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Bikes for short unstable women?

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Bikes for short unstable women?

Old 09-14-21, 09:19 AM
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lbholla
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Bikes for short unstable women?

I'm sure this has been answered here before, but I'm having no luck finding the answer! I am an inexperienced/unconfident cyclist that is also fairly short, with short legs (5'1"). I currently have a Trek M-2025 SR suntour 3700, 16", and I don't like it at all. I cannot easily touch the ground from the seat at it's lowest position, and I always feel unsafe because of it. I have to hit the breaks HARD to stop, so that I'm pushed forward off the seat by my momentum and can reach the ground (I can't slowly come to a stop because I can't reach the ground from the seat without tipping the bike excessively). I never feel like I'm really confident about my balance on this bike, and I've spent the past year practicing on it, so I'm thinking the issue is more the bike than me - I hope! I also don't like all the gears - I find it confusing and distracting, and it makes me nervous I will shift into the wrong gear and have issues maintaining my balance. Should I just get a tricycle - do I simply have bad balance - or do you think I would benefit from a better fitting bike? If so, can you recommend a bike for short inexperienced adults?
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Old 09-14-21, 10:37 AM
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1. you'll get better with time. the anxiety is understandable, but with practice, that will fade. spend time in an empty parking lot to avoid the stress of traffic and intersections.
2. most of us cannot put our foot down when in the saddle, and, frankly, you should not expect to do that. when it's time to stop, you stand on the pedals, usually with one foot low, and then put the opposite foot on the ground when the motion stops. Notice that this implies you can stand over the top bar when stopped. (if you can't do that, you do likely need a smaller bike).
3. for a "start" to checking the fit, you should have a friend hold your bike while you're on the seat, still, and you should put your heel on the pedal. Your leg should be close to straight, not reaching, not significantly flexed at the knee - then your seat is "in the ballpark".
4. I'm confused that you're saying "hit the brakes HARD to stop." Brakes should feel pretty relaxed when they're doing their job, else they need adjustment. You need a local bike shop (LBS) or a knowledgeable friend to take a look at those. Something isn't right there.
5. Sorry, but 5'1" does not get you into the "super short" category. I've ridden with some much more vertically challenged than that.
6. spend some time with an online "fit calculator" and see if you think you need a different sized bike. the calculators aren't gospel, but they (again) get you in the ballpark. try this one:
https://www.jensonusa.com/bike-fit-calculator
7. be optimistic. you're not as far from bike-happy as you might think.
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Old 09-14-21, 10:43 AM
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Visit your local bike shop! They can help you get a bike that is properly fitted to your body and suited to your needs.
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Old 09-14-21, 11:20 AM
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Don't exclude recumbents. Both trikes or bikes. Though I have no experience with them.

A bike with smaller diameter wheels might feel more comfortable. But if you look at specifically "road bikes" you might only find 700C wheels on them. But many people your size do feel comfortable on them. My wife isn't one of them though.

Cruisers and commuter bikes are more her thing. They'll come in models that have large and smaller diameter wheels.

With the current inventory shortage, I don't know how much selection you'll have in your area. The shops here say mid 2022 for the bike inventory shortage to start getting better.
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Old 09-14-21, 11:31 AM
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If you can touch the ground with both feet while on the saddle, your saddle is too low. Proper pedalling is achieved when you have your leg almost completely straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and since there has to be space between the pedal and the ground, a proper saddle height will not allow you to comfortably reach the ground from the saddle. You must slide forward off the saddle and stand over the frame when you stop, and this is generally true for all heights of rider.

HOWEVER a 16" frame is probably bigger than ideal for a person 5'1". My spouse is about 5'3" and fits neatly on most 14" frames. NB this will not really effect the ability to touch the ground while seated, but might make the 5'1" person more comfortable while riding.

If two wheeled bikes are uncomfortable in general, then consider a recumbent trike.
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Old 09-14-21, 02:52 PM
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I bought this bike from a local bike shop, used but expensive (for my budget). It was a splurge purchase that I had hoped would help me gain confidence, but so far it hasn't helped. The guy who sold it to me didn't really seem to understand my needs as an unconfident adult rider. I've been at the stage of riding a bike around a parking lot for 20 years, spent many hours and days trying to build up my confidence, but I still don't feel comfortable even on a straight wide bike path (what if someone comes from the other direction! what if someone ahead of me stops short!). Maybe I'm too much of a nervous nelly for bikes? or maybe I have bad balance.. or maybe I've only ever had bad fitting bikes.. I just don't know! All I know is that I can't waste much more money or time on it without seeing any progress. I wish I could join my kids on bike trails and family expeditions! I have noticed that when my kids learned, they gained a lot of confidence on bikes that were technically too small for them. They were able to touch the ground easily with both feet (not heels) while on the seat, and use their bikes like glide bikes without engaging the peddles. With my current bike, I can only barely touch the ground with one tip toe while on the seat, so I slam the breaks hard when I want to stop (so that the force of the braking pushes me nearly off the seat and I can touch the ground more fully) - I don't feel that I can safely stop without doing this. The weight of the bike (it's heavy and cumbersome) and myself (short but stout) is maybe too much for that one little tip toe that can reach the ground? I constantly feel like I'm one inch from disaster on this bike.
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Old 09-14-21, 03:56 PM
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Gosh, you describe all your experiences on your bike just like my wife. However I have been with her all day so she couldn't have posted this. <grin>

Do you ride paved roads and paved trails. If so, stay away from bikes with a front suspension. They just add weight, IMO. Though there are plenty of bikes without suspension that are heavy too.

When you stop, you don't have to keep the bike perfectly vertical. You can lean to one side and just stand on one leg. If the bike too heavy to do that, then I'd think that it must be way too big a frame for you because you shouldn't have to lean it that much.

If you are going to look for another bike and give it a try, then keep looking. Go to all the shops you can and just look and try them out. The salesperson that sold my wife her bike was a little less than understanding of how big it felt to her. And so too was I. So when you buy, make sure you your vote on whether it's right for you has veto power over everyone else that says it's the right bike.

Bad time to look for bikes though, store inventory is low and sellers of used bikes know they can ask more than ever.
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Old 09-14-21, 08:56 PM
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This all depends on how far and fast you want to ride! There are street bikes called "pedal forward" bikes:

These are not as fast nor as comfortable for long distances, but something like this might be just right for you. The sixthreezero bikes come with various transmissions as well as single speed (no gears). Not having any gears would make riding uphill harder, but if you live in a flat area, might be fine.

If you want to keep your present bike, the way to stop is to stop pedaling with the pedals vertical, gently apply the brakes and when the bike is almost stopped move forward off the saddle, lean to the side with the upper foot and put that foot down. You can dab along for a couple of feet with that toe if you haven't quite stopped.
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Old 09-15-21, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by lbholla View Post
I'm sure this has been answered here before, but I'm having no luck finding the answer! I am an inexperienced/unconfident cyclist that is also fairly short, with short legs (5'1"). I currently have a Trek M-2025 SR suntour 3700, 16", and I don't like it at all. I cannot easily touch the ground from the seat at it's lowest position, and I always feel unsafe because of it. I have to hit the breaks HARD to stop, so that I'm pushed forward off the seat by my momentum and can reach the ground (I can't slowly come to a stop because I can't reach the ground from the seat without tipping the bike excessively). I never feel like I'm really confident about my balance on this bike, and I've spent the past year practicing on it, so I'm thinking the issue is more the bike than me - I hope! I also don't like all the gears - I find it confusing and distracting, and it makes me nervous I will shift into the wrong gear and have issues maintaining my balance. Should I just get a tricycle - do I simply have bad balance - or do you think I would benefit from a better fitting bike? If so, can you recommend a bike for short inexperienced adults?
A folding bike with 20" wheels might help. Talk to the owner, he is helpful.
The gears are sealed. Belt drive. Easy to change and low maintenance.

https://www.downtube.com/pages/bicycle-blog.htmldowntube-news-moving-sale/
https://www.downtube.com/8h-internal-hub-belt-drive-folding-bike/
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Old 09-15-21, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Don't exclude recumbents. Both trikes or bikes. .....
Recumbent bikes are very tricky to balance. I had an OSS SWB recumbent at one point, and the low speed balancing took a lot of effort to learn. For some reasons counter-steering either doesn't work, or works very slowly with these recumbents, so high speed behavior can be unsettling as well. If you can imagine a twitchy, nervous, yet slow turning bike- that is the recumbent bike. The USS models even worse. I strongly advice the OP to stay away from them until she is completely comfortable with a regular bike.

Originally Posted by ClydeClydeson View Post
If you can touch the ground with both feet while on the saddle, your saddle is too low. Proper pedalling is achieved when you have your leg almost completely straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and since there has to be space between the pedal and the ground, a proper saddle height will not allow you to comfortably reach the ground from the saddle. You must slide forward off the saddle and stand over the frame when you stop, and this is generally true for all heights of rider.....
Generally true for all riders. But not true for beginners, which the OP obviously is. For a beginner, the seat should be low enough for you to put both feet , if not flat on the ground, at least comfortably on the ground (ie. not tip-toeing). When the OP is comfortable with riding a bike, then she can raise the seat gradually until she gets to the optimal position.

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Old 09-15-21, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
<seat high enough for proper pedalling> true for all riders. But not true for beginners, which the OP obviously is. For a beginner, the seat should be low enough for you to put both feet , if not flat on the ground, at least comfortably on the ground (ie. not tip-toeing). When the OP is comfortable with riding a bike, then she can raise the seat gradually until she gets to the optimal position.
Fair point. The other issue is that OP said the saddle is as low as it can go but is still too high to put feet on the ground, which confirms my point about the 16" frame being too big for a person 5'1"
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Old 09-15-21, 06:52 PM
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They don't make this particular bike any more but there are similar bikes still available, it is a Giant Revive crank forward bike. My wife started having trouble getting on and off her hybrid and cruiser due to hip problems and wasn't as comfortable starting and stopping much as you have described. I picked this up used off FB Marketplace earlier this year. I don't care for it myself but she took to it like a duck to water. It's very easy for her to mount and dismount and she can reach the ground from the saddle, she loves it.

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Old 09-16-21, 07:20 AM
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Here's a technique to try. The fundamental principle is this. You do not stop, or start actually, in the saddle. You stop/start from in front of the saddle. To stop you place your weight on one pedal (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and as you come close to a stop, just break with one hand and hold the bars securely with the other. Move yourself forwards of the saddle and lower yourself to the ground. Definitly lean a little to the side that you will put your foot down on as you really don't want to lean towards the side that you still have on the pedal.

Start from about the same position yet with the pedals at the 9-3 position. You push down and push yourself up onto the saddle in one motion.
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Old 09-16-21, 10:54 AM
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If you've been at this for 20 years, as you mention above, then this isn't for you. Free yourself from this particular anxiety. You just don't like it, and that's OK. Not sure why you're still doing this. Spend your time on things that you find 100% fun.
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Old 09-16-21, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by lbholla View Post
I am an inexperienced/unconfident cyclist that is also fairly short, with short legs (5'1"). I currently have a Trek M-2025 SR suntour 3700, 16", and I don't like it at all. I cannot easily touch the ground from the seat at it's lowest position, and I always feel unsafe because of it. I have to hit the breaks HARD to stop, so that I'm pushed forward off the seat by my momentum ... I never feel like I'm really confident about my balance on this bike, and ...
Until you have more time in the saddle, more time riding over a variety of terrain, it's hard to say how soon you'll feel better-balanced and more-confident with cycling.

As others have suggested, a different bike might help.

The Trek Electra crank-forward (pedal-forward) bikes might suit you well. They tend to have lower seating positions due to the cranks being farther forward, allowing you to touch the feet from the saddle when needing to, yet having your knee bend during pedaling at the appropriate amount. Plus, more-upright handlebars sound like they'd be better for you. On a pedal-forward bike (Electra is just one line of bikes of this sort) and an upright-style handlebar, you'll change your weight distribution and be closer to the ground. In the step-through frame models, you'll also be able mount, ride and dismount without having to worry about a tall top tube keeping your feet from easily and safely getting to/from the ground.

Definnitely worth test-riding two or three of these types of bikes, to compare. Might well be able to trade, if it gets you in a better position that's better-balanced and allows you greater confidence riding.

https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/b...bikes/c/EB600/
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