by Sara Huston
While men can get away with the "fixed-gear as accessory" look, sometimes a lady wants to look like a lady when riding a bike. Fortunately, stylish options meeting the particular needs of women prevail these days. We've gathered up a few of the best and chicest here.
The best way to buy a bike is always a test ride, but finding a bike online is easy enough if you know the type of bike that will suit you. A step-through frame and chain guards might help you if you plan on riding with a skirt. Also, know the size of frame you will need for a comfortable ride.
City and coaster bikes are most well-suited to women and they come in fixed, single and multiple speeds, so choose what fits your riding style best. If you need speed, go with the sportier road and track styles. If you like a mellow ride, coaster bikes offer a laid back, comfortable seating position and ride. Coasters are best for flat areas as they're heavier and the upright riding style makes steep inclines more difficult (but not completely impossible).
Image courtesy of Velovotee
Specialized Langster Seattle
Specialized's Designs for Women gears the look and ergonomics toward women but we prefer their men's frames to what feels like not much more than a pink-washed marketing ploy. The Langster ($740), a Velodrome/fixed-gear road bike, is a speed demon with sporty flat handlebars scream racing style. The fenders on the Seattle model (honoring the wet city for which it's named) add functionality making this gorgeous bike a little more gender neutral.
Sweetpea is a Portland-based company renowned for their hand-built custom bikes for women. It's a great option for the picky or for those who just feel like off-the-rack bikes never quite fit.
The components they use are first-rate, dressing up your bike for the commute with vintage-inspired parts like wood fenders and classic Brooks saddles. Expect to drop about $3500 on one of their built-to-order bikes.
For an authentic European bike, check out Bobbin. The U.K.-based company has limited distribution in the U.S. and a decided emphasis on a fashionable riding experience.
We especially like their range of helmets, panniers and baskets that would look especially fetching along a cobblestone London street. Their cycles start at $1500 and are highly detailed with fine pin-striping, fenders, racks and more. Dutch Bikes Seattle carries them in the U.S.
Schwinn Sid and Nancy
Named for the notorious punk couple, Schwinn's Sid and Nancy ($500) are the ultimate in retro cycles. Design geeks can rejoice in the vintage typography and classic styling, while fenders, racks and the option of a step-through frame make them good for girls.
Pake Urban Six-Speed
Pake's coaster step-through (above left, $350) is super stylish but also functional urban bike with a low price point. Featuring six speeds, fenders, a chain guard and a bell, it's got all that's needed for chic cycling.
The Amsterdam (above right, $550) is a sweet ride and yet another model with a nod to Dutch bike design. Available in an ever-expanding array of colors and embellished with tulips or sunflowers, there are many options to ensure it's the only bike like it on your block.
Bianchi Milano Café Racer
With four different sizes, the Bianchi Milano is a functional and comfortable ride, not to mention the mint-and-red colorway. The sporty Milano is available in three and eight speeds starting at $500.
Danish designer Rasmus Gjesing's bike features a clean design, a touch of bling and the finest craftmanship and materials. It's $4300 from Moss.
Boasting automatic Shimano shifters, this bike ($500) recognizes slight grades and will shift gears accordingly. The front luggage rack doesn't accommodate as much booty as a rear rack, but it is still a great way to fit in more cargo under a basket.
A German cycle-maker known for their "balloon racers," Retrovelo bikes (starting at $2000) really stand out from the crowd. The slender frame paired with fatter tires make for a rugged city ride. Color combos like this pink and cream number are good for getting noticed too. Retrovelos are available in the U.S. through Clever Cycles.
If you are more of a DIY type, search for a vintage bike online and really make it your own with fresh paint, components and accessories. Bust magazine did a fantastic story on how to pimp your ride.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention Chanel's contribution ($12,000) that comes complete with quilting and the iconic double-C logo detailing. Part of the Spring/Summer 2008 collection, the bike celebrates the heritage of the house, which is steeped in Coco Chanel's love of sport.