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  1. #1
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    What is good wheel & frame size for 4'11 tall?

    My girl friend is 4'11 and I am curious what wheel size and frame size would work best.

    Are regular 26" wheels best avoided?

    Before going to a bike shop I thought I would see what BikeForums people think - any thoughts greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Raleigh20 PugFixie, Merc LittlePixel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
    My girl friend is 4'11 and I am curious what wheel size and frame size would work best.

    Are regular 26" wheels best avoided?

    Before going to a bike shop I thought I would see what BikeForums people think - any thoughts greatly appreciated.

    A 26" wheel bike with a small frame should be ok for someone of that height; my 80s peugeot road bike was originally my sisters' (also 4'11" and she happily toured it around the Pennine hills at the time on 700c wheels, admittedly with the saddle on it's lowest).

    The other thing about smaller riders to factor in to the equation is to make sure that the 'cockpit' [i.e. the length between the tip of the saddle and the bars] is small enough to be comfortable - as a petite rider will likely have shorter arms in proportion to their height.

    You didn't mention whether your query pertains to folding or non-folding bikes; I think a 24" or 20" folder might be better than a 26" as they are designed out of the box to be suitable for many differing sizes of rider and the low-stepthrough of folding frames is also appealing to smaller riders. If in fact you're thinking of a more road-bike kind of thing there are three main options for smaller wheels - including getting a junior framed road bike, one of the increasing amount of non-folding 'mini bikes' in the west like the Dahon Smoothhound or Hammerhead, or thirdly looking in a specialist petite bike by the manufacturer 'Terry Bicycles' who specialise in custom road bikes with a smaller cockpit and small front wheel that optimises the geometry for smaller riders.

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    Check her proportions. I *look* like an average sized woman at 5'6", but my legs are relatively short (29-30" inseam). I can use a small framed men's bike with either 700C or 26" tires. It's not unusual for a woman your girlfriend's size to have legs just as long as mine, but a shorter torso. That makes a "men's" (better described as a long torso) frame not as appropriate for her. The reach will be long enough that it's uncomfortable. There is a fair bit that can be done to help, but it costs. That's why a lot of smaller women tend to be very much in favor of WSD (aka short torso) bikes. If you have to swap bars, stem, brake levers, shifters etc several times to get comfortable, it can be very expensive.

    (this isn't a gender thing, because there are a lot of men who have shorter torsos and longer legs too. since most WSD designs stop at too small, they never get to try it and see if it helps. very silly, and they can end up spending just as much getting a good fit)

    Folding bikes can have similar problems. The big advantage is the small wheels mean the designer has options in getting the geometry right for someone who is on the small side. The big downside is a lot of folders are one size fits most, so the reach might still need modification.

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    New usename ThorUSA brakemeister's Avatar
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    as for regular bikes I might suggest a Terry ( Terry precision Womans specific bike ) Terrillin is quite right with her post above.

    As for folding bike, get a Curve from dahon.....its a nice bike and rides well, plus the proportions look better when the saddle and hadlebar is down a bit ....

    Thor

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    Senior Member JosephLMonti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
    My girl friend is 4'11 and I am curious what wheel size and frame size would work best.

    Are regular 26" wheels best avoided?

    Before going to a bike shop I thought I would see what BikeForums people think - any thoughts greatly appreciated.
    If you answer two questions I think we can be of better service to you:

    1) What does your gf intend to use the bicycle for? (touring, racing, recreation)
    2) What is her budget?

    Keep in mind, that you've presented this question to a bunch of folder enthusiasts so more than likely, we will be pushing you in that direction

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    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
    My girl friend is 4'11 and I am curious what wheel size and frame size would work best.

    Are regular 26" wheels best avoided?

    Before going to a bike shop I thought I would see what BikeForums people think - any thoughts greatly appreciated.
    I am a bit over 5 foot myself. I have found that these smaller wheeled bikes (16 & 20 inch wheels) fit me quite well especially when the stem & seatpost are so flexible in adjusting to most any height. Since my preferred riding position is upright for traffic monotoring, it seems even easier to adjust for myself. Until recently, I had a 26 inch ancient nonfolding Phillips. That bike's "girl's" step through frame seems to work better for me too. That is why I do encourage people to test ride the bike considering for purchase. Eveybody's needs are different.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by JosephLMonti View Post
    If you answer two questions I think we can be of better service to you:

    1) What does your gf intend to use the bicycle for? (touring, racing, recreation)
    2) What is her budget?

    Keep in mind, that you've presented this question to a bunch of folder enthusiasts so more than likely, we will be pushing you in that direction
    Sorry to all, for not mentioning that the preference is for a folding bike, without tiny wheels if possible.

    Answers:
    1. Definitely not racing. Mostly day to day home based use. Car free bike dependence is not recreation, but regular recreation rides are highly likely. Must be able to carry rear panniers - so rear rack is essential. Regular need to travel by bus (without the bike being obvious - for security and ability to board the bus reasons). Occasional train (rush hour) and plane travel is also likely (anything from a Cessna to an A380). Touring, with me carrying the majority of the kit, is likely. In short this will be her only bike and will need to do a lot of work filling a lot of roles.

    2. Our budget is 700 to 900 USD.

    Thanks for all the replies so far. Plenty of food for thought.
    Last edited by HoustonB; 04-07-08 at 06:58 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
    Sorry to all, for not mentioning that the preference is for a folding bike, without tiny wheels if possible.

    Answers:
    1. Definitely not racing. Mostly day to day home based use. Car free bike dependence is not recreation, but regular recreation rides are highly likely. Must be able to carry rear panniers - so rear rack is essential. Regular need to travel by bus (without the bike being obvious - for security and ability to board the bus reasons). Occasional train (rush hour) and plane travel is also likely (anything from a Cessna to an A380). Touring, with me carrying the majority of the kit, is likely. In short this will be her only bike and will need to do a lot of work filling a lot of roles.

    2. Our budget is 700 to 900 USD.

    Thanks for all the replies so far. Plenty of food for thought.
    The two goals of taking the bike on the bus and using the bike for touring/grocery getting are somewhat inconsistent. The best bikes for intermodal travel have 16" wheels; this makes a pretty big difference if you are going to be regularly taking the bike on the bus. Sometimes these bikes come with racks, but they are not the kind of racks (AFAIK) that can take panniers. (Maybe you can retrofit a rack to take panniers).
    As examples of this variety, think Brompton (probably too expensive), Tikit (ditto), Dahon Curve (D3 or SL), downtube mini...and probably a couple of more. These bikes also tend to have limited gearing (typically 3 or 8 speed hub gears), which simplifies the fold, but can be inadequate for touring.


    Touring type folders, on the other hand, tend to have 20" wheels, multiple gears, the ability to take racks that will hold panniers...but they are bulky to fold and cumbersome to carry around. It's doable, and some people do it all the time, but IMO these bikes are better for folding and putting in the trunk taking into the office than they are for carrying onto a bus.

    IMO, the best option would be two bikes - a small folder of the Dahon/Downtube variety, running around $500, plus a lower-end Giant Sedona (or similar), which would run about $300 with slicks.

    If you just want one folder, I think you should prioritize what's most important and focus on a bike that does that well. If taking the bike on the bus will be an occasional thing, then go for a bike with 20" wheels and a good gear range (this is probably the largest folder category anyway), buy or make a bag for the bike, and deal with the inconvenience on the bus by thinking how nice it rides otherwise. And if you'll need to be folding it and taking it on the bus most of the time, then go for the easy fold and suck it up on the tour.

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    Gearing is very much a ymmv sort of thing. An 8 speed setup can provide a low enough low for loaded hauling, and a decently high top gear. A 3 speed is probably not the world's best plan for hauling (tho some people do use them for serious distance and/or hauling in hilly terrain... they do tend to be very strong riders).

    That said, alhedges is exactly right about focusing on a use. The majority of my riding is summed up as "grocery getting", so I need fairly good cargo capacity and low gears. I'm rarely out of walking range of a bike shop, so the iron durability of a full on touring bike isn't needed (tho a failure prone machine would make me pretty cranky... it's a ******* using a damaged bike as a grocery cart). I don't have a car, so my bike fills a lot of roles too. The one I *care* about is the groceries *g*.

    Since the bike is for her, have her register and post for herself. She can probably be a lot more specific about her priorities . (if my boyfriend tried to do this for me, he'd probably forget all about how much cargo I carry, and spend all his posting worrying about my disturbing habit of getting tangled in a diamond frame...)

  10. #10
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    The bike that fits that description best is the Birdy. Great loaded touring bike, good multi-mode, fast, comfy, durable (mine is way past the 10,000 mile mark, a fair amount of it off road loaded with panniers). It's my only bike and I use it for similar purposes. One downside is that it can't be rolled when folded (unless you buy a rack in Japan or Europe with wheels). Thus, I get yelled at when I take it into the grocery store unless I carry it or fold it put it in the cart. The 8 speed is in your budget range, but for 24 speeds, you'd need a used bike.

    It easily fits my 5'2" girlfriend with a lot room to go lower, but you carry around a lot of unnecessary seat post.

  11. #11
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Oh, another downside is that they are hard to find in the US for a test ride. The best dealer is Black Dog (http://blackdogbicycles.com/birdyfoldingtravelbike.html), but new bikes can be had on eBay for less, I hear. Just go to groups.yahoo.com to find someone to let you test ride their bike.

  12. #12
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    Thanks again for the additional replies.

    Bikes over $1,000 are a little out of the price range.

    Terry at RideThisBike.com is recommending the Montague CX 16" frame with 26" wheels at $495 and 29 lbs.

    Regarding traveling on a bus - being able to put the bike in a bag in the luggage space below, and not carry-on is what we had in mind.

    I am surprised there is no sticky thread in the Folding Bikes forum that has a list of the current USA sources of folding bikes : BikeFriday.com and Montagu at RideThisBike.com I knew about, but not;
    Birdy at http://blackdogbicycles.com/birdyfoldingtravelbike.html
    and http://www.dahon.com/

    For myself, I was set on a bike that folds quickly for everyday train commuting and the Montague Paratrooper or Swiss at RideThisBike.com looked good, but now I'm tempted by the Dahon bikes - wow. Expensive, but soooo desirable!

  13. #13
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    I've played around with Montagues, and I don't really like them. (Also, are you sure that the CX comes in a 16" size - the smallest I've seen is 18").

    1. The fold on the Montague is not really a fold, since you have to take the front wheel off - and even if you do that it's pretty big 3'x30"x12", approximately. For everyday train commuting you would be just as well off with a full size bike, IMO. Also, there's not a good way of taking a bike's wheel off without getting a little dirty, although gloves help.

    2. If you are talking about putting the bike in the luggage compartment of a greyhound while travelling on the bus as a passenger it's sort of complicated. To do this with no extra charge, your bike has to weigh less than 50lbs and fit in a suitcase with total dimensions of 62" - basically, the same restrictions as apply to carrying a bike on a plane. For an additional charge of $20-$30 you can carry a larger package as luggage - but once you've passed the 62" mark, I'm not sure that there is an advantage to a folding bike. I.e., I think you can take a full size unfolded bike for the same cost, as long as it's packed appropriately. (You may want to check with greyhound on this, but it used to be the rule). Note, too, that regular bikes can get pretty compact if you take off both wheels and rotate the handlebars 90 degrees.

    3. If you are interested in a full-size folder, I would check out some of the Dahon 26" folders, such as the Cadenza 16, the Expresso, or the Jack. The same caveats apply wrt size as to the Montague - i.e., the fold on these is pretty large, too - but at least you don't have to remove the tire to do the fold.

    4. The best bike within, technically, your price range and optimized for touring may be the $999 Speed TR with a 24 speed dual drive hub, a hub generator in front, and all of the lights, fenders, and racks you would need. I think this includes the delivery charge as well. I think that this is a great deal, since racks, fenders, and lights (not to mention generator hubs and dual drive hubs) do add a lot of expense to the bike.

    However, in an absolute sense that is a lot of money, and depending on where you are touring you may be happy with fewer gears, no generator hub, and adding on fenders, etc. later.

    5. And I don't mean to be too harsh on Montagues - but I do think that you should try to see one in person before ordering one on the internet. (Of course you should see as many folders as possible before buying one - the difficulty in doing so is one of the great challenges of buying folders.)

  14. #14
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    Very thorough

    Little Pixel is quite thorough.The only thing I can add is that BF builds petite models of their bikes.

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the heads up on the Montague.

    Train - this is more a requirement for myself, and would be a twice a day deal. Regular bikes are not allowed on rush hour trains (I'm not talking trains in Portland, but into London city center). Removing the wheel every time would be a royal pain in the ass. So for myself a quick fold is required not just a nice to have. I don't mind large fold size, for the train, and I would be OK with further disassembly if I was flying. Some of the Dahon bikes look good for me.

    Bus - this would not be a daily occurrence, most places I might go by bus, I would prefer to bike. And in fact the folder for myself would be primarily to replace the bus ride at the start and end of each day, and also the rides on the underground between the train station and the office. Also for my girl friend bus travel requiring storage of the bike in the luggage space might be 1 or 2 times a month. It is unlikely (but not impossible) that we would want to take the folder into the seating area of a bus.

    Flying - The only desire here is too avoid excess-baggage charges and make sure the bike is not damaged. Is a hard shell case considered essential. I've seen prices of $400 for the bike case. I had a Trek 950, in a soft bag (Tardis), damaged by United a few years ago on a flight from Portland to Paris. The rear left brake was bent out of alignment, and the shaft of the brake block was also bent. Hard to believe what kind of force would be required to bend one of the strongest parts of the bike. I guess I'm answering my own question - the hard case is essential, or pay the excess and go with a big box and hope for better handling. Airlines should be legally required to carry bikes free of charge - after all they could probably claim a carbon offset (if the bike is likely to be subsequently used as an alternative to say car rental).

    The only issue that puts me off the hard case - if the sole purpose of the flight is touring - would be what to do with the case during the tour. When I went to Paris, the first part of the trip was a wedding, followed by a week long tour. I looked into storing my suit and shoes etc. in left-luggage at Gare du Nord train station in Paris. It was seriously expensive, I opted to go to the post office nearby and mailed it back (US Customs sat on it for over a month) - I don't remember the exact prices, but count on a week in left luggage being about 3 times the cost of mailing the case back. Also the left luggage is per case, and I only had one case that I did not want on the bike. My current thinking is to plan tours so that there is a hotel that is visited at the start and end of the tour and pre-arrange the storage of the hard case.

    Finally, it is highly likely that we would want to tour on the folders at least once a year, with me carrying most of the luggage. Tours would most likely be one or two week light luggage bed & breakfast / hotel based, but carrying a tent for "caught in the middle of nowhere" stops might be a possibility. Large fold size and 26" wheels are looking like the preference for both myself and my girl friend.
    Last edited by HoustonB; 04-08-08 at 03:52 PM.

  16. #16
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
    Thanks for the heads up on the Montague.

    Train - this is more a requirement for myself, and would be a twice a day deal. Regular bikes are not allowed on rush hour trains (I'm not talking trains in Portland, but into London city center). Removing the wheel every time would be a royal pain in the ass. So for myself a quick fold is required not just a nice to have. I don't mind large fold size, for the train, and I would be OK with further disassembly if I was flying. Some of the Dahon bikes look good for me.

    Bus - this would not be a daily occurrence, most places I might go by bus, I would prefer to bike. And in fact the folder for myself would be primarily to replace the bus ride at the start and end of each day, and also the rides on the underground between the train station and the office. Also for my girl friend bus travel requiring storage of the bike in the luggage space might be 1 or 2 times a month. It is unlikely (but not impossible) that we would want to take the folder into the seating area of a bus.

    Flying - The only desire here is too avoid excess-baggage charges and make sure the bike is not damaged. Is a hard shell case considered essential. I've seen prices of $400 for the bike case. I had a Trek 950, in a soft bag (Tardis), damaged by United a few years ago on a flight from Portland to Paris. The rear left brake was bent out of alignment, and the shaft of the brake block was also bent. Hard to believe what kind of force would be required to bend one of the strongest parts of the bike. I guess I'm answering my own question - the hard case is essential, or pay the excess and go with a big box and hope for better handling. Airlines should be legally required to carry bikes free of charge - after all they could probably claim a carbon offset (if the bike is likely to be subsequently used as an alternative to say car rental).

    The only issue that puts me off the hard case - if the sole purpose of the flight is touring - would be what to do with the case during the tour. When I went to Paris, the first part of the trip was a wedding, followed by a week long tour. I looked into storing my suit and shoes etc. in left-luggage at Gare du Nord train station in Paris. It was seriously expensive, I opted to go to the post office nearby and mailed it back (US Customs sat on it for over a month) - I don't remember the exact prices, but count on a week in left luggage being about 3 times the cost of mailing the case back. Also the left luggage is per case, and I only had one case that I did not want on the bike. My current thinking is to plan tours so that there is a hotel that is visited at the start and end of the tour and pre-arrange the storage of the hard case.

    Finally, it is highly likely that we would want to tour on the folders at least once a year, with me carrying most of the luggage. Tours would most likely be one or two week light luggage bed & breakfast / hotel based, but carrying a tent for "caught in the middle of nowhere" stops might be a possibility. Large fold size and 26" wheels are looking like the preference for both myself and my girl friend.
    Agree that there should be a sticky thread. Or somebody should put a site together that really lists all the bikes side-by-side in an objective way, with each purpose outlined.

    There are many bikes that are best at particular things. For what you are describing, Birdy and Dahon are your two best bets. Dahon is a better value when considering components. You can get a very nicely equipped Dahon for about the same price as a full size bike with the same components. However, the Birdy rides better and is more durable. I think that the newer Dahon hinges look stronger and stiffer, so maybe they'll get or have gotten the quality control issues down. I think it's too early to tell, however.

    The Birdy with a low rider rack and panniers could probably be had for about $850 new and a bit less used. I have a friend that scored an unused 24 speed 2000 silver for $600 plus dollars. All depends on the eBay gods. Definitely stay away from the 26" wheel folders!!
    Last edited by pm124; 04-09-08 at 04:23 AM.

  17. #17
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Oh, and for touring, you can use any cheap 29" airline legal case with either the Dahon or the Birdy. We found one of our suitcases on the street. That one is a bit wider than a Samsonite Oyster, and the bike fits very easily. If you get a trailer, you can tow the suitcase behind you with all of your stuff in it. I'll try to post a picture of this. We mostly tour with Ortlieb panniers, though.

    The Dahon is much harder to pack. You even have to disassemble the stem if you have a fixed stem bike like the Mu SL.

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