-tuning gears, all of which costs money and takes the time of the shop mechanics. It is easy to expect this from the customer’s viewpoint, as a high-end tailor might include the cost of alterations in the price of your new outfit (do they?), but very difficult for most shops to deliver on anything but custom builds where they are sourcing rather than replacing the appropriately sized parts and only building the bike once.

      All of that being said, in the podcast it was stated that the new Tarmac models are still offered in Men’s and Women’s, with differences at all of the touch points you mentioned and more (crank-length, saddle type etc). It’s just the frames that have been standardised so that a 54cm Women’s Tarmac is the exact same frame as a 54cm Men’s Tarmac.

  • Eden Walker

    To risk posting a long a one do you mind if i do this. I love Specialized but i won’t buy another one. https://thebrokencyclistblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/special-liez-calling-bullshit/

  • Dav3id

    Any bets on whether they will pass on production cost savings to purchasers?

  • weiwentg

    I’m a small male rider, and a statistician. This was a very interesting podcast for me.

    There was one line in there about the men being very set in their ways. Yeah, seen that, and probably been one of those guys at one point. And no doubt, it’s especially annoying when some guy insists that they’re right, but it turns out there’s no actual data to back it up. Working against that the tendency to do that has been one of my personal projects.

    One thing I’d love to know about the data in general is a sense of its variance. My first bike was a 48cm Specialized Allez. After about 10 years of serious cycling and a couple of bike fit sessions, I now know that that Allez’s top tube is too short (perhaps by 4-5cm), but the seat angle (of 75.5) is dead on. So, I am likely to be an outlier. I know that I fit Gunnars off the rack (stock 50cm frame with a 120mm stem), and that I could get a stock Specialized to work with a long stem. I’m wondering about how much dispersion there is in the main fit parameters at, say, each typical stock bike size.

    Next, I do wonder if there would be some argument for introducing short or long sizing, perhaps limited to some sizes. For example, if Specialized made a 48cm frame with a longer than stock top tube, that would likely fit me better. Whether or not there’s a basis for that depends on the variance in the data, as I described above.

    In general, unisex frames and gender-specific touch points (eg. women’s saddles, handlebars from 36-48cm) and gender-specific coloring seems like a good one right now. It turns out that my feet are a bit weird also, and I wear a pair of 2010 S-Works women’s shoes (the women’s heel cup is a bit tighter in that year, which fits my heels). Those are rated for lower stiffness, if I remember right, than the S-Works men’s. On what basis? Would the top women’s pros not want the max stiffness men’s shoes? Why go and separately develop a dumbed down version for the women, but make it in pastel colors and maybe add some fit tweaks that may or may not be empirically based?

  • Coach

    I’ve often thought we don’t need women specific bikes, just for bike shops to sell ladies correctly fitted bikes. I do wonder if they will pass at least some of the savings onto women.. that would be a positive for cycling.


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