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What bike for tall ladies? Advice welcome

shaunlfc1shaunlfc1 Posts: 132
edited May 2012 in Women
Hi ladies,

My fiancee has been riding for 2 years now on a 19" (L) Spesh Rockhopper and her technical ability has not really improved because we've had to put a stem lifting add-on to the bike which has made the front end really sketchy but removes the issue of major neck pain because she needs the saddle so high due to her very very long legs. With her low confidence (50% down to the bike) and even MTB coaching she is technically the same rider she was 2 years ago. She rides usually 2 times a week. Fitness is not a problem.

She is 5FT 11" and like me (6ft 4") pretty much all leg. For example my best friend is the same height as me but my legs are 3" longer then his. Now I think my other half suffers the same leg ratio problem as me regarding bikes.

Last week we did an experiment and we swapped bikes. I have a Spesh Stumpjumper FSR XL apart 5 minutes of complaining and getting used the bike, she was a new rider altogether. The bike seem to fit her perfectly and as if someone switch on a switch she suddenly became able to ride with great confidence and tackle terrain she would normally walk over mainly down to having more confidence and balance in the bike.

So we are now on the hunt for a new bike and what looks like to be a XL mans' full susser. We dabble in a bit of racing/events and as you can imagine an XL 140 travel stumpy is a lot of bike for anyone, so I was wandering as I normally only have my Spesh glasses on, are there any ladies out there who have the same problem in getting a women's specific (better geometry and potentially lighter) bike to actually fit them? I am pretty sure that most womens bike although XL would not fit her as they still wont have the saddle/handlebar height she needs meaning a heavier XL mens bike.

Thanks for your time and advice be great to hear from you and potentially try out some ladies bikes that could do the trick.

Thanks,
Shaun

Posts

  • miss notaxmiss notax Posts: 2,572
    Hello :D

    I am at the other end of the spectrum (5ft 4" :lol: ), but from what you say could you not lose some weight off a stumpy if that suits her perfectly?! I too dabble in the odd xc race and up until now I have done this on my Orange 5 with 140mm of travel, which isn't exactly light but is still competitive! Perhaps a second hand one, that way you would have some cash left over for some nice shiny carbon bits to get the weight down?

    Possibly a daft suggestion, but I know how tricky it is from my own experince to find a bike that's perfect for you - if she's found that bike, then why look any further.....
    Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away....

    Riding a gorgeous ano orange Turner Burner!

    Sponsor the CC2CC at http://www.justgiving.com/cc2cc
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    You need to try as many as possible, as geo varies enormously. The larger the listed bike, the longer the frame - and as women are usually shorter in the arm and torso than men, many frames could be simply too long.

    Women's specific geometry also varies - depends on the brand, some mens from one model can be more lady like than their womens range! So 'better' is not always the case.

    Also remember that bar height can be tailored with a simple stem/bar swap.

    All reinforces the point that trying them out is key. I would imagine that many M size mans frames would fit, don't just stick to trying XL.
  • foxc_ukfoxc_uk Posts: 1,292
    I'm surprised she actually coped on an XL!
    To put this statement in context, I'm 5'11", with the longer leg length that goes with this. I have an '09 Stumpy FSR in Medium and it's perfect for me - on climbs I have to put the saddle up silly high, but the smaller frame size compensates for my 'normal' body size (when sitting down I'm the same height as someone who's about 5'7")
    Perhaps the difference was simply going from a hard tail to a full suss?
    As has already been said, go to a bunch of places, and try loads of things out for size. Demo days are perfect, and if you can't afford to buy new it will give you some idea about what you can get second hand, geometry year by year doesn't change that dramatically.

    Oh, and my Medium Stumpy weighs in at a whole 25lbs.... :)
  • hootshoots Posts: 134
    Just like to reinforce what Supersonic & foxc_uk have said. Definately try different brands and go in with an open mind on sizing.

    To elaborate, both my wife and I are fairly tall - her just over 5'10" and me just over 6', and both of us wear 34" inside leg trousers er..although not normally at the same time when we're outside the house;)

    We're both a pair of bike tarts and have a bit of a collection of various makes, both full-sus & hardtail, 26ers and 29ers.
    To give you some idea of the variables, we both fit Giant Anthem X and XTC29ers in Medium, but for Specialized Stumpy FSR and Camber 29ers, we both needed the Large - although with both Spesh bikes, we had to fit a stem 20-30mm shorter than stock. We both fit Lapierre Zesty's in Large (and my wife loves her Zesty, albeit with a shorter stem and slightly wider bars than standard) and Orange Fives in 18".

    Out of all these bikes, I'd say the shape of the Specialized Stumpy FSR and Camber are the more naturally upright and beginner friendly in standard form. Size wise, I'd recommend that your wife tries a large Camber/Stumpy - as with my 34" legs, there's still loads of seatpost left in the frame, and I found the front end too tall for my style of riding, so have fitted a zero rise stem and low bars. if she wants a confidence boost, I can thoroughly recommend the 29er Camber Comp - particularly if she fancies trying a bit of racing/events, as the bike has a much more 'perky' and XC feel to its suspension (I much prefer my Camber 29er to my Stumpy FSR). Only criticism I can make of the Camber 29er is that it's got a long front-centre, so can be a bit of a barge in slow, tight & twisty woodland trails like the off-piste stuff in Sherwood Pines. However, on 'normal' trail centre routes at Dalby, Glentress etc., it's absolutely brilliant.

    My wife likes the Camber 29er and really likes my Giant XTC29er (Medium), and annoyingly, the latter fits her perfectly, which means she's always borrowing it....hmmm. Her own bike is a Lapierre Zesty (mans version) which she also likes a lot, she prefers it to my Stumpy FSR because the suspension is much better under pedalling, so there's no need to fiddle around with Propedal or lockout etc. - it's also very tolerant of lazy sag set-up on the shock. I have to admit, the Zesty is much 'perkier' feeling than my Stumpy, which is almost 5lbs lighter! In fact, the Zesty can get up climbs slightly quicker than my Anthem X race bike, which is 5lbs lighter. The Zesty is also quite a confidence booster of a bike. I do a bit of part-time mountain bike skills teaching, so am used to evaluating peoples riding style and confidence. When my wife got her Zesty, I could see an immediate change in her confidence, and although still nervous on techy and/or steep descents, her skills and confidence have increased more on this bike than any other - and, crikey, she's tried a few!!

    Anyway, have fun and get some demo's.

    HTH & Good Luck.
  • SupraMelSupraMel Posts: 53
    I agree with a lot of what people have already said about just trying loads of bikes. I am 5'10" with a 34" leg so I have my seat a couple of inches higher than the handle bars but on an 18" frame, Any bigger and the handlebars would have been a stretch. So even though most people think my seat looks far too high when I'm off it, it's comfortable.

    Just a thought but if the frame is too large for her torso (regardless of leg length) the reach will be too long to the handle bars lowering her shoulder height and making her crane her neck to look straight ahead, there also will be less control than if the handle bars were closer...
  • miss notaxmiss notax Posts: 2,572
    Wow - I've totally lost track of the subject and am in awe of hoots and mrs hoots's bike collection :shock: :lol::lol:
    Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away....

    Riding a gorgeous ano orange Turner Burner!

    Sponsor the CC2CC at http://www.justgiving.com/cc2cc
  • foxc_ukfoxc_uk Posts: 1,292
    Have to admit I got a good dose of bike envy!!
  • hootshoots Posts: 134
    " I've totally lost track of the subject and am in awe of hoots and mrs hoots's bike collection "

    Hee hee..yeah, we keep trying to convince ourselves that mountain biking's a cheaper hobby than our old 'habit' of buying and selling cars and race tuning 'em....hmmm ...er, yes it is cheaper!...honestly!! ;)

    Our builders (who are both mtn bikers) eyes nearly popped out of their heads when they went into 'the bike bunker' - I think the exact phrase was 'it's like foo*in' Aladdins Cave in here :shock: '. The next door neighbour can't understand why we've got a reinforced door, windows and an alrm system on 'the bunker' :)

    To return to the subject of the OP, I think Supramel makes an good point:

    "Just a thought but if the frame is too large for her torso (regardless of leg length) the reach will be too long to the handle bars lowering her shoulder height and making her crane her neck to look straight ahead, there also will be less control than if the handle bars were closer..."

    Personally, I think most XL sized frames would probably exacerbate any shoulder/neck problems because of the potentially stretched out position for her height. If she went for a Large sized bike and then found this a bit stretched out, obviously you'd have the possibility of trying a shorter stem - the only thing to watch there is that, in our experience, once you start fitting stems more than 30mm shorter than the original, the handling can start going 'off' a bit, as there is too little weight on the front wheel.
  • miss notaxmiss notax Posts: 2,572
    hoots wrote:
    " I've totally lost track of the subject and am in awe of hoots and mrs hoots's bike collection "

    Hee hee..yeah, we keep trying to convince ourselves that mountain biking's a cheaper hobby than our old 'habit' of buying and selling cars and race tuning 'em....hmmm ...er, yes it is cheaper!...honestly!! ;)

    Ha ha, Notax's first love is rallying which is how we justify our bike habit (ie it's a bloody site cheaper than his rally cars :lol: )!!

    Anyway, sorry to detract from the OP!!
    Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away....

    Riding a gorgeous ano orange Turner Burner!

    Sponsor the CC2CC at http://www.justgiving.com/cc2cc
  • BigLee1BigLee1 Posts: 449
    Can you post a pic of her bike & set up? What are the width of her bars? If you get her a wider bar and shorter stem I think it might reduce the twitchiness of the bike.

    http://www.carboncycles.cc/?s=0&t=2&c=69&p=632&

    http://www.carboncycles.cc/?s=0&t=2&c=48&p=992&

    Worth a go for £50?

    Good luck in getting sorted :)
  • shaunlfc1shaunlfc1 Posts: 132
    Hi all,

    Thanks for all the replies and the great advice. Sorry i've not been on much I've been very very busy. Hopefully I'll get chance to put some pictures of her RH on soon.

    A major factor really is her confidence and the fact she needs everything perfect otherwise she's not interested. That makes her sound like a right diva but she is far from that (she loves riding and really wants to push on and enjoy the technical stuff as much as I do). She never rode a bike when she was a kid and she is not particulary gifted in natural balance or co-ordination so the slightest change to set-up really throw's her out. The RH is very twitchy because of the stem raise and couple that with needing the saddle at least 2 inches higher then the bars for someone like her is not something that breeds confidence and therefore has meant she has not developed technically in 2 years of riding. I can ride the RH (the way its set-up for her) fine and smash it down stuff I take my Stumpy but I've been riding all my life in one way of another and can adjust/compensate within 2 minutes of riding it and I'm even higher over the bars then her (38" inside leg).

    When she rode the Stumpy (XL) the other week like I said it seem to fit her in terms of saddle height (same height as the bars on a XL) and she said it instantly gave her so much balance and control. My bars are 20mm longer then hers (cant remember the exact length).

    We borrowed my friends 2009 Stumpy elite (L) thinking with the different geometry between the RH and the Stumpy, and with the Stumpy having the higher BB then the RH it might fit her legs but be shorter for her in the arms and lighter (then my XL) and this could be the bike for her as he is selling it. How wrong I was. saddle still needed to be far far too high and that was it, did not want to know. So it looks like it definitely has to be XL bike unless she can MAN-UP a little enough to adapt her riding that a L will be ok?

    Thanks again, hopefullyu pictures to come.

    Regards,
    Shaun
  • Mrs ToastMrs Toast Posts: 636
    Well, it’s a bit of hit to the wallet, but have you considered something like an Ibis Mojo? Comes in L and XL, so one will probably be the right height for her, but they’re quite ‘short’ bikes, plus it’s carbon (admittedly quite hefty carbon compared to some brands) so it has the potential to be quite light? You can demo them if you have a stockist nearby. Commencal Metas are also quite short, but weigh the same as a small tank. :P

    If it’s any consolation, I’m 5ft 2 and the majority of women’s bikes don’t fit me either. The stand over is fantastic, but I find them to be very short in terms of reach and I feel massively cramped, especially on the Specialized WSD. I ended up on a small Stumpjumper – although the stand over is a bit tight, the reach is fantastic and it weighs in around the 26lb mark. Bizarrely I also found the 14” Orange Five really good (not the short Diva, the ‘normal’ geometry one), and the 16.5" Trek Fuel WSD (which has the same geometry as the blokes’ Fuels, just a different paint job and range of sizes).

    Bike sizing seems to be like dress sizes – completely bloody arbitrary and brand-dependant. Try them all! \o/
  • sparrowlegs78sparrowlegs78 Posts: 2,583
    I'm 6ft 2" tall and I ride a large Boardman Team FS, it's a good bike, far more capable a bike than I am,. but that's just me being a girlie soppy got :lol:

    Caz xxx
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Buying a 'larger' bike for a higher front end is the wrong way to do it - first try a higher rise stem/bars. There is no such thing as the saddle being too high, unless you run out of seat post. The distance from the bottom bracket to the saddle will be the same, regardless of frame size ;-)

    You are going to risk having too long a reach with some bikes which will make things even worse fit and handling wise.
  • shaunlfc1shaunlfc1 Posts: 132
    Erm not sure I totally agree with that. You buy a larger bike to fit you, if I ride a medium I will need the saddle too high as the frame is too small in height aswell as length. I would be so far over the bars I would say that personally that was too.high causing my neck to be severely craned, I would call that the saddle being too high?
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    The distance from the bottom bracket to the saddle will not change though, if you have the same leg extension (for the same frame angles)! Whether you have a 22 inch frame with 4 inches of post sticking out or an 18 inch frame with 8 inch sticking out. The inches we see listed in frame size is the length if the seat tube.

    You are right that the top tube (usually) get longer, and the headtube marginally longer too. The reach is the most critical. Geometry varies that much that some M frames have longer reacher than some XL frames (different brands and models, not in the same model range).

    Given you can alter bar height in many given ways, it is usually the way to start unless you are positive the frame is too short.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    I have knocked up a quick pic to show what I mean: standard Trek fuel, medium, with seatpost at correct height for a given rider:

    trek-fuel-ex-5-2011-mountain-bike.jpg

    Drawn on top the larger size. The seat will be at he same height for the same rider, it does not change. But you can see that the wheel base is longer, the top tube will be longer, and less seat post sticking out. In this case the rider will be much more stretched out. Possibly too much, and this is my worry for your wife. Though even then, shorter stems and more sweep can alter this, and higher bars reduce he angle and weigth distribution as well.

    trek-fuel-ex-5-2011-mountain-bike.jpg

    It does depend so much on the bike. For some people, and some frames, if the reach is too short then setting the saddle at the right height will cause the hunching. For others it does not occur, and many run 400 or even 450mm seatposts!

    3738264049_e3bda9e504_b.jpg
  • shaunlfc1shaunlfc1 Posts: 132
    Hi,

    Great pictures. Thanks for the continued good advice. I think it also comes down to personal choice of running position. When I first starting riding MTB seriously I had a 20" hardtail I rode which was from my early 20's (33 now) and the saddle was 4 inches higher then the bars and after 15miles I'd get major neck pain from craning. Since getting more serious after my South Downs Way challenge 3 years ago, I was told by many people, experienced riders, shop owners, that the general rule of thumb is that the saddle and bars should be about the same height certainly not 4 inches unless you are some proper ar_se in the air type racer/sprinter :-) So my next bike had to fit to in that respect I wanted to ride a bike that did not give me a bad neck. Along came my XL Stumpy and i'd say my saddle is about an inch tops higher then the bars and personally the bike fits me a treat I can ride it all day on 60mile jaunts and have no problems and at the same time with the same set-up I can race at somewhere like Bristol bike fest and be within 2 minutes of the fastest lap so obviously its such a personal thing but I would always want a bike that the saddle/bar height was very close to being equal. Unfortunately my wife is similar she hates the feeling of being higher then the bars that much that makes it feel over bearing or neck pain inducing.

    Surely larger bikes have higher BB heights, headtubes are longer all adds up little by little to give a better set-up if you were aiming for a saddle/bar height that was close to being the same?

    Her RH is a large and the pictures I have uploaded if I have done it right shows how high she needs it and if it wasn't for the stem raiser the saddle would tower over the bars which are from factory.

    Saddle is 39" from centre of BB and bottom of stem raiser is 2.5" higher then it should be.

    IMAG0285.jpg

    IMAG0286.jpg

    IMAG0287.jpg

    Cheers,

    Shaun
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Surely larger bikes have higher BB heights, headtubes are longer all adds up little by little to give a better set-up if you were aiming for a saddle/bar height that was close to being the same?

    The bottom bracket heights are usually the same - the headtube often changes, but may only be a couple of centimetres! Or in another make and model, lower.
    I was told by many people, experienced riders, shop owners, that the general rule of thumb is that the saddle and bars should be about the same height certainly not 4 inches unless you are some proper ar_se in the air type racer/sprinter

    Hmm, I don't fully agree with that! Many ride with the saddle higher than the bars, but the trend in recent years with longer forks, rider bars and wanting more relaxed geometry has ended up with many stock bikes with higher than average front ends. Again, depends on the bike and rider what works.

    Is certainly worth trying out some larger listed models - the pic of that Hopper shows that she does indeed prefer a high front end. But it looks nowhere near a size L! WHat is the distance from BB to the top of the seat tube? Here is a pic of my Specialized FSR XC for comparison:

    fsrxc-4.jpg

    This is a medium (listed as 18 inches) and is very similar to the Rockhopper in geo. I am 6ft with a 35 inch inside leg. Saddle is 28-29 inches high from the BB (I take it you meant 29, not 39!), and is 28.5 from the fork steerer to the top of seatpost. The bars are slightly lower than the saddle, and this is the highest bar set up I have ever had lol, I feel very upright! But that's just me.
  • shaunlfc1shaunlfc1 Posts: 132
    Yep its a 19" Large 2010 RH.

    I'm sure I meant 39" i'll check! She only likes a high front end because if I put the bike back to original set up she complains of bad neck ache because the saddle is so much (for her anyway) higher.
  • shaunlfc1shaunlfc1 Posts: 132
    Sorry my mistake top of saddle to centre of BB
    =31 inches.

    Cheers
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Pretty long! I could put my saddle an inch higher, but like it just a litle lower to aid fast cadence. I have the long leg syndrome too lol.
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