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Austin Smithey

Need some help finding a bike/frame

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So I've recently gotten into mountain biking and my girlfriend who is 5'3" really wants to start joining me on some rides but would rather stick to road and/or gravel biking. Since I work at the Austin Tricyclist(very new to being a mechanic) I was either looking to get just a frame and build it up or buy an older bike with a decent frame and flipping it. What would y'all say I should do and also what frame size should I be looking for? I've been seeing a lot of different numbers being thrown around and I'm not as familiar with road bike sizes and such. Thanks. 

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Is this a bike for your girlfriend?  If so I would recommend a mountain bike frame.  Much more versatile than a road bike frame.  You can ride all types of terrain on a mountain bike and they are easier to control.  Older road bike frames usually dont have the clearance for gravel sized tires.  Probably a small sized mtb frame (or 51cm road frame) fwould work best.

Your girlfriend will either get hooked into biking or lose interest.   You can always get a dedicated road\gravel bike if she really takes to riding. 

Good luck!

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Posted (edited)

what's your budget? are you trying to slap together a frankenbike or build her something nice? the answer to those questions will have a major effect on the "right" answer. without that, the obvious answer is a 3T Exploro, Cannondale Topstone, etc. Fairdale might have some appropriate bikes too.

ideally, she'd just go to a few bike shops and test ride a bunch of bikes to see what style of bike she wants to ride. that's the most important part: it's not what the bike nerds on the internet think or what you think it best for her, it's about what bike fills her with confidence and makes riding fun.

with COVID-19 right now, most (all?) bike shops won't let you test ride bikes. you're going to have to find ways to do that remotely, unfortunately. for sizing, start with manufacturer's size guides. for the proportions of most short women, a women-specific bike design is probably going to fit her better.

furthermore, I think the insistence on putting drop bars on every bike borders on a fetish. most average, "non-cyclist" don't benefit from using a drop bar. when people talk about gravel bikes, a drop bar is usually an assumption. for someone just starting out, a drop bar will make it harder to dial in the fit and they won't know what to do with the brake levers and shifters. I have an older road bike right now that I am trying to set up for my short wife to ride. I thought putting a drop bar on it would be a good idea, but it's a PITA to make it fit like that. the reach is too far on the hoods no matter what we do, the drop/hook position is useless to her, and she can't operate the shifters with her small hands. I am converting it to a flat bar.

for longer rides, some stubby bar ends or inner bars would be helpful. I rode some gravel races on a flat bar bike with Ergon bar ends and TOGS and it was fine. here's my old Soma Juice after a Chainring Massacre: rigid fork, "narrow" flat bar with Ergon bar ends, 38/18 gear, Schwalbe Thunder Burt tires.


I would start with a women's size small hybrid. it will be upright and comfortable. put some supple tires with enough tread on them to ride some dirt. alternatively, you could chose a small hardtail mountain bike. if it feels cumbersome on the roads, some narrower, supple tires and a comfy handlebar will go a long way. the suspension might feel like overkill, but rigid forks are cheap and the suspension will make the bike more capable if you take it off-road.

Edited by mack_turtle

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