25 August 2009

Do real American men ride "step-through" bikes?


In an article at Slate today (with an accompanying video), current European "urban" bikes are reviewed, emphasizing the practical aspects of their upright posture, fenders, and chain guards. What most interested me was this comment:
(By the way, I specifically sought out bikes in a style Europeans refer to as "step-through," and we here in the States refer to as "women's." Step-through bikes are much easier to elegantly mount and dismount, they allow you to stand up in comfort when at a stoplight, and they eliminate all risk of brutally racking your testicles. The fact is, that crossbar on men's bikes doesn't serve much purpose if you're not a performance rider.)
Since I'm in the market for a new bike, should I consider the "step-through" style, or will I be laughed at by other bicyclists (and the general public) in suburban America?

37 comments:

  1. Do it! Also, get a wicker basket.

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  2. As long as you aren't riding a fixie around in hipster attire I wouldn't judge you too much. But like many things European you will kind of look like a sissy...

    Real American Men (tm) gladly accept the danger of a brutal testicle racking and no socialist nanny state imposed step throughs will keep us down!

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    Replies
    1. I didnʻt know Rush Limbaugh rode a bicycle.

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  3. or you could go for cool the exact other way... do it to the extreme. Tweed jacket, briar pipe, step through, wicker basket (per Dan's advice), and *always* have a sweet wine and a stout cheddar with crusty bread in said basket...

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  4. The very fact that you would be riding a bike in the suburbs will cause others to stare. Screw 'em, get the bike you want.

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  5. Like this?

    http://grumpy-people.com/gallery/Miss-Gulch_Margaret-Hamilton.jpg

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  6. I say, F*ck 'em. I think you are old enough not to care.

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  7. Or, get a bike with no bars at all. Just balance a front wheel on one foot, back wheel on the other, and hold the chain in your hand. Thats how you ride a bike without the worry of judging eyes.

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  8. As Ranger Doug (the Idol of American Youth) once said, in a logical world men would ride sidesaddle.

    Buy the step-through.

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  9. I use the crossbar to balance the bike against my leg when standing still. This way I can have both hands free, e.g. for reading a map or rummaging through a wicker basket ;) I find this harder on a women's bike
    May be a little advantage.

    A classic step-through bike is also called a granny-bike in the Netherlands.

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  10. I didn't know they were called "women's" bikes here. I think they look pretty cool.... So I would worry about it. Most people probably don't know the difference. But I would go with A. Fischer's advice anyway. Tweed jacket, briar pipe... Sexy. :D

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  11. Something else to consider: The traditional 'mens' bike has a stronger frame for the weight. Both my wife and I use one.

    I don't think I've racked myself since grade school. Really, if you rack your testicles there, consider it a learning experience and be more careful next time.

    More important is a comfortable seat. In fact, I'm strongly considering a recumbent bike next time around, both for the better poster (less strained shoulders and back) and better seat.

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  12. I am not one to worry about appearances, but the crossbar actually improves performance noticeably by reducing flexing in the bike frame which devours energy forces applied through the pedals and handlebars.

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  13. I have to agree with Mike and Dougo. Fenders and enclosed chains are all great, but not the step-through frame. I'm a woman who would never buy a "woman's" bike. That crossbar DOES serve an important purpose for the avearge rider: a triangular frame is physically much stronger than a step-through frame, which means that the frame tubes don't have to be beefed up with extra metal, which means the bike can be both lighter and sturdier. I'm a bike commuter, not a performance cyclist, but I still want a light and strong bike: I can pick it up more easily and I can go farther with less effort. There are plenty of good practical "urban" or "commuter" bikes sold in US shops that combine the advantages of racing and mountain bikes. The Salon article is just exaggerating things in order to make a cool point about how European bikes are supposedly so much better.

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  14. If you want the step-thru and you're worried about getting teased, just cover it with manly, manly glitter.

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  15. first of all, hitting your testies on the men's bar can happen at the most unexpected times. I once had my chain snap on me when I was taking off from a traffic light and basically fell onto that bar from the top of a extended leg on a pedal at the topmost position of its circle.

    Secondly: Get a proper bike, ie. a recumbent. I am riding one of these: http://www.flux-fahrraeder.de/htm/s600.htm, but if you want to go more high-tech, check out these: http://www.windcheetah.co.uk/hypersport.htm

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  16. i actually thought the low 'cross bar' was for ladies because they sometimes bike in dresses.

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  17. I love these bikes. But then I am a European lady.

    How about the Brompton? The crossbar is dropped so low that it is practically unisex. And they are gorgeously European too.

    http://www.brompton.co.uk/

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  18. i got a touring bike a couple years ago...has a more comfortable seat, shock absorbers, and higher handlebars that help you sit up straighter to lesson back strain...and a traditional frame.
    Sorry, I think it's best to stick with the men's frame!

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  19. Get whatever you will enjoy riding so that you keep on riding (standard exercise advice).

    And you can always tell anyone who shows interest that your wife took your bike because it's better and left you her step through. Accompany this information with a sigh and an eye-roll.

    CCL

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  20. Mine's a step-thru, and I added a large basket for hauling stuff. Real American Men (tm) are generally afraid of looking like a sissy, and therefor come across as 'fraidy-cats. For general commuting you'll never notice "frame flex". And, in reference to a prior comment, I sometimes ride wearing my kilt.

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  21. I love the lines of the beach cruiser, the top bar creates a nice arc.

    HTML

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  22. I love the lines of the beach cruiser, the top bar creates a nice arc.
    Beach Cruiser

    should have previewed my comment

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  23. @Minnesotastan —

    You might enjoy this article by The Slate:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2225698/pagenum/all/#p2

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  24. @MJ - That's the article I linked to in the post and the one from which I got the photo...

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  25. Which of course means I decided to give me brain a vacation while I was reading your post. :|

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  26. Then there is this one...

    http://www.bixisystem.com/home

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  27. We (swedes) call that a women's bike, but many guys use them also. Why? Coz I don't think we care that much. Its a bike, its meant to take u from one place to another and if it works it works.

    But as Swedes (and many other European countries) like antique or retro stuff and we're supposedly the most equal country in the world, many do buy them coz they want a cheap but nice bike and we wouldn't give much thought about the Sport-jock type kinda guy who teases us about riding a women's bike. They're the losers not u :)

    So go for one if you have a low budget, if you have a bigger budget just go for one which looks good and works good, doesnt matter if its a men's or women's bike.

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  28. I ride a Batavus old dutch around Jacksonville, Florida and almost every guy compliments me on how cool it looks. step through's a hip and so comfortable.

    my bike is here:
    http://www.nest-living.com/collections/bicycles/products/batavus-old-dutch-bicycle/

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  29. Anonymous and others, thanks for the suggestions and links.

    stan

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  30. American men are a bunch of whoosies anyway. they might as well ride mopeds in floral dresses. A step- through bike would make too much sense for them.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Mucky. Why so nasty? I am 72 and have had back surgery and a new knee--in the last year. It is hard now to throw my leg over and to stand on my tip toes. Rather than give up biking I bought a Townie--may even be a woman's bike. I love it. Now doing 20 miles after only a few rides. It is comfortable and I can put my feet on the ground easily..it has made a positive change in my life. Why would you try to mock someone like me?
      I bought it from a woman on Craig's list. It came with a basket. Pretty "girly" I guess but it's a good place for a jacket and my Glock!

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  31. Step-through bikes: how real men stay that way.

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  32. Step-throughs are great for us older men who aren't as agile as we used to be or don't have full range of motion.

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  33. I've got a step through b/c I wanted to get something to cruise around town on the cheap. This was super cheap: free. Ride whatever you want/can afford/like.....who cares. As long as it's safe.

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  34. My husband just bought a step through bicycle having been told by the store that it was a "Unisex" bike!! He loves it despite the ribbing he has received.. His reason for buying it was he could no longer "get his leg over": I told him I had been complaining about that for years....!

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  35. Anyone who would rib at a gentleman riding a "step thru" or a "women's" bike is a person who has serious abnormal psycho-social problems. Such a person does not know if the bicyclist has physical limitations preventing leg-range-of-motion or perhaps just feel more comfortable and maybe a bit safer from crotch injuries. I would like to see the looks on the faces of the ribbers if they mound, miss the saddle and flatten their testicle to the size of a pence piece!

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