Bicycles make it possible for an incredibly broad range of people to begin exercising— regardless of body type, size, or physical condition. But to take full advantage of all the benefits cycling has to offer, you need a bike that fits, and if you’re especially tall or short, you may need to take a few things into consideration.
Bikes for Tall Riders
Here are the most important factors to consider if you’re a very tall rider:
- Frame Size - Obviously, the exact frame size you need depends on your specific height. But in general, very tall riders will be looking for frames sized XL and up. If the frame is measured in inches, you’ll likely be looking somewhere around 22 inches and up. And if it’s measured in centimeters, most tall riders will be in the range of 60cm and up.
- Seat Height - Once you’ve found a frame with the correct standover height, seat height is the next big consideration. Raise or lower the seat until your knees have a very slight bend at the bottom of your pedal stroke. If you can’t properly dial in seat height, you likely need a different sized frame.
- Wheel Size - Very tall riders should also pay attention to wheel size. The most common wheel sizes tall riders should focus on are 700c (typically on road-style bikes) and 29-inch wheels (often called 29ers, these wheels are very close to a 700c wheel and are typically found on mountain bikes). Additionally, you can sometimes find wheels built in extra- large sizes such as 32-inch and 36-inch. Modern style “mid fat” or “plus” wheels and tires are a great choice. A 26” wheel with a 3” tire has the same outer diameter as a 29’er with a smaller tire size.
Bikes for Short Riders
Here are the primary factors you should focus on if you’re a shorter cyclist:
- Frame Size - In general, short riders should focus on bike frames in the ballpark of XS size, which typically corresponds to somewhere around 14 inches or under, or in centi- meters, somewhere in the ballpark of 42 centimeters and under. When testing out bikes, be sure to check for standover height, making sure that there are 1-2 inches of clearance between the top tube and your crotch.
- Step-Through Frames - Bicycles with downward-sloping step-through frames can be great options for shorter riders. Often, these bikes are sometimes referred to as “girls bikes”, but that label is purely for marketing. In reality, step-through frames simply make it easier to climb into the saddle, and are therefore great options for shorter cyclists, or anyone looking for the easiest bike to get on and off. Any man that has ever tried to cycle in slacks can attest that step-thru frames work great for everyone.
- Folding Bikes - Similar to step-through frames, short riders often benefit from riding a folding bike. These bikes are exceptionally easy to store and haul around with you, making them an excellent option for people in large cities or for folks who want to commute by bike but who don’t have easy access to bicycle storage. Additionally, the low profile of folding bikes makes them especially accessible for shorter cyclists.
- Seat Height - As with any attempt to find the right bicycle size, short riders need to get the right seat height. Adjust the seat post up or down until you get it to the point that your knees have a very slight bend at the bottom of your downstroke.
- Wheel Size - Shorter cyclists should look for bikes with smaller wheel sizes. In some cases, you might be able to get away with a 26-inch wheel. But you may have better luck finding a great fit if you look for bikes with 24-inch wheels or smaller.