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  1. #1
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    Recumbents for short people?

    Hi all,

    I'm on a quest to buy a recumbent bike and I could use some advice.

    I'm female, 5'3", 118lbs, with a 37" x-seam. I haven't owned a bike in 20 years but I'm interested in getting one for exercise, trips around town, and maybe someday commuting (train+bus+bike). I've test-ridden a few and while I like the comfort of LWB bikes, their length is really impractical. I also prefer the maneuverability and agility of SWB bikes.

    However I'm having trouble finding SWB bikes that I can ride because of my height. The design of most SWB bikes has the seat rising further off the ground as you move it closer to the pedals, which means I can't reach the ground when sitting down.

    I've visited three dealers and the only bikes I have been able to ride are the Bacchetta Bellandare, Bacchetta Giro TT, EasyRacers Tour Easy, Sun EZ-1, and RANS Stratus LE. I was also able to borrow a custom-built Rotator Tiger from a friend (but she's shorter than me and the bike isn't adjustable).

    I tried the RANS V-Rex today but with the seat adjusted almost all the way forward, I still couldn't reach the pedals, and I was barely able to get a toe on the ground.

    Amongst dealers in my area (SF Bay Area) I might also be able to get a ride on a Lightning Phantom and a Volae Tour. I'm also looking at the ActionBent GC-24A, but I'm very skeptical about buying a bike unseen when I can't ride most of the ones I have seen.

    Are there any other manufacturers or bikes I should be considering? Are there any other short recumbent riders out there? I wish it were possible to just slice a couple inches off the boom on a design like the Giro, to bring the seat down to my level and the pedals in reach.

    Thanks for any advice!
    --Tessa

  2. #2
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    A Barcroft, but they might be hard to find for a test ride.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Crank57's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlau View Post
    I wish it were possible to just slice a couple inches off the boom on a design like the Giro, to bring the seat down to my level and the pedals in reach.

    Thanks for any advice!
    --Tessa
    Tessa,
    I have heard of taking a Giro 20 and replacing the rear wheel with a 24" to actually lower the bike. This, from what I have read, worked very well; even the brake was within adjustable range. If you took that logic a little further you could probably replace the front with a 16. Of course the front would probably have to have a disk brake.

    Also, the Volae Century might be a good candidate since it has a little bit longer wheel base but not to the point of being imposible to transport.

  4. #4
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    Try A Tailwind

    My wife is 5'2" and I recently found her a good used RANS Tailwind. Its seat position is quite adaptable and fits short riders well. Although it's 20/20, it rides something like the 36/20 Stratus, but it's smaller, and with much more maneuverability. It has the same great seat as the Stratus. They stopped making bike this a couple years ago (I don't know why - it was a popular, award-winning model), but there are usually used Tailwinds on eBay or Craigslist. My wife absolutely loves it. I have also read a number of posts in this forum regarding the great popularity of the Tailwind with women. If you go this way, buy a model made after 1997.
    rsbeach

  5. #5
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    See if you can try a Bacchetta Cafe. It has a slightly longer wheel base than short wheel based bents, yet not as long as a long wheel based one. I believe it's 57 inches. Price is right for a bent too,1,050.00. I have one and love it. The seat shouldn't be too high for you either.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    You'll have to try the Phantom to see if you like it. On the small frame you should be able to reach the pedals, but you need to experience the feeling of hanging your leg over the side of the seat to touch the ground. Very comfy seat, though.
    If you are not riding the small frame models, then you won't be able to tell if you like them. With a 37" X-seam, you should have been able to reach the pedals on the standard V-Rex.

    Don't forget Rick at Gold Country. He's in Shingle Springs and schedules appointments so he can concentrate on you for test riding.

    http://www.tandems-recumbents.com/

    You could also try Zach Kaplan in Alameda. He's appointment only for everything, but is very knowledgeable about recumbents.

    Zach Kaplan Cycles
    Alameda, Northern California, North America
    510-522-BENT (2368)
    zakaplan@earthlink.net
    Last edited by Dchiefransom; 08-23-08 at 10:42 PM.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the great suggestions!

    The Tailwind and Cafe are both on my "will consider" list, but their length (just over 80") puts them over the bike length limit for Caltrain, which means I wouldn't be able to use them to commute to work. I'm not sure if I'll ever do that, but I'd like it to be an option if possible.

    I did visit Zach Kaplan (he let me try the Bacchetta Giro and Bellandare, but didn't have anything else that I could ride). I've been in email contact with Rick at Gold Country, who says I might be able to fit their Volae Tour (if I make the 2.5 hour drive up to Sacramento).

    I'll look into the Barcroft line too. Thanks for all the feedback -- it's great to know that there are people like me who have been able to find something that works for them.

    --Tessa

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    I feel for you Tessa. I'm 5'5", and all of my life been going through trying to find things that fit me. I also ride a motorcycle. Try finding one of those to fit you! Anyway, if I may say this without being blasted by too many people, your idea of chopping two two inches of the boom of a Giro only has a little problem; you can't really chop the boom because it will put your feet in the way of your front wheel. I think it is possible to chop two or more inches from between the steering neck and the seat and have a perfectly functional bike. All you would really be doing is shortening the wheelbase. It might be noticeable on comfort, but it might even even improve your handling (at least the turning radius). I'm not an engineeer, so don't take my word as fact, but If I were having the problem that you are having finding a fit, I'd do it. Just some food for thought. Good Luck. Gary

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    I'm 5'4" with a 37.5 x seam. I'm riding a 1997 vision R44 SWB. I has a 16" front wheel. the seat front is somewhat triangular, which makes it easy to put a foot down. Vision is no longer around, but you can often find these at a great price. It may not be a fast bike, but it fits great, and it's very comfortable. I experimented with putting a 20 inch wheel on the back of my R40 to make it even lower for my wife, but she prefers riding on the tandems.
    Burley Softride Samba
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  10. #10
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by la2sei View Post
    I experimented with putting a 20 inch wheel on the back of my R40 to make it even lower for my wife, but she prefers riding on the tandems.
    Good point about the 20" rear wheel. I bet you could do it with a V-Rex, especially if you could find an older one. What you'd end up with would be a high-end Rocket, except I think it would adjust a bit better for short legs. It would take some engineering to make brakes work, though.

  11. #11
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    When I switched to the 20 inch wheel, I changed the brakes from linear pull to U brake. Used the original brake mounts, just changed the arms.
    Burley Softride Samba
    Rans Screamer
    1997 Vision R44
    Novara buzz flyby
    1987 centurion ironman
    1999 specialized FSR XC comp

  12. #12
    Novara Element Shantar42's Avatar
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    HI! I had the same problem you did. I'm 5'2. I looked at the Giro 20 and almost went with it as my husband has the giro 26. But, I wanted something a bit sportier. I wanted to also try a Bacchetta Corsa 24 but could never find one to test out. I ended up getting a Challenge Hurricane SL. It is a swb with underseat stearing, and I love it. Being short the high racers and Long WB were out for me. I flew to colorodo to ride some Challenge bikes and fell in love with them. It was worth the trip to get the right bike. A few months later I also got a Trike. I went with the Catrike 700. Being short I needed about 4 Inches cut off the boom but it's perfect! Good luck with your search and let us know what you decide!

  13. #13
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    If you are in the market for a used bike, consider the Haluzak Leprechan. It's the smaller version of the Haluzak Horizon, a fine short wheelbase bike with underseat steering. When asked which recumbents people were sorry to see discontinued, the Zak came up quite frequently. You would also be able to ride any of the shorter frame Linear long wheelbase bikes. They are built close enough to the ground that you would have no problem reaching the ground with your feet flat on the pavement.

  14. #14
    Get 'Bent & Enjoy!
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    short people

    I too am very short. I am a 4'10.5" female with a 36" inseam. I research recumbents before I made my choice as it wasn't simple. There are so many choices out there. So many things to figure out and learn. This form and EZ Racers forums helped me so much.

    After much thought, I ended up buying a EZ-3, it's a recumbent trike, if you don't know. I absolutely love it. It's heavier than I would like but it's a delta trike and leaves me the same height my hyundai does in traffic. I absolutely love it. I would trade it for the world. Well, the same thing but lighter, but we'll see what happens when I have the funds.

    I recently turned 40, but that really has nothing to do with my recumbent riding. What it came down to for me was comfort. With my trike, I can stop any time I want & not even have to use the break, or even unclip. I just "balance" on the pedals and go no where. That would be impossible with any upright or even a 2 wheeled recumbent. As far as they go, I haven't gotten one yet, although with the ease of trike riding, I may NEVER go back to 2 wheels again. I call it my La-Z-Boy on wheels. IT's awesome. Recumbents are awesome! Whatever you get enjoy. If possible take some test drives to see which is a good fit for you.

    Good luck
    L
    Enjoy & Get 'Bent!
    LadybugRider
    -------------------------
    Get 'bent & enjoy.

  15. #15
    Ride more, eat less cat0020's Avatar
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    My SO is 5'0", 36" X-seam. I found her a $400 Vision R40 with 16' front wheel on Craigslist, I put on 155mm crankset.. convert it from USS to OSS. She's never ridden her upright bicycle since.

    Master your environment, and you will survive just fine.
    Chances favor the prepared mind.

  16. #16
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    'Bent riding, here I come! A generous friend gave me an old RANS Rocket that he no longer wants. We pulled the seat forward as far as it would go, so that it nearly touched the handlebars, and -- voila! -- my short stubby legs could reach the pedals. However, when I stop, I can barely reach the ground with my toes. I think a shallower seat, such as the RANS "Short Stop" seat, might fix this problem -- but it's pretty pricey. Maybe I can take a hacksaw and trim off the front 2" of the seat cushion and pan?

    cat0020, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has handlebars jammed up right between their legs! It sure looks weird, but it does work.

    I figure I'll ride the Rocket for a while, at least enough to get used to riding a recumbent, so that if I do buy a new bike in the future I'll have a better sense for what I'm looking for. I love the height it puts me in traffic -- I'm at eye level of most drivers, unlike the Tiger where I was at the level of car door handles. I can't wait to ride my new bike.

    --Tessa

  17. #17
    Ride more, eat less cat0020's Avatar
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    Mountain View, CA is that near Morgan Hill?

    RANS Rocket for a first recumbent is awsome, I wish I knew someonw how has a unused RANS Rocket to give away.

    The important thing to remember while you're riding is to look (and turn your head) for where you want to go, if you look down, you go down, so don't look where you don't want to end up.

    Keep the rubber side down and good luck.
    Master your environment, and you will survive just fine.
    Chances favor the prepared mind.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    I'd get Rans on the phone and discuss this with them. If the seat back is the same as the standard, then you might only need a seat pan and foam with a cover. That could knock off quite a bit of the price of the new seat.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

  19. #19
    shaken, not stirred. gnome's Avatar
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    I've got a Rocket as well and have just changed my seat pad from the standard thick pad to the thin integrated seat pad and had to put my seat back to get my leg extension right. The integrated seat pad is a good 3-5cm thinner than the standard seat pad. I'm finding that it is just as comfortable as the standard pad.

    Here's theRANS integrated seat foam. It may be worth a try before committing to buying the short stop seat or chopping up your existing one.
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  20. #20
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    I called up RANS and asked about options for swapping out my seat for the Short Stop. The woman I spoke to says that the way that's most likely to work is to switch to the Rad-Loc mounting system (my bike predates Rad-Loc). From what I can see in the pictures online of newer Rockets, the Rad-Loc rail doesn't extend as far forward as mine does, so I won't be able to slide the seat all the way forward to touch the handlebars if I switch to Rad-Loc.

    Interestingly, the woman I spoke to says that the Short Stop seat uses the same foam as the regular seat, it's just compressed more to fit into the smaller carbon fiber seat pan. So I think I will try to slice off part of the foam/pan and see if it works.

    She also recommended trying the thinner integrated seat pad, but if I sit any lower on the seat, the handlebars will obstruct my view -- and I prefer being higher up in traffic.

    My one concern about riding the Rocket with the seat pushed all the way forward is -- I now have most of my weight just aft of the front wheel. How does that affect the safety and handling of the bike? Will I be more likely to fly over the handebars in a hard stop, or will my bike flip over if I hit a pothole? I suppose I could load the back down with panniers to even things out a bit.

    Meanwhile I was reading back issues of RCN and found an editorial by Bob Bryant lamenting the loss of entry-level SWB recumbents for short people -- that's exactly what I am struggling with! I think that when I do end up shopping for a new bent, I'll be looking for the 26"/16" style. I don't think short people should have to learn bike surgery before they can enter the world of bent riding. I'll be looking at the small Lightning Phantom/P-38, the small Volae Tour, the Turner T-Lite, a used Vision R40, a used Haluzak Leprechan. I hope this helps anyone else who stumbles on this thread who is looking for a similar class of bent. And I hope the manufacturs are listening.

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