7 of the best women’s mountain bikes, whatever your budget
© Bartek Wolinski
Say goodbye to ill-fitting 'unisex' rigs and hello to perfectly proportioned, trail-slaying bikes designed specifically for women.
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Long gone are the days when mountain bikes were pink'ed & shrink'ed to cater to the women's market. As the industry has evolved in racing, participation and improved opportunities, women-specific bikes and apparel are no longer an afterthought, but instead, a tool for change in an otherwise largely man-based sport.
For many brands, there has been a shift away from women-specific bikes. Instead, they have opted for a greater range of sizes and suspension tune to fit all different riders. That said, there are still a few brands that remain committed to offering options designed with women in mind.
Liv is the only brand to offer truly women-specific bikes, and everything from frame geometry to componentry and colourways are tailored to women using fit data.
Other bike brands may share frames with unisex equivalent brands, such as Santa Cruz and Juliana, or Canyon’s women’s builds, which tweak the size range and component choices such as bars and saddles to cater for the differences between male and female anatomy.
While fit is absolutely crucial to finding the best mountain bike for you, your budget, desired MTB discipline and riding style will also be major factors in what you’re after. From budget to premium builds and pedally XC bikes to burly enduro rigs, whet your appetite for a women-specific bike with this gorgeous selection.
Want to get inspired by women who can seriously shred? This Tahnée Seagrave-featuring film redefines the male-dominated MTB status quo
1. Cannondale Trail Women's 8
While most of the Cannondale MTB range is unisex, women’s-specific models are offered across the entry-level ‘Trail’ range, including the new £475 Trail 8.
A slanted top tube makes getting on and off the bike easy with plenty of clearance, and the models are available in three sizes with either 27.5” or 29” wheels proportional to the frame size. The standard seatpost is topped with Cannondale’s Stage 2 women’s saddle, though you could fit a dropper post at a later stage if you wanted.
2. Cube Access WS EAZ
Positioned at the entry-level end of the market, you get a lot of bang for your buck with the Cube Access WS hardtail. The wheel size is proportional to the frame size, to improve handling for riders of different sizes. Cube has taken extra care when it comes to the smallest frame size too, and it features a dipped top tube to help shorter riders gain enough clearance.
This bike won’t be the lightest, fastest or most durable, but for the price of £599 it’s great value for riders looking to dip their toes into the wonderful world of mountain biking without breaking the bank.
3. Vitus Mythique 27 VRW Womens
Featuring 130mm travel front and rear, the Mythique is a superb value full suspension trail bike from Chain Reaction Cycles’ in-house bike brand, Vitus.
If you enjoy climbing up techy trails just as much as you love descending and tackling features like jumps and berms, this could be the bike for you.
The aluminium frame helps to keep the price low, but there’s no compromise elsewhere. The tyre choice, for example, sees some top quality Schwalbe rubber laced to 27.5” hoops straight from the box.
For a budget full-sus with everything you need for endless days on the trail, the Vitus Mythique really takes some beating.
4. Scott Spark Contessa 920
Updated for 2022, the Spark Contessa 920 from Scott is a lightweight-yet-capable rig, placed firmly in the trendy ‘Downcountry’ category between XC and short-travel trail bikes.
The carbon frame is paired with an alloy swing arm, and built up with an assortment of components: SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed gearing, Shimano brakes and Syncros wheels, dropper and finishing kit.
Looking for the shock? It’s neatly stowed inside the frame, accessed via a panel under the downtube by the bottom bracket.
Check out the women freeriders changing MTB:
The female freeriders changing MTB
5. Juliana Wilder
New for 2022, the Wilder takes on Downcountry geometry with a 120mm fork paired with a 115mm travel shock. This do-it-all machine combines feather light climbing efficiency with a thrilling ride on the trail.
Whether you want to try your hand at XC racing or are looking for a lively trail bike that's just as inspiring on the climbs as it is over rougher ground, the Wilder is one heck of a build.
Juliana is the women’s-specific sister brand of Santa Cruz, and has an impressive roster of bikes and sponsored riders the world over.
Oh, and have we mentioned that lilac..?
6. Canyon Lux Trail CF 9 Emily Batty
Although not a women’s-specific bike, this special edition Canyon Lux Trail has been designed in homage to sponsored rider Emily Batty.
Emily Batty walks us through her Canyon Lux
Slacker angles than the original Lux paired with a little extra travel make this ‘Trail’ model of Canyon’s XC steed a little more capable for more technical modern cross country courses.
Canyon does offer some of its mountain bikes in a women’s build such as the Neuron WMN and Spectral WMN. The frames are exactly the same as the non-WMN equivalent, but the componentry is tweaked to include a women’s saddle, different bars and unique colourway.
7. Specialized Stumpjumper Pro
The Stumpjumper Pro is a controversial last pick perhaps, as Specialized doesn’t offer women’s bikes. After collating 11 years of Retül bike fit data from 7,750 riders, the brand concluded that there are greater differences between members of the same gender than there are between genders, negating the need for women-specific bikes.
As part of Specialized’s Beyond Gender programme, it offers bike customisation out of the box for contact points such as bars and saddles, so if you’d prefer a women-specific saddle on your unisex bike, then that can be easily arranged.
The Stumpjumper Pro is a top-end 130mm 29er trail bike kitted out with SRAM's XO1 Eagle AXS electronic 12-speed drivetrain, as well as the handy downtube SWAT compartment for storing your trail spares neatly out of the way.