Bikes

Are Step-Through Bikes Unisex? (Who They’re Really For)

Step through bike in silhouette

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Bikes come in many different shapes, sizes and styles. From road bikes to recumbents, there is a bike out there for everyone. 

Today we’ll be focusing on a style of bikes known as step-through bikes by exploring what they are and who they are for. This term may feel more familiar to female readers but as we’ll look into, step-through bikes have a universal appeal. 

By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert and you may even be starting your search for your very own step-through bike! 

What Is a Step-Through Bike? 

As the name suggests, a step-through bike is a cycle with a frame designed for you to easily place your leg through the frame to get on the bike. Instead of having to lift your leg over your frame and rear wheel, you simply step through to mount and dismount. 

Sometimes also known as a comfort bike, a Dutch bike or a ‘sit up and beg’ bike, the design results in an upright riding position due to the position of the seat and handlebars. 

IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

Is a Step-Through a Woman’s Bike? 

The concept of gender is becoming increasingly fluid in society, and the same applies to bikes. The idea of men’s bikes and women’s bikes is therefore outdated so a step-through bike is no longer considered a ‘woman’s bike’.  

You may well have seen photos of step-through bikes from the Victorian Era. Traditionally a step-through frame design was more associated with women due to the female anatomy and flowing clothing but times have since changed. Wearing bloomers is definitely a thing of the past! 

Having said that, the step-through style remains a firm favourite with women due to the comfort and ease of riding. In fact, many of the bikes that feature on our best women’s commuter bike compilation feature have a step-through design so it is clearly still a popular choice. 

Is It OK for Men to Ride a Step-Through Bike? 

It is more than ok for men to ride a step-through bike as they will benefit from the comfort, design and style just as much as everyone else. There is no physical reason why it is not possible. 

For example, in countries like the Netherlands many men ride step-through bikes as they are the most suitable cycle for the terrain and journeys. As mentioned earlier, step-through bikes are also referred to as Dutch bikes as they are the most common type of bike used there.  

For this reason, Dutch bikes cater to everyone in the range of cycles they make. We covered the best brands in more detail, including electric step-through bikes. 

Are Step-Through Bikes Unisex?

Step-through bikes can be ridden by anyone of any gender so they are definitely unisex. It is more a case of personal preference, body type and the purpose of the bike than biological sex. 

The same logic applies to bikes more widely. Although there can be differences between features like seat size and handlebars in bikes, as we looked into in this article most bikes are unisex. 

What is the Difference Between a Step-Through and a Step Over Bike?

Step-through bikes have a lower, curved frame design to allow the rider to easily mount the bike whereas step over bikes have a triangular frame design with a higher top bar meaning you have to step over the frame to get on the bike.  

Step over bike designs tend to be associated with cycles such as road bikes and mountain bikes that have specific requirements from a functional perspective such as needing to be lighter, or sturdier to withstand more challenging riding styles. 

The below photo taken in the Netherlands is a good example to show the difference between the two styles and illustrates how you would have to mount and dismount depending on the bike frame.  

IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

Are Step-Through Frames Weaker? 

Due to the design, it is inevitable that step-through frames are weaker. This is because they lack the top bar found on step over bikes which helps to connect the parts of the bike together. This means the overall construction of the cycle is less sturdy. 

However, to address this they are often made with more durable components to ensure that they are still stable and safe to ride. As we’ll see below though, this does tend to result in additional weight. 

Are Step-Through Bikes Heavier? 

Step-through bikes do tend to be heavier but it depends on what bikes they are being compared to. It is also possible to get very lightweight models, although these do inevitably have a higher price tag. 

For example, the sleek Tokyobike Bisou comes in at 12kg but the cheaper Decathlon Elops model weighs 17.6kg for the smallest size frame.  

Step-Through Bikes Pros and Cons

As with any style of bike, there are advantages and disadvantages. Personally I’ve ridden step-through bikes for many years and am glad that my days of hoisting my leg over my rear wheel are long gone! 

However, I also fondly remember my hybrid bike any time my route strays onto gravel or bumpier terrain so I appreciate that there are some downfalls. 

We’ve therefore listed the pros and cons to consider when it comes to step-through bikes. 

Pros

  • Comfortable upright riding position
  • Practical for utility cycling
  • Stylish design
  • Easier to stay clean due to not touching chain and wheel when getting on and off
  • Can be more affordable than other bikes

Cons

  • Can be heavier due to frame design
  • Can have a limited gear range
  • Not suitable for all types of terrain
  • Not designed for overweight/heavier riders
  • Harder to add accessories to due to lack of top bar

Who Are Step-Through Bikes For? 

Step-through bikes can be for everyone. Their comfortable, stylish and simple design makes them suitable for riders of all genders, ages and abilities. 

It is also worth mentioning that step-through bikes are particularly enabling for people experiencing mobility issues. The low impact way to get on is easy on the joints and requires less movement than step-over frames.  

Whether you’re popping to the shops, work or to meet friends, step-through bikes are a great way to ride around in style and comfort.

Ride in style

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