Best Women’s Mountain Bikes of 2021
Women’s mountain bikes have been around since 1999 when Juli Furtado designed the first-ever women’s specific mountain bike under the umbrella of the Santa Cruz brand.
Female mountain bikers had been riding long before that, however, with Furtado herself being the most successful XC racer in history until her early retirement. Since the launch of the Juliana brand, other manufacturers have taken note and have slowly come around to the idea of producing women’s mountain bikes.
In this article, we’ll talk through what the differences are in women’s mountain bike frames compared to men’s, and some of the best ones you can get started on in the different disciplines and categories. That way you can decide whether you need a female-specific mountain bike or not.
If there’s a bike you’d like to see that you think we’ve missed, drop us a comment below!
Table of Contents
FAQs – Extended
Best Women’s Full-Suspension Bikes
Full-suspension bikes are extremely versatile and can range from XC bikes to hard-wearing downhill bikes.
There’s definitely something for everyone with a full-suspension bike and thanks to brands such as Juliana there are more and more women’s bikes available in these categories. They may not all have obvious differences in their geometry, but with a women’s specific bike you’ll get a finishing kit like a saddle or handlebars that are more tailored to the female body.
Have a look at some of the best full-suspension women’s mountain bikes we’ve picked out.
Juliana – Maverick C S
A trail and all-mountain carbon-framed beast
MSRP $5,749 evo
First on the list of our best full-suspension MTBs is the Juliana Maverick C S.
With 140mm of rear and 150mm of front travel, this carbon bike is an all-mountain and trail beast. The 29″ wheels eat up obstacles and technical trails so you can focus on your speed. Using Santa Cruz‘s patented VPP suspension system it’s easy to tune the bike to your needs.
The geometry is adaptable and can be changed using the flip-switch to make the headtube slacker and drop the bottom bracket height for extra stability. Overall, it’s a fantastic women’s specific full-suspension bike that will take you from the bike park to winning races.
- Frame – Carbon
- Fork – Fox 36 Float Performance
- Rear Shock – RockShox Super Deluxe Select+
- 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle
Cannondale – Habit 5 Women’s
One of the best Cannondale women’s mountain bikes by the value
MSRP $2,300 REI
Featuring the long, slack geometry we’ve all come to love over recent years, the Cannondale Habit 5 is a great example of a women-specific trail bike.
With plenty of travel for trail riding, Cannondale uses its clever Proportional Response technology to set up the suspension on each bike specifically to the weight of the rider. This optimizes performance on the bike by allowing you to tailor your experience and soak up the bumps yet keep it responsive.
At home on the trails or off-piste, this is one gnarly yet stable trail bike for women.
Related: Cannondale Habit series
- Frame – Aluminum
- Fork – 140mm, RockShox 35 Silver, coil
- Rear Shock – RockShox Deluxe Select
- 11-speed Shimano Deore
Liv – Intrigue
A blisteringly fast trail bike designed for women who want to go fast
MSRP $2,350 Liv Cycling
Liv is a well-known women’s specific bike brand and has been producing bikes for over ten years under the umbrella of their male/unisex brand Giant.
The Liv Intrigue is a fast and agile trail bike designed around suspension that has been tuned for female riders over a wide data set provided by female athletes so you can get the most out of your trail bike. The 140/150mm travel and 27.5″ wheels provide a fantastic platform for you to blast through the trail center or whip the bike around the natural landscape.
This aluminum framed full-suspension bike is a great all-rounder for women who want to get more out of their mountain biking.
- Frame – ALUXX SL-grade aluminum
- Fork – 150mm, RockShox 35 Gold RL
- Rear Shock – RockShox Deluxe Select
- 12-speed SRAM Eagle SX
Cannondale – Jekyll Carbon Women’s 1
Women’s carbon enduro mountain bike
MSRP $5,000 Gravity Coalition
The Cannondale Jekyll is a fine example of a women’s enduro bike.
The carbon-framed beauty features 150mm of front and rear suspension making a perfectly balanced bike that’s not only superbly quick downhill but is lightweight enough to climb on too – no longer will you need to use the uplift after doing the black run.
A lightweight yet powerful bike built for performance and racing, the Cannondale Jekyll is a great enduro bike for those looking to get into racing, or for those who want to get the most out of their riding.
- Frame – Carbon
- Fork – 150mm, Fox Float Performance
- Rear Shock – Fox Float Performance
- 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle
Best Women’s Hardtail Bikes
Hardtails are a great way to get into mountain biking without the maintenance requirements of a full-suspension setup.
They have front suspension forks usually up to around 120mm of travel, and rigid rear triangles. They are fantastic for learning tricks and getting the basics of your riding down before you progress to a heavier and more hardcore full-suspension bike.
Have a look at some of the best women’s hardtail mountain bikes we’ve listed below.
Related: Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Co-op Cycles – DRT 1.1W
Customer rating: 4.8 / 5 out of 26+ reviews
MSRP $549 REI
The Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W is a hardtail women’s trail bike.
Designed completely around the female body, Co-op Cycles have built a hardtail with a shorter top tube and stem than the male equivalent. They’ve also included narrower handlebars and a female-specific saddle to enhance your comfort on the bike.
With 100mm of travel, this bike is ideal for zipping around the bike park or a leisurely trail ride with family and friends.
Related: Co-op Cycles DRT series review
- Frame – Aluminum
- Fork – 100mm, SR Suntour XCT 27.5
- 24-speed Shimano Altus/Acera
- Weight – 30 lbs
Trek – Marlin 6 Women’s
A cross-country hardtail with an efficient ride
MSRP $700 Trek Bikes (in-store only)
The Marlin 6 is one of many Trek women’s mountain bikes the brand produces.
The American brand is a sponsor of a world-class XC team and thus knows exactly how to produce a bike suitable for females whether they are racers or leisure riders. Although built for mountain biking, it’s perfectly capable as a bikepacking rig or commuter bike as it has plenty of mounting points for luggage and bottles.
With 100mm forks and a lightweight aluminum frame, this is a versatile female-oriented bike that is a perfect introduction to the world of mountain biking.
- Frame – Alpha Silver aluminum
- Fork – 100mm, SR Suntour, oil spring
- 16-speed Shimano Altan
- Saddle – Bontrager Ajna Women’s
Marin – Wildcat Trail 3
A hardtail designed for the female trail enthusiast
MSRP $499 evo
Another fantastic example of a women’s hardtail mountain bike is the Marin Wildcat Trail 3.
The 3 and 5 in the series are dedicated to the female rider, with slightly altered geometry to suit the female shape better on the bike. Hydraulic brakes and 100mm of travel make this an extremely capable bike on the rough stuff while keeping it comfortable and accessible.
With 27.5″ wheels, this bike is agile, handles well, and makes a perfect bike to ride on the trails or with family.
- Frame – 6061 aluminum alloy
- Fork – 100mm, SR Suntour
- 21-speed Shimano
- Power CX7 mechanical disc brakes
Roadmaster – Women’s Granite Peak
A budget bike with 26″ wheels, a great entry-level option
Not particularly the best, but it has received a noticeable score on Amazon. Best suited for those who are looking for a mountain-inspired MTB at the lowest possible budget.
The only 26″ women’s mountain bike on our list is the Roadmaster women’s Granite Peak mountain bike.
As we said before, 26″ wheels are less common than they used to be on new mountain bikes, but only because the industry is moving towards bigger and slacker. A 26″ wheel bike is still extremely capable it just won’t be best suited to a black diamond trail.
This particular bike has a steel frame and a suspension fork to smooth out any bumps and lumps you might come across whether you’re on the trail or out riding with family and friends.
- Frame – Steel
- Front fork suspension
Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Bikes
Women’s MTB Geometry (vs Men’s and Unisex)
Although the introduction of women’s specific bikes and geometry somewhat ballooned in the early 2000s, many brands are now moving away from that viewpoint and suggesting that a bike should be chosen based on the rider, not the gender.
The typical women’s MTB geometry was designed around the idea that women have shorter torsos but longer legs than male riders. This led to several brands building bikes with a shorter reach but taller front end, or a shallower fork angle.
Although this more upright riding position can help get people comfortable on a mountain bike, the more technical and fast the trails, the more of a racing position you want to adapt to be able to handle the bike well and keep it stable.
In recent years, men’s bike geometry, in particular, has embraced progressive frame layouts and in many cases lengthened the wheelbases and slackened the headtubes for more stability (of course, this depends on the bike and desired riding purpose). But have women’s bikes kept up? The Juliana brand no longer believes there should be a discrepancy between men’s and women’s frames, and instead, designs the frame based on smaller differences such as weight. The finishing kit is also tailored to the smaller rider with narrower bars and suspension setups for lighter riders.
Are Women’s Bikes Still Relevant?
What you may find is that the higher-end female-specific bikes look remarkably like their male or unisex counterparts. Many brands are abandoning the idea of female-specific geometries altogether, and have increased their frame size range to suit a wider breadth of rider heights. Of course, at the lower end of the scale, there still are noticeable differences including sloping top tubes and a shorter reach.
Whether or not you think you need a female-specific bike is down to your individual geometry, but we’d always recommend trying a test ride if possible before purchasing, or at the very least, accurately measuring yourself to find the correct sized bike – unisex or female-specific.
Bike Wheel Sizes
Just like men’s or unisex bikes, there are several wheel sizes you might find on a women’s specific mountain bike.
- 26″ – Uncommon on adult bikes now, but popular until the late 2000s
- 27.5″ – Great size for agile riding, usually found on bikes up to downhill specs
- 29″ – Common size on men’s bikes but not as much on women’s. Faster rolling speed and helps get over obstacles without as much maneuvering as 27.5″ wheels
- Mullet bike – 27.5″ up front and 29″ rear
Travel Range & Disciplines
As with men’s bikes, women’s mountain bikes come in several categories, and within each category is a typical amount of suspension travel you can expect to find on the bike.
We’ve listed them below and explained the differences:
- XC – Travel usually between 120-130mm. Cross Country racing prioritizes fitness and skill over descending. Races are usually over an hour, and racers often choose hardtail bikes, although full-suspension bikes are becoming more popular as components become lighter.
- Trail – Travel usually up to 140mm. Trail bikes are usually full-suspension and somewhat blur the lines between enduro and XC. They can handle the rough stuff and are great for natural trails on mountains as well as playing at the bike park.
- All-Mountain – Generally between 130-160mm travel. Full-suspension bikes that sit between trail and enduro bikes. They can handle a lot of the same stuff as an enduro or downhill bike but without the added weight.
- Enduro – Usually between 140-180mm travel. These full-suspension bikes can tackle some of the gnarliest tracks but are still usually light enough to pedal back up the hill.
- Downhill – Usually around 200mm travel. Full-suspension bikes with the most travel and the heaviest duty of all the disciplines. These are built to descend and fast. Climbing is not the most comfortable on these, this is why uplifts are available at some bike parks!