In the last 20 years, the bike industry has made great strides to accommodate riders of all sizes, especially shorter people. With the advent of sloping frames, the ability to straddle adult bikes with ease has been made available. To this point, one of the main keys on bike sizing now is not the frame height, but the saddle to bar distance.
Most quality bike brands will offer a greater number of frame sizes. While 3 or 4 was fairly normal, it is possible to get to more than 6, which can include an extra small, and small size that gives shorter riders a choice not based on standover, but based on overall comfort and rideability.
We will focus on the adult road and mountain bikes, as other bike types are not really sized or they are a one size fits all situation. A great bike that proves the point is the Diamondback Century 2 Endurance road bike. It is everything that a starter bike should be about.
Top Pick Road Bike for Short Riders
The Diamondback Century 2 Endurance is our top pick due to the overall value. This bike is modern and flexible in use. It has the clearance to fit bigger tires so that you could do some gravel riding. It is relaxed enough to do a century. The gearing would allow for climbing small and large hills.
The Shimano Sora drive train is a great start. While it might not be 105 or Ultegra, it performs amply and has room to expand. The mid-compact crankset with a reasonable gear range in the back is quite reasonable for a 2 x 9 gear set. Gearing could be adjusted quite easily if you need a lower gear for climbing.
Some great other features about this bike are the frame and the brakes. On many starter bikes, the brakes leave a lot to be desired. The feel mushy, or have inferior brake arms and pads. Disc brakes solve many of these problems.
The frame is a high-quality aluminum model. Many mountain bikes use a 6061 aluminum, this upgrades to a 7005 alloy, which is lighter and stronger.
Top Pick Mountain for Short Riders
The Mongoose Tyax model has been around for some time, and offers great value. While not the most expensive bike they make, it has a fairly average starter price, but with that, you get a bike that will work well for an avid rider.
One thing that Mongoose does on the Tyax is to offer wheel size options. On a size small they will give you the same frame size, but a 27.5 or 29″ wheel size.
This can go either way, so you can gain standover with the smaller wheel size, or use the 29″ to roll trails easier. After all, it is about riding, not straddling the bike. Again, bike fit is about the rider while riding, any bike fit based on your standing is not correct.
The Tyax comes in many frame size options, and it is always best to undersize a mountain bike. When things get technical, it is easier to finesse a smaller bike.
One of the big reasons you upgrade to this type of bike at this price range is the components. Until you get up well over $1000 it is hard to drop weight, so you have to look at functionality. The Tyax Expert features superior hydraulic disc brakes and a better drivetrain.
Best High-End Road Bike for Short Riders
The compact geometry, and small sizing make it easy to find an appropriate size in a high-performance bike. It uses high-quality carbon in the molding process making for a stiff yet light fork.
The Shimano Ultegra components are very raceable. I use similar parts on my own race bike. I suppose if you were going pro, you would hit the Dura Ace stuff, but Ultegra does just fine, on a budget no less.
The Shimano RS10 wheels do quite well. These should even be tubeless compatible for this year. Riding tubeless is a great thing, just dropping off the 100+ grams of a tube makes the wheels livelier and accelerate better.
As equipped, this bike comes in at 16.5 pounds. Upgrade the wheels at some point and you will easily see a 15-pound bike. An excellent choice for that long climb.
Best High-End Mountain Bike for Short Riders
Here is a bike I would easily buy to add to my collection, that is the Stradalli Full Suspension 29er. At this price, you save hundreds if not thousands off the big brand name bikes, and it performs exactly the same.
Featuring a carbon frame, and a proper front and rear suspension, this bike is what a cross country mountain bike should be. The suspension type is especially suited for smaller frames as that when the frame size shrinks down, the suspension quality does not. That is a major factor in design, which is how do you ensure the rear suspension works when the frame either becomes larger or in this case smaller.
In comparison, bikes from Cannondale or Specialized, both with similar suspension types cost thousands more. This bike runs a Shimano XT drivetrain, and XT brakes as well. So you get the better quality ICE pads, with all the cooling fins. The rear XT derailleur also has the clutch built in, to cut chain slap and retain tension so you don’t lose the chain off the chainrings when it gets bumpy.
To finish it all off are DT Swiss wheels. Good quality wheels make or break a bike. These are tough yet light and roll quite well.
Women’s Road Bikes -Petite Riders
When it comes to Women’s bikes, the prevailing thought is that the frame should be small, but the top tube length should be proportionally longer. Recent studies have found this isn’t always the case on the rule. It was always thought that in general, women have a longer torso and shorter legs, thus bike frames were designed to accommodate.
Since we have established that is not an absolute rule, it is best to try men and a ladies designed frame to see which fits you best. One easy way to do this is to look at something like a Ridley Fenix and Liz C models. These are equivalent men’s and ladies models, so you can compare apples to apples. Both come in small sizes, where you can compare top tube lengths, not stand over.
Ridley makes a very wide range of models and is quite popular in Europe although they are an international brand. At this price point, both bikes are amply equipped for most riders, and this is a fairly lightweight model at around 17 pounds. The importance here is the range of frame sizes.
Please don’t be afraid to try out both geometries. Many riders make mistakes in sizing because they think because a bike has women’s sizing that it should fit them. Not everyone is the same in the proportion of legs and torso.
Women’s Mountain Bike -Geometry Matters for Short Riders
While the same rules apply from above in regards to women’s sizing, one key aspect here is that when you build a women’s suspension mountain bike and then make a small sized frame that the suspension geometry makes sense. There are tons of geometry mistakes when it comes to his. There is no sense in buying a full suspension mountain bike that the suspension can’t be adjusted to the rider style.
The Diamondback Bicycles Women’s Clutch 1 Full Suspension mountain bike is a good example of a geometry that works well with the suspension type. With an upper rocker pivot and horizontal shock mount, the frame can be shrunk without changing the leverage and movement of the suspension.
This becomes important because smaller riders are usually lighter, and if the movement of the suspension is affected too much, it takes too much force to create suspension movement, defeating the purpose of adjustability.
The key takeaway on smaller bikes is that there is no need to compromise. With the variety of brands, it is easier than ever to identify the exact geometry that best fits you, makes you feel safe and can be adjusted to you to accomplish all-day comfort. Fitting a bike is exactly that goal, creating settings that allow comfort. After all, if you are not comfortable, it is harder to ride, get a workout, or just complete a distance.
Another key in frame sizing is not worrying about men’s or ladies on the geometry. If a bike fits you properly, it shouldn’t matter “who” it was designed for. If you have 8″ of seat post showing, but can carve singletrack like it was a Thanksgiving turkey, it doesn’t matter. Enjoyment is the goal here.
Our pick of the Diamondback Century 2 road bike as our top choice was easy to make. With many sizes, and great value in the brakes, drivetrain, and wheels, it is easy to see why this bike will perform well and be budget minded.
I really fell in love with the Stradalli full suspension mountain bike. First, it has a carbon frame, and the right parts to create a lightweight bike. The components will perform well, with Shimano XT throughout, there is no doubt it will work well. Then the suspension itself is not downgraded. It has high-quality DT Swiss parts.
So there you have it. A number of bikes that can really be used, and help you achieve your fitness and riding goals. The same theories apply to all bike types and price points. Bikes are sized by the top tube because they are made to be ridden, not stood over.