Get the biggest wheels that allow you to sit as you want
From pure riding properties point of view, I think that the bigger wheels you get the more it will help at the riding you mention.
Gender is not part of the equation. The important thing is whether the bigger wheels and the available frames allow you to get your prefered riding position.
If, for example, you are short and prefer having the handlebars four inches under the saddle horizontal, then it will probably not work. If you are about average size and don't prefer the bars very low, then that shouldn't be a problem. If you are tall, then it's a no-brainer. Another checkpoint is finding a bike with suitable top tube length. For example, some of the most affordable 29" bikes - the Fishers - have long frames, which might not be your personal preference. Or, it may be exactly what you like.
I've built 29ers for people down to about 5'4". Below a 22" toptube (effective) things start to not work out real well, but if you're set on a 29er, you can use a real short stem and stay in that range - or at least most folks can. Small people (under 5'6" or so) will pretty much have to go custom to get a good fit a lot of the time. Then again, coming from me, that statement shouldn't be much of a surprise.
Lots of other builders also do 29ers for small folks.
If your GF is small and prefers a pretty aggressive (low bars in relation to the saddle) you may have to do some odd things to accomplish it - riser stem flipped over, flat bar instead of riser bar, etc. The front end of the bike is going to be taller than on a 26" bike.
The front end only has to be tall if the frame is suspension corrected. If not, you can get it pretty close to the same height as a suspension-corrected 26" bike. Of course, most folks want the option to run suspension, so it's not that important of a caveat.
My SO has been riding hers for 5 seasons now and still has a hard time after every ride not saying how much she loves her bike.....
Although I have known one female that never felt right on her custom 29"er and gave it up. The key as Walt implys is in the final fit. Most of the 26" bikes (except of course for womans specific lines) are made for adinoidal teen boys which makes for a horrible fit generally.
I've always contested the bar height issue. It's their, but nothing you can't solve with a custom bar or using a riser stem and/or bar flipped over. Such solutions may not win beauty prizes, but it will work for sure. Integrated headsets help worth about half an inch also. Do thicker headtubes to accomodate integrated sets also help reaching good frame stiffness at shorter headtube lengths?
Good lord I hate those things. The bearings aren't made to any kind of actual standard, you have to use a significantly heavier and more expensive head tube (so the weight is a wash - you don't save a thing) and if something goes wrong, replacement parts are hard to find.
To be honest, in the size of frame we're talking about, stiffness isn't much of an issue, so if bar height is a big problem, either find someone who will build around a non suspension-corrected fork, take a riser stem and flip it over, trade in your riser bars for flat, or all of the above. And if those things don't get it low enough, you shouldn't be on a 29er.
Hey Cloxxi - how's this fork appeal to your sense of aesthetics? No silly spacer, eh? It's a bit of a proto, I've been riding it around for a couple weeks now - this one is made from straight-gauge .049 cromoly, which means it's a total pig and stiff as heck, but the next one will actually be made out of decent stuff (figure 2 pounds instead of 3).
Did you find that tubing outside the bike bizz? What axle-crown length is that, or is that irrrelevant with that tubing? Sure look kick-azz! Does it clear most downtubes when twisted in a crash? If I'm not mistaken, 29" downtubes sit at a steaper angle that 26", which would make fork/downtube clearance tighter with the same fork "crown".
I saw online somewhere that the Kelly fork is 1050g, so barely lighter than the surly offering.
It's pretty much the same stuff Surly uses, but even thicker and heavier. I'm planning to use double butted (1.1/.6/.9mm) tubing for the second proto model, we'll see how that one holds up. The beast in the picture beats the living snot out of me - waay too stiff. The second proto should be a tad flexier, though the joints at the crown are pretty close to the same thickness. We'll see if brake chatter becomes an issue.
The fork is 470mm crown-axle. With the tubing I plan to use, that's about as short as I'll be able to go. Of course, if I want to do a non-suspension corrected fork, it's easy to use standard fork blades.
The tops of the stanchion BARELY clear my downtube on that one, so I'm going to slope the "arms" of the crown a bit more and also cut off (at an angle) and cap the stanchions (you can't see it in the pic, but they're just open at the top right now - it wasn't worth it to cap them, since it'll go up on the wall/back in the junk bin in another few weeks). That should pretty much take care of the potential problem, methinks.
Ok, to get this back to the topic, how many of the ladies (or GFs/wives of the guys) out there are riding rigid? Anyone?
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