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Varying wheel sizes on triathlon bike

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Varying wheel sizes on triathlon bike

Old 05-03-21, 08:42 PM
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Varying wheel sizes on triathlon bike

Saw this bike listed on FB marketplace and originally thought, nice little vintage lady bike but then noticed the unusual configuration with the small front wheel and normal? back wheel. What was the logic behind a bike configured like this? Was this something specific to early triathlon bikes? Doubt my wife would be interested in something like this.

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Old 05-03-21, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Saw this bike listed on FB marketplace and originally thought, nice little lady vintage lady bike but then noticed the unusual configuration with the small front wheel and normal? back wheel. What was the logic behind a bike configured like this? Was this something specific to early triathlon bikes?
There were some time trial specific bikes and track pursuit bikes that had that configuration - but your photo looks like a plain old accomodation for a small frame a la Georgena Terry.
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Old 05-04-21, 01:31 AM
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Small front for aerodynamics


This is my funny bike.700 c rear and 24 inch junior on front. The headtube angle on your example suggests it is indeed a TT frame. It was to get your back horizontal but still having a frame big enough to carry a strong rider.
Chris Boardman riding this configuration still holds the World Record for an hour, set in 1996 thereabouts.

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Old 05-04-21, 05:08 AM
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Nice looking bike but it is just a “Terry” style
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Old 05-04-21, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Saw this bike listed on FB marketplace and originally thought, nice little lady vintage lady bike but then noticed the unusual configuration with the small front wheel and normal? back wheel. What was the logic behind a bike configured like this? Was this something specific to early triathlon bikes? Doubt my wife would be interested in something like this.
A bicycle with a 24" front wheel and a 27" back wheel was a solution Bill Boston (a frame builder in New Jersey) came up with in the 1970's to solve the problem of toe overlap on smaller women's frames. Georgina Terry a small woman framebuilder herself took it up volume wise with a marketing man and a few extra Serotta frame builders to market a "women's bicycle" on a grander scale. This 2 wheel size bicycle became her brand's marketing image. Eventually her company got into saddles and women's clothing and the bicycles were made in Asia. The reason a 24" front wheel size was chosen was because they were somewhat common in children sized bicycles. Later on 650C wheels began to be imported into the US and 2 of those on one bicycle made a lot more sense and looked better than 2 different sizes.

Other brands in the 80's copied this design if they wanted to have a women's bike line. Racers that turn by leaning don't think toe overlap is a problem but someone making a slow turn by turning their handlebars will likely end up on the ground if their feet hit the front wheel. Two wheel sizes is a good but ugly solution and requires carrying 2 spares. Bill Boston and Georgina Terry were not idiot framebuilders and both realized that avoiding toe overlap by designing a small frame with a steep seat angle and shallow head handle neither fit most small women's bicycle position well nor handle particularly well either. Georgina (who was about 5'1" and had polio as a kid) specialized in fitting smaller women and designed her frames around that position. When she started their weren't MTB (559) or 650C (571) wheels as possible solutions to the too big 700C front wheels.
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Old 05-04-21, 06:33 AM
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The subject bicycle appears to be a Canadian market PB14, circa 1988, These bicycles were marketed to the shorter, female triathlete.

Prior to the mid-1980s, most females rode step-through frames. Bicycles marketed specifically for triathlon started appearing circa 1983, after the 1982 Ironman television coverage of Julie Moss crawling across the finish line galvanized the nation. The novice triathlete wanted a performance bicycle but one that was not too expensive, so marketers respun their mid-range sports bicycle into triathlon bicycles.

In order to be light and strong, a lugged frame with a horizontal top tube was the traditonal approach. However, this limited the lower end of the frame size when using performance oriented 700C wheels. There was a huge potential market of female triathletes who needed smaller frame sizes. By using a smaller front wheel, both the seat tube and top tube could be shortened, reducing the frame sizes, reach to the handleabrs and wheel to toe overlap, and making the bicycle appropriate for very short females.

A smaller wheel could also have been used on the rear. However, a pair of 24" wheels gave the impression of a children's bicycle and required non-standard gearing, so a 700C/24" wheel combination became the preferred solution.

While the are not specifically triathlon bicycles, most of the mass volume manufacturers marketed them as triathlon bicycles, as triathletes were the first female market segment to create a large demand for smaller, performance oriented bicycles. The design was popularized by Georgena Terry, hence they are often referred to as Terry bicycles, though Bill Boston is often credited with the orignal concept. The more generic term is "proportional" bicycles, as they are propotioned to fit the shorter female.

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Old 05-04-21, 06:40 AM
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Ah, yes I do remember seeing previous posts with a time trial bike like the one above (probably that same bike) but that looks like as designed whereas that Peugeot looks unnatural. Assuming that back wheel is a 27.5 wheel, would this bike originally have come with 2x 24" wheels?

I was not familiar with the Terry Georgina story, so thanks for sharing.

I guess this would make for a nice starter road bike for a younger rider.
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Old 05-04-21, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
A bicycle with a 24" front wheel and a 27" back wheel was a solution Bill Boston (a frame builder in New Jersey) came up with in the 1970's to solve the problem of toe overlap on smaller women's frames. Georgina Terry a small woman framebuilder herself took it up volume wise with a marketing man and a few extra Serotta frame builders to market a "women's bicycle" on a grander scale. This 2 wheel size bicycle became her brand's marketing image. Eventually her company got into saddles and women's clothing and the bicycles were made in Asia. The reason a 24" front wheel size was chosen was because they were somewhat common in children sized bicycles. Later on 650C wheels began to be imported into the US and 2 of those on one bicycle made a lot more sense and looked better than 2 different sizes.

Other brands in the 80's copied this design if they wanted to have a women's bike line. Racers that turn by leaning don't think toe overlap is a problem but someone making a slow turn by turning their handlebars will likely end up on the ground if their feet hit the front wheel. Two wheel sizes is a good but ugly solution and requires carrying 2 spares. Bill Boston and Georgina Terry were not idiot framebuilders and both realized that avoiding toe overlap by designing a small frame with a steep seat angle and shallow head handle neither fit most small women's bicycle position well nor handle particularly well either. Georgina (who was about 5'1" and had polio as a kid) specialized in fitting smaller women and designed her frames around that position. When she started their weren't MTB (559) or 650C (571) wheels as possible solutions to the too big 700C front wheels.
what he said
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Old 05-04-21, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Ah, yes I do remember seeing previous posts with a time trial bike like the one above (probably that same bike) but that looks like as designed whereas that Peugeot looks unnatural. Assuming that back wheel is a 27.5 wheel, would this bike originally have come with 2x 24" wheels?

I was not familiar with the Terry Georgina story, so thanks for sharing.

I guess this would make for a nice starter road bike for a younger rider.
That bike came with the wheels pictured. Bike was designed for shorter female triathletes. Reread Doug Fattic's and T-Mar's posts above for the complete answers to all such questions.
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Old 05-04-21, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Ah, yes I do remember seeing previous posts with a time trial bike like the one above (probably that same bike) but that looks like as designed whereas that Peugeot looks unnatural. Assuming that back wheel is a 27.5 wheel, would this bike originally have come with 2x 24" wheels?

I was not familiar with the Terry Georgina story, so thanks for sharing.

I guess this would make for a nice starter road bike for a younger rider.
If it had come with a 24" rear wheel, it would require a rear brake with extremely reach, around 100mm.It would be so flexy, that stopping power would be significantly reduced. Also, when fitted witha rear wheel, the top tube would slope significantly and the head and seat tube angles would be extremely slack. You'd also require a significantly larger chainraing to attain normal speeds. So, while the unequal wheels sizes may not look right to you, equal wheel sizes don't pass the sanity checks.
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Old 05-04-21, 11:50 AM
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Got it, thanks T-Mar. It's listed in the GTA if you know anyone who was looking for such a bike. Price tag is steep.
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Old 05-04-21, 12:09 PM
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Lots of proportional bicycles in this thread: Terry-design C&V

Check out post #18, where I include a 1988 catalogue scan of a PB10, a sister model to the PB14. I don't know why BF won't let me link to the image and post here. It comes back with an "Invalid URL" error message. Isn't it ironic that BF doesn't consider itself "valid".
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Old 05-04-21, 12:10 PM
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There was an explosion of these Terry style bikes back around 1987 or so. Miyata, Bridgestone, Centurion, Bianchi, Fuji, Bianchi, etc, all made their own versions of these Terry style bikes.
They disappeared as quickly as they came though. I guess most women didn't like to be seen on something so goofy looking.
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Old 05-04-21, 01:10 PM
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Ok I'll bite.

Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
There was an explosion of these Terry style bikes back around 1987 or so. Miyata, Bridgestone, Centurion, Bianchi, Fuji, Bianchi, etc, all made their own versions of these Terry style bikes.
They disappeared as quickly as they came though. I guess most women didn't like to be seen on something so goofy looking.
They disappeared because they were too fast for the UCI. The drug addicted peleton didn't like being streeted by the funny bike folks so they had them banned.Unfortunately for the UCI, Boardman banged out 56 plus kilometres in an hour (35+ mph) in a sanctioned race before they moved the goalposts and rubbed the 'goofy' bikes out. The UCI, Lance Armstrong and their ilk couldn't believe their luck.

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Old 05-04-21, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Johno59 View Post
They disappeared because they were too fast for the UCI. The drug addicted peleton didn't like being streeted by the funny bike folks so they had them banned.Unfortunately for the UCI, Boardman banged out 56 plus kilometres in an hour (35+ mph) in a sanctioned race before they moved the goalposts and rubbed the 'goofy' bikes out. The UCI, Lance Armstrong and their ilk couldn't believe their luck.
Small front wheel time trial funny bikes of the 80's (unlike the terry style subject bike of this thread) were designed around riding position using bullhorn bars mounted as low as possible. Small front wheel could also be advantageous for team time trials or track team pursuit by allowing the team of riders to follow each other closer for more draft but small wheels also have higher rolling resistance. Once the aerodynamic advantage of scott tri-geek bars became accepted, funny bikes rapidly became obsolete and deservingly died out on their own. For optimal aerodynamics, scott bars need a much higher handlebar postion than can be achieved with a funny bike, a full size 700c front wheel allows for a much more aerodynamic TT position. Chris Boardmans hour record bikes and all of his pro road TT bikes I can find did not use a small front wheels. His (subsequently banned) lotus monocoque frame design he rode to the hour record was not a funny bike. The Obree's bikes he developed for his later banned egg tuck and superman positions were not small wheel funny bikes.

I TT raced with a 650c front wheeled funny bike back in the early 90's. It was the most uncomfortable and evil handling bike that I have ever owned and required an extreme cluge high- rise MTB stem to make it remotely rideable with scott aero bars. Once I realized that fact, I eagerly scrapped it!
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Old 05-04-21, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Johno59 View Post
They disappeared because they were too fast for the UCI. The drug addicted peleton didn't like being streeted by the funny bike folks so they had them banned.Unfortunately for the UCI, Boardman banged out 56 plus kilometres in an hour (35+ mph) in a sanctioned race before they moved the goalposts and rubbed the 'goofy' bikes out. The UCI, Lance Armstrong and their ilk couldn't believe their luck.
You are confusing lopro/funnybikes, which have sloping top tubes, an extreme riding position and bullhorn bars, with Terry style bikes, which have level top tubes, regular road riding positions and regular road drop bars.
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Old 05-04-21, 07:36 PM
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Man, I am really glad these Terry style bikes exist. A couple of my colleagues under 5'3" with shorter legs and arms have come to me asking what their solution might be, many after being shoehorned onto ill-fitting bikes in bike shops by know-it-all pushy sales people, and running for their lives. I've gotten two of them on C&V small front wheel Terrys. They seem pleased. The Terry is often the nicest, best-handling, fastest bike you can get someone of this height on, without having them go for a custom build. Sure, there are mixtes, but these have the problem of still being too long for some shorter riders. My rule of thumb has been, if you can stand over a 700c wheel, you can stand over the bike!

I think a benefit that hasn't been discussed here is that you can get a small rider to experience at least a half bike's worth of the wide/supple tire revolution. And on the more-important wheel, at that! That alone might be worth it! Same with having readily-available, good quality rear wheels. Not easy to get a high quality lightweight freehub equipped rear wheel pre-built in some small size, unless you're going to 20" and hanging with the Brompton/minivelo crowd.
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Old 05-04-21, 10:12 PM
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Age Issue

Originally Posted by GrayJay View Post
Small front wheel time trial funny bikes of the 80's (unlike the terry style subject bike of this thread) were designed around riding position using bullhorn bars mounted as low as possible. Small front wheel could also be advantageous for team time trials or track team pursuit by allowing the team of riders to follow each other closer for more draft but small wheels also have higher rolling resistance. Once the aerodynamic advantage of scott tri-geek bars became accepted, funny bikes rapidly became obsolete and deservingly died out on their own. For optimal aerodynamics, scott bars need a much higher handlebar postion than can be achieved with a funny bike, a full size 700c front wheel allows for a much more aerodynamic TT position. Chris Boardmans hour record bikes and all of his pro road TT bikes I can find did not use a small front wheels. His (subsequently banned) lotus monocoque frame design he rode to the hour record was not a funny bike. The Obree's bikes he developed for his later banned egg tuck and superman positions were not small wheel funny bikes.

I TT raced with a 650c front wheeled funny bike back in the early 90's. It was the most uncomfortable and evil handling bike that I have ever owned and required an extreme cluge high- rise MTB stem to make it remotely rideable with scott aero bars. Once I realized that fact, I eagerly scrapped it!
You are absolutely right. My bad. I have this erroneous image of Boardman on a Lo Pro bike that is stuck in my feeble brain. Of course there are plenty of pictures featuring Boardman and funny bikes, unfortunately for me they are being ridden by his opponents whom he has just lapped/soundly beaten on his conventionally 700c wheeled bike.
More embarrassing, one of the prototype honeycomb frames milled on the 4 axis milling machine and autoclaved for Lotus was in our display room at work. Unfortunately it didn't have the wheels on it so I just imagined them.

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Old 05-05-21, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
Lots of proportional bicycles in this thread: Terry-design C&V

Check out post #18, where I include a 1988 catalogue scan of a PB10, a sister model to the PB14. I don't know why BF won't let me link to the image and post here. It comes back with an "Invalid URL" error message. Isn't it ironic that BF doesn't consider itself "valid".
That PB10 looks almost identical to the PUG i posted above and great thread on how popular these bikes really are. As always T-Mar, you continue to further my bike education. You should start some kind of program for a college diploma on bike lore and history

I bet the seller doesn't really know what he has as he doesn't do much to market who this bike is ideal for and why it's so unique. I'm going to watch this add to see if it comes down a bit in price.
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Old 05-05-21, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
Man, I am really glad these Terry style bikes exist. A couple of my colleagues under 5'3" with shorter legs and arms have come to me asking what their solution might be, many after being shoehorned onto ill-fitting bikes in bike shops by know-it-all pushy sales people, and running for their lives. I've gotten two of them on C&V small front wheel Terrys. They seem pleased. The Terry is often the nicest, best-handling, fastest bike you can get someone of this height on, without having them go for a custom build. Sure, there are mixtes, but these have the problem of still being too long for some shorter riders. My rule of thumb has been, if you can stand over a 700c wheel, you can stand over the bike!
Georgena Terry wasn't building triathlon bicycles. She saw a need for and made bicycles for shorter recreational riders like herself. She was trained as an engineer (one of my framebuilding class students was one of her classmates) that became a framebuilder and found a small front wheel solution that allows a shorter person to position themselves comfortably on a bicycle. The problem is that a 700C wheel is too big to do that without having severe toe overlap. Those big wheels forces a short rider into an ill-fitting riding position. Bicycle companies aren't stupid about this but are averse to getting sued for an accident caused by toe overlap. So they design small frames with steep seat and shallow head angles to avoid overlap and it is the customer's problem if the handling and forced seat and handlebar position isn't the best.

2 650C wheels are a better solution but that size was not available in the US until after she got her brand marketing established. 650C (not to be confused with their much bigger diameter 650B cousins) can be a problem because of limited tire selection (especially in a wider width). MTB sire wheels also can work well except road widths have become scarce. So a short person has to choose which evil they are willing to tolerate.

Short women really hate a bicycle with two 24" wheels because it looks like a kid's bike and invites comments they don't like.

When I made a custom bicycle for my very fit and fast not quite 5' 4" daughter, I choose 650C wheels. They don't really look like small ​​​wheels on a smaller frame and in fact look more proportional. I'll attach a picture.
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Old 05-05-21, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
I think a benefit that hasn't been discussed here is that you can get a small rider to experience at least a half bike's worth of the wide/supple tire revolution. And on the more-important wheel, at that!
Luckily, if you are small enough to ride one of these bikes, you're probably 100lb-110lb. For somebody of that weight, 25mm tires are perfectly fine. You don't need to pump it any more than 60psi at that weight.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find 28mm and 32mm tires for these 24" 520 rims. I found a Vee 24 X 1 1/8 tire for my wife's Terry bike:

^It's still wearing 25mm tires in this pic, but I've since changed it to 28mm front and back.

We have 3 bikes with 650c wheels and 2 bikes with 24" 520 wheels in our household, so the search for oddball sized tires is constant!
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Old 05-05-21, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
2 650C wheels are a better solution but that size was not available in the US until after she got her brand marketing established. 650C (not to be confused with their much bigger diameter 650B cousins) can be a problem because of limited tire selection (especially in a wider width). MTB sire wheels also can work well except road widths have become scarce. So a short person has to choose which evil they are willing to tolerate.

Short women really hate a bicycle with two 24" wheels because it looks like a kid's bike and invites comments they don't like.

When I made a custom bicycle for my very fit and fast not quite 5' 4" daughter, I choose 650C wheels. They don't really look like small ​​​wheels on a smaller frame and in fact look more proportional. I'll attach a picture.
I like 650c bikes. Like you said they look 'normal' and not goofy. I put both my kids on 650c tire bikes this year. Trek, Cannondale, Specialized, Jamis, Felt all made good quality 650c road bikes around the 2000-2010 time frame. Too bad the tire choices are so bad. You have a choice of 6 or 7 650cX23 tires, but only 2 650cx25 tires (occasionally) and 1 650cx28 that you have to scour the earth to find.
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Old 05-05-21, 01:37 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
Georgena Terry wasn't building triathlon bicycles. She saw a need for and made bicycles for shorter recreational riders like herself. She was trained as an engineer (one of my framebuilding class students was one of her classmates) that became a framebuilder and found a small front wheel solution that allows a shorter person to position themselves comfortably on a bicycle. The problem is that a 700C wheel is too big to do that without having severe toe overlap. Those big wheels forces a short rider into an ill-fitting riding position. Bicycle companies aren't stupid about this but are averse to getting sued for an accident caused by toe overlap. So they design small frames with steep seat and shallow head angles to avoid overlap and it is the customer's problem if the handling and forced seat and handlebar position isn't the best.
Right, exactly the problem and solution.
I do think that a lot of new riders feel more secure on bikes without toe overlap, or at least with less of it, so that may also be a factor.

2 650C wheels are a better solution but that size was not available in the US until after she got her brand marketing established. 650C (not to be confused with their much bigger diameter 650B cousins) can be a problem because of limited tire selection (especially in a wider width). MTB sire wheels also can work well except road widths have become scarce. So a short person has to choose which evil they are willing to tolerate.
I agree, but cost is also an object. Again, people new to cycling may not be comfortable paying to buy into a "rarer" wheel size. An old small-front-wheel bike can be affordable, appreciably lightweight, and better fitting than anything else at the price point, and a nice used 700c rear wheel equipped with a freehub and weighing less than 1kg is easy to find for under $100, sometimes including a nice quality tire, and will help a rider to feel fast, so it's a sweet upgrade. The old Terry-style bikes offer beginners a nice way in. Maybe later if the rider enjoys cycling, they might want to upgrade to a 650c machine, but it's hard to justify the cost to a curious beginner who can't possibly know what a well-fitting nice quality lightweight bike feels like. I am on the tallish end of normal size, and I count myself fortunate to have had easy access to a bike that fit me, early enough in life to give me an impression of what a bike that works well and fits well should feel like. That "hey, wow, I have wings!!" feeling, which after you have it, you will pay with money or time to keep on having the experience. Without this, who knows, I may have gotten into some other sport, like running or swimming or rowing.
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Old 05-05-21, 08:00 PM
  #24  
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The Terry style bike with smaller front wheel is semi-popular as a hipster cruiser conversion with flat or swept upright bars for small stature women. Nifty conversion project if you don't pay too much for the bike.

Otherwise some tiny women road racers have generally moved to proportional frames with smaller 650 wheels. See Emma Pooley's custom WyndyMilla bike, built specifically for her nominally 5'2" frame (I'm kinda doubtful she's taller than 5' even, judging from her height standing next to most of her former colleagues at GCN -- Emma is tiny but a seriously strong mountain goat.). She moved to that bike after an earlier attempt to make a smaller frame 700c Bond bike work for her. In interviews Emma said the smaller 650 wheels of the WyndyMilla offered a slight advantage on climbs, which were her specialty when she was active. I think she's moved on more to triatholons since retiring from pro road racing.
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Old 05-06-21, 12:15 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
Luckily, if you are small enough to ride one of these bikes, you're probably 100lb-110lb. For somebody of that weight, 25mm tires are perfectly fine. You don't need to pump it any more than 60psi at that weight.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find 28mm and 32mm tires for these 24" 520 rims. I found a Vee 24 X 1 1/8 tire for my wife's Terry bike:

^It's still wearing 25mm tires in this pic, but I've since changed it to 28mm front and back.

We have 3 bikes with 650c wheels and 2 bikes with 24" 520 wheels in our household, so the search for oddball sized tires is constant!
24 inch is standard wheelchair. They do clincher and tubular for standard and racing wheelchair riders. The tubs for the racing riders are as high spec (and pricey) as the pro bikes.
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