B.C. to D.C.
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: between the Popeye's, the liquor store, the funeral home, and the strip club
Bikes: 1992 Miyata Nine 14; 1971 Raleigh Super Course fixie conversion; 2006 Jamis Nova (853 version); 2001 Diamondback Topanga (SS conversion); 1956 Rudge Sports; 1971 Raleigh Competition (processing); 199? Schwinn World Sport (processing)
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yeah, I can weigh in.
I went through very similar trials and tribulations as yours in finding a bike for my wife, who has a 29" inseam.
The problem is once you get below 29 or 30" standover with 700c wheels, you start having to change the geometry of the bike in awkward ways, mostly to eliminate toe overlap. Usually, this means bringing the seat tube angle up, and pushing the fork angle out, so you get a very different handling bike than its bigger brethren (or sisteren). The biggest issue is that the top tube length is not able to be shrunk very significantly. What does all this mean? Basically, it's hard to get your body in the right relationship to the pedals and the bike.
The change in handling is not necessarily bad. My wife likes her bike very much, as I was able to make it work (just barely) Having to do it all over again, however, I would definitely look for a frame designed around 650c wheels, which I believe is what the Nova appears to be. Smaller wheels means that you can preserve the proper angles of the bike at a smaller size.
I'm not aware of any cons to having 650c wheels. Maybe it's harder finding road tires? I wanted 700c for my wife just so we could swap wheelsets. I don't know that a 650c wheelset would work in a frame designed for 700c--the biggest problem being the brakes (unless it's the Poprad disc).
My wife tried (but didn't like) the "Terry" geometry (reverse penny farthing--a farting penny, I guess--700c rear, 24" front)--I don't even know if they make a cross version of that, but you might want to take a gander at that kind of a frame as well.
This isn't a woman-specific thing, but if you are a woman, you might want to try asking in the women's forum, where they are more likely to have experience regarding small bike sizing.
Last edited by comradehoser; 05-18-07 at 01:52 PM.