Tiny Fix: The Bikes

This is the post that answers our most-asked question: “Hey Tiny Fix, I’m a smaller person too and I’m looking for a bike. What’s out there in our size?”

old-bike

not this.

Unless bike companies start sending us small bikes to review (HEY Y’ALL hit us up!), unfortunately it’s not possible for us to talk about every single tiny bike out there. But we can show you what the smaller Tiny Fix women ride, and what we like and don’t like about our bikes. For each bike we tried our best to link the name of the bike to the geometry or other specs, but it wasn’t always possible; or what we found may be slightly different than our older/discontinued models. We’d also love to hear what our readers are riding – tell us about your bikes in the comments!

Kaz

Height: 5’1″
Inseam: 28″

Fuji Classic Track 43cm

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i call him Pikachu because he’s tiny and cute and yellow.

I love the 650c wheels on my Fuji because I can actually stand over the top tube, flat-footed, while still avoiding toe overlap. It’s hard to say if the smaller wheels slow me down, because the bike is so much lighter than my other bike it’s not really a true comparison; I actually feel pretty speedy on Pikachu. I’ve never found that sourcing tubes is an issue, but tires and wheels are less easy to come by. My only complaint about the Fuji is that with track frame geometry, it’s pretty twitchy – it’s almost too short lengthwise. And it’s not really made to be comfortable for long rides. I’ve managed to make it comfy enough for my 10mi commute with bullhorns, a better saddle, and better pedals (dear GOD the stock pedals suck), but I wouldn’t ride it much further than say 15-20mi at a time. That said, it’s perfect for having a fun, small bike to ride around the city.

Bianchi Volpe 44cm

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Goldie: function over form

The Volpe is a pretty great commuter/touring bike, and I’ve even used it for cyclocross. Size-wise, my problem is that I can’t quite stand over the top tube comfortably. It’s easy enough to work around by tipping the bike to the side slightly when I come to a stop, and honestly I barely notice because it’s such habit. The brifter posts/hoods are also WAY TOO BIG for my tiny hands. Even with shims, I do not feel like I have good braking power due to my inability to get decent leverage. I put cross-top brake levers on the bike for CX and find myself using them almost exclusively on the road, even though comfort-wise I prefer being on the hoods. Another problem is (especially set up as I have it, with full fenders and toe clips on the pedals) toe overlap. I have to be really careful on slow, tight turns, and it’s something that still happens regularly. I’ve put thousands of miles on Goldie though, including several centuries.

Trek 7.2 FX WSD 15″

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frankenbike

The Trek was my first bike purchase since high school. I felt forced into a step-through frame by the bike shop employee because it made the stand-over/fit issue easier. Of course, I didn’t realize this til after I had it home for a while. But I will say, I outgrew this bike very quickly. I tried to make it work (see those bar ends in the picture?) with various changes and modifications, but the fact was I didn’t prefer the upright geometry. While I think this bike can work very well for someone looking to cruise along the lakefront or other trails for recreation, I didn’t like it for urban transportation. Those fat aluminum tubes plus the step-through geometry made lock-up a BITCH — I had to buy an extra long u-lock just to get one wheel, frame, and bike rack together, plus a tire leash for the other tire. And even for recreation, be aware you only can carry one water bottle on the frame unless you rig something up with hose clamps like I did. I did like it for my winter commuting, though! (This bike is for sale; if anyone’s interested, contact kaz.)

Lisa

Height: 5’1 3/4″
Inseam: 29″

Surly Cross Check 42cm

I like how lightweight and fast my Surly is. I also like that the top tube length isn’t super short or super long. Reach is just right for me. I’m also not constantly kneeing myself in the tits, a problem I had experienced on other road bikes. Additionally, Smart Bikes swapped some components for me so my drops and brakes fit my little hands. Hooray!

My biggest complaints with the bike are mostly alterable when I have the money to do so: bar end shifters that I sometimes smack my knee on when I stop and cantilever brakes (i’m used to and prefer V brakes). However, the bike also has 700c wheels, so I have toe overlap going on, which I take care about, but ideally this wouldn’t be a concern. I don’t actually know if there is a way to address this, but I definitely can’t afford to right now.

Trek 820 Mountain Hardtail 46cm (Lisa rides an older model, geo may not be exact)

In terms of riding my Trek I hate that it’s heavy as shit so I can’t carry it for more than a flight of stairs. I also hate that it has such huge fat tires, because locking it is a bitch. Also, stand over height is not quite right for me. The top tube nestles between my legs unless I lean it.

I like that I’ve had the bike for 6 years of all different kinds of riding and never once gotten a flat. Also, I don’t think I could pick a better bike for winter riding. Despite how heavy and knobby and awful the bike is for city riding, I can still go pretty darn fast because of the way the bike is geared. The bike is just really solid and I don’t have to worry about hitting potholes or running over shit. That’s pretty cool.

Cupcake

Height: 5’1″
Inseam: 28 3/4″

Globe Live Mixte (Singlespeed) (discontinued – I couldn’t find the geometry specs anywhere) 44cm

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Cupcake’s mixte

This was a great beginner bike for me; as someone who was just getting used to riding in a city, a mixte was very nonthreatening. It’s a good bike if you’re going to be riding slowly and stopping at red lights a lot. I love the integrated front rack, and still use it to carry my chihuahua around town.

I do feel like I’ve outgrown it; it’s too heavy, the front rack throws the weight distribution off, and it’s much easier to carry a diamond frame up and down stairs. It feels like if my fixed gear is jetski that I can zip around on, this bike is an ocean liner I have to deliberately captain.

Jamis Sputnik (fixed gear – can also be built up singlespeed) 47cm

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cheesecake picture, workhorse bike

Pros: Lightweight; easy to sling over a shoulder; braze-ons for water bottle cages and fenders and racks; very responsive to body movements.

Cons: The dropouts are painted in this fake-ass grey paint that’s supposed to look like chrome and doesn’t; it’s not the kind of bike people coo over and envy; it’s road geometry instead of traditional track geometry (which is actually a good thing for city riding in my opinion, but again, earns you no hipster points); 700c instead of 650 wheels (which is fine because the road geometry keeps you from having toe overlap, but would not be suitable for very short riders).

Anna

Height: 5’1 3/4

2011 Jamis Sputnik – 47 cm

I have no complaints! It’s light-weight, inexpensive, and the components it comes with are pretty okay. I think the san marco saddle is comfortable, but I haven’t taken it for any long rides.

Modifications – I swapped out bullhorns for drops, and my brake lever for the front brake is at the bottom of my right drop. I have Weinmann dps with Gatorskin tires.

Lauren

Height: 4’10”
Inseam: Not totally sure, I’m guessing between 26″-27″.

Nishiki Sebring Mixte – 43 or 45cm maybe? Unsure!

For a mixte, it doesn’t feel obnoxious (or like I’m touring) and isn’t super heavy. I think it helps that I have drop bars on mine for that road-appropriate feel that I greatly prefer. I have hit some of my highest sprinting speeds on this bike. It’s a chromoly frame, and I’ve been able to ride this bike through every single season with no problem–yes even Chicago winters. Of the bikes I have, while it isn’t the prettiest or most expensive, I love it the best for the fit. These bikes are also pretty easy to find. I actually share half a commute to work everyday with another young woman on the same bike. It’s also pretty goddamn great for lugging things around as a casual touring frame. The geometry isn’t super ideal for too much distance it seems however.

Aesthetically, it’s not my favorite bike. A goofy answer? Maybe so. I remember my frustration when I first was looking for a road bike (to move up from my cruiser frame) back in 2007. I hated that mixtes seemed to be the only thing I could find. It’s heavy–not terribly, but enough to notice. Not an ideal if you’re lugging a bike up multiple flights of stairs.

SE Lager 43cm

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SE Lager

Pros: I got a good deal on it and thought it’d be a good bike to begin on as a fixed gear. The components on it are nice. It’s an excellent introductory track frame. I have been riding single-speeds otherwise. It’s also extremely light weight and enjoyable to ride because of that new feel when on the road. I wish I could get it to the velodrome though, but I’m lazy.

Cons: It rides on 650s. Chicago has a lot of potholes. I have gotten more pinch flats on this bike than others and would like it more if I did trail or bike path riding or lived in a city with better biking infrastructure. It’s a summertime bike, really, and I require bikes with more durability. I actually may sell this soon, for a deal, so get at me if you’re interested!

Windsor Tourist 43cm

Pros: Ideal and fair priced touring bike. Apparently this is a great cheaper alternative (I’ve heard it’s the factory identical) to a Fuji Touring.

Cons: Unfortunately, I haven’t done much touring on it. I’m short and my arm span is as well. The bars on this bike are a little too big for me, so in the meantime I am shopping around switching out the bars to a narrower set and potentially getting new shifters. So, the con is that I couldn’t ride it out of box much really for my size without being uncomfortable.

Adriana

I’m not really that tiny. Just average!
Height: 5’5″
Inseam: 30″

Masi Speciale Fixed 51cm

Pros: Light Weight, Flip-flop hub

Cons: Narrow clearances which make it tough to ride with wider tires for muddy terrain. Reason why I’ll be purchasing a single speed cross bike next! 🙂

9 Comments

  • kaz January 20, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    One bike we didn’t write about because no one has one, but which I personally have on my short list for the next bike I get, is the Wabi Classic 42cm with 650 wheels.

    Reply
    • kaz January 23, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      “short list” haaaaah UNINTENTIONAL PUN

      Reply
    • Ren March 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      hey kaz, have you purchased the wabi classic yet? i’m thinking about purchasing but i wanted someone else experience first! yay to finding tinyfixgang.com!

      Reply
  • Lisa January 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for this. I sure wish there were more small frames out there, but I have been really happy with my 42 CM Surly LHT. I am 4’11 with 27″ or maybe a little longer inseam. Stand over on the 42 CM is just fine. (The 46 CM was a little too close for comfort.) 26″ wheels so no toe overlap. I had the problem with the drop bars that Kaz describes, and the reach was just too much for my short torso, so I switched out for a swept back velo orange bar that worked with the bar end shifters. And my knees do not hit the shifters. It is not a light bike, though, especially with my fenders and rack. 🙂

    Reply
    • kaz January 21, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I test rode the Long Haul Trucker back when I ended up buying the Bianchi. At the time I was being stupidly stubborn about wanting 700c wheels, because I knew I would be touring with others and wanted to be able to borrow a tube if I needed to. If only I knew then what I know now!

      I’ve actually been thinking about building up a bike with swept back/mustache style bars for when I want a more comfortable commute. Given unlimited room and unlimited budget I would have So Many different kinds of bikes!

      Reply
  • sarahelizabeth January 23, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Hey Lorena,

    Sarah from Columbus here, long time eh….Here is a super quick guide to tiny bikes for tiny girls. Thisll be my 7th year working in bike shops and I am finally see more companies get it together.

    SE BIKES the lager, draft, and most of the s/s/fixeds/se bikes come in 43c or 49cm
    fuji bikes usually a very good variety 44c-47c-50c, something for everyone
    kona 47c or 49c
    surly 42c 46c 50c
    all city 46c and 49c
    salsa 46c and 49c
    masi 46c 49c
    linus FINALLY IS MAKING SMALL ROADSTERs and other smalls! i just scored one. its about a 48c
    cannondale 44c or 48c
    and some mtb companies are doing better at bar slope and sizing small for the ladies.

    this is just a quick list off the top of my head. obv a bunch of other companies are doing great things too i just dont know all sizes by ♥

    ride safe

    Reply
  • sarahelizabeth January 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    oh and of course terry bikes. sheeshhhhh cannot believe i forgot those

    Reply
  • sarahelizabeth January 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    oh and torker bikes, i also own one of those in a 44c, they have some very inexpensive bikes for tiny folks.
    my bikes current list: I am 5ft 2.5 in with longer legs and longer reach
    surly cross check 46c
    kona jake 49c
    torker u district 44c polo bike, lil small but i like it
    linus roadster single speed 48c
    past bikes that fit like a glove
    fuji classic track 49c
    cannondale caad 9 1 made in usa 48c got hit on it:/ destroyed booo
    fuji roubaix 1 49c
    future bike and ladies if you like to mtb, kona is great
    cinder cone 15 in

    Reply
    • kaz January 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks for your input! That’s a great list of bikes. 🙂

      Reply

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