April 5, 2005

    I want to buy a mountain bike. I’m 5’4". Would that be a 26" for me, or 24", or something else? Thanks.

Annie L.

    The terms 24" or 26" refer (roughly) to wheel diameter. However, that doesn’t tell you an important piece of info: The height of the bicycle frame. Adult bicycle frames generally get sized by measuring the length of something called the down tube.
    Pictures help. Take a look at this bicycle frame diagram (scroll down to “Frames”). A bike’s frame size results from measuring, in either inches or millimeters, from the middle of the bottom bracket to either the point where the top tube intersects the seat tube or the top of the seat tube.
    I might answer your real question—How does a short woman find a properly fitting bike?—by telling you to ignore all the above. Instead, I suggest you call the bike shops in your area and say, "Do you have any bikes made especially for short women?" For the ones that say "yes," go try ‘em out.
    What should you look for? Absolute comfort. While sitting on the bike you should feel like your toes can touch the ground securely, and while gripping the handlebar you should never feel too stretched forward.
    Bikes made for men don’t work for lots of women, but that’s never stopped some retailers from selling them to gals anyway. Luckily, some bike manufacturers have figured out female geometry and offer bikes to suit. You’ll find a list of these, as well as more bike-fit tips, in my book, Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips.

Mr Bike

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