With female participation in mountain biking growing in the UK as it is worldwide, there’s an ever-increasing demand for specifically-designed gear that fits the bill: clothing, accessories and especially bikes. From trips along the towpath and pedaling the local trails to tackling climbs in our national parks – whatever terrain takes your fancy, there’s a women’s MTB to suit. But where to begin with all that choice? Look no further – the Hargroves Cycles guide is here.
PERFECT FOR PURPOSE
Women’s mountain bikes are designed on the basis that, on average, women have proportionally longer limbs, shorter torsos, a smaller frame and lighter weight than a man of the same height. So some key bike features such as handlebar length and suspension travel are adjusted accordingly. Fundamentally, finding a bike that fits you is your ticket to comfort, handling confidence and ultimately, maximum MTB enjoyment. But with a number of options to suit different terrains, like trail and cross-country, it’s not just a case of size – but also which bike will best suit your intended riding styles.
For hitting the trails you need comfort, efficiency and technical handling on your side – and a hardtail (front-only suspension) is ideal thanks to their fantastic versatility. While full suspension (which offers front and – you guessed it – rear suspension) delivers better efficiency over more aggressive terrain, the additional engineering and parts impact both wallet and weight so, unless you’re expecting to smash through or over sizeable bumps, rocks and roots, a hardtail will suit your needs – delivering off-road efficiency and making lighter work of the climbs.
Specialized’s Women’s Pitch Comp 650b is a great singletrack starter with a low-slung top tube for plenty of standover. It’s an alloy trail-ready choice for just £550; equipped with size-specific 80mm/100mm travel ‘Women’s RX Tune’ Suntour fork and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes to deliver stopping power confidence. Its 27.5 in (650b) wheels provide agility and they’re tougher yet lighter than 29ers. Its Shimano 27-speed range makes the Pitch ready to climb just as smoothly as it rolls on the flat.
Scott’s Contessa Scale 20, £899, steps up the components to a Shimano Deore groupset and an air-sprung 100mm RockShox fork offering tailored settings through its PopLoc lockout, while internal cable routing minimises mid-ride snags.
27.5in wheels feel playful, but for maximum comfort when terrain gets rough, or for faster rolling over longer journeys, the 29er is your ally. That said, while you’re considering whether a 27.5 or 29er wheelset is best for you, remember that getting the right size bike is paramount, and note that some MTB models match wheel size to the frame to help with fit, Cube’s Access WS Race, being one. This £799 alloy 30-speed has 27.5in wheels on its 13.5/16in frame options, and 29ers on the 17/19in versions. Kitted out with a female-specific saddle and air sprung fork with 100mm travel and remote lockout, this is a bike to provide not only fit, but also comfort.
Its carbon sister, Cube Access WS C:62 Pro, £1,399 raises the game with Shimano SLX components and stiff frame for incredible efficiency. Both models feature Shimano hydraulic disc brakes for stopping power in any condition.
Specialized’s Women’s Rockhopper Pro is a quality 29er for £950. The frame’s butted alloy tubes save weight, while build and geometry inspire confidence – a low bottom bracket gives a settled feel on challenging terrains, and the air-sprung Manitou Markhor fork is frame-size tailored from 80-100mm. This, together with its capable Shimano 2×10 SLX and Deore components makes the Rockhopper bang-on for a smooth, fast ride you can rely on.
THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING
If your heart’s set on conquering super-steep and technical conditions, you need a bike that tackles obstacles and delivers grip, traction and control on the descents – and full-suspension bikes deliver. The alloy full-sus Specialized Women’s Camber 650b, £1,700, serves up 130mm of travel – pairing an X-Fusion 02 Pro RL shock with a Women’s RX Trail Tuned RockShox Recon fork – for more control in extreme conditions, bolstered further by the hydraulic disc brakes. For climbing agility the Camber is equipped with front and rear lockout, while its SRAM 1x (10-speed) drivetrain serves up effortless shifting with less weight.
Scott’s full suspension Contessa Spark 930, £1,999, features a lightweight alloy frame and 20-speed Shimano Deore components. Up front the air-sprung RockShox Judy fork provides 120mm of plush travel matched out back by the X-Fusion shock which features three modes: lockout, traction control and descend for cross-terrain versatility, while the Syncros remote dropper post enables you to quickly switch saddle height from speedy ascents to control on the downs at the press of a button.
We can all dream – and for a stunning full-suss, full carbon option to tackle all-mountain and trails alike, the £3,899 Scott Contessa Genius 720, is a 1x 12-speed with Scott’s Virtual 4-Link rear suspension linkage design made to fit straight out of the box, with women’s-specific saddle, shorter stem (40-50mm) and a narrower handlebar than on the unisex build. Again, wheel size depends on frame size, with 27.5 suiting the configuration of the S/M frames and shorter riders, while the 29er wheels of the L/XL sizes keep the geometry spot-on for taller women.
Like the Spark, suspension versatility is at the heart of the Genius; the Fox NUDE Trunnion shock provides a three-mode remote which enables full 150mm, partial compression to 110mm travel, all the way to full lock out, thanks to a TwinLoc handlebar remote. It’s paired with the proven three-mode Fox 34 Float Performance Air fork.
Once you’ve picked your MTB, you’ll be set for your year-round off-road adventures, so check out our range of clothing to keep you warm, dry and comfortable on the ride – with the best, or worst, that the British weather has to throw at us!