Off-road riding options for shorter riders

pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
Hi all,

While I'm not exactly looking for an eMTB right at this moment, I just figure people on this forum might have a little more knowledge of the available options out there. One of the reasons I'm thinking about this is that at some point in the future, the concept of commuting to work as a thing everybody does will once again be a part of the human condition. Where I live, there are bike paths that make the commute quite smooth by bike, but much of the travel distance could be further cut by using the local dirt and gravel trails that connect to those paths rather than use road-based connections. And because I live in the PNW, that means that blue skies are a sign that rain is coming (lack of blue skies are a sign that rain is falling). Basically, that means the traction of knobbier tires and the presence of a suspension fork is quite valuable if I am to use the trails for even a reasonable chunk of the commute, though it's fair to say that the kind of riding I'm talking about would fit more in the "adventure" category than any sort of hard riding. Just that the eMTB category of bikes equals hitting a lot of the check-boxes that would make it useful and still comfortable to ride for those kinds of trips.

This could eventually be an issue for both my wife and myself should we commute to work in the future (and a bike is a far more convenient option, and if we ever return to the era of pre-COVID traffic, it is as fast or faster than driving)... and it's the latter that raises the core question of this post. For someone my height (5'10"), finding bikes that are a reasonable fit is quite easy. For someone my wife's height (5'0")... not so much. Now while a lot of 20" fat-tire e-bikes can fit her, most all of them are also insanely heavy (which becomes a concern when loading it into lockers at the office) and it's honestly easier to handle and control something with normal-sized 26" or 27.5" tires -- it's also easier to go faster with normal size tires when turning the PAS off (which, quite frankly, we both do for a good chunk of our rides). So after that long-winded exposition, the basic question -- Does anybody know if there are any eMTBs or e-Gravel/Adventure bikes or anything similar that isn't obscenely heavy, that can still fit riders as short as 5'0"? Honestly, I've had enough trouble finding regular MTBs that fit my wife, especially if they are full suspension (though in practice, I'm preferential to hardtails for this sort of thing because city planners in the PNW are apparently allergic to grades below 10%).

That too, because we're not exactly riding for the sake of going wild and shredding black diamonds or anything, in spite of the fact that I'm looking for reasonable weight (e.g. under 50 lbs with the battery removed), one place where weight cannot be shed is in the wallet.
 

MikeDD

Well-Known Member
I believe to find an emtb that small you will have to go with the name brands. I would start visiting every bike shop that sell emtbs. I am 5'6" tall and found that only bikes like Specialized, Trek Haibike, and others will have XS frames. I ride a medium Specialized Turbo Levo. Arlberg Sports in Wenatchee carries several brands. Be prepared to spend $$.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Check out Liv ebikes. They make small and extra small frames. Not sure on getting the weight below 50 lbs.
I concur. Here are the latest Liv e-MTBs:

For instance, Liv Intrigue E+ without the battery should weigh 44 lbs (or even less for sizes S or XS). With the battery, the weight is around 53 lbs or less.
 

PDoz

Well-Known Member
The giant fathom jnr might be too small ?

Liv are the female version of giant, their bikes are sometimes about 1/2 size smaller than the equivalent giant. Take a look at their rove and amiti ?

Orbea did a nice junior emtb in 2020 (emx24) it's only hub drive but very light.

The 21 trek powerfly fs4 looks promising with a really low seat height for a fs bike? ( she is possibly too tall for their xs one ! )

An old thread https://www.emtbforums.com/community/threads/smallest-ladies-emtb.12913/

For inspiration, my 10 yo daughter riding my size medium 2018 giant full e pro ( 23 kg / 50 lb in m) - if you find a second hand one in s ir xs , snap it up. I think the 2018/19 fathom was even smaller and lighter
C57AF1DE-EF8B-4298-8C37-91624E4F932B.jpeg
 
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pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
Thanks for the responses, everybody. It does look like LBS name brands might be the only option, which inherently means having to push much higher on the price category. I'm actually kind of surprised that with the Trek, she's on that borderline between the S and XS. That said, the price is at best, highway robbery (or... singletrack robbery?), IMO. At least Giant/Liv/Momentum and Polygon have some products that don't mandate stealing selling internal organs. In any case, I was expecting that the reality of needing to go off-road for the commute would not be a major issue for either of until 2022, and it does appear that may be the case according to what our respective employers are telling us at this time -- so that does mean there's plenty of time to shop around as well as wait for in-stock supplies to return (which should hopefully also return prices to normal again).
 

pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
What about Bulls, I think they make different size frames...
I looked at them just now -- even their smallest frames don't go down all the way to sizes suitable for a 5'0" rider. At best, some of their normal MTBs (non-electric) go down to the level of a 5'3" rider, but most of their e-bikes are sized for 5'5" at the smallest. Also given that my wife has a negative ape index (i.e. wingspan is less than height), I think that's not going to be comfortable for a potential 10-mile ride even if she could otherwise pedal it.

Also, as mentioned before, weight loss in the wallet is something to be avoided. Bulls e-bikes get pretty pricey... I find it more than a little distressing to look at bikes that cost more per unit than the total sum cost of every bike I've ever owned in my entire life combined. Sure, it's not the worst pricing I've ever seen, but it's not as if I'm even staring in the direction of some of the many e-MTBs out there that cost more than my car.
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Silicon Valley
Here is another option to consider for vertically challenged riders under 5'0". ;)



Pedego Element Review

A compact fat tire electric bike designed around a sturdy but approachable mid-step frame. With its low stand-over height and potential for low minimum saddle height, this is one of the few ebikes that works well for petite riders and even kids! The highly adjustable top-speed settings for pedal assist and throttle add safety or extend range by reducing power consumption. Optional aluminum alloy fenders, rear rack, headlight, and bags add utility.. Six beautiful colors allow for personalization if friends, partners, or family members each buy an… Read Review

BULLS TWENTY4 E Review

A tough, sporty looking, high-quality, kids electric bike that can reach ~15.5 mph with four levels of pedal assist, smaller wheels keep the frame low and approachable. Premium accessories including tires from Schwalbe, a Shimano Altus 8-speed drivetrain, and Tektro hydraulic disc... Read Review

Trek Lift+ Lowstep Review

A comfortable, low-step, cruiser style electric bike with balanced motor and battery position, multiple fun color choices, and several sizes (also available in high-step). Nicer 10-speed drivetrain with clutch for reducing chain bounce and slap, easy to pull hydraulic… Read Review

Haibike SDURO HardFour 4.0 Review

A high performance, purpose built electric mountain bike for kids or petite adults... but mostly kids! Limited top speed of 15 mph for safety, full 9-speed Shimano drivetrain. Capable 160 mm hydraulic disc brakes with adjustable-reach levers for smaller hands, only available in… Read Review

Trek Neko+ Review

A sporty hybrid electric bike offering a blend of efficiency and trail capability, a suspension fork with lockout, hydraulic disc brakes. Removable battery and display panel reduces weight when lifting and transporting the bike, quick release…Read Review

Pedego 20″ Trail Tracker Review

A sturdily built, lower speed electric bike with seven gears and throttle-only operation designed primarily for kids and youth but also a good fit for short riders. Max weight of 350 lbs, bosses in the rear for adding a rack and hauling…Read Review
 
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PDoz

Well-Known Member
Keep in mind you get what you pay for, is she worth investing in?

Trek is priced about 7.5% higher than giant in Australia - comparing similar models like a trek rail 7 to a giant trance x 29 mk 2 - VERY similar spec, but different motors, the trek has slightly better forks and you get cheap pedals to throw away - lets call it a 5% assault on the rear pocket?

Now I love my giant, but all my friends who bought trek at the same time (2018) have had great runs - lets call it less need to test warranties? Things like electrical connections, bearing quality, and that useless piece of junk giant call a dropper post. Over time the cost of ownership gets pretty close.
 

Mike TowpathTraveler

Well-Known Member
I think the Haibike models devoted towards shorter statured women are called the Life models. Giant, as others have noted here, cater to women with their Liv lineup.

Both powered by Yamaha, which imo, is the best drive out there.

Bulls have become insanely expensive for some reason or the other, in the past 2 years or so.

Not sure what Trek has, but I do know their dealer network in the US is the model for the rest of them to follow and copy. Good luck!
 

pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
I also do think Yamaha is the best that I've tried, though I haven't tried out anything with a Brose or Tong Sheng. I think Bosch is actually quite overpriced for what you get, and that overpriced factor carries over into the bike itself. I feel like looking at things like Bulls or Moustache the majority of Specialized e-MTBs misses the plot on why I'm exploring e-MTBs in the first place. The goal isn't to have something that is built to survive gnarly trail runs -- it's to have something that is capable enough on trails and difficult terrain/weather that it isn't a pain, but still ultimately used for commuting.

If I'm looking for an off-road capable car, I shouldn't have to think that a Land Rover is the minimum bar when a Subaru will do. I'm sure if either of us was actually also looking to go trail riding for leisure, I'd be willing to spend more, and also get something more purpose-built -- but leisure is not a concept that will ever exist for the next 15-20 years.
 

pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
Pardon me?
Both names of mid-drive motor manufacturers. Most people are familiar with Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Bafang. Brose and Tongsheng are lesser-known, but they are there. Brose, at least, is used by Bulls and Specialized on some stuff. Still, I've never ridden anything with either brand of motor/controller. I've at least tried Bosch, Yamaha, and Bafang mid-drives, and I'm reasonably pleased with any of them. Giant has their "Syncdrive" variant (which from the description sounds more like the trick is in the motor controller than anything), which is also new to me, but the nearest Giant dealer that has anything in stock right now requires a ferry ride to get there, so I'm not going to be trying that any time soon.
 

pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
Sure seems that way to me -- at least here in the US, where we only have access to a fraction of the e-bike brands that are otherwise sold worldwide. Some part of it is that Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano all get special mention with nearly every bike that has them because they're all big name brands. Bafang, maybe 3 out of every 4 bikes at least mentions the Bafang/8Fun name. Brose barely gets a mention -- most such bikes just say the raw specs of "XXX W mid-drive YY Nm torque."
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
@pkchari: I'm not sure how much aware you are of the e-bike worldwide market:
  • There are 10 times as many e-bikes in Europe as they are in the whole North America;
  • Giant/Liv/Momentum is the largest bike brand worldwide (China excluded). They use branded Yamaha e-bike motors;
  • Specialized is the second largest world bike manufacturer. They use branded Brose and Mahle motors. If you think Brose are "lesser known" it simply indicates you don't know them;
  • Trek is the third largest... ditto. They use Bosch motors;
  • Cannondale is fourth... ditto. They use Bosch motors;
  • Many respected e-bike manufacturers (for example: Merida, Orbea, Commencal, Santa Cruz, YT and many many more) use Shimano motors. You must have heard of Shimano. Shimano motors are mostly used in e-MTB applications as Shimano does not want support Class 3.
Now: Tong Sheng are Mr. Nobody in serious e-bike market.
 

pkchari

New Member
Region
USA
City
Redmond, WA
  • There are 10 times as many e-bikes in Europe as they are in the whole North America;
Well, yes -- that's kind of why I mentioned "at least here in the U.S." Several brands that are available in Europe and Southeast Asia simply aren't even sold in the U.S., and some are even illegal to import into the states even if you bought them while staying overseas.
  • Giant/Liv/Momentum is the largest bike brand worldwide (China excluded). They use branded Yamaha e-bike motors;
  • Specialized is the second largest world bike manufacturer. They use branded Brose and Mahle motors. If you think Brose are "lesser known" it simply indicates you don't know them;
  • Trek is the third largest... ditto. They use Bosch motors;
  • Cannondale is fourth... ditto. They use Bosch motors;
  • Many respected e-bike manufacturers (for example: Merida, Orbea, Commencal, Santa Cruz, YT and many many more) use Shimano motors. You must have heard of Shimano. Shimano motors are mostly used in e-MTB applications as Shimano does not want support Class 3.
Notably, of the brands you mention, only 1 uses Brose at all, which is kind of my point -- they're just not prevalent out here, and by extension, not well-known. And fewer than 1 out of 5 brands that use them even mention the name when they are using Brose. That's not even taking into account that the vast majority of e-bikes sold are still hub-drive simply because of cost (which is why most Americans know the Bafang name first when it comes to e-bikes). In any case, this only came up because I mentioned that I'd never test-ridden anything with a Brose motor, and the fact that the only big brand that carries them is Specialized -- a brand which does not, and likely may not ever, offer any reasonably priced e-MTBs -- probably has a big part in that.
 

PedalUma

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I am making one for a 4'11'' Sausalito woman today by converting her bike with a light mid-drive. The battery is 3lbs.
The photo is from a group ride we did today out Chilano Valley Rd. Marin, after riding the new MTB trails at Helen Putnam Park in Somoma Co. CA.
 

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