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Old 06-29-08, 11:41 PM   #1
Sleepy Kat
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Need Bike Recommendations

I posted this in the intro section, but have been reading posts over here so much that I thought I'd try picking the brains of the friendly people over here. I may be trying to find the perfect bike that doesn't exist, but anyway, here goes:

Hello all! I've been reading posts here, seeking advice and you're all so friendly and knowledgeable, I thought I'd run this one past you.

I'm going to make the transition from mountain biking to probably some kind of hybrid. I had a neurological virus a few years back that has left me with a balance disorder. I kept riding my mt bike but I have had a few problems.

My husband got a townie and he is zipping around as if this is the best bike on the planet. I have done a few rides on the townie 21 (women's model) and it's not a bad bike, but I feel like I am trying to drive an RV! It's sooo long!

I'm petite (around 5'4" and normally range between 105-115) with short arms, short torso. I feel unsteady on the townie, even with the handle bars brought in as close as they will go. I can only make really wide turns on it.

I have tested some hybrids and feel like I do on my mountain bike these days, up too high, bending too much, and reaching too far.

At bike shops they recommend a 16 inch bike, but I am starting to wonder if I shouldn't go with a smaller hybrid and just raise the seat a bit for more leg extension when I want it. I tried the 16 inch trek 7100, and love the bike, but it has me in the same position as my mountain bike, and I would like to feel a bit more secure when turning, stopping and starting.

With the balance disorder, I need to be in control, need a stable ride, etc.

Does anyone agree that maybe a smaller hybrid bike might be the right direction now that I am "disabled," as it were?

Any advice would be most welcome!

Thanks much!
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Old 06-29-08, 11:56 PM   #2
Tom Bombadil
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There are a couple of bikes that are not quite as long and low as a Townie, but not quite as high as a hybrid/mountain bike. Those are the Trek Navigator and Specialized Crossroads (or Expedition if you want wider tires). They are considered to be "comfort bikes" and the seat position is designed to be lower than on a hybrid or mountain bike.

Another one to potentially try is the Giant Suede. It's more like the Townie, but not quite as cumbersome. It also has a lower seat position.

Typically a hybrid will have the same riding position as a mountain bike, as the frame geometry is very similiar.

Usually one doesn't want to go with too small of a bike because if your saddle is set too low, it is hard on the knees. But yours is a special case and you might have to go with something different.

I suggest that you attempt to work with more experienced bike shop sales people. Inexperienced sales staff will likely attempt to fit you according to the "normal" equations, which may not be best for you. I'm surprised the Trek store put you on a 7100 and didn't try the Navigator bike.
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There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post
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Old 06-30-08, 08:38 AM   #3
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Sleepy Kat,

My wife (petite like you) had an older Trek Hybrid that she disliked for many of the same reasons you cite - lack of control, balance, stable ride etc. The most she used it was for a 3-mile commute to work until she quit her job a few years ago. Then the bike sat around gathering dust in the garage. She made the rounds of the local LBSs this spring, tried various newer bikes but never felt fully satisfied with any of them. Then we stumbled on a nearly new Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe on Craigslist, originally custom made in 2007 for someone of comparable height and weight. What a difference this has made! She now insists on doing 50 mile rides once a week and says it is the most comfortable, stable bike she has ever ridden. She also feels for the first time that 'I control the bike, not the other way around'. Budgetwise, this choice was clearly much higher than the stock bikes from the LBS's, but the bike is now being ridden regularly and with a passion I have not seen in 15 years. May not be a choice for all, but it has worked for her in spades. And, what more, the thing folds into the trunk of a sub-compact or a suitcase in minutes for easy transport!
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Old 06-30-08, 08:43 AM   #4
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Here is a word about frame sizes: Ride the smallest frame possible. Getting the wrong size frame is akin to throwing you $$ away.
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Old 06-30-08, 09:09 AM   #5
Sleepy Kat
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Great advice! Thanks, this is info that will steer me in the right direction. When I say that a bike feels wobbly or unstable, of that it feels like the bike is taking ME for a ride, instead of the other way around, bike fitters look at me like I am totally nuts. They take into account my years on a bike and my inseam, and that is all that matters. I will be more vigilant. Fit is more important than ever before!
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Old 06-30-08, 11:11 AM   #6
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I hate to rain on your parade... going from a mountain bike to a hybrid doesn't make much sense-- put slicks on your mountain bike and you have a better bike than the hybrid. I would say you are better off going for a road bike if you are going to ride the road... A hybrid is a compromoise between a road bike and a mountain bike and seems to have acquired the worst of both.
That, of course, is my opinion-- Others are very happy with their hybrids. However, before buying a hybrid, try putting slicks on your mountain bike. I think you will be pleasantly surprised--

train safe-
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Old 06-30-08, 11:20 AM   #7
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But she said she didn't like her mountain bike anymore.

To the OP - you say you are bending too much and reaching too far on your mountain bike. That can be addressed via using different stems and handlebars. If your current stem is fixed/rigid stem that runs at a low angle, you could try using an adjustable stem to raise the handlebars. And if the handlebars are flat or nearly flat, you could replace them with higher rise handlebars. Although it is possible that your cables won't be long enough once you raise the bars.

A 3"-4" riser bar usually sells for around $15-$20.

"Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 06-30-08 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 06-30-08, 12:02 PM   #8
Time for a change.
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There are hybrids and there are hybrids. Different sizing as you are a Petite Female- there are also the WSD bikes (Woman specific design) The wsd bikes have a few changes made to then to fit the female body a bit better- one of which is a shorter top tube. Other things like saddles- Cranklength and bar width come into it as well but for smaller females- these bikes work.

Link to the Giant Womans section that includes the FCR- under the Road and fitness bikes- but most manufacturers now make WSD bikes.
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Old 06-30-08, 07:31 PM   #9
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which virus did you have?

i got nailed in 1999. things improved, but it was not until last year that i felt relatively safe on a bike. i did not want an imbalance episode to dump me on the asphalt or even worse into the path of an SUV.

depending on how much trouble you are having, you may want to investigate a trike. i wish that i had looked into trikes years ago.

"balance challenging" such as riding a bike apparently is good rehab for the balance issues.

if you want a bike that is about as comfortable and stable feeling as possible on two wheels, i would recommend looking at a Rans fusion.
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Old 07-06-08, 05:00 PM   #10
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Screenwasher-I like the idea of a bike that I can put in a suitcase! If I see one on craigslist, I will take a look at it, but sure can't afford a new one!

Tom, excellent advice, thanks!

Oilman, gotcha! Going back out there tomorrow, and I will keep that in mind!

buelito- My mountain bike is at least 15 years old and is on its last, er, legs! I tried to make some adjustments on it the other day, and it was just not worth it to even try. I have tried some hybrids that I'd love with a few adjustments. I really don't want to do the road bike thing. I know it is the most popular, been there, done that, just don't want to anymore.

Tom, again, yeah, I am fully prepared to swap out handlebars if I find something with all but the right ones! Those look pretty good.

Stapfam- I will look there, thanks.

tm3- they are pretty sure it was encephalitis, but it took two years to diagnose because I was functioning well (was a runner and bodyboarder, etc.). I know others who had it who are in wheelchairs permanently. I didn't even want to investigate a trike, for the same reasons that I decided not to use a cane, maybe it was part vanity, but not giving in was important to me to getting back out there. And I am assuming that bicycling, even if I make some compromises, will be important to getting back out there. I'll look at Rans fusion, too.

Thanks everyone!
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Old 07-06-08, 05:55 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
Ride the smallest frame possible.
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Old 07-06-08, 07:53 PM   #12
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+1 Rigid mountain bike with smooth tires is almost the same as a hybrid. I don't think you are going to see much difference. Have you tried smooth/street tires on your mountain bike?

+1 Small frame, Huh??

One nice thing about a mountain bike, is that you usually will have 26 inch wheels, versus usually 700cm wheels on the hybrid. You might feel more comfortable with 26 inch wheels.

Perhaps try some trekking bars on the mountain bike (a very easy fix). Make sure it is rigid and not suspension bike.

You might have more of a balance issue with a hybrid, the suspension seat post can be disorienting. But that can be fixed by swapping the seat post.
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