How to Find a Bike for Short People

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!

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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.

Upright Bikes - Sit Up and Enjoy the Ride

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.

Brands

Hopefully, the information above helps a little, but just in case, here is a list of brands that offer smaller options:

    • Scott – The Metrix 20 goes down to XS
    • Islabikes
    • Cleary Bikes
    • Trek – Makes smaller bikes as well as Women specific bicycles.
    • Giant – The Avail is aimed at women but not super feminine looking.
    • Brompton
    • Dahon
    • Genesis – The Cul de Glandon uses smaller wheels which means making fewer geometry compromises.
    • Kona Coco – Smallest size is 42 cm.
    • Brooklyn Bicycle Co. – Custom bikes and lots of options for heights of 4″11 and up.
    • Civia – Step through and mixte options.
    • Bike Friday– Specific designs for short people, cargo options
    • Biria – Lots of options for step through, and easy boarding.


Custom: A Bike Just for You

If you are looking for something very specific and don’t mind spending a little more money, definitely consider a custom made bike:

10 Comments

  • Daniel

    Don’t forget that Wabi Cycles, out of Tulsa, makes a gorgeous Reynolds 725 steel fixed/single speed in a 42cm size with a 650 wheelset!

  • It’s really great helpful article. This article is really awesome who want to be a raider but height is short. Your content was perfect and wrote main things.

  • http://georgenaterry.com/ The best custom bicycles for small women are designed by Georgena Terry!

  • Sue Myall

    I’m 5’1″ and have a standover height of 75cms, I have a XS Surly Troll, with extra height on the steer tube so I can sit more upright…it is the best bike I’ve ever had. Surly also make a Cross check that has a very low stand over/top tube, if a more road syited bike is preferred…so check the Surly offerings

  • jonathon

    im 5,3 and have a 24inch bike but having seroinus problems with the nut that holds the back rim on to the frame. i had two rims bearings go bad 1 right after the outher so i gave up trying to fix it and ride it cause i have no clue wats wrong im not putting aton of pressure on it so wat else is wrong ive be4en told their both bad rims. I needed to know if its me or if its just the people i get my parts from

  • HPedrini

    I am 5′ tall and was lucky to find a small frame Specialized Cirrus ten years ago when I needed a new bike. I don’t know if this company still makes a small frame but I would seek them out and see – it’s a trusty steed indeed.

  • Scotty

    When I went shopping a couple of years ago for a new road bike I was extremely frustrated. Rarely did a store carry a bike in a small size. I’m only 5’8, but I have a long torso and shorter legs. I was thankful to walk into one bike shop that offered to measure me right off the bat. He told me flat out that they don’t normally stock bikes in my size but would be happy to try to order one. I did that and was so much happier. He still had to make some adjustments including swapping out the stem to a longer one, but it was really worth it. The downside was this was a really frustrating process. And even ordering the bike wasn’t that easy as there were only a few made in that size. But, I now know what to expect.

  • Short biker

    I highly recommend the Electra Townie bikes. They have a 24″ version of the 7D that works really well for people with shorter legs.

  • I’d also recommend paying attention to wheel size. Many adult bikes (especially) road bikes use 700cc wheels, which can cause severe toe overlap and funky geometry. For shorter folks, 650b and 26″ wheels are a great option. Surly and Soma both make great touring bikes with the 650b wheelset.

    • Andy

      Great advice, but it’s also important to remember that a 650b with most tires available will have an effective wheel diameter very similar to a 700c with a regular road tire. 26″ is a far batter option if you can find one. Surly’s 26″ trucker in 42cm has a lower standover than Surly’s 38cm (650b) straggler.

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