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Bikes for shorter people - ideas?

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Bikes for shorter people - ideas?

Old 10-03-21, 04:18 PM
  #1  
KC8QVO
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Bikes for shorter people - ideas?

I am researching bike geometry here. My girlfriend is pretty short (5'2", 26-1/4" inseam). I'd like to come up with some better bike options for her.

She has an old bike now that we've made work. It has 26" wheels. I am not sure what the rest of the dimensions are, but it is an old Murray step-thru with drop bars and, I believe, 10spd trans.

The challenge with it is she rides it with the seat bottomed out and she isn't getting proper leg extension. This is leading to hurt knees on rides over about 15 miles. We did a day ride last Fall ('20) that was around 30 miles, with mostly descending terrain, and she had to walk the last mile or so.

What I am trying to weed through is this:
- She wants to have the comfort and stability of being able to plant her feet on the ground while sitting on the saddle
- She needs to get her leg extension out more

The above are direct opposites of each other. If one were to attempt to set "normal" (upright triangular frame) bike geometry up to do this the pedals would be on the ground.

I thought about a custom frame that would allow for a low bottom bracket, but the problem is immediately pedal strike and there is no way to get a crank low enough that would allow the proper leg extension.

In another thread recently the Giant Revive crank-forward design came up. That is closer to a recumbent than a conventional bike. The benefit, in any case, in the fitment challenge here is that leg extension is achieved by increasing the distance of the saddle, horizontally (mostly), to the crank. This is as opposed to vertically in the case of a conventional bike design.

Are there any other design methods that we can look at for ideas?

I recall seeing bikes made for much smaller people in years past that were conventional bike geometry - upright bikes - only the seat tube, crank, and headset were lower. I don't recall the wheel sizes, I'd think maybe 20-24". They couldn't be very big - the headset height would be the limiting factor as you can only set the angle back so far. However, I can't imagine the physics of how the two issues mentioned above would be any different - same issues, different scale.
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Old 10-03-21, 05:05 PM
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MTB with road wheels?
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Old 10-03-21, 05:18 PM
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I dont understand why you think you need a custom frame. Any xs or size possibly size s will work just fine.

There is no such thing as having correct leg extension and being able to touch the ground while in the saddle. You are supposed to hop off the front of the saddle and straddle the bike as you come to a stop.

If she doesn't want to do it, either ride without full leg extension or make due with your two feet and a pair of sneakers.
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Old 10-03-21, 05:44 PM
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Hi,

A real world problem. There are smaller bike frames available XS and S. Giant has a line of these (Liv). A step thru is certainly a good choice. Now putting he foot on the ground, does she want all of her foot or just the ball of the foot? This will make a difference. I am short myself 5'5". I understand the issue.
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Old 10-03-21, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
MTB with road wheels?
Initially I skipped right past this response. Then I read it a few times and I can not understand the depth of what you are getting at. So I have to ask - can you explain the theory of what you are getting at? Is there something special in MTB geometry? Or are you simply getting to the road wheels, in your reference, being smaller diameter = lowers the BB? Do explain.
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Old 10-03-21, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jfouellette View Post
Now putting he foot on the ground, does she want all of her foot or just the ball of the foot?
She sits on her bike now with being able to shuffle both feet on the ground to push around without pedaling. I don't think she can completely lay her feet flat on the ground, just the balls.
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Old 10-03-21, 06:40 PM
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There's no such a thing as a bike where you can keep sitting and reach the ground with your foot. You have to get off the saddle and stand when you come to a stop. That's how cycling is. Maybe toy bikes for little kids work that way but not real bicycles.
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Old 10-03-21, 07:25 PM
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Mountain bikes come in smaller frame sizes than road bikes, but she probably won't want to ride pavement on standard MTB tires. S, XS, Liv are probably better ideas.
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Old 10-03-21, 07:48 PM
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Try a bike with 650B wheels. Emma Pooley, a former announcer for GCN is fairly short. She had a whole segment recommending bikes with 650B wheels for shorter riders.
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Old 10-04-21, 10:58 AM
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A mountain bike that doesn't have suspension and is fairly lightweight. Or better yet IMO, a cruiser with tires smaller than 700C. My wife won't even look at a bike with 700C wheels anymore.

https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/b...bikes/c/EB600/
These probably look awful to those used to the aesthetically pleasing and racy looking road bikes, but for leisurely rides they are very comfortable.
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Old 10-04-21, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
The challenge with it is she rides it with the seat bottomed out and she isn't getting proper leg extension.
Seat height and proper leg extension should never be compromised. If she needs to get a foot on the ground to shuffle forward, the proper way is to just remove one foot and shuffle with it, while leaving the other foot on the pedal. Never lower the seat to be able to get both feet on the ground, never.

But if she absolutely wants/needs to take both feet off the pedals to put them on the ground while still sitting on the seat, maybe install a dropper seat post.

Last edited by Riveting; 10-04-21 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 10-04-21, 01:21 PM
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Some cruiser style bikes will let you have a proper enough saddle height and still put both feet on the ground. Saddle height IMO is more critical as the seat tube angle get up near and into the road bike and TT bike geometries.

Something like this Lux 7D step-thru cruiser. Notice how the seat tube angle is so acute to the chain stay putting the BB well out in front. So one can ride it leisurely in a upright sitting position and still stay in the saddle and put your feet down when stopped.


https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/b...olorCode=green

Road bikes, hybrids and many other bikes with a more vertical seat tube you can't or don't really want to have your seat that low. At least not if you want to ride a medium to fast speed on them.
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Old 10-04-21, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
... pretty short (5'2", 26-1/4" inseam) ... The challenge with it is she rides it with the seat bottomed out and she isn't getting proper leg extension.

What I am trying to weed through is this:
- She wants to have the comfort and stability of being able to plant her feet on the ground while sitting on the saddle
- She needs to get her leg extension out more
About the only way I know of to be sitting in the saddle yet being capable of putting both feet (stable) on the ground is: a pedal-forward frame design, such as the ones Trek Electra has. In the smaller (likely smallest) frame, someone with ~26in inseam should be able to sit on the saddle and be able to place (or nearly place) the feet flat on the ground. Adjust the stem and bars for proper hand position, and you'd be good to go.

As you already know, a step-through frame can help with access to the ground, but with a normal and traditional saddle to BB/pedals positioning in the geometry, it'll be very hard to both sit on the saddle yet still being able to place the feet flat on the ground. Still, with a step-through frame design, it's an easy (and IMO necessary) skill to learn how to rise up and forward off the seat (into the step-through area of the frame) while standing on one pedal, reaching down to the ground with the other foot. Saddle will be at the proper height for leg extension, but the rider's technique of moving forward off the seat when needing to reach the ground solves that part of the problem.

While several inches taller than she is, my inseam isn't much longer. So I've always done better on XS frames with shorter top tubes, step-through frame designs. (I tend to ride much more upright, nearly fully upright, on my bikes, as it's more comfortable for me; which again helps me lean toward smaller bikes with shorter top tubes, taller stems/bars.)

One possible step-through frame -- Velo-Orange Polyvalent Low-Kicker (step-through) frame.

Another possible step-through frame -- Rodriguez Adventure step-through. The step-through is a custom option, but Rodriguez also does custom frame geometry for you as well, if you prefer. One option, for getting the lower step, the more-slack seat tube, the taller head tube, stem and bars, so that it'll fit like a glove.

Or the Electra bikes, by Trek. They're a "pedal-forward" design, hence a lower saddle height while not sacrificing leg extension.
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Old 10-04-21, 01:37 PM
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As above, it is not possible to be able to put both feet flat on the ground and get proper leg extension on a standard bike, regardless of frame size - your legs should be damn near completely straight when the pedal is at the bottom of its stroke, and there needs to be some clearance between the pedal and the ground. Feet flat on the ground when seated with proper leg extension on the pedals is a geometric impossibility.

Possible solutions:

A 'crank forward' bike as Iride01 suggested. I don't know who makes these in 2021 - Giant and Electra?
A recumbent bike, which has the pedals out in front of the saddle instead of underneath it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recumbent_bicycle
A change in priorities for the rider - either practice sliding forward off the saddle when stopping and standing over the frame (the strategy most cyclists use), or leave the saddle lower than ideal but give up on longer rides.
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Old 10-04-21, 01:51 PM
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Might be worth watching
with her. Former World Champion Emma Pooley explains her views on bike fitting for smaller riders.
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Old 10-06-21, 01:06 PM
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This isn't a bike problem, it's a mental issue. Yes, there are crank forward bikes (google), which allow what your GF wants. They are OK for short trips on the flat, but not too much more IMO. She just has to suck it up and learn how to mount, start, and stop a properly setup bicycle. There's not really another answer. Little used parking lots can be good for this sort of thing. It's a matter of doing it over and over until it feels OK to her and she's stopped making mistakes. You know how to stop a bike without falling over. Teach her how. It's just fear, that's all. Fear can be overcome.

My wife is 5'1", rides an MTB converted to drop bars. She runs 1" tires which are possible to find. It's a good solution.
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Old 10-06-21, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
This isn't a bike problem, it's a mental issue. Yes, there are crank forward bikes (google), which allow what your GF wants. They are OK for short trips on the flat, but not too much more IMO. She just has to suck it up and learn how to mount, start, and stop a properly setup bicycle. There's not really another answer. Little used parking lots can be good for this sort of thing. It's a matter of doing it over and over until it feels OK to her and she's stopped making mistakes. You know how to stop a bike without falling over. Teach her how. It's just fear, that's all. Fear can be overcome.

My wife is 5'1", rides an MTB converted to drop bars. She runs 1" tires which are possible to find. It's a good solution.
I pretty much completely agree.

However if the GF doesn't really want to ride in the style of cycling the OP enjoys, then it'll be harder or maybe impossible getting her to have any desire to overcome the mental part.

So there might be a BF/GF incompatibility here. Whether that's enough to be a issue overall and for long term is for the OP to figure out.

I'd be happy to take my riding down to the level of the Trek Lux 7d I showed in a previous reply just so I could ride with my wife even if it was only less than an hours ride and 8 mph average.

She's already ruled out tandems and e-bikes. Mostly based on the fact she doesn't want to go fast. I'd probably have to get one for myself too. When I'm on a road bike, I want to go go go.

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Old 10-06-21, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I pretty much completely agree.

However if the GF doesn't really want to ride in the style of cycling the OP enjoys, then it'll be harder or maybe impossible getting her to have any desire to overcome the mental part.

So there might be a BF/GF incompatibility here. Whether that's enough to be a issue overall and for long term is for the OP to figure out.

I'd be happy to take my riding down to the level of the Trek Lux 7d I showed in a previous reply just so I could ride with my wife even if it was only less than an hours ride and 8 mph average.

She's already ruled out tandems and e-bikes. Mostly based on the fact she doesn't want to go fast. I'd probably have to get one for myself too. When I'm on a road bike, I want to go go go.
Have you two tried a tandem? In a rather large way, it's not the same as riding a single. Speed is an analogue of exposure in rock climbing. One gets used to it, some more slowly than others. With a rider of your ability, it's not speed that's dangerous, it's other people. Cars are considerably more careful about tandems. Females are still worshiped a bit perhaps? The biggest danger I've seen on a tandem is decreasing radius corners, which just means be smart about speed. We used to have a 35mph speed limit. Then she just started closing her eyes if we picked up speed. Now she's had her eyes open at 65. OTOH, neither of us are normal. The reason we got a tandem was simply to be able to spend more time together. I was gone on my single for too many hours. Turned out to be pivotal decision. Just sayin'.
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Old 10-06-21, 09:01 PM
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Iride01 totally agree with this statement
:

A mountain bike that doesn't have suspension and is fairly lightweight. Or better yet IMO, a cruiser with tires smaller than 700C. My wife won't even look at a bike with 700C wheels anymore.
To add to 700c or 29" wheel comment, I share the same feeling, and I am on the upper end of most xl bikes in terms of fit. I find that 650b gives me the balance I want.
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Old 10-07-21, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Have you two tried a tandem? In a rather large way, it's not the same as riding a single. Speed is an analogue of exposure in rock climbing. One gets used to it, some more slowly than others. With a rider of your ability, it's not speed that's dangerous, it's other people. Cars are considerably more careful about tandems. Females are still worshiped a bit perhaps? The biggest danger I've seen on a tandem is decreasing radius corners, which just means be smart about speed. We used to have a 35mph speed limit. Then she just started closing her eyes if we picked up speed. Now she's had her eyes open at 65. OTOH, neither of us are normal. The reason we got a tandem was simply to be able to spend more time together. I was gone on my single for too many hours. Turned out to be pivotal decision. Just sayin'.
The tandem was a very real option we looked at a few years ago. But still she won't commit. And I myself am a little apprehensive about it as to get anywhere to ride it would not be real convenient. I'd either be several miles of busy streets to get to where traffic thins out or several miles on the very near by MUP, but all of those twisty up and down to get to those same less busy traffic places to ride.

Tandem isn't out completely though. However since the e-bike seem like a no go with her I'm hoping to find a place that has a Trek cruiser like I've shown in the pic for her to try. So far, locally they seem to only get models with 700C wheels and she instantly rejects them without trying. Maybe when we get out to the Denver area again later this month I can find something.

She's very stubborn........
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Old 10-07-21, 09:41 AM
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There are a couple of things that will determine seat height.

As mentioned above, the crank forward designs allow more leg extension with a lower seat.

If a person sits bolt upright on the bike, then one can have more knee angle and a lower seat.

On the other hand, the more forward leaning one is on a road bike, the more the knees tend to hit the belly forcing one to raise the seat.

Crank length has both positive and negative influences. If one has full leg extension, then longer cranks require a lower seat. However, if the concern is leg flexion then a shorter crank will have less flexion at the top of the stroke, and may also allow a lower seat (without full extension at the bottom of the stroke).

Ultimately the decision will depend on the riding goals.

If the goal is the occasional ride around the park, or a mile or two commute, then a person may be perfectly happy with an upright posture and low seat. And that should be considered just fine.

On the other hand, if the goal is to ride 10 to 20 mile commutes, and perhaps half century or century rides, then the solution should be to slowly raise the seat, and learn to dismount to get the feet on the ground.
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Old 10-07-21, 03:35 PM
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Have you considered something less orthodox?

Devinci foot-forward bikes have a lower seat height and she might find that useful.

Further away from orthodox you venture into recumbents with possibly even lower seat heights.

Further yet - recumbent trike where you don't have to put your feet down when stopped. That is likely the route I'm going next, unless I go FULL deviation with a velomobile.

lol
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Old 10-07-21, 09:29 PM
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I'm pretty short, 5'4". One thing to consider is a Bike Friday. First of all they make custom bikes for all sizes from little people to NBA players, and the bikes fit perfectly. Second, they have adjustable bike frames which, when coupled with the smaller 20" wheels, can be sized to fit anyone perfectly without buying a custom frame (they are called OSATA frames). You can call and talk to them. Nice thing about BF 20" frames is it is much easier to stop and the step through makes it a lot easier in traffic, too. Lower center of gravity. And small wheels accelerate faster. I love my BF bike. So much easier to ride and handle, less big heft to manage around.
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Old 10-08-21, 04:59 PM
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I don't want to be rude, yet you've asked this question before. A couple of times at least and I've answered you before.

The key requirements is shorter cranks, and then building the bike around it.
140-150mm cranks is probably right.
The best off the shelf solution is a Giant ARX24 or similar from their Juvenile bike range. You categorically will not find an adult bike built that small. They don't exit without going full custom (plus knowing exactly what to do) and they probably never did.
Bikes this small were always considered Juvenile bikes, yet back in the day when everyone rode simpler bikes, they didn't seem so basic.

https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/bi...years-24-inch-
And the ARX 24 isn't in the current line up. You may be able to find one new old stock or just try one of the new ones.

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Old 10-09-21, 09:35 PM
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Here's a new to the World market small bike from Giant.

https://www.liv-cycling.com/us/flourish-24

I think the cranks are still too long at 6inch (152mm), ideally you would shorten them to say 135-140mm, and then the step off will be a little higher than you would like, but still its far better than anything else that I have seen recently.

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