Stepthrough/mixte hybrid bikes for tall people.
August 13, 2017 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 6'1" skirt-wearing human looking for an appropriately-sized hybrid bike for my daily commute with a $400-$900 budget.

I'm looking for a lightweight, low-maintenance bicycle for my commute: Lightweight because I will be carrying it up and down two flights of stairs on each end; low-maintenance because I don't know much about bikes and can't afford to pick up a new hobby. I just moved across the country and now live on top of a hill, but most of my 1.5 mile ride is dry and flat through a Bay Area city. I would prefer handlebars that encourage leaning forward to the kind that you see on upright cruisers. The complications seem to be:

1) I need a stepthrough or mixte frame, because I often wear dresses and skirts to work.
2) I am 6'1" tall, with a 36" inseam, and few (no?) US manufacturers offer stepthrough/mixte bikes in large enough sizes.

I am very interested in something like the Priority models with belt drives and internal shift hubs, but none of their stepthrough styles come in frames larger than medium/19". I actually emailed them to ask about this, and their reply was that it's just a volume thing, and there aren't enough tall people buying stepthroughs. This seems to be unanimous across most brands, not just the hip newcomers like Priority and Public or the recommendations from the Sweethome - any time you select stepthrough in a dropdown menu, sizes beyond medium disappear.

This is my first time paying special attention to sizing and technology, and will be my first bike that isn't whatever was cheapest. I'm starting to convince myself that I did fine on too-small Walmart bikes before and if The Real Bike People don't want me in the club anyway, maybe it really doesn't matter and I should just grab another random piece of crap. But I don't want a piece of crap! I want something that will be pleasant and fun and comfortable! (I'm actually going back and forth between flavors of frustration. There's that one, and then also: fuck it, I'll get a large diamond frame and people can just deal with my junk. But that's not ideal either!)

I can't afford $2,000+ Dutch/European city bikes, even though they're lovely and appropriately sized. I have given up on cool new perks like belt drives and internal hubs. I just want a stepthrough bike with good-enough components that will fit my body. Craigslist has been unproductive. Since I am in the Bay Area now, I do have a lot of options in terms of trying bikes out at brick and mortar stores, but my free time is pretty limited and I'd prefer to go in with some ideas.
posted by Corinth to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco Bay Area, CA (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're in the Bay Area? Call around to some dealers and see if they have these Marin step-throughs in L or XL anywhere near you. These hybrids might also be up your alley as well. I bought a Marin hybrid at REI years ago for a commute very similar to yours, and mine is still going strong after a tune up at the 5 year mark. Their prices are right in your range.

REI also lists several mixte hybrids in L/Tall frames, which might fit you or might be a bit small.
posted by asphericalcow at 1:46 PM on August 13, 2017

As you've figured out, either a step-through bike for a 6'1" person, or a step-through bike with a moderately aggressive position would be hard to find. All three together would be a black swan.

A bit of lateral thinking leads me to suggest you consider a folding bike. These are typically a little out of your price range, even used, but have extremely low standover heights. I did a little checking on Craigslist and there are some in the bay area for sale. Brands to look for: Brompton, Dahon, Bike Friday.

Cannondale makes a weird bike that I've been interested in for myself called the Hooligan. Again, a little out of your price range, and I have to admit, I've never seen one in a bike shop, but it looks great for urban riding.
posted by adamrice at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depending on your body type, a large-but-not-large-enough frame combined with a very large seatpost and ludicrous stem can actually fit better than the "correct" size. The bike I have that fits me best is set up this way, while my larger frame--nominally the right size--is actually less comfortable. It looks a little ridiculous (something like 6 inches of stem sticking up from the headtube), but that's ok.

There are very very tall quill stems that can be purchased if you go for an old mixte frame, though they are pricey. For threadless headsets, there are stem extenders that can raise it up many inches.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:23 PM on August 13, 2017

The luxury version would be this Soma. I recently bought this Opus bike. It's not the lightest, nor most aggressive, but it's fun and reasonable at a good price.
posted by advicepig at 2:50 PM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

2nding a folding bike. I have a brompton (which will be out of your price range), that my sister has borrowed on a semipermanent basis after she failed to find a light step through bike that didn't cost a fortune. There are cheaper brands, Dahon, Bike Friday and Tern are three I've heard of, and they make a wide range of bicycles, including some with internal hubs. They are much easier to carry upstairs too, as they are shorter, and are obviously easier to store in a small apartment. My brompton feels just like a normal bike to ride.

There's a couple of stores that come up in san francisco that specialise in folding bikes, Valencia and Warm Planet. They can be found online pretty easily too.
posted by kjs4 at 3:01 PM on August 13, 2017

FWIW, I ride a Priority Eight in a dress pretty much every day. Unless you're wearing pencil skirts or maxi dresses, a step-through frame may not be a necessity. My wardrobe is mostly knee-length A-line-style dresses, and regular compact frames work fine for me.
posted by asperity at 3:20 PM on August 13, 2017

Are you sure that Dutch bikes are 2000+ where you are? They're around 550 euro to 850 euro here. Only e-bikes are up around 1600 euros.
I'm asking since there are lots of options your size from f.i. Batavus or Gazelle.
posted by jouke at 5:12 PM on August 13, 2017

It's an upright bike, but you might like the large size of IKEA's Sladda bike.
posted by pinochiette at 5:53 PM on August 13, 2017

Public Bikes offers their mixte in a pretty full size range -- the large goes from 5'10" - 6'2". I have an older version of that bike when the size range was 5'8" to 6'0", but my husband (6'2") and I (5'8") are able to share it pretty comfortably. The 8-gear internal hub model is currently on sale for $629. I believe they have a physical store in the bay area, so you can probably go try them out in person. They do make a step-through as well as a mixte, but that has a more limited size range.
posted by duien at 6:45 PM on August 13, 2017

When I had a step-through bike, I found it a huge pain in the but to carry up and down stairs. A double diamond frame you can pop over your shoulder makes it so much better.

The frames that have a down-sloping top tube (like this Trek bike) will give a reasonable amount of space for a skirt, without being a full mixte.
posted by that girl at 8:17 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Folding bike, definitely! My Dahon Ciao P8 is the best bicycle I've ever had. The current model is the Ciao D7, which ticks all your boxes, including price (under $1000). They're gorgeous and just as well made as Bromptons, and I do lots of riding in skirts. And I'm always being told, "Wow, you have the coolest bike!" Mine is ten years old and still in great condition and I'll never give it up.
posted by tully_monster at 9:09 PM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should add that although I'm not 6'1, my husband is, and he rides a Dahon Boardwalk (different design from the Ciao, but similar dimensions) very comfortably.
posted by tully_monster at 9:12 PM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding the double-diamond-with-sloping-top-tube rec - I ride a Trek FX WSD (not step through) in a skirt all the time. There are some lovely mixtes out there (my bike shop has tried to sell me on the Soma mentioned above, and I have been sorely tempted) but they're mostly steel and heavier.

I also have a steel Dutch style bike and I don't like carrying it up five stairs, much less two flights.
posted by mskyle at 3:56 AM on August 14, 2017

I'm 6' and skirt-wearing, and the year before I had my junk reinstalled I spent a fair bit of time riding a diamond frame bike. I found that putting on dark bike shorts under a short skirt was enough to keep me from flashing anyone, and that long skirts could be kept out of the chain by tying them up off to one side (like a T-shirt in the early 90s).

I mean, feelings matter too, and even if the practical issues with a diamond frame are solvable you shouldn't have to ride one in a skirt if it makes you feel unsafe or exposed. Just offering my two bits in case reassurance about the practicalities is helpful.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to chime in to say there are other options other than folding bikes! I love them for short rides but am also a tall woman with long inseam, and found several folding rides uncomfortable over long distances. The seatpost to stem reach is designed for guys with a generally proportional torso to arms and legs. Don't know about you, but my torso is short compared to limbs, which means I get stretched out on guys bikes.

I have a size L Giant city bike from a few years ago, with a fairly upright stem and slightly upright handlebars. It's a similar posture to a Dutch bike but a load lighter. Downside is it doesn't have the grease-free chain or skirt-protector on the rear wheel, but those can be added.

Giant seems to have broken their women's line into something called "Liv," and the Alight city bike comes in a size L, which should be tall enough for you, and is a very reasonable price. You could upgrade components and get things like fenders, rack, and basket all within your price.
posted by lettezilla at 11:46 AM on August 15, 2017

Thanks so much for the suggestions, everyone! I tried four bikes yesterday at two different bike shops: one Reid step-through that was a little small and a lot heavy, one mountain bike with a top bar angled kind of down, and then two super nice diamondframe commuters from Trek and Marin. Neither had Marin stepthroughs in larger sizes. Tomorrow I'm going to the city to try the Public M8i mentioned above, along with some of the other recent recommendations if they have them. If I don't love the M8i, based on some feedback here and how nice they felt, I think I could still be happy with a diamondframe too. I'm gonna wear a dress tomorrow just to doublecheck.

I don't know what it is about the folding bikes, but I am just not super into them. (honestly and shamefully i think they look a little goofy (and this is coming from someone who rode bmx bikes through college.) I'm sure I could be convinced by trying one, but that just seems like a whole 'nother can of worms to open and I think I'd probably still feel safest and stablest on a full size.

All told I can say that there's a huge difference between these modern bikes and my previous old Walmart mountain bikes, and I'm excited to wind up with something in this ballpark either way.
posted by Corinth at 9:48 PM on August 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

« Older Need suggestions for music to play for a...   |   VocabularyFilter: what does a dupe, mark or patsy... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.