You can usually tell whether a bike is being marketed at a particular gender. For example, although conforming to existing and pretty obvious gender stereotypes, a children's bike in pink and pastel shades is almost certainly being marketed as a girls' bike; and blacks and silvers are probably aimed at the boys.
However, the differences between bikes for men and women are not purely down to aesthetics and the expected preference for different colours. At first glance, men's and women's bikes look pretty similar but the differences are there all the same - and they all come down to the difference in body shape between males and females.
Overall, these are fairly minor differences but because they are aimed to account for the difference in gender body types, they can be quite important differences.
The frame structure of men's and women's bikes are not always different, but second hand men's bikes will always have a parallel top tube - this is the tube that connects the seat to the handlebars. Men's bikes also typically have a slightly longer top tube.
The seat shape is often different on men's and women's bikes. Unisex saddles are common on some cheaper models but are only really suitable for shorter riding distances. Seats on second hand men's bikes tend to be longer and narrower.
The handlebars also differ. On second hand men's bikes you will usually find that the handlebars are wider, to accommodate the wider male shoulders - only by 2-4cm - but wider all the same. The handlebar stem is often longer on men's bikes too.
Of course, although the differences between men’s and women's bikes generally accommodate the different gender body types, there are always exceptions. It's not uncommon, for example, for a taller woman to fit more comfortably on a second hand men's bike. Similarly, smaller sized men are often a better fit on a women's model.
Other than the obvious difference of the frame structure - straight for men's bikes and slanted for women's bikes - the other differences aren't instantly recognisable just by looking. However, those differences do ensure a more comfortable ride, in general, for each gender.
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