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  1. #1
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    Road bike shopping for short person

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    I would like some advice on shopping for a road bike. Sorry, this is kind of long because I have specific needs and posting about it will help me clarify my thoughts as I shop. My budget is roughly $4000 or less. Preferably less. I really would like to hear from the less that five foot crowd as to what they ride.

    I am just short of 4'11" tall and am 56 years old. I weigh 119 and am losing weight with a goal of 110. I currently ride an extra small Cannondale Quick4 hybrid. This bike has 26 inch wheels. It fits me well. It is very compact, with a short reach. The standover is 68.9cm, which is plenty fine. My self measured inseam from crotch to ground is about 27.5 (just short of 70cm). My arms are very short. I would say that my torso is about average for my height. I keep my handlebars about an inch higher than my seat.

    I have arthritis in my neck. My physical therapist, who is a distance biker, says eventually I will want to begin to move to a more upright position on a bike to spare my neck. He suggested a recumbent but says there is no rush, I can ride as long as I feel I can. I am working on delaying the inevitable by doing a number of core exercises and other things to improve strength. But I likely have a limited number of years where I can ride a road bike. I want to seize those years and enjoy them. Maybe in five years I'll move to some kind of recumbent, likely a trike. But not yet.

    I have found that I really like biking and I like increasing my distances. I would like a road bike for a few reasons. One is that I want drop bars. The flat bars do not give me a lot of hand positions. The PT says the drop bars will be better for me as long as they aren't set too low. I also want a bit more speed, even though I know speed is more about the engine than the bike.

    I also want a less harsh ride. My Cannondale is aluminum. It has a carbon fork and I have carbon rails on my seat. But I feel every bit of roughness in the road. It rides harsh. Some have told me it is partly because the bike is so compact there is little to flex. This same person told me that this is going to be a general problem in shopping for extra small bikes. The triangle of the frame will inevitably be small and thus there will be less play in the materials. Whether it is steel or aluminum it may be harsh. I have no idea if he knows what he is talking about.

    I am not yet a strong rider. One advantage of my 26 inch wheel Quick is the mountain gearing. It is geared low enough for me to go up most hills I need to go up. I make use of the lowest gear frequently! So, I am a bit worried that bikes with compact doubles do not have low enough gears. I assume with a triple I could easily switch out to lower gear range if needed. I am less clear on what you can do to modify gearing on a double.

    I am planning a trip in September to Minneapolis to try out some bikes. Many bike manufacturers have road bikes in a 44cm size with a roughly 50cm effective top tube. Many of these have 700cm wheels. A few have 650s. I am concerned that these bikes are too big. I already have ridden a 44cm Synapse. I didn't like it. It just didn't feel right. Riding the hoods it was a bit hard to shift and hard to brake. It wasn't geared low enough (though it had a triple so that could be changed, I assume.) I could clear the top tube standing over it but it was borderline. It wasn't twitchy and was easy to maneuver. But it didn't speak to me. The ride was on a smooth street so it was hard to compare the ride to my Quick.

    Trek makes two smaller WSD bikes. The top of the line Lexa and the Madone 4.7 come in a 43cm size with 650 wheels. The effective top tube is pretty compact, at only 48cm. This might be nice. The Lexa is aluminum with a triple. The Madone has a compact double and is carbon. The Madone is simply lovely to look at. I will try both. But I am worried about the compact double on the Madone.

    Felt also has petite choices in its ZW line of bikes. The frame sizes are close to the 43cm Treks. Both carbon and aluminum choices are available. It is harder though to find one to test out. There are a number of dealers in the twin cities so I hope to track a petite frame down. The Felts appear to come in compact doubles.

    Another option is Terry, which has its 44cm bikes on 650 wheels and its smaller sizes with a 24inch front and 700 back. I rode a Terry that was too big for me a while back. I found it a bit squirrely. I also find the small front large rear set up ugly. But if it was the best fit I could get past my offended aesthetics. However, it is a big production to try to get one to try. Terry has aluminum bikes and also steel in their semi-custom.

    These seem to be the main choices available if a 44cm bike is too big. However, I would like to try a Specialized Ruby because people have said that it is compact for a 44cm bike. But my bet is that smaller will be better.

    When I worked with a fitter to deal with comfort issues on my Quick he suggested going custom. My worry is that he saw a retired woman with money to spend. I don't know if I really need custom and I don't know if it would be better than stock options for me. Plus, I don't want to spend more than $4000, if that. I am unsure what custom costs. The fitter's business sells Waterfords and that is what he suggested.

    It seems to me that custom is a risk as you can't try it to see if you like it.

    I also was Googling around for info on small frame road bikes and found a semi-custom option in Rodriguez bikes, based in Seattle. http://www.rodcycle.com/ Their prices seem reasonable and they claim to fit the height challenged, with two stock options, one with a short reach and higher standover, the other with a longer reach and lower standover. I can't try one first, but they will take back their stock bikes if they don't work for you and they will work with you to try to get a good fit. They will do full custom for only a slight price increase.

    I have also tried another type of bike, a tourer, the Surly LHT in the 42cm. It felt pretty good, had the nice small 26 inch wheels that I like on my bike. I am iffy on the bar end shifters but is not a deal breaker. I liked the triple. The Surly Pacer is a bit more road like but the standover was too high because they appear to use bigger wheels on that bike. I think the LHT is a heavier bike than what I want as I do not plan overnight tours. Instead, I am thinking century rides. So, I have decided against the LHT.

    So. . . . .

    What do you shorter people ride for a road bike? Are the small frame aluminum and steel bikes harsh rides? Is carbon better? How close do you have to be on fit? Anyone under five feet tall ride a bike with 700cm wheels? What is or is not working for you?

    Anyone have a bike from Rodriguez?

    How about a Waterford or Gunnar? What kind of cost is involved with a complete custom bike? Any other companies besides Waterford?

    Thank you for any thoughts you might have.
    Last edited by goldfinch; 08-30-2011 at 05:37 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    6,479
    Hmm. I'm not petite, but with that budget, a custom Gunnar Sport comes to mind. Gunnar costs less than Waterford. (But I think they are the same company?)

    Catrin can tell you more.



    Gunnar
    Last edited by Muirenn; 08-30-2011 at 05:11 PM.
    So long as the wheels are still turning, life is good.

    Battswebb

    Pinarello Quattro~CAADX~ Zurich Lemond
    Specialized Romin Saddles

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    NW Illinois
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    60
    I ride a XS (44) Fuji. I made sure I was sized for the bike since I am short. Honestly, I don't know what to compare my bike to. I enjoy it immensely and fits me to a tee and it is aluminum. I do have carbon stays and forks.
    2009 Fuji Finest RC - Dark Blue.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    257
    One thing to consider is phoning ahead to make sure the stores have bicycles for you to ride. I'm 5'9" (so no help with your specific issue) and it was frustratingly difficult to find a store with a 56 cm wsd bike.

    Good luck on your search! Please update us--I have a friend about your height who is looking for a bike.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by roo4 View Post
    One thing to consider is phoning ahead to make sure the stores have bicycles for you to ride. I'm 5'9" (so no help with your specific issue) and it was frustratingly difficult to find a store with a 56 cm wsd bike.

    Good luck on your search! Please update us--I have a friend about your height who is looking for a bike.
    Calling ahead for sure! I did track down the 43cm trek Madone to try at two Mpls locations but no Felts yet.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zippinalong View Post
    I ride a XS (44) Fuji. I made sure I was sized for the bike since I am short. Honestly, I don't know what to compare my bike to. I enjoy it immensely and fits me to a tee and it is aluminum. I do have carbon stays and forks.
    How tall are you?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    West MI
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    I won't address the bike sizing issues, since I think you already have a good handle on what you need (I would guess that most 44s will be too big). I think if I were much shorter than I am (I'm just under 5'4") that I'd be looking custom, for sure.

    But the gearing...don't be afraid of a compact double. I had a triple on my first bike. I actually wanted a double. They are less prone to shifting issues and dropped chains. I also find that I rarely feel like I need more easier gears, now. That first year with a triple was good as I was developing my cycling strength, but now that I have it those bottom-most "granny gears" would be going to waste. On Sunday I ended up doing a 70 mile hilly ride on my cyclocross bike, as my road bike is in the shop. That bike has a shorter range of gearing, so I had even fewer easy gears for getting up hills. It wasn't a bad deal. I just had to stand a lot more.

    Really, at the low end of my compact double vs. my triple there's not a whole lot of difference. The reduction in hassles from the triple are worth the loss of a gear or two.
    Kirsten
    run/bike log
    zoomylicious


    '11 Cannondale SuperSix 4 Rival
    '12 Salsa Mukluk 3
    '14 Seven Mudhoney S Ti/disc/Di2

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Pac. NW
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    354
    Bike shopping is so much fun!

    I'm dreaming of being 5'2" someday. Don't think I'm ever gonna get there, I'm 5' 1 1/2, and yes, the 1/2 does count! But, I never have to dust the tops of all those pictures frames and I don't know what the top of the fridge looks like!

    I really like my 48" Specialized Ruby Comp. Pretty relaxed fit, but still very roady! And yes, it spoke to me! The 44" might work for you. Mine has the compact double, and due to "engine" issues", I'm not great on hills. I resently had to walk part of a big hill that by triple hybrid got up last year.

    The Ruby is offered in a lower geared Sram Apex that I considered, but wanted the upgrades that came with the Comp level. I don't spend a lot of time on hills, so I felt it was the better trade off. You may want to check out both models.

    My understanding is that the Ruby's have smaller shifter/brake grips for those of us with smaller hands. They have shims in the brake levels to help with short reach. I will say, as compared to mountain bike grips, it is still a reach, although I really am only aware of it when flying down a really steep hill when I want to have full grip at my finger tips!!! I would say it's not a problem. I really checked braking reach when bike shopping. There was a difference.

    Hope I was a little help. Happy shopping.
    2011 Specialized Ruby Comp
    2015 Giant Liv Tempt 3

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
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    Mrs. KnottedYet
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    First off I'm thinking steel for the ride. I'm 5' nuthin, arthritis all over, torn ACL, meniscus tendon (both knees) and a fractured spine When my namesake Trek was stolen I did not feel I had many choices but I tried bikes.

    Antonio Mondonico was making the rounds of the USA (his last time, he's now retired) offering a custom fit bike without having to go to Milan to meet him. I met him and decided to buy. He measured me for the bike and said in Italian something like "it'll probably have a sloping top tube, is that ok?" I think what he really said, just his son was too polite to translate was "I can't believe that I, Antonio the builder of bikes which have placed in the top 3 of the Grand Tours am building a custom bike for this short chubby middle age club cyclist!"

    But he went off, sipped coffee, listened to Verde opera, welded, some antipasto, another weld .... months later my bike was there.

    Then painted, then built up by Chris at Robinson Wheelworks. Not only did the builder do such a good job but my LBS had fit me for my old bike so he knew what to do. I am a bit more upright than a pure race style. I got a bike that's light, fast and with all day comfort right from the start.

    They say when training for the AIDS rides that you should not change ANYTHING a month or two before the 545 mile ride. A few weeks before the ride I got my bike. It fit and rode perfectly.

    If your shop has done a good job of fit and can work with a custom builder or can customize another bike for you, go that route.
    Last edited by Trek420; 08-30-2011 at 07:21 PM.
    Custom Road bike ~ Mondonico Futura Legero
    Found on the road ~ Motobecane Mixte
    N+1 new bike ~ Salsa Vaya
    Commuter ~ Soma Buena Vista Mixte

    http://madeinusareviews.blogspot.com/

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Jacksonville area of NC
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    Just to let you know the 44cm Specialized is the equivalent of the Trek 47cm.

    I'm 5'0" and currently ride a 47cm Trek 2000 men's bike. I've also looked at different bikes and from what I've seen many companies do not make small enough bikes for shorter people in general. When I do get a new bike I'm planning on getting a Trek Madone in whichever version comes in a men's 47cm.

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    I am 5'1" and purchased a 44 cm Ruby this spring. I also tested a Trek Madone 47 cm. It was too long a reach for me and I did not like the ride as well.

    My previous road bike was a Fuji Finest 44 cm, but it was proportioned differently. I didn't think of it as being a bad fit and rode it almost 6000 miles in a little more than 18 months. After getting used to the Ruby, I got back on the Fuji for just a ride around the block and it felt too big as well.

    I didn't want to go with a frame with 650 wheels, just for keeping tire supplies simpler for DH and I, as we're very disorganized at our house.

    Good luck on finding the right bike Goldfinch. (By the way, I studied Lesser Goldfinch songs for my master's degree
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  12. #12
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    Jul 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by azfiddle View Post
    I am 5'1" and purchased a 44 cm Ruby this spring. I also tested a Trek Madone 47 cm. It was too long a reach for me and I did not like the ride as well.

    My previous road bike was a Fuji Finest 44 cm, but it was proportioned differently. I didn't think of it as being a bad fit and rode it almost 6000 miles in a little more than 18 months. After getting used to the Ruby, I got back on the Fuji for just a ride around the block and it felt too big as well.

    I didn't want to go with a frame with 650 wheels, just for keeping tire supplies simpler for DH and I, as we're very disorganized at our house.

    Good luck on finding the right bike Goldfinch. (By the way, I studied Lesser Goldfinch songs for my master's degree
    I second this! I started out on a Fuji and went to a Ruby as well. I'm 5' with short arms.
    2011 Specialized Ruby Pro
    2008 Fuji Silhouette

  13. #13
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    Jul 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Koronin View Post
    Just to let you know the 44cm Specialized is the equivalent of the Trek 47cm.

    I'm 5'0" and currently ride a 47cm Trek 2000 men's bike. I've also looked at different bikes and from what I've seen many companies do not make small enough bikes for shorter people in general. When I do get a new bike I'm planning on getting a Trek Madone in whichever version comes in a men's 47cm.
    Oooh...this is interesting! I ride a 51cm Cannondale Synapse. I recently went bike shopping and at a Trek dealer they sized me up for a 54cm, but I told them I already own a 54cm 2100 WSD and it feels too large. They gave me a 54 Madone to test ride and once again, I felt too stretched out. So then I tried a 52cm Madone, and it felt much better. So what size Specialized bike would equate to a 52cm Trek or 51cm Cannondale? It would be nice if there was some kind of chart available that compares the different sizing of bike brands.

    Linda
    2012 Seven Axiom SL - Specialized Ruby SL 155

  14. #14
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    Mar 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by nscrbug View Post
    It would be nice if there was some kind of chart available that compares the different sizing of bike brands.
    There's no simple comparison between brands or even models within a brand, because of different lengths and angles. The geometry charts of the bikes that you're considering will give you insight into the size comparison.

    A bike size is no more standardized than a clothing size. It all boils down to how the manufacturer measured the bike and which number they stuck on the size tag. It's a good starting point, but nothing to hang your hat on.

  15. #15
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    Aug 2011
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    goldfinch I'm 5'2.
    2009 Fuji Finest RC - Dark Blue.

 

 

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