Small bikes that aren't horrible compromises

A place to discuss well-designed bikes for short folks. 700c wheels probably don’t make sense.


Some general observations: A lot of 46-50 cm bikes with 700c wheels end up with 75 degree STA, 70 degree STA to make the saddle-to-bar distance passable, but then the saddle is super far forward. If the manufacturer doesn’t change out the fork rake from the rest of their line, they end up with 70+mm trail. I’ve seen reaches as long as 375 mm on a nominal 46 cm bike, which is on par with a typical 53 cm road bike.

A couple examples of recent good bikes:

Here for this. Don’t understand the technical talk. 650b or 26 all day errrrry day.

Out of curiousity, is there a hybrid bike out there that has:

-650b/26" wheels
-maybe even a step-thru
-Between $500-800?

Just kinda want a good starter bike suggestion in my pocket for short folks

Well, I don’t know of many in that price range…but the Kona Dew Plus isn’t horrible.

The Kona Coco is pretty sweet too:


Ah cool, thanks! The Coco looks really good but is geared a little high for what I’m thinking of (although that can always be changed). That Dew Plus is pretty nice for $700.

Definition of “small” bike, are we talking 50cm and below? I’m 173cm but ride a sml H/G should I be on a medium?

I’m 5’5" (165cm) and I would probably ride a small H/G, but could also probably get away with a M. But I am all torso (25"-26" pants inseam) and have always enjoyed long top tubes.

But yeah, I’m curious to know what we are considering small. I know that I am nearer the bottom of the size range, but I still don’t have a lot of trouble finding bikes that can work, though I am small enough that I can’t count on every brand having a reasonably well-thought-out bike in my size.

Surly small not Riv small?


That’s a great distinction!

Rivendell unlocks a ton of room by just saying “hey dummy use swept bars on a tall quill stem” which then means the bike can be full length and just worry about standover instead of pretending to have a “short ETT”

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this is Surly small

They’re actually doing you a favor if you’re assuming their constraints, a reach any shorter makes for a nearly-unrideable bike with drop bars and 700c wheels. Fat tires and/or fenders then make for crankarm-overlap, even with low trail or more commonly a stupidly slack HTA.

700c road bikes only have a range from about 370-405mm of reach across all possible sizes, and the normal 52-60cm size range is really like 380-395mm. As Richard Sachs puts it, the wheels just have to go in a certain place.

Road bikes are actually sized by standover, stem length, and stem height

MTBs are sized by frame reach, and whether the dropper you want fits in the seat tube

Hence switching to smaller wheels.

Aside from the practical constraints of sourcing forks/wheels/tires in sizes <700c and edge cases like neutral support wheels in pro racing, why not scale down the whole bike roughly proportionately?

I think we’re ultimately arguing the same point - just shrinking top tube length without changing angles on a 700c bike would be even more of a disaster, but I’d argue changing the angles is already enough of a disaster for someone <5’3" who wants a road bike that handles well.

Historical minutiae:

Back in the day, the Terry bikes used a 700c rear wheel and 24" front wheel. This managed allow the fit to work out without crank arm overlap. The only downside was riders needed to carry two different sized spare tubes and the 24" front tires were prone to pinch flat.

Bridgestone XO’s of course had 26" wheels and were made down to 42 cm frame sizes.

In the early 2000s, Cannondale, Trek, and Cervelo all made 650c road bikes, often with Ultegra-level builds.

@JUGE_FREDD or other Seattle folks…what are your thoughts on the hordes of little navy blue Rodriguez bikes that show up around the city?

Modern Rodriguez bikes commonly have disastrous fit and aesthetics due to their longtime salesman Smiley, and their remaining customers love him so it’s way too late to fire him.

they also love building $3000 frames with $600 of assembly labor and $300 of components total

the thing about their tiny road bikes is that they’re diehards for 650c wheels and got some garbage Serfas “28mm” tires manufactured that are really 25mm of solid rubber

luckily a bike for short-reach brakes and 571mm rims works perfectly with medium-reach and 559mm rims that have way more tire options even just counting the skinny road race ones

but R&E somehow never ever does that


Saw a gal who must be a little under 5 foot who rides a Fargo (I think) with giant 29er 2.0s on it. I felt physically uncomfortable looking at her riding that. The fact that so many tiny frames ship with 700c wheels makes me sad - although it seems like a lot of the industry is doing a bit better now.

I honestly think 5’6" is about the shortest you can be and ride a 700c bike without much issue, and even then it’s like why not go 650b?

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So my partner is short. Her hardtail frame and her converted 90’s mtb are both 14" frames. The 90’s trek has a rear rack and can fit panniers so that isn’t an issue really.

The issue we are running into on the bike storage on her hardtail. While there are definitely frame bags that would fit it would still be tiny. The bike has 27.5 wheels and there isn’t enough space for a butt rocket bag. I think when I measured it awhile ago there was 6" of clearance. I found a very small dry bag style saddle bag which can fit like a tool roll or a few snacks. How are other tiny people carrying gear on your bikes?

Revelate Pika? “Requires a minimum of 3” of exposed seat post and 8" of clearance from saddle rails to tire." Or the ’ Vole’ - minimum of 6" of clearnace is required from the tire to bottom of saddle rails.

Also get some voile straps to cinch the saddle bag up eliminating sag? Front Basket?

The vole MIGHT fit. I’ll have to measure and see. If I remember correctly she has 6" between the tire and saddle. We did the voile strap around the saddle rails and bag so she could stuff it. Up front she ran a dry bag for her sleeping bag strapped to her bars and a feed bag.

Ash’s tiny tiny Vaya ridiculously came with 700c wheel with 42mm tires.

Here’s what it looked like the day she bought it:

I 650ed it and got rid of the garbage 8 speed claris group ASAP:

The one that she had previously which was stolen came with 26" wheels but the frame was a bit too big for her. Go figure.


her helmet kicks ass

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