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Old 11-30-05, 08:41 PM   #1
Zie
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Advice on bicycle for women/people with long legs and short backs

Hello everyone, I'm trying to find the right new bike for me and having some problems, so I would love your advice. I want my bike for light touring (maybe up to 4 days but only rear panniers), 1/2 day rides and commuting. I'm a 173 cm (5 foot 8) female with an 82.5 cm inseam (yeah really long legs, great in a miniskirt but hard to find the right bike for! Despite this I am assured that I have the classic cyclist's dimensions!). While I am tall enough to fit most guy's bikes they are generaly designed for men with much longer backs than me. To climb the mountains in NZ I would like my bike to be light and have a triple. I think I prefer drop handle bars to straight but I am open to discussion there. I want to be able to attach rear panniers or an equivalent but don't need front panniers. I am thinking relaxed geometry road bike might be good for me? Some of the makes that are showing promise are Lemond Reno Womens, Sub Zero or Specialised Dolce Elite. There seems to be a lot of positive talk on the forums about the men's Specialised Sequoia bikes for light touring - do any women out there ride them? Or men with short backs and long legs? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks, Zie
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Old 11-30-05, 10:01 PM   #2
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You are on the right track, Zie, and you might also consider the Trek WSD (Women's Specific Design) models. No, in spite of my signature, I do not work for Trek - just like them...
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Old 12-01-05, 10:25 AM   #3
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Zie, I have the same legs but 2 more inches in height. I ride a Trek 520 pretty comfortably but I imagine that 2 inches would really make it not right for you. However, I just bought a bike with "trekking" handlebars and they create a much shorter cockpit even though the frame is "normal." Take a look at these:

http://www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk/publi...urehandlebars/

The open end goes toward the seat meaning the grips are located like a much shorter frame. Plus you get the multi position advantage of drop bars.

Just a thought.
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Old 12-01-05, 10:31 AM   #4
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Another thought is to check out Terry bicycles (www.terrybicycles.com). These are women specific bicycles and will definitely fit you as you are not as tall as some (I'm 6'0" with long legs and so I know how you feel!). They have a wide variety of bikes for all different types of riding, including custom, and the prices are reasonable.

I wound up buying a Trek 520 touring bike, and the only modification needed was a shorter stem. Although I don't think my torso is as short in comparison to my height as yours is.

Good Luck!
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Old 12-01-05, 07:33 PM   #5
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Thanks guys for your help. You know somehow I had missed that Trek had the WSD range - so I am now onto that - thanks mtnroads. Unfortunately there are no Terry stockists in my part of the world :-( and I don't want to buy a bike without trying it first - but they do look good, thanks Cherry Bomb. And vadopazzo, it had never occured to me to try a different type of handlbar, thanks. But this leads me to another question: how do non-standard handlebars affect your brakes and gears - do you have to change them or can they just be attached to the new handlebar?
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Old 12-01-05, 09:09 PM   #6
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Although I am a male, I fit your geometry: 1.81 m (5' 11"), 89 cm (35") inseam. Basically, the only things WSD mean is that they offer:
– smaller frames, which you don't need;
– shorter cranks – sometimes –, which you don't need;
– narrower handlebars, which could be changed by the LBS;
– shorter stem, which may be swapped easily;
– shorter top tube: depends on model;
– "girly" colour: depends on your tastes, though pink is probably a good theft deterrent.

Basically, any bike where you can get the handlebars relatively close to you and at least at the level of your saddle would be a good choice. If you are lightweight, a "light touring" frame such as the Fuji might be a good choice, but you will get a surprisingly good performance machine with a Trek 520 or Cannondale Txxx fitted with narrow 28 to 32 mm tires (keep the 32 to 35 mm tires if you weight 150-175 lb).

In terms of handlebars, you probably will like 40 to 42 cm wide handlebars (centre-centre), but wider handlebars are more stable through strong crosswinds and when towing a trailercycle. But bear in mind that it's highly subjective: my 1980 touring bike had 39 cm bars and my 2000 Trek 520 had 46-cm bars (c-c), and I quickly realised that I much prefer the wide 46-cm bars, even though I should theoretically use 42-43-cm handlebars.

Changing front end vs brakes and shifters.
Changing the stem or its height is a trivial matter. Current stems are open faced and have 2 or 4 bolts. One just needs to remove the bars from the stem, remove the old stem and install the new one, then reattach the bars. No need to remove bar tape, shifters or brake levers. In extreme cases (ex. raising the bars too much) you may need new longer housing and cables, but that's a rare situation.
As for changing the handlebars: you may replace any model of drop bars by any other model of drop bars, providing they have the same clamp size (25,4 mm(rare), 26,0 mm or 31,8 mm, which is related to the stem). All drop bars have the same diametre so you just need to remove everything from the old bars and reinstall everything on the new ones. If you like weird bars, mustache bars (see Rivendell website) are compatible with drop bars.
However, straight bars and their variants (priest bars, old "city" bars found on 1960s 3-speed bikes) have a different smaller handlebar diameter so if you take a bike with drop bars and convert it to straight bars – or vice versa – you need to buy new shifters and brake levers. It then becomes an expensive proposition.
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Old 12-01-05, 10:14 PM   #7
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Find the top tube length that you need first. Since you have long legs, you'll be able to stand over any stock frame (whose top tube fits) with ease.
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Old 12-02-05, 01:48 PM   #8
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You are the picture of a custom frame purchaser.
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Old 12-02-05, 02:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FarHorizon
Find the top tube length that you need first. Since you have long legs, you'll be able to stand over any stock frame (whose top tube fits) with ease.

If you do this, then it will have too short of seat tube, putting the bars too low. Get the largest framesize for your inseam, then worry about adjusting bar reach with the stem. If a 70cm or so stem still has the bars too far out, then it's time for a custom frame, or look at stuff like the Trek WSD, or the Specialized female bikes. They address this problem with shorter top tubes.
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Old 12-02-05, 06:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by markw
If you do this, then it will have too short of seat tube, putting the bars too low. Get the largest framesize for your inseam, then worry about adjusting bar reach with the stem. If a 70cm or so stem still has the bars too far out, then it's time for a custom frame, or look at stuff like the Trek WSD, or the Specialized female bikes. They address this problem with shorter top tubes.
Agreed, but given her proportions, it'll be hard to do this on a modern bike without an inordinantly short top tube. Older touring or "sport road" models are more likely to have the right kind of geometry.

(EDIT) That didn't make sense. It should have said "it'll be hard to do this on a modern bike without an inordinantly short STEM"

A made-to-measure Mercian or Bob Jackson can be built up as a light tourer for around $1500-$2000 (probably even less) depending upon options and componentry. That's very comparable to equivalent production bikes that probably won't fit as well.

I've gone this route for similar reasons and can answer questions about how to work with an overseas custom builder.

Last edited by halfspeed; 12-02-05 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 12-02-05, 07:00 PM   #11
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Just checked the Mercian web site. Their Audax special (made for just this sort of riding), built to order with Campy Veloce is just over $2k (USD). I don't recall if that includes VAT or not. Money can be saved by buying a frame only and build kit separately from a US distributor and building it yourself.

(EDIT) Turns out that price includes 17.5% VAT so a US purchaser would pay significantly less.
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Old 12-02-05, 07:02 PM   #12
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Given how much of her height is her legs, I would be concerned her short little arms won't reach the bars on a bike sized to accommodate those legs.
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Old 12-02-05, 10:23 PM   #13
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Probably doesn't have short little arms. The long-legged tend to be long-limbed, which may be why she was told her sizing wasn't that far off because the length of her arms makes up for the shorter torso. Like Zie, I'm bike shopping and interestingly enough my proportions are very similar. At this point in time, I've pretty much decided to go with Waterford and get some custom geometry and a beautiful bike at a fairly reasonable price.

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Old 12-03-05, 12:53 AM   #14
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Try R&E cycles in Seattle - they have a particular line of ladies touring bikes the make "the Stella" that retail sfrom 1100 to 1600. Occasionally you will see them on Craigs lists as well - I think I'd swap a few of the components out , but the basic frame will meet your needs. I've run across these bikes a number of times on the coastal trails Seattle to LA and the Northwest to Canada routes.
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Old 12-03-05, 03:57 AM   #15
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People, get real! 82.5 out of 173 isn't extreme. Those are normal proportions for a normal male of that height. People make too much of these fit issues. Just get a bike of roughly the correct size, and simply adjust saddle height and stem length until you're comfortable.
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Old 12-03-05, 05:09 AM   #16
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If the bike fits, ride it!

Maybe a visit and some gelder for a custom fitting at a shop near you? Give you an idea of what geometry suits you the best? Then you can pick and choose from all your options. CdCf has a good point about a standard sized bike may work just fine with adjustments to stem/saddle.

R&E in Seattle totally has it going on with fittings, stock and custom bikes, as well as the ultimate travel bike (I think Willie Weir rides one), that does the suitcase trick. and their Stella bikes seem to have very roadworthy, not sugar coated, 'women's specific design.'
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Old 12-03-05, 09:29 AM   #17
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Try and get fit on a bike by someone who knows what they are doing. But in the end it comes down to what is comfortable. My wife is about 5'10" so when we bought her bike we skipped right past the women's bikes and looked at the men's. Our LBS will help fit your bike, actually spent quite a bit of time with her to get it right. She ended up with a slightly smaller bike than I imagined, a 54cm road bike even though she would fit just fine on a 56cm, but she felt a little more relaxed and comfortable on the smaller frame so that's what we bought. Basically, just try them all out and see what fits best.
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Old 12-03-05, 10:09 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CdCf
People, get real! 82.5 out of 173 isn't extreme. Those are normal proportions for a normal male of that height. People make too much of these fit issues. Just get a bike of roughly the correct size, and simply adjust saddle height and stem length until you're comfortable.
People who make "too much" of fit issues are people who have tried to deal with ill-fitting bikes and lived to regret it.
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Old 12-03-05, 11:28 AM   #19
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what he said.
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Old 12-03-05, 01:05 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by halfspeed
People who make "too much" of fit issues are people who have tried to deal with ill-fitting bikes and lived to regret it.
But the frame isn't the issue! As long as you have enough margin to adjust saddle position and stem length, the actual frame size doesn't matter at all.
My first bike didn't fit me, but after a new stem and handle bar, the fit was great.
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Old 12-03-05, 01:39 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CdCf
But the frame isn't the issue! As long as you have enough margin to adjust saddle position and stem length, the actual frame size doesn't matter at all.
My first bike didn't fit me, but after a new stem and handle bar, the fit was great.
The frame =is= the issue. Sure, you can (sometimes) force too small or too large frames to work but it comprimises balance, handling, comfort and sometimes safety. This is why only Wal-Mart bikes are "one size fits all" and every respectable manufacturer sells a range of sizes and styles.

Every length and every angle affects the fit, feel and characteristics of road bike. This is especially important when you're spending many hours touring on it.
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Old 12-03-05, 02:20 PM   #22
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Ah well, believe what you want...
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Old 12-03-05, 03:44 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by CdCf
Ah well, believe what you want...
Of course that's what we all do.

In selecting that which I choose to believe I'll take practical geometry along with my experiences and those of thousands of builders, manufacturers and cyclists over the opinions of a single anonymous swedish student.
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Old 12-03-05, 04:45 PM   #24
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And you can't see that there's absolutely no difference in adding 1 cm of seat tube length and one 1 cm seat post length?
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Old 12-03-05, 06:09 PM   #25
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Hey Zie!

Don't know if they've already been mentioned but check this builder out:
http://www.lunacycles.com/
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