Bikes reviewed with women in mind

I have two pet peeves when it comes to bike reviews. The first is magazines or websites that don’t acknowledge their female audience when reviewing bikes. This doesn’t just mean a failure to review bikes designed exclusively for women. It also means reviewing unisex bikes without considering how it might fit, perform or otherwise meet the needs of girl riders. The second is bikes reviewed by women, for women, but in relation to the expectations of the reviewer alone, rather than the curiosities and concerns of a broader audience.

Links to reviews I’ve written to address this gap are below. I started writing about my racing and training bikes on this website before developing an international reputation for women’s bike and product reviews for other cycling websites. It makes me so happy to see better, more informed reviews by a growing amount of other female bike writers starting to punch through this gap too.

Another important part of this work, for me, is to work with photographers to produce quality images of women riding these bikes. Not because I want to be in the photo, but because cycling media needs more photos of women riding bikes skillfully and enjoyably, not just racing them or standing on the side of the road smiling at them. With the invention of Instagram, it’s so good to see riders at all levels tipping the scales in this way.

Mountain bikes
Specialized Rhyme FSR Expert Carbon 650B, global bike launch, for BikeRadar.
Specialized Rumor Expert Evo 29 for Flow Mountain Bike.
Liv/Giant Lust 27.5 2 for Flow Mountain Bike.
Specialized Rumor Comp for Flow Mountain Bike
Juliana Joplin Primeiro for Flow Mountain Bike
Norco Sight Killer B-2 for Flow Mountain Bike
Specialized S-Works Fate Carbon 29 for Flow Mountain Bike
Merida 96 Carbon Team-D for
Merida 96 Carbon 5000 for
Womens’s highlights from the 2015 Specialized range, including the Era and the Rumor, for Flow Mountain Bike.


Road bikes
Liv Avail 1 Disc for Bike Magazine.
Cannondale Synapse Women’s 105 5 for Bike Magazine.
Specialized Amira SL4 Pro Race for
Merida Scultura Pro 907 for
Merida Reacto 907 for


Global Bike Launch: Specialized Stumpjumper and Rhyme FSR

Covering the global launch of a bike you’d dream to ride, by a company at the top of their game, is a cycling journalist’s dream. The mercury in the dream status meter blows right off the measuring chart when that launch is in a location that most riders choose for their holidays.

When Specialized Bicycle Components contacted me about covering a mystery new trail bike in Rotorua I read the email a few times to make sure it was real. While bike launches are one of the busy perks for in-house journalists, it’s highly unusual to invite a freelancer, particularly a female one. This speaks volumes about the priority Specialized place on making sure informed stories on their products are reaching a growing global audience of lady riders and readers.

The itinerary was split over two separate camps so journalists from top cycling publications around the globe would have a chance to get to know the series of products on offer and experience them on the wide variety of trails offered in this location.

I found the opportunity to get to know these other riding writers and Specialized staff as valuable as the opportunity to trial and report on the new 150mm women’s trail bike, the Rhyme, and associated new equipment: the Ambush helmet, Atlas knee pads and the women’s SWAT vest, a mesh undergarment with pockets to stow your riding goods.

The comical side of attending the launch as a freelancer is pitching articles to different publications prior to knowing what products you’ll be covering. A reputation for polished work on a wide range of subjects makes a big difference in this regard, as does an ability to go beyond the obvious to cater to different interests and audiences. The list below shows the variety of outputs from the trip.

Links to features and product reviews for BikeRadar (UK, USA and Australia)

Specialized Rhyme FSR Expert Carbon 650b – first ride review. (The first online, in-depth review on this bike for an English language audience.)

Women’s cycling products: what matters and why? (An industry overview on cycling products for women and the research that informs them. This article includes interviews with cycling industry staff from Specialized, Trek, Liv, and Yeti, and elite cyclists, Peta Mullens and Tiffany Cromwell.)

Specialized Women’s Mountain Liner Vest and Shorts with SWAT. (Review on cycling undergarments with secret storage compartments).

Links to features and pieces for SBS Cycling Central (Australia)

Inside insight: Specialized Destination Trail media camp. (Behind the scenes of the camp and reflections on working in cycling media today.)

Interview: Specialized Amira women’s road bike. (A chat with Specialized Global PR Manager, Katie Sue Gruener, about women’s road bikes and the research and feedback informing them.)

Out of my league…and so happy about it. (An opinion piece on a steep and muddy ride in Rotorua, after the camp concluded, and before product embargoes were lifted.)

Other articles

No pack? No Worries! (A short, newsy piece on the women’s Mountain Liner vest for Bike magazine, Australia.)

“Equipment, Innovation and the mountain biker’s taskscape.” In H. Thorpe & R. Olive (Eds.), Women in Action Sport Cultures: Identity, Politics, Experience and Pedagogy. (Forthcoming). Palgrave Macmillan. (Insights gained from this trip helped to inform an upcoming academic book chapter on the behavourial and social implications of cycling equipment designed for female riders.)

Specialized Women: Innovations in Training and Equipment

It’s a nice feeling when one article opens a pathway to others. Adding to the high of the recent trip to South Africa was the chance to test the race-ready Specialized S-Works Fate 29er while I was there. Once home, the Fate was swapped for the Rumor, a big-wheeled trail bike that is set to change the way women first discover the sport.

The innovation behind these two bikes is what excites me most. Girls aren’t a minority in mountain biking any more. The industry is recognising the value in designing equipment for female users that is balanced, responsive, aggressive and available in a geometry that suits the people who use it.

The bike tests coincided with a world first training course for female bike shop staff at the Specialized Headquarters in Melbourne. The confidence, skills and networks this enabled in attendees was a thrill to see and such a nice story to have the opportunity to write.

Some quick Google research for later features revealed these articles on Specialized’s women’s equipment and training have become part of an international conversation. The Rumor review is the first of its kind, the Fate report not far behind. The social media trail following the tech skills story has been a highlight too. It shows the ways riders in Australia, New Zealand and America are engaging in the work of shop staff. Better still, is the pride this gives people working in and running bike shops in return. Cycling is responding to the internet in increasingly exciting ways.

Links to features for Flow Mountain Bike:

Tested: Specialized Women’s S-Works Fate Carbon 29

Tested: Specialized Rumor Comp

Specialized Skill Up Women in Retail

Images: Kath Bicknell, Damian Breach.