View Full Version : Women's entry level road bike

09-29-2011, 10:59 AM
Looking for some advice/suggestions on a new bike for the wife. I think I've narrowed it down to a few options, but maybe someone here has experience with riding/purchasing road bikes made for little women... Not the Little Women, just small women.

She's been riding her REI flat bar/skinny tire bike for about 5 years now and probably put 3-4K miles on it. Happily in that time it's needed VERY little maintenance so she's clearly not hard on the components like I am. She wants to start doing more miles, longer rides and some light touring, so we think it's time to upgrade to a road bike. So far her longest rides are a couple metric centuries/year.

I've been looking at Specialized Dolce, Trek Lexa, and the Jamis Satellite. I like the Jamis because it's steel and I love how my steel touring bike rides compared to my aluminum 'cross bike. Whatever we get has to have rear rack compatibility. Our main concern is sizing. She's 5'1" and the shape of her current bike is such that the main triangle is too small to put two water bottles on it and the 700c tires look like chariot wheels (HUGE). Is that weird? We'll obviously do some test riding, but do you think the 47-48cm standard size will fit her? I'm afraid she'll have my problem on the opposite end of the spectrum where I need a slightly larger frame than the largest standard size. She also has tiny hands so we'll have to make sure the bike has short reach brake levers and shifters.

Anyway, if any women on the forum, or if any men know a woman who is of shorter stature I'd love to hear what your experiences have been like road bike shopping and riding. We're just getting started so this will be interesting.


09-29-2011, 11:06 AM
Looks like the Dolce goes all the way down to a 44. Might not be able to get around the water bottle issue. My wife is 5'3" and She currently rides an XS Sirrus, or maybe it's just an 'S'. Have you made the rounds at the shops yet?

09-29-2011, 11:19 AM
Hello --

I can't comment on the small stature issue; I am a woman but a bit on the taller side (riding a 54 cm frame bike). However, I do have very nice things to say about Jamis steel frame road bikes. I had a Quest and now have an Eclipse and loved them both. I would let fit be the primary consideration though; take a test ride on all and see what works best. I would prioritize fit over water bottle capacity.

I don't know a lot about it, but I believe Terry Bicycles are designed for women and they have given a lot of thought to the geometry for the female cyclist. You could take a look at their website, too.

Good luck and have fun. New bike!


09-29-2011, 11:47 AM
The biggest thing is the test ride. You can find something close with looking at frame size charts, but the test ride is more important than anything. It tells y'all a lot of things about both the bike and the shop from which you're buying. Jamis, Trek and Specialized are all companies that make nice bikes.

09-29-2011, 12:10 PM
My wife picked up a Dolce last year and seems to really like it. We thought it had better attention to detail than the Treks.
As for fit, Dirt's right, she'll have to plenty of test riding. Maybe also check with the shops to see whether they will switch out for a shorter stem, shorter cranks, etc. if needed.
Good luck!

09-29-2011, 12:13 PM
I'm almost 5'4", but with short arms/legs. In the usual men's bikes, I ride a 48cm. I have a Trek Madone WSD (women's specific design), which is a 50cm because of the shorter top tube. I know the Madone also comes in a 47cm, which just might work for 5'1" because of its shorter top tube. Some of Trek's other bikes go even smaller in the WSD.
I've been riding a long long time, so I've been through the evolution of bike design for women, some of which has been really strange. Trek got it right. Everything has been made a bit more compact, but not dramatically. The brake levers are a bit closer and the handlebars have a shallow drop, which means for the first time I'm actually comfortable riding in the drops. Also, I have no problem fitting two regular sized bike bottles on the bike. Toe overlap with front wheel when tight turning is always a problem with a small bike. But I've always been short, so after decades of riding I know to avoid attempting tight U turns.
Specialized and Cannondale also make bikes in a women's geometry. At 5'1" she's probably going to need a women's geometry. It seems most manufacturers are using 700c even on the smaller bikes. I've seen some 26" wheel road bikes, but I don't think the big manufacturers are doing it that way. The only thing I didn't like about a 26" wheel bike was that it made me look even smaller on the road.

09-29-2011, 01:57 PM
brake levers are a bit closer

I know that most brakes come with shims to make them shorter throw. Might want to ask about that on any test rides if the brake reach is an issue, the shop may not have installed them when the bike was built.

09-29-2011, 02:44 PM
Our main concern is sizing. She's 5'1" and the shape of her current bike is such that the main triangle is too small to put two water bottles on it and the 700c tires look like chariot wheels (HUGE). Is that weird?

That's normal. Alternative is a 650c tired bike but ever tried to buy tires or tubes for one these days? Most look at you like you're an alien.

Two of the three of the woman in my life's bikes take only one water bottle and one of those only takes a side loading cage. The third is the departure, in that it takes three bottles (Salsa Vaya) and as a FYI, she doesn't break the 5' line on the tape measure. FYI, her bikes are 44cm, and a 47 WSD Trek 2.1 (forerunner of the Lexa) but the Vaya actually fits her the best and is a 50cm frame.. But that one takes 26" wheels.

09-29-2011, 09:46 PM
FWIW, i can only fit a shorter bottle in the second cage on my road bike, and it's difficult to do while riding. I have a 54cm compact frame.

10-30-2011, 11:40 AM
Just wanted to let you all know that we brought home a new baby...uh, I mean bike last night!

On Friday my wife and I both had off so we went bike shopping to avoid weekend crowds. I had done some initial research and I kind of knew what we were looking for in the entry level genre. We first went to Spokes in Alexandria, which is the closest large shop to us. The salesman was really helpful and put three different bikes up on the trainer to test how they fit her. First an '11 Specialized Dolce, then an '11 Trek Lexa and also a '12 Trek 1.2. With the selection that they had we didn't feel like we had to go anywhere else. It would have been nice to try a Jamis, but their only local dealer is City Bikes and I've been avoiding their shops since my first couple of stops at the one on Connecticut Ave in Bethesda. Not a fan! The fit of the Lexa seemed best and we both liked the look of it a lot as well. She took it for a spin around the neighborhood and they let me borrow a commuter bike so I could tag along to make sure it all went ok and ask questions. One thing about the Lexa was that with her super small hands she was able to reach the STI shifters and brake lever much more easily. We were very impressed with the Lexa SL so we put a deposit down on it to think about it overnight. Yesterday we went back to do a final fitting with her cleats on, and they did a final mechanical check of everything and we brought it home! I'm at work today, but she's hoping to go out for a short spin around to start getting used to it.

Interestingly - her old bike, which has never had a major mechanical issue since she bought it 5 years ago (maybe not even a flat tire), when I was taking the good pedals off to put them on the new bike I noticed it had a broken spoke. So we brought the wheel with us for them to fix. After he put the new spoke in and tensioned it another spoke broke! Bah! He was finally able to fix it so it's still going to be in use as the grocery getter bike.

Thanks for all the previous suggestions!

10-30-2011, 02:18 PM
Glad you found something that she loves. Here's to new adventures !

10-30-2011, 03:31 PM
Congrats on the new bike! Trek did get it right with their WSD designs.