Bike-Buying Tips for Short Riders
I’m not even that short—a smidgen over 5’1”—but damn, it can be hard to find a bike that fits. Those of you under 5’3” or so know exactly what I mean. We’re hanging out here at the very bottom of the bike-sizing curve, surrounded by heavy vintage steel cruisers and a frustratingly limited selection of reasonably fast or cargo-worthy modern bikes that fit.RELATED: 10 Bike Fit Myths, BustedAs the market for bikes increases, particularly among women cyclists, smaller options have become more plentiful, to everyone’s gain. If you’re still struggling with sizes, though, here are some tips for finding that perfect frame.
1. Know the Numbers
Size is about a number of factors. Stand-over height gets the most airplay, and indeed there should be at least a good inch or two between your crotch and the top tube. But the length of the bike is just as important for fit. Rule of thumb: If you can’t instantly reach the brakes from your most comfortable normal riding position, the bike’s too long for you. You’ll probably need to test ride a number of bikes to get a sense of what’s comfortable and normal and what isn’t.
2. Pick Your Wheels
Narrow down your selection by wheel size. If you’re my height or under, do not even bother looking at any bike with wheels larger than 26 inches, or 650c. The smaller wheels allow for better short-rider geometry, fit, and handling. Yes, some small bikes are sold with 29-inch or 700c wheels with tiny frames squished between them, but there is no need for you to fall for this wishful marketing trick.
3. Consider a Foldie
If you’ll primarily be riding around town, one often-overlooked option is a folding bike. There are several types of these extremely adjustable bikes out there with racks and gearing that make them great for everyday use.
4. Look Into Women-Specific Designs
You might want to try bikes advertised as having “women-specific” geometry. These are geared towards an average smaller rider, with the assumption that your legs will be comparatively longer than your torso and that your shoulder breadth and hands will be on the small side. If this describes you, then don’t be shy about going for it, even if you’re a guy and you hate the color selection. (It’s possible to repaint the bike.)
5. Get Fitted
If you are having trouble finding a bike that fits, or want to troubleshoot any discomfort you have while riding, there’s plenty of help out there. Most bike shops will do informal fittings of varying quality and can replace things like your stem or handlebar to hone your comfort. Professional bike fitters also exist who will, for a pretty penny, adjust your bike components to suit you down to the decimeter.
RELATED: Is Your Bike Fit Hurting You?