Help my girlfriend find a bike: tiny person edition
April 18, 2015 2:28 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend needs a new bike, but her specifications don't seem to exist in our particular reality. Help us find something that she can sit on comfortably and still keep up?

These are her special snowflake specs:

1. A frame for someone who's 5'2" (short legs!)
2. Low middle bar/step-through style
3. Internal rear gear hub (something along the lines of a Shimano Nexus)
4. Under 28 lbs. would be ideal

I ride an old Gary Fischer hybrid and tend to average between 17-21MPH.

Bikers, I implore you. Help us out here. I've been riding the same bike for like...15 years, so I have no idea what I'm talking about. Let me know if anything I've put here makes absolutely no sense, and save us from bikeless existence.

Thanks kindly.
posted by the artless dodger to Shopping (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How about a folding bike?
posted by oceano at 2:32 PM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know from bikes but these ladies do. A couple of them are mefites and might chime into this thread later.
posted by phunniemee at 2:36 PM on April 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just got a bike from Priority Bicycles and I love it. They have a step-thru model that fits exactly what you're looking for. Scroll down to the second bike on this page.
posted by spilon at 2:37 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't shop for small bikes (male, 6'2", 240lb) but I think that she could do okay if she were willing to give up on number 2. All of the good bikes-for-ladies I've seen in the last decade have the top tube where you would expect to see it on a bike-for-dudes. Cf. Terry.

On preview: Oh yeah, I have a strong road-bike prejudice. Good hybrids must exist somewhere, right? And some of those must have the expected step-through frame geometry.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 2:40 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take a look at some of the models from Linus. Their small (and some of the medium) frames can accommodate your girlfriend's size. Their mixte and step-through models are kitted out to be commuter or city bicycles, and so they exceed your weight preference. I am also a short lady with relatively short legs, and I have been eyeing the Linus step-through models of late.

Perhaps consider something in the Trek FX line, like the 7.1 FX Stagger?
posted by needled at 2:55 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are lots of great old bikes with mixte frames available on eBay right now.

If I were her and money was somewhat an object, I think this beautiful old Miyata would be my choice, and I would change hubs and wheels as needed as I got to know it a little better.
posted by jamjam at 3:12 PM on April 18, 2015

Check out kids bikes. Seriously! So much cheaper and could be a great fit. I'm a short lady and have a kids bike.
posted by arnicae at 3:13 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can I ask why she wants the internal geared hub? That exists on relatively few bikes these days. They are harder to competently service even though they need less routine maintenance than external derailleurs, so if it develops a problem you need to be close to a very experienced bike mechanic.

A Public M7i has the internal hub, fits her specs except its overweight by just a few pounds, and it's on sale. With the sale savings, you might be able to swap some of the bar and stem components for lighter ones and get it just right, but chasing an "ideal" weight with this kind of bike is a fool's errand if you're not in the Tour de France, IMO

Linus Mixte 8 is very similar

Masi and Trek made similar models at some point

The other option is finding a vintage mixte frame in good shape that fits her, stripping it down to cranks, and rebuilding to her specs. This will mean new wheels compatible with the internal hub, and you need to make sure the frame spacing is wide enough first. You can go for lighter components to meet her preferred weight. This could easily end up being more expensive than a brand new complete bike. If her budget is not over $750 I think she needs to go vintage and reconsider the internal hub.

She needs to be fitted properly on any bike by a good local shop, this is more important than any one thing about her bike. Do not let her ride with a saddle too low, people on step throughs and mixtes do this all the time and it ends in knee problems (I'm 4'11", two road bikes.)
posted by slow graffiti at 3:41 PM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're willing to build a bike, rather than buy complete, the SOMA Buena Vista mixte frame serves as a good base. My girlfriend's also 5'2" and has one running on 650b wheels. Building a custom would also let you choose whatever internally geared hub you wanted. Not going to be cheap, though.
posted by asterix at 3:52 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. 5'2" is not tiny. It is just slightly below average. What is her inseam? Use that to look at standover height specs.
2. If the step through is for mounting and not for avoiding banging one's genitals on the top tube, I strongly suggest a gentle course in proper bike mounting that doesn't involve straddling the bike before take off.
3. Why? This creates an unnecessary limitation on bike choices and increases the price point for a rider that may not take to it in the end. Stay simple within the already constrained fixed parameter of height.
4. A Jamis satellite sport (femme) in 48c would probably give her plenty of clearance and should cost less than $1000. Used mixtes are fantastic, and highly underutilized, but again you need to say goodbye to 3... Within this genre, any Japanese (miyata, as mentioned above) built (Schwinn Le Tours) road bike from the 80's is a very fine place to start in the vintage marketplace.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 4:17 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm 5' 2" and I wanted a light, step-through bike. I ended up getting a Felt Cafe and I love it.
posted by LittleMy at 5:26 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you are really averaging 17-21 MPH over any sort of reasonable length rides and it is important that your girlfriend be able to keep up with that pace, I would think the priority would have to be for a reasonably light road bike to enable a aerodynamic riding position.
posted by ssg at 9:01 PM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Since phunniemee gave us a shout out, here's the Tiny Fix bikes post - unfortunately, we don't know what is currently out there in small sizes because we're just not always shopping for bikes and lineups change all the time. But this is what the small women of Tiny Fix ride (all 5'2" or under). Also check out the comments, there are comments from a bike shop employee with a pretty comprehensive list of smaller bikes out there.

Also 5'2" is plenty short, especially if you have proportionally short legs (like I do) and there is nothing "improper" about straddling the top tube to mount the bike. Certainly stopping at lights and stuff you need to be able to comfortably stand over the top tube, although tilting the bike to the side can give more clearance and is what I have to do for one of my bikes.
posted by misskaz at 6:41 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm 5'2 and have a Trek Verve. I've had to be sure I have everything adjusted so I'm not too high/low, but otherwise it's very comfortable for me.
posted by ACN09 at 9:24 AM on April 19, 2015

As noted by ssg, if your girlfriend wants to match your very quick pace, she will probably want a road bike, which should be fitted to her personally. This article and this article are fascinating reads for anyone under 5' 5" looking for a bike with standard geometry. (sub 54cm frames) You will learn in great detail why the most popular road wheel size (700c) is not appropriate at smaller frame sizes, and why smaller wheels don't necessarily mean a slower bike.
posted by oxisos at 9:14 PM on April 19, 2015

Another mixte suggestion: Brodie Section 8 or Section 2. My partner is 5'2" and fits the small.
posted by metaname at 12:38 PM on April 20, 2015

I'm late to this gate, but I have a Trek Neko S and I'm 5'4'' and use a Medium frame, but with the seat real low.

The small would probably fit her, I don't know exactly how much it weighs but I'm pretty tiny and my limbs are like spaghetti noodles and I'm pretty fast on it, and it's a hybrid which is nice if you need to hit any little trails or something. I don't know what the internal gear thing is so I ignored that :P

Metafilter crowd sourced it for me last spring and I love it.
posted by euphoria066 at 12:51 PM on April 20, 2015

I'm 5'2" with a 29" inseam; I bought the Giant Liv Alight 3 in size S (was measured between XS and S). It's a step-through hybrid with drop handlebars, distinct from both road bike and cruiser handlebar designs which I tried. I really disliked the road bike--can't be ridden in a skirt and my short arms made me feel like I was hunching over the entire time just to stay on the bike--but wanted something sportier/faster than a traditional step-through cruiser bike. The Alight doesn't have internal gear hubs though; I haven't seen any step-through hybrids that do, it seems more common on cruiser/upright styles.
posted by serelliya at 10:57 PM on April 20, 2015

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