I have spent the last two days helping an older woman get a new bike. She has biked for over 20 yrs on a heavy bike and as she has aged she needs a lighter model with better gearing.
Here is a list of some stuff we learned:
1. Don't buy aluminum
2. Don't buy carbon
3. Don't buy the new Sram Apex, too hard for women to shift
4. Buy Apex, it is great
5. A man's bike is just like a woman's bike
6. Don't get a triple
7. Get a triple
8. Which is better, large chain bike store or local bike store??
9. Plus this is my opinion ONLY but i do feel old folks, over 70 get ZERO information from the bike store. From what I can see they are at the mercy of the store associate. This person wants to sell a bike no matter what. And these folks tend to believe anything they are told as they do not know how much stuff they SHOULD know before even going to the store.
So what to do??
From what I have pieced together aluminum with a carbon fork is a fine choice for this lady. Carbon is not a deal breaker. The Apex is an unknown to me. For one thing, your cogs in back jump from 11 to 32, not leaving a whole lot of choice in between with lots of jumps. Some may find this difficult to get used to.
A man's bike has a longer top tube. A man's bike has wider handle bars. A man's bike has a MAN'S seat. A man's bike is not a nice color for chicks. Too much black. A man's bike has huge brake shifters and gear shifters. Now I guess if you are a woman with a long long torse, wide shoulders and big hands, hey wait, if you had all that you would be MAN. SO STAY away from a man's bike. There are plenty of great women specific bikes on the market.
With help from several sources I came to the following conclusions.
1. If you have the money -$3000 or more- get a women's specific carbon frame bike with Shimano components or a good comparable brand such as SRAM. Get the Shimano 105s if you can or Ultregra. A bike this price SHOULD be equipped with good rims. Ask about the rims. I HIGHLY recommend a triple unless you are in your 20s-30s and fairly athletic. If you are a weekend rider, GET A TRIPLE. If you are past 45 and want to bike well into your sixties or seventies, GET A TRIPLE. If you can get a 12-29 cassette on back. You will personally thank me. This bike will last a long long time at these prices.
2. If your budget is between $1500 - $3000 you have to make compromises. Might want to forego the carbon for aluminum. Can lower the quality of the components. Shimano has several levels of quality -Shimano order of components (high to low): dura ace, ultegra, 105, tiagra, sora.
3. If I can believe bike store man, Shimano has a nice easy touch, making it ideal for small hands. But again, this could just be his preference.
4. Some suggested models if you budget is under $1200. This came from a trusted friend who does NOT own a bike store.
Cannondale Synapse Alloy Women's 6 (Tiagra) = MSRP $1280
" " " " 7 (Sora) = MRRP $1000
Trek Lexa S (Sora - Front/Tiagra - Rear) = MSRP $960
" " SL (Tiagra)
Specialized Dolce Sport Triple (Sora) = MSRP $1100
Fuji Finest 1.0 (Tiagra) = MSRP $1179
SO IN CONCLUSION, find your price point before you go to the store. Follow guidelines above. Ask questions, do not let yourself be talked into anything you do not want.
I personally bike on a Spectrum Custom bike made by Tom Kellogg of Pensylvania. I have Shimano Ultrega with a Standard Double with an additional 30 triple chain ring up front. My cassette in back goes from 12-29. I have Mavic rims and fabulous seat by Selle. Woman's seat! My bike is made of titanium. I have LOOK Keo pedals and the highest float cleat made for LOOK.
I can ride and ride all day long and can climb most hills. I did 5000 miles last year and this year I am forgoing the counting of miles. Simply riding whenever I feel like it. I am retired. I am 62 and 5'10'" tall. Hence the reason for a custom as no store bike would fit me and the stores would try to stick me on an ill-fitting man's bike.
Get educated BEFORE you buy your bike. You are spending a ton of money. But it is a one time purchase. A good bike will last a long long time if you keep it clean and maintain the components.
Good luck and go biking.