CyclingSite Logo  
Collected Wisdom



  CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Women's Bikes
    What do you know about women's bikes?  
    For a short woman, I strongly recommend almost any bike made by Terry. They focus on bikes and saddles for women, and if I am not mistaken, some of them are particularly well suited to the short woman. A friend of mine who I used to work with bought a Terry a few years ago, and she likes it very much.

Curt Coleman

I find the 650 wheels very helpful for short people.

Leslie Howard

The only problem with Terry bikes (in my opinion) is the fact that many of the bikes have wheels that are different sizes. So, you have to carry at least 2 spare tubes instead of one, and it is hard to get good tubes in some areas.

I agree that 650 wheels are a great thing for people with short legs. I would try that before trying a Terry.

Lisa Cejka

Yes, you are absolutely right about the two-wheel-size Terry's.

I had forgotten, mostly because the friend I referred-to has a single-wheel-size Terry. While I would certainly encourage broad experimentation, there are other characteristics about the Terry which should be considered, such as a short top tube, and other "friendly" design characteristics.

All of that being said, my future daughter-in-law is about to buy a Trek with small (650's??) wheels. I believe Trek has designed this bike for small women.

Curt Coleman

Trek now has "WSD" bikes - Women Specific Design - bikes. Check it out.

Bob Mueller

Unfortunately, not all women are built the same, so any bike that feels good is the best bike. I love the fact that there are more choices and women are becoming an accepted member of the cycling community.

My advice would be shop around, don't be afraid to test ride the bikes, and ask what modifications could be made in bar width and stem length and degree of rise. Also, don't just look at brands you know, there are lots of brands that have unique features and varying top tube lengths and stand over heights.

Lisa Cejka

The March 1999 issue of Bicycling magazine had an article on bicycles specifically designed for women. See if you can get a copy somewhere, perhaps the library.

Roger Hedrick

Women's bodies are different than men's. In general, we women have shorter torsos relative to our legs. Thus, on a bike designed for a man (as most are), the top tube is generally too long, forcing us to be "stretched out" to reach the handlebars. Thus we often feel uncomfortable in our necks, lower backs, shoulders and, yes, the crotch.

The challenge, therefore, is to have a short enough top tube without compromising frame geometry. On a bike with 700c tires, you can only shorten the top tube to about 53cm before you start to experience toe-clip overlap (when you turn your wheel, it hits the front of your foot, which can take you down in a hurry). To prevent this, but still use 700c tires, some manufacturers use a very steep seat angle (75+). The steeper the angle, the shorter you can make the top tube...except that this will put your knees too far over the pedals, which besides being inefficient could also ruin your knees. The other option is shallower head angles and more rake but that results in sluggish handling.

A 26" tire is about 2cm smaller in radius than a 700c, while a 24" is about 5cm smaller. That allows Terry to design smaller bikes without compromising geometry.

As for carrying two tubes - you can easily fit two, plus a patch kit in a seat bag.

Of course, every woman is different. The best advice is to find a bike shop with a big selection - both Terry and those suggested by other list members - and take some out for a test ride.

Susan Otcenas

Back to Top

I just wanted to say that I also bought a Trek 2200 WSD last month and I Love it. I am only 5"1' and it is a perfect fit. Extremely light, and low, only 24" wheels. I rode the Spring Century and did my First Century. The gearing is great. I was slow on Bird Rd, a lot of folks passed me huffing and puffing, but I put it in the 'granny gears' and kept moving. Just need to get over my fear of speed going down hill so I don't ride the brakes so hard. Which is my only complaint about the bike, I have very small hands and gripping those brakes hurts after a long downhill.


My husband and I signed up for our first CO this year. We need new bikes, because all of our riding up 'til now has been fairly short distances, and on older, heavier mountain bikes. I am only 5' tall, and do not fit the standard size frames. One option that has been presented to me is a Cannondale mountain type frame with road wheels. However, I find that even that frame is almost too tall. What are the pros & cons of smaller bikes that come with smaller wheels? (Besides the obvious of having to pedal more to go the same distance?) Should I consider a "women's frame?" Are there other shorter riders out there? What do you ride?

Thanks for any advice...
Victoria Gilbert

Cannondale makes (or at least made) what they called a "compact bike". It was road but with a mountain looking frame and I believe smaller (650c) wheels. Giant (also an affordable marquee) had a line of women’s frames. Also, Terry is a long standing manufacturer of bikes for women. There is a lot out there if you look and don't just accept one shop’s view (which may have some bias toward dumping the inventory the wholesalers require they purchase in order to carry the line).

Take your time, test ride things, see if you can do tests at events, not just a wobble round the lot.

Take a look at frame sizes not only in seat tube length but also top tube length. Some makers (GT, LeMond, etc.) have longish top tubes with respect to their seat tube. I.e.: my 52cm seat tube mates to a 54cm top. Most frames are "square" (equal lengths), however some (I recall Diamondback) having a shorter top tube. Depends on your body shape, but in general women are a bit shorter in reach than a similarly sized baboo... er ah man :-) You might fit aboard a smaller offering from a manufacturer that builds frames in such geometry.

Don't just go by stated sizes though, they measure sort of inconsistently. Best to try them on and see.

Don "take time and enjoy the process" Bolton

Cannondale makes a compact women's bike which would fit someone of you size. Frame size starts in the low 40's in size, with 650c wheels. They have a couple of models, they look like very nice bikes to me, although I am on the other end of the scale myself.

Bill Phillips

Victoria, I am 5'3" and ride a Trek hybrid. It is heavier, which means I work harder going up hill. But we do put "slicks" on for CO, rather than the usual knobby tires. I feel your pain in trying to find a bike frame that fits. I was looking at road bikes and was having some of the same issues. It’s going to come down to what feels best for you. Test ride a ton of bikes and let us know what worked for you!

Wendi Thornton

It really depends how much you want to spend. Try picking up April's bicycle magazine. There is buyers guide that is great. Trek, Terry, and Cannondale all make a great bike for us shorter women. I am 5'2" and had a horrible time finding a bike that fit. I ended up with a Bianchi Chromolit Eros. It set me back a pretty penny, but I love it.

Good luck

    Back to Top  
  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Women's Bikes  

Copyright 2003, Artist's Touch or by original content developer.

CyclingSite Home Page General Info Photo Album Lists & Articles CO at a Glance CO Collected Wisdom CO History Bike Rides Stories & Humor Guest Book Collected Wisdom Home Page Back Up Next Site Map Insights Touring Info On the Road Cycling Concerns In Camp Other Services What to Take Bikes Types of Bikes Bike Fits Buying a Bike Materials Folding Bikes Hybrids Mountain Bikes Recumbents Road Bikes Softrides Tandems Touring Bikes Women's Bikes Bike Equipment Camp Equipment Clothes What Else? How to Pack Training Miscellaneous Info