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  1. #1
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    Bike advice for my wife!

    Hi ladies (and the occasional guy). I should start off by saying that, yes, I'm a guy too. I'm here because I'm looking for a good bike for my wife. But it's not an easy decision, as she's a complicated case, and so I'm hoping to pick up a bit of advice here in the lounge.

    First of all, she's a complete newbie. When I met her, she didn't own a bike of any kind. About two years ago, I managed to get her to buy a hybrid for cruising the neighborhood with me - a lavender colored Trek Navigator 2.0. She was more into the comfort and accessories than anything else. She wanted to ride upright, not "hunched over." She wanted to be able to put her feet down easily, and to be able to step through her frame rather than swing her leg over it. And she wanted a place to mount a basket, amongst other silly things she decided were necessary.

    Now she does seem to really like her bike, and rides it for short distances fairly frequently. I've ridden it myself, out of curiosity, and between the front fork and the seatpost suspension, and the upright seating position and the super-wide saddle, I have to say it was probably the most comfortable ride I've ever been on (like a couch - with handlebars!) But it's heavy, and cumbersome to turn (especially with that damn basket attached!), the brakes are atrocious, and even she admits she's not a fan of the twist-style shifters. But overall, her biggest complaint is that she just cannot find a saddle that feels comfortable for extended riding periods. I've tried to explain to her that this is normal, and that the more she rides, the less it will bother her. But my words fall on deaf ears.

    Now recently I've gotten back into mountain biking. I took her one time to a relatively tame trail near our home, and she had very mixed reviews in the very short portion of it that she rode. Obviously, her bike was NOT well-suited for the trail, and it was impossible to climb with. Additionally, the trail near us is very sandy, and her tires didn't do her any favors there, either. We both agreed that she would probably have a much better time if she had a bike that was more designed for trail riding. And so my search began.

    I recently bought a full suspension bike for myself. A Trek Fuel ex5 in the 17.5" frame size (I'm 5'8", 165). It's my first full-susser. After my first ride, I was in love with how smooth the ride - ANY ride - felt, compared to my previous hardtail, and naturally, this peaked her curiosity. But when she tried to swing a leg over it, she found it damn near impossible. And once over, she couldn't get on the saddle, even with the seat post all the way down. I should probably note here that my wife is a pretty big girl. We are about the same height, but she's got about 85 lbs on me. I don't know off-hand how we compare in the inseam. But hey, big girls need bikes too, so there must be something out there for her.

    And so back I went to the LBS to ask some questions. Our LBS sells Trek almost exclusively, which is fine by me since I've been riding Trek mountain bikes since I was 12 with lots of good stories to tell, so I'm a bit brand loyal (but not totally closed off to other suggestions as well). The only WSD full-suspension bike that Trek offers is the Lush, which of course is not in stock at this time of the year (awaiting the new 2014 inventory), and they won't order a bike right now unless we are going to buy it and put down a deposit. So we can't even try to put her on one to see if she likes it. But in talking to the shop owner, he voices the opinion that a full-suspension ride isn't really necessary unless you go fast or go hard, which is unlikely with her level of inexperience. He suggested that we might be better off just finding something like a good hardtail that is nice and light, with lots of gears to help her find the right one, and then letting her decide if and when she's ready to move up to a full-suspension rig. I'm inclined to agree with him, considering the price point of the full-susser getups, and the fact that we're not even sure if she's going to enjoy riding it once she's got it.

    Another thing that seemed to interest her was when she heard the guy describing the benefits of a 29" wheel. "I like the idea of being able to just mow over everything," she told me after we got home. I've not ridden a 29er myself, but from everything I've heard, it sounds like the big-wheel benefits are right up her ally.

    So after spending some time pouring over the WSD portion of the Trek website, I think I've got a few ideas. Obviously, we like the Lush, but it's too steep of a cost, especially to get the 29er version, when we don't know if she'll ride enough to justify it. Maybe something like this is in a more distant future for her. But for now, we are currently leaning toward the Cali, which is a 29er hardtail with three different price points. I'm not sure if the components on the Cali SL are worth the price difference (+$630) from the Cali S, but I do like the S better than the base model (+$290). But I will admit that I'm a bit of a newb myself, and so I'm still pretty clueless on discussions about components. So any opinions would be appreciated.

    (As an added bonus, every time we talk about the possibility of getting her a Cali, she starts singing that song by LL Cool J. You know the one I'm talking about!)

    But I've also been wondering if, due to her size and weight, she might be better off with a guy's bike. Of course, the fact that she can't even get onto mine to try it out was a bit of a setback in that theory, but I'm sure there's got to be something she can get on. How difficult/expensive is it to modify a guy's bike to suit a good-sized woman?

    Also, if we are going to pass up on the full-suspension option, she has expressed a desire to try to swap out her current suspension seat post from the Navigator onto whatever mountain bike she might end up with. I know it's going to add weight, and I know I've got to get her to learn to stand up on her pedals and let her knees work for her, but if it makes her happier to know she's got a little extra cushion back there, I want to appease her. Is this sensible? Or just altogether ludicrous in the mountain biking community?

    Any help with any of these questions and curiosities would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Hello - sounds like your lady is an "athena" which is the female counterpart to a clydesdale. More important that a women's bike is bike fit overall. A men's frame may be correct if that is what fits. The important differences are in standover and cockpit length. Anything else can be handled with a component switch out if the frame is right.

    Suspension seatpost.... I've never been impressed with them but some people like them.

    cheers
    Formica

  3. #3
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    Some advice is to ride the bikes on the grass and in and out of ditches for her test ride. Don't just cruise the parking lot.

  4. #4
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    What made her unable to swing a leg over your bike? If she is your height then that shouldn't be a problem. Can you lower it down sideways so she has to swing her leg not so high to get on it? Her inseam shouldn't be TOO much less than yours if your height is similar that she couldn't touch the pedals?

    I'd say a Unisex bike would be fine and wouldn't really focus on a WSD only bike at this point. Especially if she can try some of the 2013's that are in stock, in your price range, and may be going on clearance soon.

    I'm actually a little surprised the owner tried to talk you out of full suspension. It's a little heavier, little more expensive, but for a newbie, could yield a lot of confidence and comfort on the bike vs. a hardtail (even one with big wheels).

    The rear suspension will help her get over obstacles a little smoother, and likely be more comfortable saddle-wise.

    I know I differ from those that say to get a beginner a hardtail so they learn how to pick lines. Hogwash! Especially for women. Comfort and confidence trump line-selection IMO. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a pretty nice full suspension for my first bike, and while I had to tripod or walk down the hills at first, the bike definitely never held me back

    Hope you guys find something suitable for her!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by miss rides a lot View Post
    What made her unable to swing a leg over your bike? If she is your height then that shouldn't be a problem. Can you lower it down sideways so she has to swing her leg not so high to get on it? Her inseam shouldn't be TOO much less than yours if your height is similar that she couldn't touch the pedals
    I tried again today to get her onto my bike. The biggest problem is her lack of flexibility, rather than the actual length of her leg. She just can't lift her leg as high as I can. She can step over the frame ok if she leans the bike, but she still can't get up onto the saddle with any degree of confidence. I measured both bikes today from the floor to the saddle, and mine is about 2" taller at the the setting I use when I ride, and about 1" taller than hers at the lowest setting. I tried swapping out the seat posts, but hers is a smaller circumference and therefore not compatible with my frame. She was only able to get up on the saddle once, with me steadying the bike, and she could just barely reach the ground on tippy-toe. She tells me she's just too afraid to try getting up or down on her own because of how difficult it was to reach, and she's afraid to fall just getting on or off the bike. Once she's on it's not bad, especially due to the rear suspension sag, but I just can't convince her that tip-toe is normal.

    You do make a good point about the full-suspension instilling greater confidence. I noticed that to be true when I went from hard tail to full. It didn't matter that I wasn't riding the best line because I knew I wasn't going to be thrown from the bike or get slapped in the rear because I tackled a rougher portion of the curve. And while a hard tail 29er will likely be lighter and offer less rolling resistance, what good is that if she is getting on the brakes all the time because she lacks confidence approaching an obstacle?

    So now you've got me thinking again about the full suspension options. But she is still really into the idea of a 29er, too. The Lush 29er runs about $2420 on the site, but I know I saw at least one bike at the LBS with a $1999 tag on it. It was a guy's bike... either the Rumblefish or the Superfly 100. Either way, it was a full suspension 29er, and it was priced lower than the website. Maybe I should look into something more along the lines of a smaller frame size in one of those models, or else see what the shop can offer as a price on the Lush 29er. I just wish the store had more than two full-suspension bikes in their inventory at the moment so that she could actually try to ride a few of them!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by offmainstreet View Post
    I just wish the store had more than two full-suspension bikes in their inventory at the moment so that she could actually try to ride a few of them!
    No other shops in town? Craigslist?

    If she's your height she's going to need the same/similar bike size. Trying to get her on a smaller bike than yours she may just wind up cramped and uncomfortable. If I'm mis-understanding and it's just smaller than what the shop has available, then that makes sense.

    It's always a bit tough buying a bike for the first time, not getting to try it all out.

  7. #7
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    There is only one Rumblefish, and one Superfly 100 in the shop. I didn't ride either, and so I didn't note what frame sizes they were, but they looked pretty big at a glance. There are two other shops I can check out two towns over from us, and so I'm thinking a little road trip might be in our plans for the weekend.

    I don't really want to get her a smaller bike. Perhaps just one with a bit more seat post range. I simply can't get the seat low enough on my Fuel for her to feel comfortable getting on and off the bike. I'm sure the size is just about right for her, but it won't matter if she never gets on it. If it was possible to just lower the seat a bit more, get her comfortable riding the bike, build her confidence a little bit, and then worked it back up to where she should be sitting, that would be ideal. But I'm not too keen on the idea of hacking off a couple inches of my seatpost, either.

    Who knows? Maybe one of these other shops might have some more options for her to try out.

  8. #8
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    Why not get a cheap seatpost (I think the trek is 31.6) from ebay and the right saddle for her?
    A comfortable saddle is one of the best bike investments you can make, specially for a beginner.

    Here is a (<$15) seatpost you can cut to your hearts delight without lamenting the lost money.
    Easton EA30 2 Bolt Seatpost OE > Components > Saddles and Seatposts > Seatposts | Jenson USA Online Bike Shop

    You can cut the seatpost as short as you like (but pay attention to minimum insertion length)

    As a bonus, if she ends up getting a trek, you can easily transfer the seat post/saddle to her new bike and not have to cut that seatpost and if and when she needs a higher saddle position, you have the longer post waiting.

  9. #9
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    I still haven't made it to any of the more distant shops yet, but I did make another trip to the local one yesterday. A few of the 2014s are starting to trickle in. (And wouldn't you know it, now they have a 29er version of the same bike I just bought last month, and with a price tag of just under 2K. Now I'm kicking myself for not waiting to see what the new inventory was going to offer!!!)

    But once again, the shop owner was doing his best to dissuade me from buying a full-suspension bike for my wife. He says the rear-suspension isn't going to do her any real favors, and is going to add weight and cost a whole lot more. I'm still torn down the middle, as I want her to ride comfortable and confident. But the price is a big factor. A real big one. And I feel like I can get a lot more bike (and have something left over for upgrades) with a hardtail. They have a base model 2014 Cali in the shop now. Black and pink, nice big 29" wheels, disc brakes... all for under $600. And the shop owner tells me there's a shim I can use to make her narrower suspension seat post from her Navigator fit on the new bike so she can still have a little springy comfort back there on the hardtail. I'm going to try to drag the wife down there maybe tomorrow or sometime next week to sit her butt on it and see what she thinks. If she likes the way it rides, and we can figure out a size for her, I think I am likely to place an order for the Cali S (I still haven't seen the 2014 specs yet, but I know I liked the S model of the 2013 model). I don't know what their price is going to be, but I imagine it will be around $850 going by how the base model is priced and looking at last year's prices on the site. That makes it a much safer investment if she doesn't take a liking to this. Much easier to take a loss reselling a Cali than a Lush or a Fuel, although I really hope it doesn't come to that.

  10. #10
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    Here is what I did for my wife to great success. Sometimes your mate just falls outside all available options and you go the extra mile.

    My wife is predisposed to joint problems and bone issues. She has Lukie Rods in her back to correct severe spinal issues. She has had a bilateral knee replacement and triple Arthrodosis of both feet (total heel/midfoot/big toe fusion). In addition she has very little proprioception or extroception. She walks with the aid of a cane, is petite and a little overweight. The fact that she can even ride is a miracle in my opinion and a nightmare to find a bike. To add to the stack she is an IT exec and likes quality.

    I started with a 2012 Trek 7300 WSD that she could ride but the hybrid bike turned out to be cumbersome and difficult to get started even though its a fairly low stepthrough frame. My concern all along has been one of her falling. She cannot get up off the ground without serious assistance, patience and time. I wanted the ultimate in stability and every advantage I could find.

    I finally gave up and converted her hybrid bike damned the warranty. The bike I made is highly modified from the original Trek 7300 WSD. First I took the 700c wheels off and replaced them with 26" Specialized Roval Control wheels with DT Swiss 240 hubs and stainless tapered spokes. I went with Specialized FastTrak 2.2 tires running as tubeless. This setup lowered the bottom bracket by 2.4 cm. I fixed that with 153 mm cranks and oval 48-38-28 chain rings. Oval chain rings are easier on the knees.

    I then replaced the 8 gear 12-32 cassette with a Sram 980 9 speed cassette and new 9 speed 970 chain. Because she has a lot of arthritis in her thumbs I went with Scram Centera 9 speed Shimano compatible grip shifters. The V brake problem I solved by installing Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes, 180mm rotor front and 160 rear. I had to machine a special bracket to adapt the rear brake caliper since the frame is not disk brake compatible and I didn't like the aftermarket adapters available.

    I got rid of the comfy cushy wide seat and had her fitted with a Specialized WSD Dolce saddle 155mm width. We got rid of the heavy useless suspension seat post and replaced it with a KS Lev 125mm dropper seat post with handle bar remote activation. Now she can literally walk over the back of the bike or step through for exit and entry. She can place her feet on the ground to get started and then raise the seat to full height for a good (Not aft) pedalling position.

    To hold all the goodies I replaced the heavy ajustable stem and comfort bars with a Gravity 50mm X 6 deg all mountain stem and EC 70 XC low rise carbon handle bars.

    The bike went from 33+ lbs to just under 26 lbs even though I left the gawd awful kick stand on the bike (thing must weigh a pound)

    The bike is gorgeous, silver with black accents from the bars and brakes with red anodized rotors, pedals and wheel accents. The bike is low, ultra stable and turns very predictably. I think it would be great on single track but uncrowded paved/hard surface wide flat bike paths are as good as it might get. The only thing in the end that really counts is the fact that with all of her troubles she perceives the bike to ride like a dream. Unlike anything she had ever experienced with a bike. Now she wants to ride regularly. I couldn't be happier. Total cost about $2,200 for a comfort bike on steroids.

  11. #11
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    I think she will like a full suspension bike better than a hardtail, especially if she is on the fence about the sport. comfort trumps performance at entry level. she will also be more confident on a full suspension bike. i wouldnt worry about 26 vs 27.5 vs 29 wheels. find a nice comfortable full suspension bike that fits her and that she likes.

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    PierreR, that is awesome. Unfortunately, I'm far too inexperienced at this point to attempt any real modification. I've owned several bikes in the last two decades, but I've always ridden them stock off the floor. All I've ever done was accessorize, never any true maintenance or personalization. At this point, I couldn't tell a good component from mediocre one without reading someone else's opinion first. So I'm just hoping to be able to find a bike that's real good from the get-go. I'll work on swapping stuff out as I become more knowledgeable down the road... err, trail.

    Fishercat, after further discussions with the wife and the owners of two different shops, I am pretty certain we will be ordering the full suspension Lush 29. We have it down to the Cali SL or the Lush, and while the price and the reviews on the Cali make it very tempting, her insistence on comfort make the full suspension option sound like the obvious choice. Of course, the closeout pricing on the '13 model is helping make that pill a bit easier to swallow as well.

  13. #13
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    Glad to hear it ! I hope she loves the sport and the new bike !

  14. #14
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    Bike advice for my wife!

    Sorry I'm late to the thread. Glad you find a bike for her Since it's what she wants, there's more likely a chance she'll keep riding

    I'm an Athena (180 lbs, 5'5", been as heavy as 215 lbs), and it's hard to be short and heavy and find something to ride IMO. Most women's specific bikes are designed with the short and light in mind, and many of the suspensions are not sprung or tuned for the Athena in mind. However, there is hope, and there are many companies out there understanding that many of us get into this sport with the intention of getting lighter, even if we don't start out that way.

    My personal experience hasn't been very good with women's specific designs, but some folks (like yourself) sound like you found something, and that's the important part. Glad you both get out there and pedal together

    As for lifting you leg over the top tube, that's a hip flexibility issue: have your lady look up some hip flexor stretches online (Google is your friend), and that should help her
    MTB4Her.com: mountain bike site for women, by women

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    So we went and pulled the trigger today. We placed the order for a 2013 Lush 29. She's gonna be riding on big wheels and full suspension. I brought her down to the shop this afternoon and put her on a 15.5" Cali hardtail to see.what she thought. She liked it, but agreed it was probably too small, and that a 17 would be better. We went with the full suspension ride because, as a couple of you on here have pointed out, comfort is going to be more important to her than performance. The price we got was good too. A $2400 bike, and we got it for $1800. The shop said we will likely be able to pick it up in time for this weekend. I'm stoked! Thanks for your advice everyone!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by offmainstreet View Post
    So we went and pulled the trigger today. We placed the order for a 2013 Lush 29. She's gonna be riding on big wheels and full suspension. I'm stoked! Thanks for your advice everyone!
    Awesome, congrats to your wife! I just "upgraded" in some ways from a 26" FS XC race bike to a 29er Stumpy FSR Gained about 5#, an inch of travel, and 3" of wheel diameter. I love it!

  17. #17
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    Picked it up from the shop today. It looks amazing! It's sitting in the garage waiting for her to get home from work. I hope she's as excited about it as I am. With any luck, we should get to take it out for a ride on Sunday. Thanks again everyone!

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    Re: Bike advice for my wife!

    Exciting! Let us know how it goes

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    Success!!!

    Well, for the most part. She rode it offroad anyway, and she didn't hate it.

    To be fair, I did kind of rush her, seeing as Saturday was her first time even sitting on a mountain bike, and all she did was go once down the street to her mother's house and back, and then on Sunday afternoon I put her on a trail. And to be fair, we did hit the trail during the hottest part of the day, and only one day after she had a really rough day emotionally with family and friend stresses driving her all kinds of up a wall. Sure, looking back, I probably should have spent more time with her on the street and in the driveway, going over the basics of control, weight shift, etc. But we were trying to squeeze a trail ride in between church and the afternoon thunderstorms (we live in Florida), because if it didn't happen this weekend, it was going to have to wait until next week, and I didn't have the patience for that.

    First off, let me say that the bike is AWESOME. I like it better than my own bike. It's got bigger wheels, better/lighter front suspension, a bigger/stronger front axel, and grippier brakes. Obviously, like my own, we are going to have to figure out pedals down the road, but for now we're both just running the cheap plastic demo platforms that came on it. The only modification we've done to hers so far was that on Saturday night she made me swap out the new saddle for her old Bonty cruiser saddle. I told her she was silly, but she replied with "You seem to be under the delusion that I am going to be standing at some point on this ride." Fair point well made. And so I swapped it.

    So despite her having ridden the bike for all of maybe 10 minutes, we hit the trail Sunday afternoon. (Chuck Lennon Park in DeLeon Springs, if any of you are FL riders.) We only rode the easiest trail, the full 2.5 miles worth of it, and much like I expected, she was only able to ride the flat, windy parts, especially the areas where the foliage wasn't immediately crowding the trail's edges. She didn't ride any of the ups or downs, and walked the bike around any obstacles. It was pretty much what I expected of her at this stage, and while I do hope that she continues to improve, I was proud of her.

    The only problem was, she wasn't proud of herself. I think that she thought the trail would be easier, or that the bike would be magical and make her superwoman on her first ride, or that I would be disappointed if she had to get off and walk in some spots (despite my telling her beforehand I would not). Her temper flared at times, and I heard many a colorful sailor-word I don't normally hear out of her mouth, complete with "This is officially the most expensive mistake we've ever made!" And yet she came out alive, having only dumped the bike once or twice, and never actually fallen to the ground herself. The only injuries were a small bruise on her knee where she bumped it against the bike while dismounting on a hill, and a scrape/bruise on the back of her hand when she hit it on her handlebar (I warned her the new brakes were really grippy!)

    Once she got back in the car and was headed home and had had a chance to cool down and gather her thoughts, she was smiling and chatting casually about work-related things again, and she had succesfully transformed from the raging Incredible Hulk back into the docile Dr. Banner. She said to me, "Next time we're bringing a cooler to leave in the car with emergency chocolate." I told her, "You just made my day." She said, "Chocolate?" To which I replied, "No. You said 'Next time'." She smiled.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by offmainstreet View Post
    I told her, "You just made my day." She said, "Chocolate?" To which I replied, "No. You said 'Next time'." She smiled.
    Gotta love that! Sounds like whether or not your messages are being received that you have the right attitude. But, speaking from my own perspective, if she's convinced you feel a certain way just do your best to be positive and upbeat and don't hit her over the head with it. If you guys continue to ride and maybe she has the opportunity to ride with other women/beginners she may feel a little more confident.

    She will need to get her butt off that saddle at some point, though

  21. #21
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    Congrats...Offmainstreet!!! Cudos to your wife for getting her groove on. I just recently built my wife a 29er Hardtail to ride. She has a condition called RSD (Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy Pain Syndrome) which causes the affected area to slowly dissolve on both muscle and bone tissue. Including extreme changes in skin sensitivity and pain factors. We are hoping to keep the leg moving no matter how much pain she is in afterward. She feels the freedom and adrenaline rush dominates over the pain afterward...
    Finding or building a bike to accommodate certain criteria can be difficult sometimes but can be achieved. Congrats again to both of you. Just remember NOT to push her too hard. (Some gentle, loving nudging helps though). She will start to improve quickly once the confidence starts to build. Let her ride her own pace and carefully offer guidance if asked for.
    Trying to painfully relive some of youthful adventures!!

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