Flick back through the history books of women’s liberation and the humble bicycle looms large. It granted freedom and independence to Victorian ladyfolk who pedalled fearlessly all the way to emancipation. Many criticized the unseemly act of straddling a bike, fearing it could lead to medical complications. Thankfully, we now know this is bollocks. Yet a woman’s body (with no bollocks) has caused much consternation in the cycling community and lead to the age-old question… do we need women's specific bikes?
Master frame builder Mark Reilly was adamant this was not necessary and that a frame would work if you were 5ft 3” (the average height of a woman in UK) or 5ft 7” (the average height of a Dutch woman) if the geometry was right. He paid particular attention when designing smaller framesets to minimise toe overlap. Consequently, the same cleverly engineered geometry is matched across all sizes from Reilly’s XXS through to XXL (coming 2022.) Whatever the size, all frames can accommodate full size 700c wheels which isn’t always the case with smaller bikes.
The flexibility of frame size is a definite Reilly USP, but there are so many other considerations when buying a bike. I have recently acquired a sparkling, new Reilly Gradient. Billed as an adventure bike, it wasn’t my first choice. I am a 5ft 2” commuter, so my main thrill is dodging London traffic, but thanks to the experienced sales staff at Reilly, the combination of a XXS Gradient with flat bars and chunky tyres is a winner as I navigate the unexpected undulations of city cycling.
For anyone interested in a buying a Reilly, if you can get to Brighton (or The Broomwagon in Lewes) I recommend going for a ride on one of their demo bikes, though stock and sizes are fairly limited at present. Nothing beats going out on a bike to see if it is right for you. Currently in the Brighton workshop, there is a rather ravishing XXS Gradient with red finishing kit and Campagnolo Ekar gravel groupset ready to try, if anyone fancies it?
The other option is a good old-fashioned chat with the sales staff. Don’t worry, you will not get lost down the rabbit hole of a call centre, at Reilly you get to chat to a real person, who actually rides bikes, who can guide you through your purchase and make sure you get the perfect combination for your size and riding needs.