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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am thinking of getting a new bike as a surprise for my wife, the problem is I don't really know what to look for. She already has a bike, but its more of a cruise around town kind of bike, and no use whatsoever off the street.

Since its not going to be for anything serious, ideally I don't want to spend more than about $300 (the most she will be riding with me, at least for the foreseeable future is gravel tracks, so it does not need to be anything fancy). I also do not mind buying used.

The problem I have is how to get a bike that will fit her, if I buy new I can probably at least work something out with an LBS, whereby I can take the bike back and get a different size if I get one that is too small/big. But if I buy used then that option is not going to work. I may end up having to go to an LBS with her, and figuring out what size bike we need, and then just pick one up myself at a later date.

But, what bikes should I be looking at? obviously we will not need full suspension, so any brands/models I should be looking at for around $300 used or new?

Thanks.
 

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The best place to look for a "gravel path bike is Performance Bike followed by REI. I like the ones that have a built in fork shock and seat post shock. The $300 budget is a tight one. I would take here to Performance and REI. If you could go a little higher I think you could find something pretty decent. Something like the GT Ladies Timberline is pretty attractive at $400 but might be a budget buster.

http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1073580_-1_24500_20000_28506
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hey, thanks $400 is not out of the question as far as budget goes. I would rather spend an extra $100 and know that she has something that will last and is better built, than get something cheaper just because its cheaper.

FYI, it does not even need to be a ladies bike, not sure if that opens up any more options though.
 

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It doesn't necessarily have to be a ladie's bike, but it does have to be comfortable for your wife. Afterall, if you buy her a bike but she doesn't feel good riding it, it was a wasted <insert amount here> because she won't be riding it at all. So my vote would be to give her a nice homemade gift certificate good for 1 new bike...or something along those lines. That way, you can surprise her with the thought, then turn the experience into a nice day bike shopping together. Just an idea.

As for what specific bikes to look for...if you don't think she's going to be wanting to ride on some bona fide mountain bike terrain, perhaps go for a nice hybrid bike - or hardtail if you think dirt might be a possibility. Performance bikes (if you have one in your area) would be a great place to start because they will have the largest selection available to try. If that's a no-go, any shop you go to should have a selection of bikes in your price range, for your intended usage in whatever brand they carry. Don't be afraid of women's bikes, some women really do fit them better. Some women fit men's bikes better, and different styles and geometries are going to yield different results. For example, my mountain bikes have all been women specific, but my road bike is men's. So, you don't really know what you're going to end up with, but whatever it is, comfort is most important. Don't worry too much about brand because whatever a true bike shop carries will be quality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, I had already pretty much decided that a surprise of a bike is not likely to work due to needing to have her test ride some first. We will most likely end up looking for a hard tail, and also mens/womens will most likely make no difference once she decides what is comfortable.

I took a look and there are 3 Performance bikes within pretty close driving distance, and also the LBS that I bought my bike from is close by (although they have a smaller selection). I am actually really looking forward to getting her something, we went for a ride yesterday and even though it was only short (about 9 miles) it was hugely enjoyable, and I felt bad for her having to haul her heavy bike up the hills we were riding on.
 

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One thing I forgot to mention: You rock for doing this for your wife.

Also, something to think about with women's bikes. Sometimes manufacturers will put ligher weight components on bikes designed for ladies. Particularly on the smaller sized ones. So, if weight might be an issue, maybe look into those first. Earlier I didn't offer any particular brands because I only Specialized bikes from personal experience, but I've been happy with their bikes. For a HT, maybe check out the Myka or the Hardrock.

Good luck. :)
 

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True spontaneous surprise with something she likes...

Having said you don't know what she wants (how could you, considering the myriad mind changes on any given topic by the best of wives, lol), have you considered a gift certificate?

In my limited experience wives can be tremendously useful (or, transversely, a real bummer), no? Presenting her a (romantic) thank you card, gift certificate & flowers, in a truly surprising, spontaneous manner goes a long-long way in peaking her and your continued interests?

While shopping (caringly, tenderly & subtly guide her to the right bike you want her to get) that she likes. It may be important to her to do this with SEEMINGLY COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR WHAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU OR ANYONE ELSE! Nothing, bar none, works better for women in general than spontaneous surprise in getting something they want. You're dealing with intangible feelings. This realization the true clincher to success. Tie this all in with a "first ride" another something she likes! Go tiger, you're on a roll!!!

Once shop located with killer deals on bikes colored like nail polish, negotiate a package deal (with accesories such as matching helmet/ shirt/ shorts?) then secure written assurance from store manager gift certificate purchased fully refundable in cash (so if your loved one finds the bike she loves across the street, it won't be a headache for you).

At any rate, be completely willing to internalize any headaches, smiling the whole way through for the big payoff. Good luck, Godspeed...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thought I would post an update, as I now have another question. We took a trip to an LBS a couple weeks ago to try out some bikes, the employee recommended a 17" frame. Anyways, when she was on the saddle (at its lowest setting) she said she did not feel that comfortable as she could not reach the floor (well, she could, but literally was on tip toes).

The employee told us that was normal, and my wife said she could probably get used to it. The thing is, I don't want for her to feel uncomfortable, and with the saddle already at its lowest setting, there is not much room for adjustment. Would it make sense for us to drop down to a 15" frame size, and then make adjustments from there?
 

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naiku said:
Thought I would post an update, as I now have another question. We took a trip to an LBS a couple weeks ago to try out some bikes, the employee recommended a 17" frame. Anyways, when she was on the saddle (at its lowest setting) she said she did not feel that comfortable as she could not reach the floor (well, she could, but literally was on tip toes).

The employee told us that was normal, and my wife said she could probably get used to it. The thing is, I don't want for her to feel uncomfortable, and with the saddle already at its lowest setting, there is not much room for adjustment. Would it make sense for us to drop down to a 15" frame size, and then make adjustments from there?
Absolutely try the 15" bike. If she's not comfortable, she's not comfortable, and nothing the shop guy says will change that.
 

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naiku said:
Anyways, when she was on the saddle (at its lowest setting) she said she did not feel that comfortable as she could not reach the floor (well, she could, but literally was on tip toes).

The employee told us that was normal, and my wife said she could probably get used to it. The thing is, I don't want for her to feel uncomfortable, and with the saddle already at its lowest setting, there is not much room for adjustment. Would it make sense for us to drop down to a 15" frame size, and then make adjustments from there?
Are you sure she WANTS a mountain bike? You simply cannot sit in the saddle and touch the ground on ANY performance oriented bike (road, mountain, etc). You have to stand up on one pedal and get off.

Sounds to me like she'd rather have a cruiser.

IMO, getting a frame that is too small for her and setting the saddle far too low for any sort of pedaling comfort or efficiency is a bad idea and isn't going to make her any more ready for gravel paths than she is on her current cruiser.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
CougarTrek said:
Are you sure she WANTS a mountain bike? You simply cannot sit in the saddle and touch the ground on ANY performance oriented bike (road, mountain, etc). You have to stand up on one pedal and get off.

Sounds to me like she'd rather have a cruiser.

IMO, getting a frame that is too small for her and setting the saddle far too low for any sort of pedaling comfort or efficiency is a bad idea and isn't going to make her any more ready for gravel paths than she is on her current cruiser.
I see your point, and she did say that she would get used to it. My main worry is that going with the 17" frame and pretty much 0 options in adjusting the saddle (moving it any further up is not an option, since she would not even be able to pedal with it much higher), is going to make her uncomfortable from the onset. Going with a 15" frame and moving the saddle up to that sort of height, as she becomes more confident and comfortable, seems more logical (at least to me).
 

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naiku said:
I see your point, and she did say that she would get used to it. My main worry is that going with the 17" frame and pretty much 0 options in adjusting the saddle (moving it any further up is not an option, since she would not even be able to pedal with it much higher), is going to make her uncomfortable from the onset. Going with a 15" frame and moving the saddle up to that sort of height, as she becomes more confident and comfortable, seems more logical (at least to me).
Remember, seat height is not the only concern, reach is too.

If the 17" has the seat slammed all the way down or nearly for a standard riding setup (only a slight bend in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke) then yes, I see that as an indication that the frame is potentially too big. She'd probably be running into standover issues as well.

The question then becomes, is the 17", despite the seat height issues, the right top tube length for her or is it really too long.

If it's too long, try the 15", but make sure it doesn't have the opposite problem (too small).

If it's about the right length, or the 15" is too small then it's time to try other brands. Perhaps something that offers a bike in a 16" if she ends up between the two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
CougarTrek said:
Remember, seat height is not the only concern, reach is too.

If the 17" has the seat slammed all the way down or nearly for a standard riding setup (only a slight bend in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke) then yes, I see that as an indication that the frame is potentially too big. She'd probably be running into standover issues as well.

The question then becomes, is the 17", despite the seat height issues, the right top tube length for her or is it really too long.

If it's too long, try the 15", but make sure it doesn't have the opposite problem (too small).

If it's about the right length, or the 15" is too small then it's time to try other brands. Perhaps something that offers a bike in a 16" if she ends up between the two.
Thanks, her leg was almost straight when sitting on the 17" with the seat all the way down, I think we will try a 15" and see how that goes. Then start looking at 16" if it is too small... I believe Trek offer a 16", but does any other manufacturer?
 

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Trek's 16" is probably more like 17" to be exact. Different manufacturer's sizes are all different, you just gotta try 'em out. Sounds to me that she definitely needs a smaller frame though since she can barely pedal with the seat slammed. The shop guy doesn't seem to know much about fit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I ended up surprising her on Friday with a Specialized Mkya HT Sport on a 17" frame. The 17" she had tried before was a mens bike, which I believe was part of the problem. The LBS I bought it from were great and said that if it did end up being too big, to bring the bike back with her and they would fit her with a different bike.

She has ridden it twice so far, and I would say from the huge smile on her face it was well worthwhile. When she got home from the first ride she was telling me how she managed to ride up this one section without stopping, brakes felt better, etc etc. The one complaint she has at the moment is that she feels like she is leaned forward more, but I think that is partly due to her previous bike being more upright (and I think I can adjust the stem on this bike to make her feel less hunched over, she said the reach is fine, just feels leaned over more than she is used to).
 

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You might still take her back to the bike shop. I know the Specialized shop where I live has a fit kit with different size stems and they will swap out stems to get the right fit. The lean forward has to be a big complaint for a lot of women with longer legs and short torsos. Its especially noticeable with roadbikes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
borregokid said:
You might still take her back to the bike shop. I know the Specialized shop where I live has a fit kit with different size stems and they will swap out stems to get the right fit. The lean forward has to be a big complaint for a lot of women with longer legs and short torsos. Its especially noticeable with roadbikes.
Thanks, I might give the shop a call later today and see if they have that available.
 
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