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  1. #1
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    Light Duty Downhill Bike for Short Girl

    I had my first taste of downhill riding at Trestle last week and I'm hooked! I rocked the green trails on my Pivot Mach 4 XC bike. The blue trails were sketchier with my XC geometry and steep head angle. I felt like the steering was a little twitchy while riding over the elevated bridges and it was tough to get my butt back far enough to confidently roll off of drops taller than about 8".

    I'd like to find a light duty, downhill bike that will fit my 5'1" height and light weight, but I'm not sure that the bike I'm dreaming of exists. Does anyone know of a bike that looks like this?
    • Standover height less than 28" (I know that standover isn't important to some people but I've done enough clam slams that it's important to me.)
    • Reach of about 14.5"
    • Head angle about 67 degrees or less
    • Ability to handle small, (probably tiny), jumps
    • More stable steering for increased confidence while riding over the elevated features
    • Not be overly heavy so that I could ride it up and down some of the more technical XC trails that I ride (I'm currently walking some of the steep, downhill, rocky stuff with my XC bike but I have to ride uphill to get to those spots.)
    • I don't know that I need 6" of travel- 5" may be more than enough
    • I probably wouldn't ride this bike more than about 6 times a year so I'd like to find something used for about $1,000. That rules out bikes like the Pivot Mach 5.7.

    I'm tempted by some Transition Syrens on Pink Bike but I think that the Syren may be overkill for what I want to do. I don't need a bike that my skills can grow into as it's unlikely that I'll push myself much further than what I'm currently capable of. I've paid with 3 broken bones to get where I am now. I'm finished pushing my skills beyond my confidence level.

    Any suggestions? I'm still open to the Transition Syren.
    Last edited by Bernina; 09-02-2013 at 01:52 PM.

  2. #2
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    Ahh, good question. It sounds like what you are describing is closer to an aggressive trail/all-mountain bike, rather than one meant for light dh, based on the the amount of travel you desire, etc. And, based on reach and standover, I'd say you're looking for something in the xs range, if not smaller.
    I've been looking around myself for something I could use as an all-around aggressive bike that could double as a park bike from time to time. Not an easy order to fill, but as long as you aren't looking for a dedicated downhill bike, your options should be higher.
    I agree that the Syren would probably be more than what you are looking for, especially in regards to being able to pedal it around your xc trails. First, it's a pretty heavy bike in general and I'm guessing at only 5'1" the bike would easily be between 1/4 to 1/3 your body weight. I have no experience with this bike, but maybe someone else can chime in on what they think?
    With your budget, I'd check to see what used bikes you can find in the trail/all-mountain category, and focus on xxs or xs. It's not going to be easy. You can check out bike reviews on this site in that category and search different manufacturers. You may want to check Santa Cruz and Titus (older models). Also, do a forum search for this topic, because I know there have been a number of different threads on the subject, so that might help steer you toward some particular brands.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, Petey. I did a ton of internet research over the weekend. The brands that came up most often were NorCo, Scott, Transition, and Giant. All of those bikes are sturdier/heavier than what I'm looking for.

    I spaced out that Titus makes tiny bikes. They've been around long enough that I might be able to find one in my price range if they made anything that fits the bill.

  4. #4
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    Yeah, Titus used to make xxs bikes...but that was several years ago before they were taken over by Planet X in 2010. I want to say that was their Racer X that was available in the xxs...and that would have been an xc bike with steeper angles.

    I've checked out Norco and Scott, Transition and Giant, too and it seems that in most cases, standover and reach were too much on the aggressive bikes. You could check out the Specialized Safire, although I think that only had 4" of travel when it first came out. Another one to see if you can find is the Giant Cypher. They don't make it anymore, but a friend of mine had one and I believe it had 5" of travel and I'm pretty sure she was around 5' tall, too.
    I don't know why people continue to insist that standover height isn't as important as other measurements. Having a bike with zero clearance before provided me with several instances of clam slam and did nothing for building my confidence.

  5. #5
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    I just checked out the Specialized Safire and the standover on the small is 27"...but the head tube angle is 68.5", which is steeper than what you were looking for. Have you checked out any European brands?

  6. #6
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    I just looked at new Titus models. The FTM's head angle is too steep and the El Guapo is too tall. I think that all of the Racer X models have had steep HA's. Does anyone know if Titus made a trail model with another name? If so, maybe that would have had a slacker HA.

    It doesn't surprise me that the Safire had a steep HA. Steep HA's seem to be the norm for all bikes with less than 5" of travel.

    I haven't heard of the Giant Cypher yet. I'll see if I can find the geometry on that one.

  7. #7
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    Have you possibly thought about either getting a bike with 24" wheels, or putting 24" wheels on a bike? Some smaller women have done that...but on a 26" frame, I imagine it'll drop the bottom bracket and you might get more pedal strikes. Commencal has the Supreme 24 and it's on sale right now on Chain Reaction - just a thought.

  8. #8
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    According to Giant's site, the Cypher had a SO of 30"...on the small. It makes no sense to me, but I know my friend had clearance. I think that's going to be steeper than you want, though, too.

  9. #9
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    Commencal also makes the Supreme JR which uses 26" wheels. No info in standover but the other figures look to be in line with what you wanted.

  10. #10
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    Petey, you said that you were looking for something similar to what I'm looking for. Have you considered the Pivot Mach 5.7? On paper, it meets almost all of my parameters. The problem is that the 5.7 is new enough that even the used ones are selling for $3,000 and more. I haven't ruled out selling my Mach 4 and replacing it with a 5.7 but I hate to give up a bike that is perfect for 85% of my riding for something that could be a "jack of all trades, and master of none" for most of my riding.

    Using 24" wheels has been floating around in the back of my mind. I'm shying away from that idea because I had one OTB from my pedal getting lodged on a rock and a near OTB when my 26" front wheel almost got stuck crossing a perpendicular water gulley. I would imagine that 24" wheels would increase the odds of stuff like that happening. At this point, I'd rather compromise on price or weight than wheel size.

    I haven't heard of Commencal yet. I'll check them out later today. Off to work now so that I can support my riding habit.

  11. #11
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    Couple possibles:
    The new Giant Intrigue XS has 27" standover, but 68HA:
    Intrigue 1 (2014) - Bikes | Giant Bicycles | United States
    Giant also has the Trance and Trance SX, with slacker angles and low standover, if the men's geometry fits your reach.

    Santa Cruz Bronson Small has 67HA, 28.5" Standover, and the carbon is 5.3lbs frame:
    Santa Cruz Bicycles BRONSON-CARBON

  12. #12
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    My wife had a Transition Syren for about 3 years. It was OK as a trail bike, but really not very good on anything technical and uphill. Down, it was excellent however.

    She now has a Transition Bandit and a TR250. I know I'm only really referring to bikes from the Transition brand, but after trying to kit someone out that is a similar height to you on TR bikes, I'd suggest that you consider a Bandit 26 with a burly build and an angleset to slacken it out. That said, I suspect that at your height you don't weigh a great deal either, so a Fox 34/140mm or even a 150mm such as the new RS Pike could work well.

    I have personally been riding a Bandit 26 as my "trail bike" here in Whistler, BC and it is seriously plush for a 130mm bike. I only have a Fox 32/140mm fork on mine and that is definitely the "weakest link" - very flexy and not confidence inspiring. With a more solid fork it would be an even more capable descender.

    Hope that helps.

  13. #13
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    Light Duty Downhill Bike for Short Girl

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernina View Post
    I had my first taste of downhill riding at Trestle last week and I'm hooked! I rocked the green trails on my Pivot Mach 4 XC bike. The blue trails were sketchier with my XC geometry and steep head angle. I felt like the steering was a little twitchy while riding over the elevated bridges and it was tough to get my butt back far enough to confidently roll off of drops taller than about 8".

    I'd like to find a light duty, downhill bike that will fit my 5'1" height and light weight, but I'm not sure that the bike I'm dreaming of exists. Does anyone know of a bike that looks like this?
    • Standover height less than 28" (I know that standover isn't important to some people but I've done enough clam slams that it's important to me.)
    • Reach of about 14.5"
    • Head angle about 67 degrees or less
    • Ability to handle small, (probably tiny), jumps
    • More stable steering for increased confidence while riding over the elevated features
    • Not be overly heavy so that I could ride it up and down some of the more technical XC trails that I ride (I'm currently walking some of the steep, downhill, rocky stuff with my XC bike but I have to ride uphill to get to those spots.)
    • I don't know that I need 6" of travel- 5" may be more than enough
    • I probably wouldn't ride this bike more than about 6 times a year so I'd like to find something used for about $1,000. That rules out bikes like the Pivot Mach 5.7.

    I'm tempted by some Transition Syrens on Pink Bike but I think that the Syren may be overkill for what I want to do. I don't need a bike that my skills can grow into as it's unlikely that I'll push myself much further than what I'm currently capable of. I've paid with 3 broken bones to get where I am now. I'm finished pushing my skills beyond my confidence level.

    Any suggestions? I'm still open to the Transition Syren.
    Transition hasn't made the Syren in years my understanding is its heavy and not easy to pedal, especially compared to a pivot which feels like a hard tail.

    Take a look at the small ibis mojo SL-R and HD-R. I'm not sure you're looking for something with 160mm of travel but the reach on my small HD is 14.7 and can be run with 140mm travel instead of 160mm. I like smaller bikes than most would fit me for and if I was looking for a shorter travel. I'd run the HD with 140mm instead of 160mm, but the SL-R may be more your cup of tea since you're not looking for a heavier bike.

    Another much cheaper option is Angleset or works angles headset if you're happy with the fit of your bike.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernina View Post
    Petey, you said that you were looking for something similar to what I'm looking for. Have you considered the Pivot Mach 5.7?
    Using 24" wheels has been floating around in the back of my mind. I'm shying away from that idea because I had one OTB from my pedal getting lodged on a rock and a near OTB when my 26" front wheel almost got stuck crossing a perpendicular water gulley. I would imagine that 24" wheels would increase the odds of stuff like that happening. At this point, I'd rather compromise on price or weight than wheel size.
    .
    I actually demoed the 5.7 a couple of years ago at Dirt Fest. I loved it, but it was way too $$$ for me. A couple of years later I demoed the Trance X 29er and it felt fantastic and was perfect for what I wanted which was a nice all-round trail bike. But, like you, I had my first bike park experience this year and I absolutely loved it. I want to get into a more aggressive style of riding so my focus now has shifted toward something I could use at a bike park, but still pedal around and do some aggressive stuff back home. I'm still in the learning stage and exploring options. I just wish I had started this stuff when I was younger and not worried about hurting myself.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by petey15 View Post
    I actually demoed the 5.7 a couple of years ago at Dirt Fest. I loved it, but it was way too $$$ for me. A couple of years later I demoed the Trance X 29er and it felt fantastic and was perfect for what I wanted which was a nice all-round trail bike. But, like you, I had my first bike park experience this year and I absolutely loved it. I want to get into a more aggressive style of riding so my focus now has shifted toward something I could use at a bike park, but still pedal around and do some aggressive stuff back home. I'm still in the learning stage and exploring options. I just wish I had started this stuff when I was younger and not worried about hurting myself.
    The Pivots felt really harsh to me, and unless you're checking out the Firebird (which I've heard is a really amazing descender), it's prolly not something you really want to take to the bike park. Taking a trail bike to the bike park sucks (from experience) and really isn't as much fun as something that's meant to be ridden there.

    People have told me that I *could* ride my HD (160mm travel) at the bike park, but I think I'd rather have a bike that's more outfitted for it, especially considering how much a beating bikes take at the park.

    Is it just the OP's regular ride she's looking to replace with something not as XCish?
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  16. #16
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    Thanks for all of the terrific suggestions everyone. An angleset may be the solution that I didn't know existed. Being able to easily alter the HA opens up a whole new set of options in my search for the right geometry with low standover.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stripes View Post
    Is it just the OP's regular ride she's looking to replace with something not as XCish?
    Stripes, I want to add an inexpensive, used bike to my stable for light downhilling about 6 times a year. I'm still married to my Mach 4 as I ride it XC 2-3 times a week, all year round.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stripes View Post
    The Pivots felt really harsh to me, and unless you're checking out the Firebird (which I've heard is a really amazing descender), it's prolly not something you really want to take to the bike park. Taking a trail bike to the bike park sucks (from experience) and really isn't as much fun as something that's meant to be ridden there.

    People have told me that I *could* ride my HD (160mm travel) at the bike park, but I think I'd rather have a bike that's more outfitted for it, especially considering how much a beating bikes take at the park.
    Stripes, I've been thinking more about your comments. I am not an *aggressive* park rider. Do you think that even blue trails would be more fun on a true DH bike? If so, maybe I should revisit the idea of a used Syren and give up the idea of occasionally riding it on the steep, downhill, techy, side trails on my XC routes.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernina View Post
    Stripes, I've been thinking more about your comments. I am not an *aggressive* park rider. Do you think that even blue trails would be more fun on a true DH bike? If so, maybe I should revisit the idea of a used Syren and give up the idea of occasionally riding it on the steep, downhill, techy, side trails on my XC routes.
    I would, and I would add other small DH bikes into consideration, but it might be hard to find it in the $1k price range without it having some damage. I didn't enjoy my trail/XC bike at all on the blues, and only one of the greens at Northstar. Even with a 66 degree head angle, the rest of the bike felt completely unbalanced. I am not an aggressive park rider either, but your body has to last and it's hard for it to last if your joints are taking the beating instead of the bike.

    This topic comes up all the time on the downhill forum: can I ride my AM/XC/trail bike at the bike park? The answer is always yes, you can, but your body won't be able to handle very many runs as it would on a DH bike, you will be more sore than you would on a DH bike and you won't have as much fun.

    I wrote about my experience at Northstar this year (on my XC/trail bike) compared to last year (on a rental DH bike): Take the knife or the gun? | Mountain Biking for Women ? MTB4Her.com

    After spending $140 to fix my bike (replace rear brake pads, rotor and brake bleed) as it would to rent a DH bike for the day (yes, both are expensive), I think you're doing the right thing by looking for a DH bike. Right now, I'm sticking with rentals until I can afford to get another DH bike (I'm looking at the Spesh Status II and the Kona Operator).
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  19. #19
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    Good input, Stripes. It's interesting that even with your skills, or maybe *because* of your skills, you found the "knife bike" to be more problematic for DH. I had hoped to better justify my investment by finding something that I could use for short, techy, XC rides, but my priority is good geometry for DH, so I'm back to looking for DH specific bikes.

    I was initially focused on the Syren because it offered the most standover clearance in my price range. I've since expanded my search to include the Norco Vixa and Kona Minxy. I wouldn't have any clearance with those models but, realistically, I rarely have to make a hasty dismount directly over the top tube these days.

    I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of used Vixas, Minxys, and Syrens in my price range. Those models seem to be a mix of 6" AM shocks and components on DH geometry frames, which probably explains the budget prices. All in all, a good combo for the kind of DH that I want to do and the amount that I'm willing to spend.

  20. #20
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    Btw, Stripes, I meant to imply that I think that you are a skilled rider and not a beginner.

  21. #21
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    Light Duty Downhill Bike for Short Girl

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernina View Post
    Btw, Stripes, I meant to imply that I think that you are a skilled rider and not a beginner.
    Well, I'm not an expert by any means, but everything I wrote is true for beginner or experienced rider. You're going to have more fun riding the right tool for the job.

    Maybe an advanced rider would enjoy an AM bike on DH trails, but even there they've told me you'll have more fun on a DH bike, no matter what your skill level

    Me and the grom took our AM bikes (160mm travel front and rear) to the bike park where we usually ride our DJ bikes (100mm hardtails). Guess what? It sucks with the long travel bikes. It just kills the jumps and defeats the whole purpose of riding there. Could we have stayed and dealt with the stairs of riding our AM bikes there? Sure.. Would it be as much fun? Absolutely not, in fact, it was actually boring on our AM bikes, but we did it to prove a point to ourselves.
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  22. #22
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    I have a 2009 Syren. As others have commented it was way too heavy as a trail bike (I got it new when I was still new to mtb and I struggled on the trails) My husband rebuilt it as a DH bike and I progressed to advanced DH trails !

    Last week I was getting a new 180mm installed and the LBS staff discovered a huge crack in the top and bottom tubes

    Light Duty Downhill Bike for Short Girl-p1014615.jpg

    I am now waiting for Transition to offer some options.

    In the meantime I am using my am Transition 26" Bandit for trail riding and subbing in for DH. Its great for trail riding as jasevr4 posted (just enough travel and is a good climber) but its way too light for DH. At the DH park I'm riding slowly and rolling the drops.

    If you are looking for an all purpose bike: Transition Covert is popular for enduro and I've heard good reports about the Santa Cruz 650b Bronson.
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  23. #23
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    We have a petite downhiller at Whiteface and she rides a Banshee Scythe. Says it's the only bike that fits her properly.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclelicious View Post
    I have a 2009 Syren. As others have commented it was way too heavy as a trail bike (I got it new when I was still new to mtb and I struggled on the trails) My husband rebuilt it as a DH bike and I progressed to advanced DH trails !

    Last week I was getting a new 180mm installed and the LBS staff discovered a huge crack in the top and bottom tubes

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I am now waiting for Transition to offer some options.

    In the meantime I am using my am Transition 26" Bandit for trail riding and subbing in for DH. Its great for trail riding as jasevr4 posted (just enough travel and is a good climber) but its way too light for DH. At the DH park I'm riding slowly and rolling the drops.

    If you are looking for an all purpose bike: Transition Covert is popular for enduro and I've heard good reports about the Santa Cruz 650b Bronson.
    That stinks! I lusted over the Syren for years but when it first appeared on the scene I knew it was way more bike than I could handle, or afford. I wish they still made them, or something comparable. Although I seem to fit fine on unisex bikes, being shorter I appreciate the increased standover women's bikes usually offer. Any idea what Transition may do? What about the TR 250?

  25. #25
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    FYI that is a V1 Syren. The V2 Syren was gusseted and much stronger than the V1.

    The 250 is being discontinued, if you think you want one of them, get in quick. Next year they will have a travel adjustable TR450.

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