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Finding a bike is difficult if you are below the average height range for adult bicycles. Here are some tips on finding a bike for short people!
Sometimes we all wish that we could just “fit in,” be like everyone else. But the truth is – we’re all different. You are unique. Would you really want it any other way? However, when it comes to buying a bike, it can be a little difficult if you don’t fit the mould. Finding a well-fitting bike when you’re tall can be difficult, and similarly when you’re, shall we say, vertically challenged. You’re short, and finding a bike that fits properly is hard if you don’t feel like buying a children’s bike. Given that short people are not the majority, manufacturers generally don’t cater to a smaller market (so to speak). Therefore, some adjustments are going to have to be made.
Everyone is Different in Sizing and Proportion: Try as Many Bikes as Possible!
First off, everyone’s proportions are a little different. The average body proportions for short people are most often longer legs and a short torso, so when manufacturers make their Small size bikes they tend to offer in the 5”3-5”6 range, assuming you, who are under 5”3, have longer legs. Some manufacturers list seat tube length in cm, some in inches, and sometimes the sizes are listed as S/M/L. You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: try lots of bicycles; you may find you have longer arms, longer legs, a longer torso. Don’t rule out anything before trying, but don’t get discouraged if it’s tough going. We have more advice!
Don’t Pay Attention to the Aimed Gender of a Bike
A short female falling 5”2 or lower may have some more difficulty finding a bike simply because most brands don’t carry bikes that small; however, not all people who are short are women. There are a lot of brands that carry 5”3-5”6 range bicycles nominally aimed at the opposite sex. Some men may find that a Women’s bike might fit them better, or a woman may find that a Men’s bike fits them better, so keep an open mind – lots of bikes geared at a particular sex don’t look feminine or masculine, they’re just bikes. Some brands, such as Scott and Bike Friday, make bicycles geared towards short men as well as short women. Bike Friday is particularly notable in that they make a cargo bike which can be adjusted to fit riders from 4 feet to 6’7″, and they also make the Bantam, a bicycle designed specifically for Little People, which can fit riders with inseams of less than 23 inches.
Fine Tune Your Bike to Fit You
If you find that you can manage comfortably with a bike that is slightly too big for you, there are some ways to fine tune your ride so that the bike works for you and not the other way around. Seat height is often the start. From there, try moving the saddle forward on the seat post, which can allow for about 50mm in the distance to the bars.
There is also the option of swapping the stem for a different length or rise. Stems go up with size of bicycle, but most bikes can be fitted with a shorter stem than a standard bike without altering the geometry too much. If the cockpit of the bike is still too long and has you leaning forward much more than you’d like to, swap out the handlebars for the most swept-back set of cruiser bars you can find to get into a more upright riding position. Soma Fabrications is a great place to look for mustache bars.
Keep an Open Mind to Frame and Model
Depending on your riding style and needs of a bike, your choice of frame and model can make a big difference. For instance, choosing a step through will allow you easier access to the ground if you find yourself frequently on your tippy-toes over a diamond frame. Likewise, a mixte frame gives you a little more room between your seat and the top tube. If you’re particularly short and really can’t find a bike that works for you, a folding bike such as a Brompton or a Dahon is definitely going to work.
Hopefully, the information above helps a little, but just in case, here is a list of brands that offer smaller options:
If you are looking for something very specific and don’t mind spending a little more money, definitely consider a custom made bike: