Author Topic: Touring bike for smaller person?  (Read 12205 times)

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Offline BC

Touring bike for smaller person?
« on: January 24, 2008, 07:42:42 pm »
My partner and I are planning to tour in the near future, and we're looking to find her a good bike that will fit her well. She is petite, at 5'0" and with a standover of 28". Everything but her heart is kinda small scale. At this point, she'd prefer racks and panniers over a BoB, so a tour-specific bike seems the best bet. We're looking at the Surly LHT, Jamis Aurora and Aurora Elite, and the REI Safari at the moment. A custom bike would be the ticket, but we're trying to be real about the $. Any reaction to these models, or any other suggestions to investigate? Again, fit seems to be a defining factor.

Looking at the Aurora Elite, I noticed that it has a carbon fork with eyelets for a front rack - the first time I've seen this. Does anyone have any experience with this fork, or opinions on carbon forks for touring? I'm still riding my cro-moly!


Offline JayH

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2008, 09:37:50 pm »
There is a bike company called "Terry" that may make some small 650c frames but since I'm not female or petite, I don't know their selection.


Offline DaveB

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2008, 09:52:47 pm »
The Trek 520 frame is available down to 17" or 43 cm and has a standover heightof 27.4".   That's pretty small and should fit her.

The only way to get something significantly smaller is to go to 650c wheels and, most likely a custom frame.

As Jay H noted, Terry specializes in women's bikes and may have something more suitable.

This message was edited by DaveB on 1-24-08 @ 5:53 PM

Offline RussellSeaton

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2008, 11:50:19 am »
Quite a few touring bikes now days use 26" mountain bike sized wheels for the smaller frame sizes and 700C for the medium and larger frame sizes.  Waterford's touring bike and Surly Long Haul Trucker are examples of this.  For touring bikes the 26" rim size is preferable to the 650C rim size.  700C=622mm, 650C=571mm, 26" MTB=559mm.  Lots of tires to choose from in the 26" MTB size for touring.  1.25" to 1.5" are easy to find and would work well for touring bikes.  You still have to keep in mind the top tube length.  As well as the seat tube angle and its impact on real top tube length.

Offline bogiesan

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2008, 12:52:02 pm »
My standard for all such inquiries about touring bikes: Recumbent.
Fitting a diminutive physique is relatively simple because the selection of
of different designs and wheelbase configurations is quite large. There are
many other benefits to touring on a recumbent  - sheer comfort and
delight among my favorites - but the ability to obtain precision fit through
the inherent adjustability of the bikes may trump all the others.

The buyers guide at is out of date but it's where
many of us started exploring. Not everyone has the chutzpah to ride a
recumbent, not everyone understands that touring can be so much fun
without pain.

david boise ID

go, ristretto, FCP/AE
"Read the manual."
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline BC

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2008, 10:36:55 am »
Thank you to all who have responded so far. Our LBS has a 42cm Surly LHT frame in stock, which they are going to build up just to see if it's a possibility. I'm still trying to fully comprehend the basics of geometry and the implications for fit. Maybe someone can help me here. A 42cm Surly has a seat tube angle of 75 degrees, head tube angle of 70 degrees, and effective top tube of 19.9". A 47cm Jamis Aurora has a seat tube angle of 74 degrees, head tube angle of 70.5 degrees, and effective top tube of 20.2". Am I right in thinking that the Surly has the shorter cockpit, ignoring stem length for the moment? Any input would be appreciated.

Also, I've noticed that the smaller frame sizes for several of these bikes call for 26" wheels. What effectively is the difference for the rider between 26" wheels and 700C wheels?

Thanks again for your insights!

Offline DaveB

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2008, 08:24:11 pm »
If the rider puts the saddle in the same location relative to the bottom bracket (as they should), the two frames have nearly identical effective top tube lengths.  The 75° seat angle of the Surly is more upright than the 74° seat tube angle of the Jamis so the rider will have to slide the saddle back further on it's rails to be in the same position.  

Offline whittierider

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2008, 01:46:54 am »
What effectively is the difference for the rider between 26" wheels and 700C wheels?

Getting below a certain size with 700c wheels, the geometry of the bike has to be compromized such that it does not handle as well as it could if it were designed around smaller wheels.  In the extreme, it became quite obvious when we used to go to the Juniors races for our son and see the smaller kids whose parents chose 700c wheels for the greater tire selection, and it was like the kid was sitting way down between the wheels and weaving like crazy, instead of sitting over them and having good command of the bike.  It clearly was very awkward.  Head-tube angles were too flat because the feet had to be kept from hitting the front wheel in tight turns (even with shorter crankarms), stems were too short making for poor handling, and bars were usually much higher than the seat.

26" is considerably smaller than 700c.  According to Sheldon's page , 26x1 is a 650c, and has a slightly smaller bead diameter than 26x1-1/4 or 26x1-3/8.

Here's our son when he was 11 years old on a 47cm 19-pound road bike with 650c wheels, climbing Hawthorne Blvd in Palos Verdes, south of Los Angeles, about 35 miles from home.  A few days later he rode his first century (actually 108 miles).  Unfortunately I don't have a side view.  (And yes, I know the jersey is too big.)

Offline janetanorth

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2008, 01:31:18 am »
i am a 5'3" female and my bike friday is the first bike i've had since childhood that i feel fits me well.

Offline WesternFlyer

Touring bike for smaller person?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2008, 03:22:26 am »
Went to the NAHBS (North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show) over the weekend here in Portland.  Sweetpea Bicycles had a beautiful, very petite, road bike with 24-inch tires.  It was built for woman who is under 5 feet tall and had to ride childrens bikes.  See if Natalie will email you a photo.

Portland, which has its own bike show on KBOO, recently featured Natalie Ramsland of Sweetpea.

On the other hand REI, which has women specific designs of almost everything, has women specific bicycles at very reasonable prices.

Western Flyer

I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!
   Shel Silverstein

This message was edited by WesternFlyer on 2-12-08 @ 11:26 PM
Western Flyer

We must ride light and swift.  It is a long road ahead.

King Theoden