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Old 07-17-08, 12:57 PM   #1
AnnaMossity
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Cheap (like borscht) touring bike for 5'4" woman

So, my girlfriend wants to join me on my upcoming touring adventures and she is 5'4" tall. Pretty average sized woman she is. I see tons of mid '80s touring type bikes around my neighborhood that would probably fit her if it weren't for the long top tube of the mens style bikes that they all seem to be. What I was wondering is if it would be possible to get one of these mini mens bikes for her and put a forward seat post on it so she would be able to sit up more, would this reduce her climbing ability?

If that solution isn't possible then what is a good, inexpensive woman's specific (short top tube in relation to the seat tube height) bike for a woman interested in fully loaded touring? I'd feel bad if she had to drop 3gs on a custom rig and I built up my Apollo for $700 and got by with that.

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Old 07-17-08, 04:28 PM   #2
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I think the best approach is to look at thrift stores and yard sales for an older steel frame mountain bike that seems to have the right frame size. Some of these older mountain bike frames even have enough clearance to put 700c tires and wheels on them. The most important thing is the rear seat stay brake bracket clearance since a new front fork can be put on for relatively cheap if necessary. OF course the frame would not be light but it would be tough and if built up with lighter high quality sale items from Nashbar could still be only a few pounds heavier than a high end touring bike.
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Old 07-17-08, 05:15 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by AnnaMossity View Post
So, my girlfriend wants to join me on my upcoming touring adventures and she is 5'4" tall. Pretty average sized woman she is. I see tons of mid '80s touring type bikes around my neighborhood that would probably fit her if it weren't for the long top tube of the mens style bikes that they all seem to be. What I was wondering is if it would be possible to get one of these mini mens bikes for her and put a forward seat post on it so she would be able to sit up more, would this reduce her climbing ability?

If that solution isn't possible then what is a good, inexpensive woman's specific (short top tube in relation to the seat tube height) bike for a woman interested in fully loaded touring? I'd feel bad if she had to drop 3gs on a custom rig and I built up my Apollo for $700 and got by with that.

Muito obrigada pela sua ajuda!
The 80s were not good to women. Many of the frames that you might find out there would fall into the category of too tall (19" was about the shortest made) or mixte (which have a longer top tube then a regular frame). Better to look for either a 90s mountain bike or a new bike. Bridgestone XO-1 (or -2) were 26" wheeled hybrids that make good touring bikes.

For new bikes look at the Cannondale Road Warrior 4. It looks like it's built on a T2 frame but with flat bars (the fem. version stinks if Cannondale is listening) and it should be in the range you are looking at. You can add a trekking bar without too much fuss or cost.
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Old 07-18-08, 05:03 PM   #4
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+1 Thrift store steel mountain bike.
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Old 07-18-08, 05:17 PM   #5
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You can accomplish a lot with a short handlebar stem and moving a seat forward. A touring bike should be a bit longer than you neighborhood cruiser so you can stretch out. Pay attention to what size stems are on the bikes you look at and envision what they would feel like to her with a shorter stem (i.e. changing from 100 to 90 or 80 mm is a major change); most women have longer legs and shorter torsos than comparably sized men so working on the stem length and seat postion is a reasonable approach. For example I'm 5'11" plus and my wife is 5' 9" but we ride with the same seat height. Go figure who has the longer legs. IMHO you should not exclude a mixte if you can find one in the right size. My wife has been riding a Bianchi Volpe for 5 years (its 5 years old) but I just bought her a 1977 Motobecane Mixte to facilitate her mounting a bike with a bad hip. Surprisingly she rides faster (i.e. keeps up with me better) and is more comfortable on a not so fancy 31 year old ten speed than she was on a 27 speed midlevel touring bike. Yes I'll have to go to a triple cranks for future touring but the geometry seems to fit her for some as yet to be determined reason. tom
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Old 07-18-08, 11:31 PM   #6
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keep an eye out on ebay. i have longer legs myself and i was able to find an 80s specialized expedition touring bike with a proportionally short top tube. it has worked out perfect for me

you never know what youll find theres a lot out there.
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Old 07-18-08, 11:31 PM   #7
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i can never figure out why all the bikes made today have such long top tubes. maybe im just strangely proportioned? i really dont know
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Old 07-27-08, 11:07 PM   #8
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Man did this thread get out of hand, my friend doesn't have long legs, she's short. We went to the LBS today (LBS can't be spelled without BS) and she tried out a 44 cm Surly LHT and even though the bike had a super short stem with a lot of rise, she was leaned over at 45 degrees, they tried to say they could fix it. Bloody liars, can't get honest help anywhere. The bike was built with huge brake hoods and a large drop handlebar suitable for someone with huge mitts, what kind of person buys that? A midget guy or a average woman with huge hands? Man, apparently custom is the only way to go. There's no way any old school bike will fit my friend well enough that she'll be able to sit up in a comfortable touring position while on the hoods. It amazes me how much crap is out there on the market, aluminum touring frames, built with bizzare components. How do these bikes come to fruition? Are they farted together in the design room? Apparently so. Good thing I've got long arms and huge mitts I guess.
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Old 07-28-08, 07:47 AM   #9
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Man did this thread get out of hand, my friend doesn't have long legs, she's short. We went to the LBS today (LBS can't be spelled without BS) and she tried out a 44 cm Surly LHT and even though the bike had a super short stem with a lot of rise, she was leaned over at 45 degrees, they tried to say they could fix it. Bloody liars, can't get honest help anywhere. The bike was built with huge brake hoods and a large drop handlebar suitable for someone with huge mitts, what kind of person buys that? A midget guy or a average woman with huge hands? Man, apparently custom is the only way to go. There's no way any old school bike will fit my friend well enough that she'll be able to sit up in a comfortable touring position while on the hoods. It amazes me how much crap is out there on the market, aluminum touring frames, built with bizzare components. How do these bikes come to fruition? Are they farted together in the design room? Apparently so. Good thing I've got long arms and huge mitts I guess.
You've run across a problem that has existed for decades. Bikes and bike components just aren't made for women. Until recently, they didn't even try. The women's design movement is starting to address the issues of fit for smaller women and they've made great strides but not everybody is on board yet.

Surly should be given credit for designing their smaller frames with 26" wheels to address standover and wheel strike issues. Additionally, because it's sold as a bare frame, you can put anything you like on it...at a cost. The Surly Complete is made for the lowest cost they can make it for so of course they are going to not go out of their way to make component choices based on smaller proportions. That would add cost and most people would balk at paying more for a smaller frame over a bigger one.

I'm not sure where the comment about "aluminum touring frames, built with bizzare components" comes from, however. There are very few touring frame choices out there to begin with. Of the touring bikes available only two that I can think of are aluminum - the Cannondale T1 and T2- and they are very well thought out bikes with excellent component choices. Unfortunately, they are not made in a women's design nor in a particularly small size. But then many bikes share that problem.

Nor is there anything wrong with aluminum framed bikes...especially for women. Because of the size of the frames, most women aren't going to see much of the benefit of the compliance of a steel frame. The triangles of the frame are just too small to allow as much spring as a larger steel frame is going to have. Aluminum, however is a much less dense material so it is lighter to begin with. Given the lower body mass/muscle ratio that women have, being lighter is a benefit in and of itself. But because of the lower body mass, women's touring bikes don't have to be as strong as a men's frame either. You can thus get away with a lighter bike and lighter components without losing durability.

Go back out and look at some of the women's designs with a critical eye to how they could be repurposed for touring. Some of the hybrids with flat bars could be easily reconfigured (not cheaply )). I just bought a Specialized Vita for my short wife for $550. It's got long stays, rack mounts (front and rear), lousy gearing but a proportioned crank and a well laid out frame that fits her body style very well. It doesn't have drop bars but she hasn't been using drop bars for 10+ years anyway.

There are other WSD bikes out there that would do the trick also. Keep looking. Don't give up yet
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Old 07-28-08, 07:56 AM   #10
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Have you looked at the Trek fx7.2 WSD?
My wife's been using it for touring for several years and has worked out well.
More details on our page.
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Old 07-28-08, 01:18 PM   #11
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Anna,
You might want to look at Terry bikes for women:
terrybicycles.com
They obviously are designed to fit women's proportions. The Madeleine model has a relaxed geometry and provisions for racks. I have not actually seen that bike but my wife has some Terry stuff and is happy with it.
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