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Advise for buiding a bike for a 50+ short woman rider

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Advise for buiding a bike for a 50+ short woman rider

Old 03-05-14, 09:10 AM
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bobthalamu
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Advise for buiding a bike for a 50+ short woman rider

Hi all-

So I'm building a bike for a 50+ family friend who is still rather active, but hasn't ridden much in years and is rather short. She's 5'2" with a cycling inseam of 28" and prefers a road bike. While SO is not so important for me for an older lady hiking her leg over even a 50cm frame may be a bit much. I am leaning toward a small mtb frame for the 26" wheels and sloping TT, but found a cannondale r800c in 46cm made for 650c wheels. My concern is that this frame is intended for time trial usage and as such may be a bit too aggressive in its fit; i.e. the 48cm TT is perfect but the 44cm seat tube may require a bit too high seat placement to be comfortable. Have any of you shorter 50+ riders had some experience with one of these frames? Is there enough clearance at the chainstays for 26" wheels with city tires? Any other advise I should take into consideration?

thanks
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Old 03-05-14, 09:52 AM
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I'm not in your exact situation, but close. I'm about 5'-3", my wife about 5'-0". For her last road bike, boought sometime in the mid-90s, she went custom with 650c wheels since there really was nothing we could find that she liked that fit. It's fairly standard geometry and it looks proportional. I think the last time I measured it, the seat tube was something like 43 cm (C-C). The fixed gear I bought a few years back also has 650c wheels in something like a 46 cm frame. For my new bike, the builder (same one who built my wife's bike) assures me he can put me on a bike with 700c wheels. There will be a slight slope to the top tube, but other than that, from his drawings, it looks pretty standard.

I mention all this to say, I have experience with both 650c and 700c wheels. If you can avoid it, I'd stay away from 650c wheels. Back when my wife bought her bike (to replace a C'dale road bike with 700c wheels), a lot of the tri folks were using 650c wheels so there was a decent selection of wheels and tires. Now, not so much. Yeah, you can still get them, but the selection is very limited, and not every LBS carries them so you need to plan ahead (I keep a couple tires and a bunch of tubes in the garage).

BTW - the C'dale my wife used to own was the most uncomfortable bike either of us had ever ridden. She said she liked it because when she got it (during or right after college) she was in good enough shape that she literally never sat down. Fast forward a dozen or so years, and it wasn't nearly as much fun to ride.
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Old 03-05-14, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by KenshiBiker View Post
I mention all this to say, I have experience with both 650c and 700c wheels. If you can avoid it, I'd stay away from 650c wheels. Back when my wife bought her bike (to replace a C'dale road bike with 700c wheels), a lot of the tri folks were using 650c wheels so there was a decent selection of wheels and tires. Now, not so much. Yeah, you can still get them, but the selection is very limited, and not every LBS carries them so you need to plan ahead (I keep a couple tires and a bunch of tubes in the garage).

BTW - the C'dale my wife used to own was the most uncomfortable bike either of us had ever ridden. She said she liked it because when she got it (during or right after college) she was in good enough shape that she literally never sat down. Fast forward a dozen or so years, and it wasn't nearly as much fun to ride.
Kenshi, These are my two biggest concerns as well. I'm 6'2" 200#s and my c'dale tourer I use as a city bike is somewhat jarring and I was afraid that the older aluminum in a smaller frame for a lighter rider would exacerbate the bumps to the point of discomfort for her.

Also, I've noticed the lack of options in 650c but a 700c bike seems unrealistic for a rider of her stature, indeed at 5'4" my girlfriends 53cm bianchi seems about as small a frame that could functional well with 700s and she barely fits it. I have most of the drive train/cockpit at the house but even with a large part of the build in hand custom is not feasible with her 400-600 price range. Thanks for the advise though--I'll keep looking
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Old 03-05-14, 12:22 PM
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Bike Friday .. with a 20" wheel the geometry design compromises to get a modest reach
with a bigger sized wheel go away.

They are JIT Built in Oregon , as your order comes up in the Queue ..
you get to pick a lot of the Components .


starting with which 20" wheel (that road bike desire )go fast 451, or rugged 406..

I have a Pocket Llama .. disc Brakes , Internal gear hub ( me now 67 years , young )

love the step thru frame like convenience.

and that it takes up less room in the entry room.

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Old 03-05-14, 12:25 PM
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Can you even get "city" tires for 650C? I think most are 650x23C.

I think the older Cannondales ran a little large if you just look at seat tube length. I normally ride 55-56cm frames but I rode a 52cm Cannondale R700 CAD3 for a few years. The fit wasn't too bad - the seat was really high but I just raised the quill stem up a couple cm and I had the same exact position as my 55cm road bike.
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Old 03-05-14, 12:37 PM
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She should go down to the bike store and see what she likes. The women I ride with, ride different bikes, they seem to be available in smaller sizes okay, and I don't know of anyone riding smaller wheels due to lack of stature.
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Old 03-05-14, 12:53 PM
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I'm no expert on road bikes, but I maintain the bikes of a friend's daughter who is 5'2" ( but nowhere near 50+).

She has a couple of Giant Defys which she loves. They come in XS or 43cm, as do other road bikes in the Giant range. Worth a look on their web site.
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Old 03-05-14, 02:41 PM
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You should be able to get a regular road bike frame from most manufacturers that is under 50 cm that is not a TT bike. I know when I was looking at bikes for my wife some of the companies used 650 wheels for their smaller frames (could have been for hybrids), but a quick look at the Trek and Giant entry level bikes did not mention the smaller wheel size.
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Old 03-05-14, 03:01 PM
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My 50+ wife(she has a jersey) rides a 50cm frame with 700 wheels, she has no real problem getting on or off. Her bike is a Trek 2.1 WSD. I guess it depends more on the persons abilities than bike size or age.
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Old 03-05-14, 04:44 PM
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My wife is 5'-4" and has a 31" inseam, cycling wise, she uses a standard road or hybrid frame, usually a 52cm ST length. There are plenty of good women's specific smaller frame sets out and the idea about 650B wheels might well help out a lot. The WSD frames mentioned above are what she has now and things work very well for her. Best of luck with the project, steer her here too.

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Old 03-06-14, 08:38 AM
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I"m going to weigh in on this as I am almost the exact same size. Here is my take, for what it's worth: I ride a bike with 700 cc wheels but it ain't no road bike. The reality is, that wheels that big are too big for me except in a step-thru frame. And I don't care what 'sizing' the manufacturer claims is small or extra-small, there's only so many contortions they can apply to make a small frame fit big wheels.

If she hasn't ridden much in years a road bike may be all she knows (everyone rode those ten speed road bikes back in the day.) Urge her to keep an open mind. Aluminum frames feel a lot lighter and fun to ride, at least to this observer.

She's got three options: go custom, which means expense and as kenshibiker pointed out, a headache to replace tires as 650 isn't standard; a bike with the smallest *standard* wheels that she likes, say a mountain bike frame with as slick a tire as one can find, or go my route and accept that one will have a lot of fun for the money with a jazzed up 'comfort' bike. The options in a 700 cc wheel for the small rider, especially an aging less flexible rider, are very, very limited.

Last edited by moth54; 03-06-14 at 08:44 AM.
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Old 03-06-14, 08:48 AM
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Old 03-06-14, 09:04 AM
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Thanks for all the advise guys!

fietsbob- I thought about bike friday as well but even used they are twice her budget.

Gonzo Bob- Yeah no city tires for 650s-I found 1 maker for 28s, I was asking if 26" wheels with city tires would be small enough to fit between the chainstays of a 650c frame.

all who suggested the WSD frames- I cannot find these for sale as framesets only and since they are a relatively resent invention I don't see many used for sale--the few I have seen locally are still too big usually 54cm size in pink or pastel aqua...not her style really.

Looks like I'm going to have my girlfriends old 16" jamis exile moutain bike powder coated and build it up as a mustachioed city bike with pod shifters and bar end brakes for the family friend. Its a bit heavy but with an 11-34 mtn cassette, 44 32 22 triple crank and some 26" slicks it should do her ok.
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Old 03-06-14, 09:26 AM
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Recumbent riders switch between 26" and 650C all the time. All it requires is that the brake pads are able to move down 6 mm. That may be outside the range of some short-reach brakes, though. Finding skinny 26" road tires is also a pain; but there are a few out there. A good starter tire is a 26x1, or if it fits in the frame, a 26x1.25 Primo Racer.
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Old 03-06-14, 11:21 AM
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My 19 year old daughter has Down syndrome and has topped out at 4'9". Her road bike is a 44cm with 650 tires and it steps over about the same as her 20" mountain bike. She's spotting your friend 5" and a fair bit of balance, I suspect, so I'm not sure it makes sense to do something this extreme. My wife is 58, 5'3" and picked up riding three years ago after a 30 year lull, and was-is very comfortable on a 50cm frame.
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Old 03-06-14, 11:52 AM
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I've been looking for a road bike with a better fit for my wife who is also around 5' 2". She currently has a Giant but the effective top tube is too long for her. I really think the WSD designs would work better for shorter folks. I've talked to some other female riders and they prefer the 700 cc wheels over 650's. I'd much rather go with 700 cc wheels as well. Just keeps all my spare stuff available and I think the tires I'd use would be more available and easier to get.
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Old 03-06-14, 12:16 PM
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My 'kid sister' (now 50 ) stands about 5'1" and in 1980 bought a 19" Fuji Gran Tourer SE . That 19" works out to around 48cm. That was in the era of 27" wheels, too. Of course you might try a classic Mixte frame as well... Lots of barely ridden gems from the '70s and '80s can be found out there. 27" tires are getting rare, but can be found. Heck, I'm still riding my road bikes with 27s!
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Old 03-06-14, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by bobthalamu View Post
Gonzo Bob- Yeah no city tires for 650s-I found 1 maker for 28s, I was asking if 26" wheels with city tires would be small enough to fit between the chainstays of a 650c frame.
Ahh, that makes sense. In the early days of 650C triathlon bikes (late 80's), many folks called them 26" wheels so I though you still meant 650C. I know there are some fairly narrow 26" (559mm BSD or "mountain bike" size) rims out there (I have a pair that are 22mm wide). But tire selection is probably the limiting factor.

And doing a little math: a 650C rim with 23mm tires will have a radius of ~571/2+23 = 309mm and a 26" rim with 28mm tire will have a radius of ~559/2+28 = 308mm. So clearance on the sides (forks and chain stays) will be the limiting factor. But since the bike is for TT, my gut feel says that it may not have enough clearance for 28s, but that it should for 25s. The other likely issue is that the brakes are almost certainly short reach and you will not be able to drop the shoes down by 6mm for a 26" rim - so you would need to get new brake calipers (or is the Cannondale just a frameset at this point?)
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Old 03-06-14, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Gonzo Bob View Post
Ahh, that makes sense. In the early days of 650C triathlon bikes (late 80's), many folks called them 26" wheels so I though you still meant 650C. I know there are some fairly narrow 26" (559mm BSD or "mountain bike" size) rims out there (I have a pair that are 22mm wide). But tire selection is probably the limiting factor.

And doing a little math: a 650C rim with 23mm tires will have a radius of ~571/2+23 = 309mm and a 26" rim with 28mm tire will have a radius of ~559/2+28 = 308mm. So clearance on the sides (forks and chain stays) will be the limiting factor. But since the bike is for TT, my gut feel says that it may not have enough clearance for 28s, but that it should for 25s. The other likely issue is that the brakes are almost certainly short reach and you will not be able to drop the shoes down by 6mm for a 26" rim - so you would need to get new brake calipers (or is the Cannondale just a frameset at this point?)
I thought of adding those factoids to my post. Glad you did. Skinny road tire choices for 559 are indeed limited. I can think of Conti Gatorskins in 26x1.125, Conti Grand Prix in 26x1.125, and Primo Racer in 26x1. After that they're all 26x1.25 (32x559) or larger. The main reason for going to 559 wheels is to use fatter tires, not for availability. A TT bike is unlikely to accept the wider tires. When I got my highracer, 700c wheels was at the top of my requirement list because I didn't want to deal with the limited choices inherent with either flavor of 26" wheels.

Unless friend is planning on doing sanctioned racing, she could easily find a LWB bent to fit, AND with easy stepover. "Easily" being a relative term since most bike shops don't sell them.
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Old 03-06-14, 01:47 PM
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Agree w/49cm Frame...

I just sold a 49cm '88 Schwinn World (men's frame) to a young woman who was every bit of 5' 1", using a stock 90mm stem and not too much seatpost showing, it fit her really well. I recall that she said that her inseam was 28" also. One data point, FWIW.
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Old 03-06-14, 08:18 PM
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This is one of the best articles I've ever found on the subject. It explains why the need for smaller wheels.

http://www.myra-simon.com/bike/womens-fit.html
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Old 03-08-14, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
She should go down to the bike store and see what she likes. The women I ride with, ride different bikes, they seem to be available in smaller sizes okay, and I don't know of anyone riding smaller wheels due to lack of stature.
Me.

I have a friend who is 5'2" and she rides both a Specialized Ruby and a Trek Domane WSD. She has no issues with the 700 wheels and both bikes fit her fine. Her cycling inseam is about 28.

In contrast, I am 4'10.5" and I ride a 43cm Madone with 650 wheels and a Terry with 700 on the rear and a 24 inch on the front. The smallest Ruby and smallest Domane are too big for me. My inseam is about 27. It isn't the standover though, it is the reach. I can stand over a number of bikes that are too big for me.
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Old 03-09-14, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by moth54 View Post
She's got three options: go custom, which means expense and as kenshibiker pointed out, a headache to replace tires as 650 isn't standard; a bike with the smallest *standard* wheels that she likes, say a mountain bike frame with as slick a tire as one can find, or go my route and accept that one will have a lot of fun for the money with a jazzed up 'comfort' bike. The options in a 700 cc wheel for the small rider, especially an aging less flexible rider, are very, very limited.
Originally Posted by bobthalamu View Post
Looks like I'm going to have my girlfriends old 16" jamis exile moutain bike powder coated and build it up as a mustachioed city bike with pod shifters and bar end brakes for the family friend. Its a bit heavy but with an 11-34 mtn cassette, 44 32 22 triple crank and some 26" slicks it should do her ok.
I recently converted my wife's Specialized Myka mountain bike to a "jazzed up comfort bike". Replace the suspension fork with an inexpensive Chinese carbon fork, removed the front derailleur, replace the tires (26") with slicks, and replace the bars, stem and seat post also with Chinese carbon. Total cost of conversion was $150 and a finished weight of 21 lbs (with disc brakes). It's a speedy fun bike now. The mountain bike frame has a compact frame with sloping top tube - perfect for the smaller rider.

One of the women in our group ride yesterday was riding a Cannondale Synapse. I asked her how she liked it - she has two, one aluminum frame and one with a carbon frame. She said the carbon frame was more comfortable, but enjoys riding both. Cannondale's womens specific frame for the Synapse has 700c wheels. So this could be an option to consider as well.
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Old 03-09-14, 01:20 PM
  #24  
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I've known a number of women in the 5' range who have found good fit with 700c wheels. I have a friend who is 4'10' and she bought a custom ti 650 bike after riding 700 bikes, she said if she did it over she would get custom with 700 wheels.
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