Women’s Road Bikes Head To Head Review
We review four great women’s bikes that’ll serve as triathlon training or racing steeds
For more road bike reviews, check out our Best Road Bikes For Triathlon round-up.
Women’s-specific bikes have evolved from a stumpy version of what was on the peg already – think shorter stem, shorter top tube and shorter cranks – to something more refined. As sales of female-focused bikes have soared, manufacturers have started to analyse exactly what women riders need and want. Adaptations include smaller components and lower gear ratios. But by buying a women’s-specific bike are you getting value for money, or simply paying for an expensive moniker and a splash of pink on the frame?
A true racing bike needs to be quick, responsive, and light. It should hug corners and fly downhill. If you’re going to ride fast, in a bunch, sucking up sudden changes of pace, the groupset and wheels need to match the frame in terms of efficiency and performance. We’ve ridden four women’s-specific bikes priced from £1,500 to £2,800 to find out which strikes the best balance.
Focus Izalco Donna 3.0
With the lowest price tag of the test, the Focus Izalco Donna 3.0 might not seem like a contender. But this striking bike, with its fat bottom bracket and sculpted top tube, is a good all-rounder. First-time racers will benefit from an impressive frame, and the kit could be upgraded.
Read the full Focus Izalco Donna 3.0 review
+ Great value for money with a sound frame that’s ripe for upgrades
+ Excellent handling at speed and through corners
- Noticeably heavy rear end dulls climbing and acceleration
- Triple chainset will suit total beginners but adds weight
Performs well and offers comfort on long rides and when up to speed, but lacks the finesse of a true race bike thanks to the lower-end spec
Specialized Amira Elite
Specialized’s Amira range of bikes is aimed at women who want to race. This means that the geometry is tight and compact. The Amira Elite is the middle-of-the-range model offering a light, stiff frame made from Specialized’s signature FACT carbon (Functional Advanced Composite Technology) with an average groupset at a sensible price that’ll suit a first-time racer.
Read the full Specialized Amira Elite review
+ Race and sportive elements give a comfy but responsive ride
+ Stiff rear end that allows explosive movements out of the saddle
- Wheels are distinctly average and will probably need upgrading
- Aerodynamic elements could be developed further
Slightly mismatched frame and kit, but gives a smooth, stiff, seamless ride which could be upgraded to a level of racing beyond its pricetag.
Giant Avail Advanced 2
The Avail Advanced is a women’s-specific version of Giant’s Defy Advanced, featuring the same progressive carbon construction technology but with a slightly shorter top tube and taller head tube. It has the same oversized 1.25-1.5in tapered front end, called OverDrive2 – a feature that reveals Giant’s focus on handling precision. Aero shaping combines with distance-friendly details for an interesting ride.
Read the full Giant Avail Advanced 2 review
+ Obvious aero focus with cutaway carbon composite frame
+ Fair price for a Shimano Ultegra-specced bike
- Wheelset is relatively heavy
- A little sluggish when an explosive response is required
A bike with an impressive price point that lives up to its USP of going longer and stronger by adding flex to an aero frame.
Scott Contessa Foil
Head-turning looks with aerodynamic credentials, aggressive angles and clean, sharp lines make the Scott Contessa Foil a serious bike for contenders on the road. A high-end spec and race-specific modeling results in a strong off-the-peg bike with a pricetag that’s not too outrageous and the potential to upgrade.
Read the full Scott Contessa Foil review
+ Truly aerodynamic design throughout
+ Super responsive, especially for explosive changes of speed
- Not the most laid-back ride for those who like to mix sportives with races
- Internal cabling might put off keen home mechanics
A high performance bike that matches its spec with its price tag, but not the best choice if longer distance riding is your thing.
This test was full of nice surprises and proved that judging a bike by its spec sheet could be shortsighted. For a test that crossed a wide budget bracket, it was a closer call than expected. Three of these bikes have a more general riding focus, as opposed to a true racing focus. The Scott is a true race steed. Its stiff rear end and short head tube are suited to life at high speed. The Giant, its nearest rival in terms of spec, has a very different USP. Adding elements of comfort, like flex in the frame, might seem mismatched with the aerodynamic sculpting but this is aimed at the longer distance market.
Adding a £1,500 bike into the mix might seem a little unfair, but the Focus has elements of a more expensive, thoroughbred race machine in the frame. The nicest surprise was the Specialized Amira Elite, which delivered a ride that made us smile, even in the pouring rain of another flat British summer. Its precise handling and power transfer was remarkable, so the cheaper Shimano 105 spec that, on paper, really troubled us no longer seemed important.