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I have had a good number of questions and requests about accommodating smaller cyclists on my bikes. And I am now starting to explore what it would take to make my frame design in a smaller size.

As of now I have had individuals as short as 5'4" on the frames, but seeing as there is a Under 5 foot 1 inch group, I would appreciate any insight (being 6' 2" myself) into the challenges you find - particularly related to a city/commuter bike, such as what I make. 

What size wheels, length cranks, components and accessories that do/don't work.

Thanks for any input.

Levi

owner/builder

Legacy Frameworks 

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Hi Folks, I am re-kindling this conversation in hopes to get some feedback from you all and produce a new frame in the next few days. 

I have come to realize that a 24" wheel version is probably too big a step down and I am re-looking at 26 in. 

Question 1: If you were looking at getting a city/commuter bike, would you want a step-through or diamond frame? Both geometries would be the same, just different stand-over heights and esthetics. 

Question 2: If you are willing to do a simple measurement, what is the stand-over of your current bike ( if it is a traditional diamond frame) and your height?

I can look at charts of frame geometries all day, but all the real world help I can get would be appreciated. 

Levi

Levi,

I am barely over 5'1" and I primarily ride a Linus mixte frame (I believe it may be the medium size since they did not make the smaller size when I purchased my bike).  Overall for me I find that I like the larger 700c tires and the feel of a larger bike but I feel a bit "stretched" out over the frame.  I would like to feel a bit more upright when cycling longer distances however I still prefer this style to the more upright Dutch style bikes.  The Dutch bikes seem to have handlebar configurations that I do not prefer and make me feel like I am not in control of the bike.  I have recently acquired an old Villiger mixte frame bike and the frame is smaller than the Linus and seems a bit more upright than the Linus but that may be due to the shorter frame.  I am using this bike since it is lighter and easier to throw on the bus. 

I would love it if someone would make a standard triangle (diamond?) "men's" frame small enough for standover clearance for us petite women.  I really like the simple aesthetic of the simple frame over the "women's" step through frames.  It is just a classy bikey look that I really enjoy.  Sorry - I now see your request for measurements.  Will send once I measure.  Thanks!    

I'm glad you're ditching the 24" wheels, I basically hated that idea (sorry). I'd still prefer 650c over 26" but they are very close in size so it's not really a big deal. 

1. I don't like step-through frames because in my experience (a step-through Trek hybrid 7.2fx) they are difficult to lock up because there isn't enough space between the top and bottom tubes close to the head tube and front wheel. This may have been a function of the fatter aluminum tubes on my Trek, but in any case I had to buy an extra-long ulock and was regularly frustrated trying to lock the thing up. It also meant there was only room for one bottle cage, though I was doing long distance touring so I realize not everyone needs two. I also just prefer the look of diamond frames. 

2. I'm 5'1" with proportionally short legs, long torso. I have about a 28" inseam flat footed with no shoes. My 43cm Fuji Classic Track with 650c wheels (diamond frame, almost straight top tube) has a standover of about 27.5 inches. By contrast my 44cm Bianchi Volpe with 700c wheels (diamond frame, sloping top tube) has I would guess about a 28.5-29" standover. And as I said before my Volpe (which I otherwise love and just took bike camping with me this weekend) has serious toe overlap issues.

I am sensing that their might be a step-through stigma in the small bike world, its interesting. Thanks for taking the time to measure. 

Diana Estep said:

Levi,

I am barely over 5'1" and I primarily ride a Linus mixte frame (I believe it may be the medium size since they did not make the smaller size when I purchased my bike).  Overall for me I find that I like the larger 700c tires and the feel of a larger bike but I feel a bit "stretched" out over the frame.  I would like to feel a bit more upright when cycling longer distances however I still prefer this style to the more upright Dutch style bikes.  The Dutch bikes seem to have handlebar configurations that I do not prefer and make me feel like I am not in control of the bike.  I have recently acquired an old Villiger mixte frame bike and the frame is smaller than the Linus and seems a bit more upright than the Linus but that may be due to the shorter frame.  I am using this bike since it is lighter and easier to throw on the bus. 

I would love it if someone would make a standard triangle (diamond?) "men's" frame small enough for standover clearance for us petite women.  I really like the simple aesthetic of the simple frame over the "women's" step through frames.  It is just a classy bikey look that I really enjoy.  Sorry - I now see your request for measurements.  Will send once I measure.  Thanks!    

No need to be sorry, thanks for letting me know - I appreciate any constructive feedback. 

1. That lock problem was just a factor of the wonkey frame design on that model IMO. Water-bottles on step-thoughs, especially mixte styles are tricky.

2. This is super helpful, my current design has 37mm more front center distance (bb spindle to front axel) than your bianchi, and with smaller wheels to boot, toe overlap shouldn't be a problem. I am also going to spec a 155mm crank, which is something you should check - if yours was supplied with a 170 you could try decreasing it some if you haven't already. 


Kaz said:

I'm glad you're ditching the 24" wheels, I basically hated that idea (sorry). I'd still prefer 650c over 26" but they are very close in size so it's not really a big deal. 

1. I don't like step-through frames because in my experience (a step-through Trek hybrid 7.2fx) they are difficult to lock up because there isn't enough space between the top and bottom tubes close to the head tube and front wheel. This may have been a function of the fatter aluminum tubes on my Trek, but in any case I had to buy an extra-long ulock and was regularly frustrated trying to lock the thing up. It also meant there was only room for one bottle cage, though I was doing long distance touring so I realize not everyone needs two. I also just prefer the look of diamond frames. 

2. I'm 5'1" with proportionally short legs, long torso. I have about a 28" inseam flat footed with no shoes. My 43cm Fuji Classic Track with 650c wheels (diamond frame, almost straight top tube) has a standover of about 27.5 inches. By contrast my 44cm Bianchi Volpe with 700c wheels (diamond frame, sloping top tube) has I would guess about a 28.5-29" standover. And as I said before my Volpe (which I otherwise love and just took bike camping with me this weekend) has serious toe overlap issues.

someone I know has a small frame with 650c wheels. buying tires/tubes and rims is a pain as there is very little variety. and they're all skinny 23s which is not for everyone. 650c is effectively a dead standard -- I wouldnt want a custom bike built around it anymore than I'd want a 27" bike. 

go with 650-- that's where the cool stuff is currently and its popularity is growing. otherwise, 26" is a decent option. If you're building commuters, I think the fatter tire would be quite welcome (plus, tubeless is an option with 650b/26" which is rad for commuting, imo). 

Levi,

Don't know if this is helpful, but here it is anyway.

I am 4'11" with about a 27.5 inseam.  Legs relatively long and arms relatively short.  I am a much less experienced rider than most of the other posters.

I have the Linus Dutchie which is a pretty big frame. (People are always commenting on the bike looking too big for me, but it is comfortable for me.)  700 wheels with no toe overlap.  I tried the mixte first, but the reach was way too long.  As to the locking up problem, I have that problem with a u-lock. Normal sized u-locks are not long enough.  I decided to get a chain.  I had to put the water bottle cage on the handlebars.  The more I ride, the more I realize that the step-through is a great commuter, but not what I want for longer distance riding which I now want to do.  I am buying the 42 cm Surly Long Haul Trucker which is advertised as a 27.7" stand-over.   Have not picked it up so I can't measure, yet.  It has 26" wheels because otherwise there would be a toe overlap problem.  Also, I tried the 46 and although I could stand over it, it was a little too close for comfort.  Also, I am switching out the drop bars to mustache bars because the reach to the hoods and the brakes was too much of a stretch and because I do prefer a little less aggressive riding position.  Also, the brake levers were way too big for my hands (something else to think of!) so I am putting smaller brake levers on it.

650b (which is 6% smaller than 700c) is coming up, but a large bulk of it is mountain focused. And cool factor usually effects the prices as well. I like the long history and practicality of 26", which is 10% smaller than 700c.

My frames usually can squeeze up to a 45mm tire, but they come standard with 32mm. I think its a good balance of speed and cushion. And thankfully there is a Marathon in 32 x 559 (26x1.25)

Tubeless seem interesting - with what little research I have done - it looks like mostly race or competition  based offerings. Ill have to keep an eye out.

william said:

someone I know has a small frame with 650c wheels. buying tires/tubes and rims is a pain as there is very little variety. and they're all skinny 23s which is not for everyone. 650c is effectively a dead standard -- I wouldnt want a custom bike built around it anymore than I'd want a 27" bike. 

go with 650-- that's where the cool stuff is currently and its popularity is growing. otherwise, 26" is a decent option. If you're building commuters, I think the fatter tire would be quite welcome (plus, tubeless is an option with 650b/26" which is rad for commuting, imo). 

This is very interesting Michael. Looking at the geometries of the Sputnik sizes, the 55 and 50 have only 3mm difference in the wheelbase, but a 40mm difference in the top tube - doing this by adjusting the head tube angle and fork rake. Usually people go up in size to avoid toe overlap, but you were able to go down in size by shortening your crank arm length.

With my bike, I would like to avoid what Jamis did and keep the overall feel and steering geometry more static and use the smaller wheels and smaller cranks to allow adjustment to the frame in a more proportional way


Michael Perez said:

I've had toe overlap on my jamis sputnik with 700c wheels which the frame size was 54 cm or 56 i believe and I am 5'6. I bought a 49/50cm size frame and bought a new crankset with smaller crank arms and new 700c wheels and the toe overlap is gone. I do for some reason have a problem with my back now but i believe its due to the long ass stem i have which is the only one i have. I think 700c wheels would due fine on a smaller frame with smaller crank arms to avoid overlap with with clips.

call it road bike envy!  

Legacy Frameworks said:

I am sensing that their might be a step-through stigma in the small bike world, its interesting. Thanks for taking the time to measure. 

Diana Estep said:

Levi,

I am barely over 5'1" and I primarily ride a Linus mixte frame (I believe it may be the medium size since they did not make the smaller size when I purchased my bike).  Overall for me I find that I like the larger 700c tires and the feel of a larger bike but I feel a bit "stretched" out over the frame.  I would like to feel a bit more upright when cycling longer distances however I still prefer this style to the more upright Dutch style bikes.  The Dutch bikes seem to have handlebar configurations that I do not prefer and make me feel like I am not in control of the bike.  I have recently acquired an old Villiger mixte frame bike and the frame is smaller than the Linus and seems a bit more upright than the Linus but that may be due to the shorter frame.  I am using this bike since it is lighter and easier to throw on the bus. 

I would love it if someone would make a standard triangle (diamond?) "men's" frame small enough for standover clearance for us petite women.  I really like the simple aesthetic of the simple frame over the "women's" step through frames.  It is just a classy bikey look that I really enjoy.  Sorry - I now see your request for measurements.  Will send once I measure.  Thanks!    

A few things:

1. The "stigma" against step-throughs is two-fold: one, a lot of us smaller people have been pushed to step-throughs as the solution to our size problems, as if standover height is the only component of bike fit. We all know that's not true, and the result is a whole lot of small people riding bikes that don't fit them in one dimension or the other but hey there isn't a top tube in their crotch so that must mean it fits! Two, very few (maybe no?) bike manufacturers today make true mixte frames with decent road geometry. A friend of mine has a vintage Miyata mixte that has a light, speedy frame with road geometry. But try to find a modern step through or mixte frame that isn't 30 lbs and super upright.

2. Tubeless is a terrible idea for commuters because fixing a tubeless flat on the road is basically impossible. I would never in a million years consider tubeless for a city/commuter bike.

3. 650c is not a dead standard and is basically what people are doing for road or track bikes for smaller people. Road bikes don't need 38 tires, I run some Vittoria Rubino Pro 23s and they are seriously just as comfy and flat-resistant as the 32s on my other bike but way less rolling resistance. I guess it comes down to deciding if you want to make a quick, light, city bike or a slow, clunky cruiser.

I just noticed this thread and sorry if I'm beating a dead horse since it seems like you're moving away from the smaller wheel idea but... I do so love my new mini velo and its 20" wheels has enabled me to ride a true diamond frame for the first time. It's worlds above my 42cm Cross Check in terms of toe overlap. The CC is fitted with 700c wheels as some cruel joke and it took quite a learning curve to not endanger my life every time I turned at slow speeds. I haven't taken the mini on hills yet but in the city it's definitely quicker to accelerate from a stop (duh, physics) without noticeable lag on long straightaways. 

You're welcome to check it out for measurements anytime if you'd like. 

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