Tall tales of chic cycling

Today LGRAB welcomes Kara of Knitting Lemonade, who offers a unique perspective on her search for a stylish bicycle.

When you’re tall, finding pants that are long enough is a Herculean task. So imagine the trials of trying to find a ladies bicycle that complements your inseam.

The average height for women in the US is 5’4”. I am 6 feet tall with a 35” inseam. For perspective on how tall that is, here is a picture of Dottie (who is pretty tall) and me.

Dottie and Me

Inspired by bicycle blogs (this one in particular), I decided to invest in a classic loop-frame bicycle. But I found the size options available in the US to be somewhat limited. It seemed like a lot of the women bicycles came in one size—like the Electra Amsterdam. And in my experience “one size fits all” really means “one size fits small.” As far as the bicycles that came in several sizes, they seemed to max out for a woman with a height of 5’8”.

Of course there was the option of buying a man’s bike. And it was a solid option. There are a lot of amazing, classic-looking bikes for men. But I was a little stubborn. Just because I was man-sized didn’t mean I wasn’t feminine. So the challenge was set, I wanted a bike that was big enough for a man, but cute enough for a woman.

A Dutch-style bike seemed like a good choice since the Dutch are a very tall people. And after some exhaustive research, I was able to find some manufacturers that offered larger Dutch bikes. But then I saw it—the Pashley Princess Sovereign. In my eyes, she was perfect. I immediately had visions of riding through the English countryside in tweed. Also the Princess has more aggressive angles than the Dutch bicycles, 5 gears to tackle the hills of Salt Lake City, and is a smidge lighter (every pound counts when you have to carry a bicycle up a flight of stairs to your apartment). What’s more, the bicycle comes in a 22.5” frame. Even with that size frame I still wasn’t sure if it would fit. But according to the Pashley website, this size would fit an inseam up to 36.5”. Without having the option of a test ride, I took a leap of faith and ordered her.

Adelaide in action

By adjusting the handlebars to their highest position and getting over the fact that I was flashing some seat post, my Pashley Princess Sovereign turned out to be a lovely fit for me.

You would think that would be the end of the story, but I was on a roll. Now that I had my classic loop-frame bicycle, I decided to also get a fast bicycle. More specifically, a mixte for longer, sportier rides. Looking at vintage and modern mixtes, I ran into the same problem. Too small.

Loving Dottie’s Betty Foy, I e-mailed Rivendell telling them that “tall girls need cute bikes too.” They agreed and informed me that they would be coming out with a 62cm Betty Foy. Well, that sealed the deal. In August, I got my own “Kara-sized” Betty Foy. I couldn’t be any more in love.

Betty and me

These bikes were definitely an investment. And I don’t want to convey that you need to spend a lot of money to get a tall woman’s bike. Just hope to say that with such limited options available, when you find something that you love AND works for your body, seize the opportunity.

There is just something magical about getting a bike that truly fits you, physically and emotionally. In my case, I have two bikes that are big and girly, just like me.

The gal pals

Are you an Amazon looking for a bicycle? Here are some leggy options:

PUBLIC M8 and M3 mixtes come in large (fit for 5’8” to 6’)

Rivendell’s Betty Foy mixte comes in 62cm

Soma Buena Vista mixte comes in 58cm

WorkCycles Oma comes in 61cm

Achielle Oma frames come in 61cm

Pashley Princess and Sonnet models come in 22.5”

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49 thoughts on “Tall tales of chic cycling

  1. *yay*!
    Go Kara!
    Represent us tall girls everywhere! :)

  2. philippe says:

    The Batavus Stabilo comes with a 65 cm frame, Azor (who build frames for Workcycle) has a San Franciso model in 65, and a ladies Kruisframe as well. Most dutch brands sell ladies bike in 61 cms.

  3. Love this post! I’m a shrimp so it’s not necessarily helpful information for me but I have a friend who is 6′ tall and she is now jealous of me and my Schwinn Jenny so I’m totally passing this onto her. Thanks for the info. :)

  4. Sarah says:

    This is an interesting perspective to hear! Especially about the Betty Foy, because until recently the Betty Foy was too *big* for me – the smallest frame they had was for 5’4″ and up, and I am only 5’2″ – so I just figured it was a bike for tall women. But I guess it was really just a bike for average-height women, and they apparently realized they needed to expand in both directions!

    • Kara says:

      You wouldn’t think it, but petite women and tall girls are often in the same neglected boat! The 58cm Betty was recommended for up to 5’10”, so I had just missed the cut off. I so was thrilled when they brought out the new sizes for both ends of the spectrum.

    • jjfantastic says:

      for the shorter of stature, you can also check out the brand new Sweetpea A-Line – http://www.sweetpeabicycles.com/blog/lust/the-a-line/ – looks like the small size frame would work.

      for taller ladies, you’d probably have to do a bit of an upcharge of $200 for a custom size, but it’s an option!

  5. Cara says:

    What a great post! Another tall gal here (I’m a little over 6′) who just wants an adorable, girly bike (preferably a mixte). I’ve actually been thinking about getting a custom-build with a Soma frame, but I wonder if 58 cm would be too small. (Yes, Betty Foy is my dream bike, but it’s too spendy for me.) I test rode a diamond frame bike that was 58 cm and felt awesome, but I don’t know how much the differences in geometry between those frame styles would effect ride comfort. Do you find your 61 cm frame to be exactly right?

    • Kara says:

      Another tall girl named Cara? Spoooooky. ;)

      My 61 cm frame does fit me perfectly. I do remember riding the 58cm Soma Buena Vista once and thinking that it felt great, but that was a while a go, way before I got my Betty. It would be interesting to go back and try it side by side with Betty, and feel the differences between the frame sizes.

      I think my Pashley is sized right around the 58 cm mark and it fits me. But at the same time, since I am maxing out the recommended inseam, I feel like I am siting on top of the bike. While with Betty, I feel like I am a little more enveloped by the frame. (Granted they are two totally different frame geometries.)

      Hope that makes sense.

      • Cara says:

        Extra spooky similarity: I also knit. ;)

        Your comments make total sense. I test rode a Pashley, which I think is just a completely gorgeous bike, but for me and my riding preferences, something just felt slightly off about it. When I got back to the store and the LBS guy asked, “how was it,” I responded, “it made me feel really tall, which I know sounds silly because I AM really tall.” I couldn’t explain beyond that! But you’ve just helped me clarify that it was the fact that I felt like I was perched right on top of the bike and was hovering over the road.

        Anyway, I know I’ll eventually figure out exactly which bike is right for me. I’ve looked at those Public Bikes, but I’m nervous to buy a bike I’ve never tested; luckily, I think there will be a ride center here in Chicago soon! I’ve also found these beautiful specimen: http://cremecycles.com/caferacer_lady_group.html
        Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re carried anywhere in the states right now, but they just make my heart flutter!

  6. Anne Hawley says:

    OMG thank you! Another Amazon here, uninterested in riding a men’s bike, and I’m so glad to see my perspective represented. I bought a Dutch Workcycles Omafiets in the largest frame size and, like you on your gorgeous Pashley, raised the handlebars and the seat to a degree that looks almost silly when I’m not actually on the bike, but feels so right when I am.

    Kind of like my big ol’ shoes, you know? They look crazy-big when they’re sitting on the porch, but when they’re on my feet, they fit me fine.

    Thanks for a great post.

  7. Nicola says:

    I don’t have the same problem, I’m just Ms Average, but I’m pleased that you ended up with two gorgeous bikes! The Betty Foy is so lovely, but living in the UK I’ll never get my grubby mitts on one. To be fair, it seems to me that in general we have a better choice of girly bikes than American customers do, cruisers excepted.

  8. Miss Sarah says:

    So glad you found the right fit!

    As a small girl I can say that one size fits all does not mean fitting somebody 5’0 with short legs. I had the exact opposite problem as you. Kids bikes were ridiculous and ugly, ladies’ bikes were so huge and I my butt would always rock back and forth on the saddle even with everything adjusted at its lowest.

    Very uncomfortable.

    Anyway, holding out for the right sized bike is absolutely worth it, even if it means getting something custom:)

    S*

  9. Ashley says:

    Kara, can I just say a loud AMEN to: “There is just something magical about getting a bike that truly fits you, physically and emotionally” As you know I did end up with a boy bike, but it’s the first one I’ve ever had that has really fit me and I have to admit I got a little teary when I first got on it. Then I started laughing and never looked back! I’m already saving my pennies for an investment bike that will be both big and girly :)

    xoxo

  10. maureen says:

    Great post Kara! I’m a new Pashley owner, and love your Betty Foy as well! I’m 5′ 5″ with a 26″ inseam, and have had tons of trouble finding the right fit for me, but it is worth the trouble of investigating and researching to find the perfect fit! ENJOY your rides!

  11. Patience says:

    Great post!!! A few months ago I went on the hunt for a vintage road bike and found that there were NO women’s vintage road bikes that would fit me. To the writer above who is 6′ (I am too!) I think you might find the 58cm to be too small over time. I held out for a long time, and finally found a gorgeous road bike that is a 62cm. It IS a men’s bike, which is a drag but I do love it so. And I, too, am saving my pennies for a big girly bike to be purchased soon!!! I have my eye on that Pashley, or maybe the Oma. Thanks for representing glamazons everywhere!!!

  12. Debby says:

    Such a great post! I’m learning a lot, as I am not familiar with the names of these companies, having a different type of bike (road). I have a Fuji Finest 2.0, which is a WSD bike, and feel very comfortable with it. I had to have the stem shortened as I have small shoulders; it’s amazing the different parts the LBS can switch out to make your bike fit you better.

    Cannondale and Specialized also make WSD bikes, but I do not know what the smallest or largest sizes are available. I have short legs, so mine is a 50cm frame.

  13. Elisa M says:

    I currently only own men’s bikes and dream of being able to one day buy a (new!) women’s bike that fits me. This is inspiring!

    Tall girls unite!!! (have you read The Tall Book? It changed my perception of my height, seriously.)

  14. Elisa M says:

    Oh-and where do you buy jeans?! Gap has some that fit, but that is all I can find under $200. Just curious…the ones in the photo are great

    • Kara says:

      The Tall Book? I had not heard of it. Just looking at it, I know I must read it.

      I do buy Gap jeans a lot. Banana Republic, J. Crew, and Anthropologie all have tall pants. However, most of them are only available online. So it is a case of ordering them online, trying the on at home, and returning to the store. The funny thing is the jeans I am wearing in this picture are actually jeggings (the leggings that look like jeans)! They look a little silly, but they are perfect for bike riding. I just always wear a long tunic/dress over them. I find jeggings only look good from the mid-thigh down. I got these jeggings at Nordstrom for around $30.

      • Herzog says:

        Just curious — have you tried wearing men’s skinny jeans? I buy Levi’s at UO and I find them cheap and nice fitting.

        • Kara says:

          You know, I never really thought of that. I should check that out, but I do have more curves than your average man, so it might not be a perfect fit.

    • Nikki Sutton says:

      I live for Hudson jeans in the super model length. Also, Rachel Zoe makes a pair of jeans with a 38″ inseam!

  15. Louie says:

    I’ve always had a thing for tall women (I’m 5’9″) and I’m an avid cyclist so I’m somewhat aware of this issue. Screw the aesthetics. A bike that fits is important for SAFETY. And when you feel safe, you enjoy the ride more. I’m glad you found one that you love! ^_^

  16. melafrique says:

    wow i am a keen cyclist and i have a new sonnet bliss but i above all I am a fan of Orla Kiely – i see you are wearing an orla kiely print dress (thats genius).

  17. 2whls3spds says:

    Sweet finds on the bikes. Yes most manufacturers ignore the upper and lower ends of the spectrum in EVERYTHING!

    My bride is like Miss Sarah and is vertically challenged, I am on the opposite end of the scale and too tall for most standard items.

    But things always seem to work out.

    Aaron

  18. annahell says:

    Yay Kara on LGRAB! I’ve been following your blog for a while too.

    I’m taller (5’9″) so finding a bike that fit my height was important. I ended up with a Batavus Old Dutch and I like it a lot. I feel like it fits me most of the time, but there are days when it seems gigantic and it has more of a sit-on-top rather than envelope-y feel. I think I’ll always be on the lookout for the perfect bike, but I’m quite happy with the one that’s in my garage right now :-)

  19. Ellen says:

    I love this thread. Another Amazon [5'11"] checking in. I figured they didn’t make bikes for us Amazons so I bought a men’s commuter bike from my LBS. Now, I want a big girly bike, too! Thanks for posting this, it’s great to be acknowledged when you are out of the “normal” range.

    • Marcella says:

      Me too! 5’10”, 35″ inseam, I bought a mens/unisex bicycle last summer and I feel like I hover on top of the bicycle and after getting a shorter adjustable stem so that the handlbars are closer, I just can’t get used to the “squirelly” steering. This blog post has been more helpful than the 5 LBS’s I have gone to. Thank you Kara!

  20. Samantha says:

    Yay Kara!

    Yes, I too come from the land of 6ft tall women and I just purchased an Axmor WorkCycles Oma! I’m quite ecstatic. I had to wait and wait because they were out of the taller frames. I got a 57cm frame and it seems to do the trick for me – with a few adjustments. Also, I’ve only got about a 34-inch inseam. Tall women rule, no?

  21. Jerome says:

    There are other options to buying new as well. “Patience” posted earlier that there are no vintage women’s road bikes for tall women and that is just not true. Schwinn has been making step-through lightweights for many years. The best part of this is the vintage step-through women’s bikes are vastly less expensive used than the comparable men’s models are. Sure, there were not as many manufactured, but it ddoes not mean they are still not out there in yard sales, thrift stores, Craigslist and eBay. Taking a little time and shopping around can save a lot of money.

    This post was borne out of empathy and experience. Being 6′-7″ has made finding a stock bicycle that fits me properly next to impossible. My best stock new bike purchase was a 2001 Schwinn Cruiser Supreme that was available in a 22″ frame for a few years. I’ve rescued a few older road bike frames and customized them for my needs, like the 63cm 1984 Schwinn Le Tour Luxe that is my daily driver. With a little work and $100 powdercoat, it looks brand-new and rides really well.

  22. Tim Gummer says:

    Thanks Kara for doing the research – also very valuable for blokes such as I, who er.. in touch with their well… feminine side – would prefer an omafiet step through style ride. Now it’s only the money I need to find. That and the courage to tell my partner I need a 6th bike.

  23. Kathleen says:

    I’m 5″10″ with a 34″ inseam, and I wanted a step thru city bike with a 7 or 8 speed internal hub. Globe Bikes (by Specialized) was the only one I found that had what I wanted in a large enough size. I’ve had a Globe Daily 3 Step Thru for about 3 months & I love it http://www.globebikes.com/us/en/globe/GlobeBike.jsp?pid=11dailyUSstept3. I also really liked the Linus Dutchi, but it wasn’t quite large enough for me.

    Thanks for the great post!

  24. Wip says:

    Thanks for the research!
    This 5’11” girl thanks you very much.

  25. Hestiafreya says:

    Thank you for this! I’m 6′ tall with a 36″ inseam, and I’ve been very frustrated trying to find the right bike for a girl my height.

  26. Fascinated1 says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I’m 6’2″, over 50 yrs old, and have never owned a girl’s bike that fit — I’m looking forward to exploring these choices and finding the one for my budget.

  27. KathyO says:

    Thank you so much. I am 6′ and thought I was doomed to ride a man’s bike forever. I am looking into a Betty Foy as soon as I finish thanking you.

  28. Ghost says:

    I know I’m a bit late, but I wanted to thank you for this post! I am tall and have had awful experiences with ladies bikes, but after reading this I tried Pashley and am absolutely delighted. I have a 22.5″ blue Poppy and love riding her so much that I’ve started taking the long way to work.

    http://www.agirlandherteacup.com/2012/10/pashley-poppy-review.html

  29. [...] years ago, Kara of Knitting Lemonade wrote a guest post for LGRAB, describing her search for a chic bike that would fit her 6 foot frame.  Today, jamonwheels, a [...]

  30. Oh wow, what a great article to find! I am 6 feet tall. 53 and cannot ride a bike. I am about to start lessons and am very inspired by your article. I can’t wait to investigate the Pashley. Thanks

  31. Deborah says:

    Great post — I am “only” 5’9 with a 33.5″ inseam, but it is still a real challenge to find a stylish bike that really fits. At least: it’s hard here in Minneapolis. How can this great bike town with its wealth of LBS’s not have a single Dutch bike for sale anywhere? Not a single Pashley? Aargh. But recently on a business trip to Portland I made a special trip over to Clever Cycles and Martina put me on a 58cm Gazelle Toer Populaire 8. It was sheer heaven — maybe the only time in my life I’ve been on a bike that really and truly fit me. So I’m saving my pennies — and also have my eye on vintage mixtes. Every now and then I see a 58cm Peugeot UO-18(though I worry about buying any bike I can’t try out first). Thanks so much for the recommendation of other “tall girl” bikes!

  32. cycler says:

    Great post, and I’m glad you found bikes that fit you finally!
    My SO is 6’5″ and it makes everything from buying clothes to sitting too long in a “standard” chair difficult, so I can appreciate how hard it must be to find a bike when fit is so important.

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