frames and fits for short ladies

pink legs
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frames and fits for short ladies

Postby pink legs » Wed Aug 19, 2015 9:22 pm

Newbie here looking at upgrading from my online 2nd hand first purchase. Anyone got any suggestions about road bike frame sizes for 5ft 4 lady with reasonable flexibility? A fellow short person suggested custom frame and bike fit. Not sure I feel like trusting a bike shop to sell me the correct frame.....I'm in Brisbane so any local suggestions much appreciated.

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Re: frames and fits for short ladies

Postby zebee » Fri Aug 21, 2015 7:31 am

You could ask Isabella24 of this board who was riding around on a very nice carbon thing, I think a Specialised. She now has a titanium fancy... but she has had reasonable experience in finding a bike for a small woman.

I do recumbents so my experience is quite different and so despite being the same height as you I am no help with an upright bike. (I can really recommend Greenspeed trikes or Schlitter Encore carbon 2 wheeler if you are considering the dark side though!)

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Re: frames and fits for short ladies

Postby newie » Fri Aug 21, 2015 1:25 pm

Welcome pink legs!
I'm 5 foot 2 and haven't needed to get a custom fit. A good bike shop will be able to choose the best size for you and make any adjustments you need. I'm in Newcastle, and my favourite shop closed down anyway :( , so I can't make a recommendation. But if you don't get any good recommendations from the Brisbanites, my suggestion would be to go around to look in a few different local shops. Check out the bikes, talk to the staff. Ask them how they'll go about helping you find the right size and fit. You'll soon discover which shop you feel most comfortable with and confident in buying a bike from. It's never a bad idea to find a LBS that you enjoy visiting and feel comfortable asking for help.

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Re: frames and fits for short ladies

Postby isabella24 » Fri Aug 21, 2015 9:25 pm

Hi Pink Legs!

I posted this in the Road Bikes for Women Thread.


isabella24 wrote:I'm short - 157cm and female.

My first proper road bike was a Trek Madone 4.5 WSD 2011. It was my size (47cm), wasn't pink (blue, gold and white) and was on sale at a $700 discount (big incentive!). I knew very little about bikes at the time, but it was carbon, light and most importantly, it was in stock.
I found that out of the 'Women's Specific Design (WSD)' components of the bike, the 38cm Bontrager shallow bars worked wonders for reach and comfort but the women's specific saddle was absolutely terrible.
The frame itself wasn't really women's specific as I found out later, just a small size which happened to fit me really well.
Would I go women's specific again? Only if it fit and I liked the color scheme! I would buy a Trek again, either a men's or WSD bike, providing it came in my size and paint job.

Next bike I bought was a Vivente World Randonneur Touring bike. About as different as you could get from the Trek - steel, solid and heavy. The bike I bought was an XS size, unisex, certainly not women's specific. It is the slowest bike I own but also the most comfortable. Once again, I swapped out the saddle for a SMP Glider (saddle I'd finally settled for on the Trek), but interestingly, I also swapped out the well-regarded Nitto handlebars and forked out a stupid amount of money for a second set of the 'bottom of the range, heavy as lead' Bontrager shallow bars - same as what came on the Trek. Why? Because they just seem to work for my small hands.

Third bike was a titanium Lynskey Helix Disc. Once again, not a WSD bike, but a unisex 46cm frame that fit me. It was built up to my specs, including my SMP saddle of choice and a nice set of 3T handlebars, which seemed to me like a nice (expensive) upgrade for the heavy bontragers but with very similar geometry. Bars that would match the calibre of my new bike.

Long story short - the unisex Lynskey frame is great. It is currently in use with the boat anchor Bontrager bars. The 3T bars were retired from service after a month or so. They were still just too big for my hands.

Being my first road bike with Hydro Discs, I found the stopping power massively different from cable rim brakes. This is because I am lucky to get one finger to reach onto the brake levers (small hands) but can still stop very well with this minimum force applied on a hydro bike. On a rim brake bike, I'd have to try to flick my brake lever close to the bar enough to be able to grab it with my whole hand to force an adequate stop. Often I'd run out of time.

Morale of the story for me is that it doesn't matter if the frame of the bike is women's specific or not. All that matters is that it is the right size. So don't be limited by WSD bikes, look at all roadies providing they are the right size - even better if you can test ride them first.
Components such as saddles, bars and brifters are what will make a difference - the parts of the bike that you contact with your hands and bum. Pedals also play a huge part too, but are gender neutral for the most part. I go with Speedplay pedals but that's due to my stuffed knees, not because I'm female.
Look for small bars - width 36-40cm for smaller women, I ride 38cm but it does depend on how broad your shoulders are. I also ride shallow bars ie less than 100mm of drop but this depends on flexibility. Saddles are a very personal thing, but I found that saddles with a cutout generally help females.
At least with these components, you can change them if needed, a frame change due to buying the wrong size is much harder.
Hope this helps.

As you are 5'4, you probably have an even better chance of getting a bike that fits than me! I'd look for frames around the 48-50cm mark and whatever you do, try to test ride before you buy. Feel free to PM me if you need more help.
80s Ken Evans / 2011 Trek Madone / 2013 Vivente World Randonneur / 2015 Lynskey Helix

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Re: frames and fits for short ladies

Postby cp123 » Fri Aug 21, 2015 9:43 pm

i'm 163 cm. ride a 49 cm giant frame. oxymoron or what.... lol

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Re: frames and fits for short ladies

Postby msnghb » Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:18 pm

I am 164.5CM with a very long torso and short legs. I've just purchased a second-hand Cannondale Supersix 48CM frame and it is fantastic. I also looked at the CAAD10's which are very affordable. Cannondale are great in terms of sizing for short women. Hope that helps! Nicky

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Re: frames and fits for short ladies

Postby Eleri » Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:43 pm

I've got a few tiny bikes - being 153cm (5ft). However I have relatively long legs and short torso so I have problems with top tube length.

3 of my bikes are custom built and if I bought another bike that I was planning to ride a lot, I would do that again. But it's an expensive option. 2 of those have 650c wheels in order to get the geometry I wanted i.e. "racy" rather than relaxed and long wheel base. A bit depends on what you want to do with the bike.

2 of my bikes I bought "off the shelf" and the problems I have had with them include:
- had to reduce the reach to the handlebars by putting a really short stem. This has a dramatic effect on handling. It's my track bike and I can live with that, but I wouldn't do this to a road bike. I had to make compromises because track bikes come with 700c wheels (unless you ride a low spec kid's bike).
- the TT bike I bought has proved too difficult to fit to me. It has 650c wheels and the frame is the right size (48cm) but the entire front end with tt bars etc is standard for every size of bike. Therefore far too big for me and that's a really big thing to change on a bike because it needs new bars, new cabling. When I asked my fit advisor who this bike would actually fit - it's no-one. No-one is so tiny they need a tiny frame but has really long forearms so they can use the tt bars and actually change gears.

Not sure if any of that helps. But my friend, who is the same height as me but has short legs and a long torso can ride 700c wheeled bikes and can buy hers off the shelf.

It's better to have short legs I reckon. Well for riding a bike. :-)

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