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  1. #1
    The Road Warrior
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    $1000 29'er for 5'6'' female, other options? <Lots of test ride results included>

    I'm out bike hunting today with the gf and we've been considering a few different options. She has been able to test ride them all, but is on the fence about which one to get. Do you guys have any suggestions beyond what's listed here for a female that's 5'6'' (she's got a 68.5" wingspan, and a 31.5" inseam)? Do you guys have any opinions about the bikes listed here? Most of you ride more expensive bikes, or smaller company bikes. Those are out because she can't afford and can't test ride something like a vassago. She needs front suspension and gears. Thanks
    (women's specific designs included, as well as men's)

    1. Giant Talon I 29'er (16") Mens ~$1000
    2. Cannondale Trail SL 2 26'er (17") WSD ~$1050
    3. Specialized Rockhopper Expert 29'er (15") Mens ~$1250

    UPDATE: TEST RIDE RESULTS:::
    Giant Talon I 29'er (16") Mens ~$1000
    Doesn't ride well, the fork is terrible. Components suck. Don't feel in the bike. The bike looks funny in the 16” because of the frame angles.

    Giant XTC 29'er (21”) Mens ~$1300
    I tested this one, just to check the ride quality and components performance. Rides like a huffy. Fork is a POS. No good for the money. Looks nice, though. She wasn't able to test this one in her size.

    Cannondale Trail SL 2 26'er (15” and 17" tested) WSD ~$1050
    The 17” fit her well. She liked this one, and looked like she fit well when riding it. Components are decent. Components are meh.

    Cannondale Trail 5 26'er (15” and 17” tested) WSD ~$650
    The 17” fit her well. I rode the mens version, and think that it's a brick. Lousy fork. Lousy components. What do you expect for that price?

    Cannondale Trail SL 4 29'er (17” tested) Mens ~ $800
    She thought that the front end on this one way too high. It looked big for her, too. She rode it and didn't like it.

    Cannondale RZ One Twenty 4 26'er (17” tested) Mens ~$1200 (discounted model from 2010)
    This bike really fit her well, and is the only full suspension bike on this list. I really liked how she looked, fit wise, on it. Plus, it has decent components, and the perks that come with having the same geometry as its more expensive brothers in different model lineups (the RZ 3, 2, and 1). Price is good. This one is on hold at the local LBS.

    Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29'er and 26'er (15" and 17” tested) Mens ~$1250
    She thought that the 15” was too small, and that the 17” fit her well. She looked good riding it. She was hard pressed, however, to choose between the 26” or 29”. She thought that the 26” was easier to maneuver, and faster. She is new to 29'ers, so I don't think she can quite differentiate between the finer points of ride quality in 29s, yet. I rode both of these in my size, too, and felt like the cockpit on the 26 was way too small, and that I hate 26” wheels. I'm a big guy (6'2'', though). Components were kinda lame, along with the fork. Trying to track down an expert and pro in the rockhopper 29” to test, next.

    Specialized Myka 29” (15” and 17” tested) WSD ~$1000
    She didn't like the way that these looked. She said that they were too feminine. She didn't like the fit on either, surprisingly. I don't blame her on the looks of the thing. It looks dumb, and too girly. Meh.

    Gary Fisher Cobia (17” tested) Mens ~$1100
    She liked this one, but unfortunately, wasn't able to ride it anywhere but in the store, since it was raining. Still, she fit on it, but thought that the reach was a little long. The stem on this bike was a 90 or 100 mm, so shortening it would make this bike feasible for her. I wasn't able to ride one, unfortunately. I would have liked to. Looks like the same entry/mid-level components, better spec'd than other bikes in the same price range, though.

    Gary Fisher Paragon (15” tested) Mens ~$1300 (discounted model from 2010)
    This bike was too small for her. Too bad! It had great parts, and would have been perfect except for the size. The frame looked shrimpy, though.
    Last edited by LandSpeed; 03-22-2011 at 02:38 PM.

  2. #2
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    15"-16" sounds about right but of course some feel better than others. does she already ride trails? you can check out the gary fisher/trek cobia too- right around $1K. out of the ones she rode, does one feel better than the others?
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  3. #3
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  4. #4
    The Road Warrior
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Z
    15"-16" sounds about right but of course some feel better than others. does she already ride trails? you can check out the gary fisher/trek cobia too- right around $1K. out of the ones she rode, does one feel better than the others?
    She's tired of seeing me have all the fun, and wants to get out there. She's a beginner. But, I don't want her getting stuck with a boat... needs to get out of entry level. She tried out a 17" cannondale 29'er and it was too big, and too tall in the front (according to her). She likes the cannondale 26'er a lot, because she says its a good ride. But, she is also trying to see if 29'ers are right for her.

  5. #5
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    REI's Novara Medator 29er are on sale 20% off. Orig. goes for $799.

    This is a perfect bike for beginner since they dont care about the brand. Parts on there are better than most at this price range. X7 Rear, Deore front, 29.3 Lbs...

    I would have gotten this if the 20% off coupon came out sooner....Nice looking bike too. Even the rim nipples are color coordinated.

  6. #6
    Trail Junkie
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    Your options look good outside of the C'dale. If the fit isn't exact, look for a shorter stem with a larger rise. My friend's wife is 5'6'' and is on a Spec. SJ Comp 29 FSR Medium. All that was needed was riser bars and a 50mm 12deg stem (common for DH/AM). The seat is even mounted on the center of the rails.

    The best advice I can mention is to look at all the smalls and medium size frames and compare top-tube lengths. This will take a little research, but it will keep you from putting in the footwork and gas ahead of time.
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  7. #7
    Master of Disaster
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loll
    REI's Novara Medator 29er are on sale 20% off. Orig. goes for $799.

    This is a perfect bike for beginner since they dont care about the brand. Parts on there are better than most at this price range. X7 Rear, Deore front, 29.3 Lbs...

    I would have gotten this if the 20% off coupon came out sooner....Nice looking bike too. Even the rim nipples are color coordinated.
    If only it had the XCR-LO fork (hydraulic damping) instead of this new, cheaper XCR-MLO (Mechanical Lock Out with friction damping). Other than that, pretty good component specs for the price.

    There is also the Trek (Fisher Collection) Cobia for $1,150:

    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...rdtails/cobia/

    Only the brakeset looks sketchy: Promax Hornet hydraulic disc brakes

  8. #8
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    Don't get her a 16 or 17. It will to too big for her on the dirt. I would say figure out what parts you have lying around then buy the bike that those parts are the weak point so you can just upgrade those parts.
    My wife 1st mtb was a 99 spec fsr med, too big. We just got matching Spec HT 29, She is 5'7" and she rides the small much better.

  9. #9
    Former Bike Wrench
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    If you have a Jamis dealer around, check out the Exile II. It is very well spec'd for the money. Jamis makes solid bikes and this one has really good standover clearance.


  10. #10
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    Specialized Myka seems aimed right at her. IIRC, around $1k.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LandSpeed
    I'm out bike hunting today with the gf and we've been considering a few different options. She has been able to test ride them all, but is on the fence about which one to get. Do you guys have any suggestions beyond what's listed here for a female that's 5'6''? Do you guys have any opinions about the bikes listed here? Most of you ride more expensive bikes, or smaller company bikes. Those are out because she can't afford and can't test ride something like a vassago. She needs front suspension and gears. Thanks
    (women's specific designs included, as well as men's)

    1. Giant Talon I 29'er (16") Mens ~$1000
    2. Cannondale Trail SL 2 26'er (17") WSD ~$1050
    3. Specialized Rockhopper Expert 29'er (15") Mens ~$1250
    My wife end it up with Cannondale, she liked it best out of 15 bikes she tested through out the whole day in up to 1.5k, actually we both end it up with Cannondale, we went just too look around but since they were not busy we got to test drive almost 15-20 bikes each through out the day and even though the cannondale was the cheapest of all the bikes we tested with weaker components, ever time it was our go to bike, it just fit right for us. If I would be in your place I would make sure your gf test bunch of bikes and dose not settle for anything she dose not feel good about. At first I did not lake Cannodale Trail but the more bikes I rode the more I wanted to ride the trail again, in the end I end up with a bike that was 50% of my budget and after now almost 3 weeks of ridging it every day neither my wife or me regret our decision, the only difference is she liked the Trail straight from the beginning .

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by velocycling
    Don't get her a 16 or 17. It will to too big for her on the dirt. I would say figure out what parts you have lying around then buy the bike that those parts are the weak point so you can just upgrade those parts.
    My wife 1st mtb was a 99 spec fsr med, too big. We just got matching Spec HT 29, She is 5'7" and she rides the small much better.
    this is likely true, but that will ultimately depend on her personal dimensions.i am 5'8" tall and ride a small frame b/c i prefer the lower standover height. i have set my positioned back on a setback seatpost and threw on a 120mm stem to open up the cockpit to fit me. however, if your gf has long legs and a shorter torso, the 16" frame size may actually work well for her with a straight seatpost and shorter stem.

    have you considered a Giant XTC? seems like it'd be in that same peer group.

  13. #13
    The Road Warrior
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    Just got back home... it was a long day, out there. She tested out everything that she could. Here's what she took a ride on, today:
    Specialized Rockhopper 26" -- 15" and 17"
    Specialized Rockhopper 29" -- 15" and 17"
    Specialized Myka 29" -- 17"
    Giant Talon 29" -- 16"
    Yesterday, she tested out a couple of Cannondales... a trail 5, and an sl2, both 26's, and one trail 5 29'er. She liked the 26" sl2.
    I tested out all of the above, minus the myka. Also, I tested out the Giant XTC 29'er. I felt like the parts specs really limited all of the models, except for the rockhopper expert. She is a beginner, and doesn't really have a "feel" for bikes, yet. Anyhow, she didn't like any of the bikes, except for the 17" 26'er Rockhopper and 17" 29'er Rockhopper. I feel like you get a lot of bike from specialized for the money. Kind of what I expected. Tomorrow, we're going back out to test out more bikes. Please keeps the comments coming! they're really helpful. Will post more after tomorrow, and have her respond to you guys on here, too.
    Last edited by LandSpeed; 03-19-2011 at 08:03 PM.

  14. #14
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    it seems she may have a longer torso, too, given that she tends to lean toward the medium sized bikes. did she happen to try an XTC 26er? i ask b/c the bikes she did like came in a 15" and 17" and were both 26ers. i dont personally care for 29ers b/c i feel like i have better control on a 26er b/c of my dimensions. she shoulds like she might have similar dimensions. just a thought...

  15. #15
    The Road Warrior
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    Today's test ride updates:
    we went out today to test out more bikes, including
    1. Gary Fisher Paragon 29" (15"):
    2. Gary Fisher Cobia 29" (17")
    3. Cannondale RZ One Twenty 4 26" (17")

    The 15" Paragon felt too small for her, but the 17" cobia looked and felt really good. It had a 90-100mm stem that she wanted to shorten down to 70mm or so, but otherwise, she really liked that one. Then, we found a close out deal on a Cannondale RZ ONE Twenty from 2010, that's a full suspension 26" bike. She fit on this one the best, and didn't have any of the issues that she did with feeling between sizes like she did on the 29'ers. She would only want to change the seat and bars on the RZ. The nice thing about the RZ One is that it's a full suspension bike with a heavy discount. Retails at $1799, they were selling it at $1199. Here's a link to it:
    http://www.rei.com/product/798506 and http://www.cannondale.com/bikes/moun...twenty-4-16266

    Tomorrow, we're going to go and check out the Scott Scale 29" Team and Elite models. I'll post more updates, then.

    On a personal note, what I'd really like to do is build up a niner EMD frame for her with some decent wheels and components. I might just do that.

  16. #16
    Stokeless Asshat
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    Don't forget that this bike is for her, not you.

    Quote Originally Posted by LandSpeed
    Today's test ride updates:
    we went out today to test out more bikes, including
    1. Gary Fisher Paragon 29" (15"):
    2. Gary Fisher Cobia 29" (17")
    3. Cannondale RZ One Twenty 4 26" (17")

    The 15" Paragon felt too small for her, but the 17" cobia looked and felt really good. It had a 90-100mm stem that she wanted to shorten down to 70mm or so, but otherwise, she really liked that one. Then, we found a close out deal on a Cannondale RZ ONE Twenty from 2010, that's a full suspension 26" bike. She fit on this one the best, and didn't have any of the issues that she did with feeling between sizes like she did on the 29'ers. She would only want to change the seat and bars on the RZ. The nice thing about the RZ One is that it's a full suspension bike with a heavy discount. Retails at $1799, they were selling it at $1199. Here's a link to it:
    http://www.rei.com/product/798506 and http://www.cannondale.com/bikes/moun...twenty-4-16266

    Tomorrow, we're going to go and check out the Scott Scale 29" Team and Elite models. I'll post more updates, then.

    On a personal note, what I'd really like to do is build up a niner EMD frame for her with some decent wheels and components. I might just do that.
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  17. #17
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    I'm 6'3" and can't seem to catch this one girl that rides the same rockhopper expert as me. She might be 5'2" at best, and she climbs like an f-22 fighter jet.
    '09 Specialized Rockhopper expert 29
    Born 26" trials
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  18. #18
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    At 5'6" a 29er with decent front suspension is going to feel a lot different to her than a 26". She's going to feel like she's sitting really upright - the bigger wheel brings the handlebars higher than the seat. It's almost impossible for me to get my seat higher than the handlebars, and if I did I wouldn't be able to reach the pedals.

    All of the bikes you've checked out are good and will more than likely fill the bill - with some tweaks to make the bike hers. I might take a seatpost, stem, narrowing the bars, different bend, etc. Minor tweaks or parts.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSearchVT
    At 5'6" a 29er with decent front suspension is going to feel a lot different to her than a 26". She's going to feel like she's sitting really upright - the bigger wheel brings the handlebars higher than the seat. It's almost impossible for me to get my seat higher than the handlebars, and if I did I wouldn't be able to reach the pedals.

    All of the bikes you've checked out are good and will more than likely fill the bill - with some tweaks to make the bike hers. I might take a seatpost, stem, narrowing the bars, different bend, etc. Minor tweaks or parts.
    good to know. my wife is in the market for a 29er and she's 5'6 like the op's wife. just curious, what size bike do you have where you're having issues with the seat being much lower than the handlebars?
    - 1995 Giant ATX 870
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  20. #20
    The Road Warrior
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    New notes:
    living in LA makes things easy, I suppose. Was able to get a hold of niner bikes, today, and ask about local demos on the E.M.D. 9. Jenson bikes has a medium AIR 9 aluminum with the same geometry as the EMD, so I'll see if we can't make it out there. Also looked into vassago bandersnatch, who makes a 16" that seems rightly sized between the 15 and 17. The guys comment above about the front end on a 29 being higher than an equivalently sized 26" is right... that's exactly what my gf said about the ones that she tested. I'm still trying to track down any Vassagos and Redlines for her to try, too. There's also a huge scott dealer up in the valley (san fernando) that stocks every size and model scott, pretty much. So, we can add the scale 29'er to the list, too.

    Once all of this testing and demoing is done, I'll compile all my results into a single list with descriptions of each ride to make accessing this info easier for people searching. I've noticed another thread on HT carbon 29'ers for 5'6'' people, the other guy in this thread, and a lot of other people on the fence about getting onto 29s that are in the height range. It seems like an issue that isn't unique to my gf, to me. I'm not going to bump this thread, anymore. I'm just going to start editing the initial post.

  21. #21
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    you sure the 15.5" paragon didn't fit? that's a killer deal
    - 1995 Giant ATX 870
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    - 2011 Kona Unit (singlespeed) XL

  22. #22
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    My wife is 5'5" and I just bought her a Gary Fisher Rig 15.5" 29er. If you can find a Rig in a good price range, you might want to check out one. Has Avid BB7 disc brakes (yeah I know they aren't hydro's, but they have great reviews and my 17.5" has them and work fine), FOX lockout front forks (80/100mm travel), and pretty decent wheels. Throw a 9spd cog set on the rear and run SS up front and she will be good to go! Anyways, just a thought.

    Peace,
    Justin

    Good luck with your future purchase man.

  23. #23
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    Landspeed, take a look at the KHS sixfifty606.

    2011 model

    http://www.khsbicycles.com/02_six-fifty-606_11.htm

    2010 model

    http://www.khsbicycles.com/02_six-fifty-606_10.htm

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Z
    good to know. my wife is in the market for a 29er and she's 5'6 like the op's wife. just curious, what size bike do you have where you're having issues with the seat being much lower than the handlebars?
    I'm 5'6" with a 30" inseam and I ride a GF Hi-Fi Plus with a 17.5" frame. The seat isn't that much lower than the handlebars - it's just not higher. I think it actually works better for me. Climbing I can get up on the horn of the seat, and my neck is in a more natural position if I'm centered in the seat. The only down side is riding back on a road or out in the open if there is wind. It was odd on the first few rides, but became natural pretty quick. Now I only notice it if I swap a 26" with a friend.

    Most of the time I'm up out of the seat - and really only use it as a leverage point with my legs.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSearchVT
    I'm 5'6" with a 30" inseam and I ride a GF Hi-Fi Plus with a 17.5" frame. The seat isn't that much lower than the handlebars - it's just not higher. I think it actually works better for me. Climbing I can get up on the horn of the seat, and my neck is in a more natural position if I'm centered in the seat. The only down side is riding back on a road or out in the open if there is wind. It was odd on the first few rides, but became natural pretty quick. Now I only notice it if I swap a 26" with a friend.

    Most of the time I'm up out of the seat - and really only use it as a leverage point with my legs.
    gotcha. thanks!
    - 1995 Giant ATX 870
    - 2011 Salsa El Mariachi XL
    - 2011 Kona Unit (singlespeed) XL

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