For some reason even I'm not really clear on, I've been thinking about getting a bike lately. They're kind of intimidatingly expensive, so I've also been keeping an eye out on Craigslist for a used one. It's gradually started to bug me about why bicycles have gender; that is, why are there "men's bikes" and "women's bikes"? (Actually, if you look at the Schwinn website, you'll see there are "bicycles" and "women's bicycles.")
The only difference between them that I can tell, is the location of the crossbar that goes from just under the handlebars to the stem on which the seat sits. On men's bicycles it's high. On women's bikes, it's low. Really, that's all I can find. Pink tassels on the handlebars notwithstanding.
The standard explanation I've always heard (and this is from way back when) is that men and boys are more likely to treat their bike roughly, and so they need a more sturdy frame. So why not just make them all that way? Is it just "Oh, you're a lady and ladies need a more feminine, breakable bike"?
To be fair, I just looked around a bit, and the "sport" type bikes that are likely to be ridden offroad or by professional athletes all appear to have the higher crossbar, I assume because the frame is stronger.
Is there really some reason behind this, or is it just an unnecessary gender difference and marketing scam?
UPDATE: OK, based on the comments here, the comments on Facebook after Bryan posted a link to this, and my mother calling me the other night, the most reasonable explanation is that women's bikes have the crossbar where it is so women can wear dresses without getting them all rumply.
I can't imagine that's particularly important anymore, though. Unless you're a fundamentalist Mormon woman riding a bicycle around the compound (because no fundamentalist Mormon woman would ever need to ride a bicycle off of her husband's compound), the need to accommodate long skirts just doesn't seem all that important anymore. I haven't seen many women riding a bike in a tea-length gown lately, have you?