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Vintage Frames for the Petite Rider

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Vintage Frames for the Petite Rider

Old 04-08-20, 12:35 AM
  #1  
jcswanson
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Vintage Frames for the Petite Rider

I'm quarantining with my dad and without my bike, and I've been missing riding. As I was poking around craigslist for a beater, I had the idea to use my time (and ease my boredom) with a restoration or rebuild project. So far I've been looking at vintage touring bikes, and while there's a lot of information online, I'm having trouble finding resources and advice for a rider of my stature. I'm hoping the bike forum community can help.

A bit about me: I'm 5' 1" with a 27.5" inseam without shoes (my bike shoes are sadly not with me, but I figure they give me an extra inch or two). Normally I ride a Salsa Vaya (the 2017 49.5cm), which I love. I'm a fairly experienced rider, but I still have a lot to learn about bike mechanics. I'm comfortable with basic stuff (I can change a tire, put on/take off a rack, and handle my own basic maintenance, but I still look up the park tool videos whenever I have a shifting related issue).

What I'm looking for: Part of the appeal of this type of project is to get more comfortable with the mechanical side of things, but I'm not looking to jump straight into a complete rebuild or something with super unique or specialized parts. I have no problem with a step-through or mixte frame, as long as I can put racks on it (a back rack is necessary, but I'm flexible on the front). I'm not set on using original parts, and I'm happy to update things. Ultimately, I want something that I can use for getting around town, errands, and maybe some light, weekend touring. Ideally, I would like to find something that I could start riding short distances with only a few minor repairs and then gradually improve as I find the right parts, order the necessary tools, etc. I know its a big ask of a vintage bike, but I'm also hoping to get something that isn't too unbearably heavy (something I'm sure my fellow petite riders can understand).

Budget: Ideally I would be able to start riding for $250 or less (not including racks), but it seems that the local market (the Bay Area) might make me push that up a bit. For repairs and replacement parts I'm flexible: I'm not trying to resell this bike, so I'll happily prioritize making a bike I love riding over making something as affordably as possible. That said, I also don't want to break the bank.

If this was a normal time, I would be able to try a bunch of things and find what works best for me, but that's not really an option right now. This means that I need a lot more guidance about what vintage bikes work for short riders, and that I'm more open to buying something online than I normally would be. What brands made frames that are small enough for someone my size? What frames are so heavy they're not worth the bother for a short rider, even if they're great for average-height riders? I've been leaning towards steel, but should I give aluminum another look if I want something not-heavy and not-new? Are there other features I should be looking out for given my height and weight concerns and my desire for a vintage frame?

Sorry for the novel-length post, and thank you for any advice you can offer!
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Old 04-08-20, 03:36 AM
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Snaller Sized Frames

Many smaller size frames were designed??? or built by people who don't understand the needs of folks with a smaller stature. They don't necessarily have a lower stand over height plus they handle like wheelbarrows !!!

Back in the 70's when we were importing Andre Bertin bikes, we had them build us some 48cm frames. They took sewups or small cross section 20mm 700c clinchers. The frames used Mafac cantilever brakes for a shorter reach, vertical dropouts and were made from light weight tubing for a smoother ride

We also brought in shorter 165mm TA and Stronglight cranks, plus short stems and brake levers.

They rode and handled like larger sized frames.

Some photos found on the web.







Chances of finding one of these frames are pretty slim as we didn't have that many of them made.

Several suggestions:

Try to find a Georgina Terry bike.or frame. They're properly dimensioned. Here's some photos of her bikes:

https://www.google.com/search?q=geor...w=1696&bih=820

Look for a smaller sized mixte bike or frame. Mixtes were made in 2-3 size frames: 50cm, 54cm & 57cm (20", 21" - 21.5" and 22"-22.5") sizes. The larger ones tend to have a longer reach to the bars which would be the equivalent of a longer top tube.

Look for a 24" wheel bike or frame. Problem with this is that finding decent wheels and tires is going to be difficult. Stone's Cyclery in Alameda, CA has or had a 24" wheel size Bob Jackson mixte frame in stock. That would probably put you waaayyy over budget by the time you get all of the components.

Try to find a partial or complete bike. It's generally going to be less expensive, especially when you can't go out shopping for parts.

Talk to John at Stone's, American Cyclery in SF and Cupertino Bike Shop for older bikes.

Good luck!

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Old 04-08-20, 06:27 AM
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You actually have a decent inseam for your height. I'm 5'9" and only have a 28.5" inseam. And size 11 feet. So every 53-54 cm vintage road bike I've owned has had toe overlap and insufficient stand-over height. It's common folklore that these issues are no-no's but they're not a real problem. Sure I've jammed my parts on the top tube a few times but I still fathered a couple of great kids. So this relates to you how? You may need a very short top tube but I'd think any number of ~50 cm frames would work for you. A short stem and zero-setback seatpost might help.
Another popular alternative is a high quality mtn bike frame built to ride road. Nothing wrong with trying that for build practise.
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Old 04-08-20, 06:36 AM
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They made some 15" mountain bike frames in the early 90's which would be an option. I've had a Trek 950 and Univega Alpina in that size that would fit.
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Old 04-08-20, 06:46 AM
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+10 I built up a couple of small MTBs for my 5-2 wife. One is a 14.5 inch Trek 950, the other is a 15 or 15 1/2 Paramount Series 70. Ignore the super high seat post. This is from my test ride after I built it.

94 Trek 950 002 by wrk101, on Flickr


1992 Schwinn Panasonic Series 70 MTB by bill, on Flickr
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Old 04-08-20, 07:06 AM
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You might want to look into and consider a Terry designed bike as well.
You can read more about them from a C& V perspective HERE:
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Old 04-08-20, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
+10 I built up a couple of small MTBs for my 5-2 wife.
This.

I built up a pair of MTBs for my sons to commute to school on, knowing that they'll eventually outgrown the frames.

Here's a Trek 970:


You can generally find a high-end MTB from the 90s in your price range and size without too much effort.

Leave the knobbies, or put on some oversized slicks (e.g. Maxxis DTH) for more pavement / multi-use path riding.
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Old 04-08-20, 08:35 AM
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My wife (5' 3") had a 48cm 2009 Cannondale Synapse that she never got comfortable with. It was too twitchy for her and she didn't feel stable on it. I kept an eye on Craigslist for vintage touring bikes and scored a 48cm 1984-ish Lotus Eclair comfortably under $200. After a season of shakedown rides I moved the 3x9 Tiagra drivetrain and wheelset from the Cannondale to it. She's much happier with this setup, although it's evolved since this photo. The brifters are too big for her hands and she still wants drop bars so I'm monkeying around with thumb shifters and smaller aero brake levers. We'll get there.

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Old 04-08-20, 08:48 AM
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This thread might be helpful: Road Test/Bike Review (1982) Small Frame (18") Bikes
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Old 04-08-20, 08:59 AM
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Look for mixte bikes and folders like Dahon. All you want is a beater, decide after we get out roaming legs back!

Stay well!
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Old 04-08-20, 10:15 AM
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Here's a Georgena Terry in Ohio - eBay / CraigsList finds - "Are you looking for one of these!?" Part II
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Old 04-08-20, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by jcswanson View Post
I'm quarantining with my dad and without my bike, and I've been missing riding. As I was poking around craigslist for a beater, I had the idea to use my time (and ease my boredom) with a restoration or rebuild project. So far I've been looking at vintage touring bikes, and while there's a lot of information online, I'm having trouble finding resources and advice for a rider of my stature. I'm hoping the bike forum community can help.

A bit about me: I'm 5' 1" with a 27.5" inseam without shoes (my bike shoes are sadly not with me, but I figure they give me an extra inch or two). Normally I ride a Salsa Vaya (the 2017 49.5cm), which I love. I'm a fairly experienced rider, but I still have a lot to learn about bike mechanics. I'm comfortable with basic stuff (I can change a tire, put on/take off a rack, and handle my own basic maintenance, but I still look up the park tool videos whenever I have a shifting related issue).

What I'm looking for: Part of the appeal of this type of project is to get more comfortable with the mechanical side of things, but I'm not looking to jump straight into a complete rebuild or something with super unique or specialized parts. I have no problem with a step-through or mixte frame, as long as I can put racks on it (a back rack is necessary, but I'm flexible on the front). I'm not set on using original parts, and I'm happy to update things. Ultimately, I want something that I can use for getting around town, errands, and maybe some light, weekend touring. Ideally, I would like to find something that I could start riding short distances with only a few minor repairs and then gradually improve as I find the right parts, order the necessary tools, etc. I know its a big ask of a vintage bike, but I'm also hoping to get something that isn't too unbearably heavy (something I'm sure my fellow petite riders can understand).

Budget: Ideally I would be able to start riding for $250 or less (not including racks), but it seems that the local market (the Bay Area) might make me push that up a bit. For repairs and replacement parts I'm flexible: I'm not trying to resell this bike, so I'll happily prioritize making a bike I love riding over making something as affordably as possible. That said, I also don't want to break the bank.

If this was a normal time, I would be able to try a bunch of things and find what works best for me, but that's not really an option right now. This means that I need a lot more guidance about what vintage bikes work for short riders, and that I'm more open to buying something online than I normally would be. What brands made frames that are small enough for someone my size? What frames are so heavy they're not worth the bother for a short rider, even if they're great for average-height riders? I've been leaning towards steel, but should I give aluminum another look if I want something not-heavy and not-new? Are there other features I should be looking out for given my height and weight concerns and my desire for a vintage frame?

Sorry for the novel-length post, and thank you for any advice you can offer!
Having fought many battles in the Small Frame Wars, I have to say that you (probably) shouldn’t be riding a 49cm frame. You are likely riding a frame that is about 6cm or about 2 sizes too tall. My wife is 5’ tall with similar inseam and she rides a 43cm frame with 650C (571mm ERTRO) rims. That’s about 50mm smaller than a 700C rim. She started about 40 years ago on a 10 speed Big Box store bike that was my size (58cm) and I have been weaning her down to her proper size over time. It took a long time to convince her that the bikes she had been riding were too tall. It wasn’t until we found a Terry Symmetry that she actually began to realized how much too big her bikes had been.

The biggest problem is that the “vintage” bikes that she was forced to ride...they weren’t vintage then...were never built small enough for her. It’s still an issue because people aren’t making that many small bikes. “Small” is often considered to be in that 49cm range that you are currently riding. It’s simply not small enough. About the only vintage bike worth considering for your purposes would be a Terry Symmetry in a 43cm with the small wheel in front. If you could find a 650C road bike in a 43cm frame, that would work too.

Don’t go down the road of thinking that a 15” mountain bike would work either. That’s a bike for someone 3” to 4” taller than you are. Mountain bike frames are built to be 2” to 3” shorter for clearance and have proportionately longer top tubes for the frame size. You’d need a 13” mountain bike for the right proportions. There are some out there but they aren’t necessarily “vintage”. They’d be about 20 years old. Trek (and others) were making WSD (Women Specific Designs) back in the 2000s which are pretty good bikes but get the proper size.
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Old 04-08-20, 11:36 AM
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This is great! Thank you!
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Old 04-08-20, 02:10 PM
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I think it was shogun that had terry style bikes (700c rear wheel, 24" front wheel) back in the late 80s/early 90s. I bought one for my 5' tall girlfriend (now wife) back then. I cannot remember the details and am not having any luck finding one through google...
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Old 04-08-20, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Marylander View Post
I think it was shogun that had terry style bikes (700c rear wheel, 24" front wheel) back in the late 80s/early 90s. I bought one for my 5' tall girlfriend (now wife) back then. I cannot remember the details and am not having any luck finding one through google...
There were others. I have a Lotus, 46 cm, cute as a button. Seller told me his 5'1" wife fit it perfectly.
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Old 04-08-20, 02:36 PM
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Gui

Look for: early to mid 1980's Trek. They went the right way in the balance between a properly short top tube and the non-issue of toe clip overlap. Trek was ahead of their time in proportional sizing of parts to frames. Avoid 1970's Raleighs because of their minimum 54cm top tube length in any size and keeping top tubes level regardless of the effect on standover height.
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Old 04-08-20, 03:04 PM
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When shopping for a bike for my short-legged daughter-in-law, we were fortunate to find a small Centurion LeMans RS. I was pleasantly surprised that it had none of the usual 700C small frame design compromises. We did end up using 152mm cranks from Sugino, not because of toe clearance, but for easier spinning.
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Old 04-08-20, 03:09 PM
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Early 80’s Raleigh w/step through frame.
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Old 04-08-20, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Having fought many battles in the Small Frame Wars, I have to say that you (probably) shouldn’t be riding a 49cm frame. You are likely riding a frame that is about 6cm or about 2 sizes too tall.
Salsa's measurement of 49.5cm (at least on the Vaya) is the top tube effective measurement. The seat tube on the same bike is 38cm (slanted top tube).
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Old 04-08-20, 04:11 PM
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Mixte frames make a lot of sense for riders who are plus or minus 5 feet tall. A hidden-in-plain-sight benefit is that for most mixte frames, the top of the head tube is significantly higher than the top of the seat tube. It wasn't until sloping top tubes were introduced on mountain bikes that the same feature was made available for bikes with top tubes. Of course, there's still resistance from classic&vintage bike people who insist that any bike without a horizontal top tube is beneath contempt.

The other resource that seldom gets mentioned in these discussions is the great range of high-quality folding bikes currently available. The OP might want to elicit opinions on the Folding Bikes subforum as well as here.
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Old 04-08-20, 05:18 PM
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They're out there. Especially these, and other Georgena Terry designs by a plethora of brands.

This is actually about the same size as the one below. The 520c front wheel makes it look bigger.

Depends on your budget: This one is not exactly a budget bike.
It's since been re-sized with a much shorter stem.
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Old 04-08-20, 05:49 PM
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Those ^^^^^^ pics help illustrate how the Terry-esque smaller front wheel configuration affords much better toe clearance.

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Old 04-08-20, 06:13 PM
  #23  
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by bay area am assuming you mean san francisco bay....here are some possibilities

miyata mixte https://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/bik...102221994.html

over budget trek but looks nice https://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/bik...101828479.html

terry 44 https://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/bik...101485385.html



free terry fram 45cm looks no fork https://sfbay.craigslist.org/scz/bik...093956035.html
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Old 04-09-20, 08:02 AM
  #24  
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This was an option someone is selling in Seattle.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/bik/d/renton-1987-small-rodriguez-custom/7102218860.html

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Old 04-09-20, 08:30 AM
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I have a Lotus Unique that my son rode till he outgrew it. Just a frame at the moment. 20" C-T ST and a 21.5" TT. For the rider short of leg, but long of torso.

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