Below is an article inspired by a thread we published in June 2020 on Twitter, which explains why we do not use the word 'ladies' bike' at Rothar.
What is a step-through bike? What don't you call it a ladies' bike?
Traditionally, bicycles with a step-through frame were known as "ladies'", "women's", or "girls'", mainly for their advantage to riders wearing skirts or dresses. Bicycles with a high top tube (cross-bar), known as a diamond frame, were known as 'men's', 'gent's', or 'boy's'.
As a result of changing clothing styles since the late 20th century, descriptions that describe the frame style, rather than the presumed gender of the rider, are becoming increasingly common, and this is a good thing.
There are a lot of different reasons why a step-through bike can be more practical for men and a diamond frame better for a woman. Calling it a ladies bike excludes people, as men can cycle step-throughs and women diamond frames.
An Achielle Craighton
The technical advantages of a step-through frame
A bike in the city, before anything else, is an object that transports people and brings them places. A step-through therefore is in many cases much more practical than a diamond frame, and is inclusive for all capabilities. People with mobility issues can get on them without pain as you do not have to throw your leg over the bar. It is also great to put loads at the back for the same reason. You won't have to tilt it over to get onto it, and you can also put a child-seat at the back without running the risk of hurting the child or losing the balance. It is also more forgiving for emergency stops as you can just step off the saddle. It is finally very forgiving to beginners or nervous cyclists, as it is easier to get back on your two feet instead of just tiptoeing.
The other aspects of the step-through bicycle
In countries like the Netherlands or Denmark, a lot of men cycle step-through bikes because they are simply more practical and that road design is more adapted to their use. Segregated, safe cycle lanes mean you do not have to cycle fast to be ahead of traffic, or ride aggressively, which 'performance bikes' allow you to do.
Men buying step-through bikes is a relatively new thing in Ireland. A lot of men would be mocking step-through bikes as being 'ladies' bikes' and simply refuse to cycle them.
As cycling is becoming more popular (especially since Covid), more men are coming in to buy a bicycle that is slow, practical, and suits their needs.
But that does not mean that step-through bikes are necessarily slow
Fast step-through bikes
Technically, a diamond frame is more suitable for performance as it is made with 3 triangles and therefore makes it stiffer and less prone to twisting. This is very important for pro and semi pro cycling, where speed is very high. All pro cyclists ride diamond frames for this reason, with changes made to the settings according to people's morphology (more on the subject of 'ladies racers' soon in another post).
The MBK Airborn
Reality is though that most of us do not race at a level where this matters, and that the vast majority of bikes sold in Ireland and in the world are used for daily use, commuting, shopping, weekend outings or the odd Greenway cycling.
But if you want something that is faster, that makes you fit, and to have fun with at speed, you can still find a step-through bicycles. Manufacturers have been slow at reacting to these new customers (i.e. to people who do not search only performance or speed, which is in their mind, men) but a few brands have models that have a step-through frame so that you can use it in every circumstance. Like using it as child transport to go to the creche and having fun on your own once the child has been dropped :)
Whatever type of bike you decide to cycle, for which use etc, the most important thing is that you are riding a bike. We will advise you and will find the best bike for you.