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Bigger Is Not Always Better
It’s no secret that bike manufacturers the world over have traditionally produced bikes that are designed for the “average person”. Average height. Average arm length. Average leg length. Average weight.
Which would, of course, be fine if this person actually existed.
Thankfully, they don’t. We’re all unique and we all differ from this ideal norm.
What this means is that for all of us non-average people (i.e. everyone of us), we have to fit ourselves round the bikes that bike manufacturers choose to make available to us. Rather than choosing a bike that is designed for our height, our weight, our arm length, our leg length, etc.
Happily, manufacturers of traditional non-powered bikes have now woken up to this and started producing bikes that are tailored to you. Whether you’re taller than average, shorter than average, or larger than average.
However, because the ebike industry is really only in its infancy, this process is still in its very early days. With many bike manufacturers just churning out electric bikes with a one-size-fits-no-one design.
The great news is that we’re beginning to see some forward-thinking manufacturers starting to produce bikes in a wider range of shapes and sizes. Bikes that are designed to cater to people in a, well, wider range of shapes and sizes.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note that shorter electric bike riders have a big advantage over their taller riding companions.
Assuming a similar build, the shorter rider will be lighter than the taller rider. Being lighter means that they will put less strain on the motor and battery as they ride along. Consequently, the battery will be able to power the electric bike for longer and you will be able to go further and at a faster speed. Nice!
There are a number of key areas to consider when you’re looking at small frame ebikes. I’ve listed these for you below and I’ll then give some more detail on each. You should then have a good understanding of what you need to think about when choosing your new bike.
Then, having researched the best available ebikes, I’ll give you the lowdown of my top recommended small frame electric bikes and briefly discuss the highlights of each.
Ready to make a start? Then we’ll begin.
Key Areas To Consider When Choosing A Small Frame Electric Bike
- Frame Size
- Seat height range
- Top tube height
- Bike ‘Gender’
- Post-purchase Bike tuning
Let’s have a look at each of these in a bit more detail.
Probably the most obvious starting point to look at when choosing a new bike. At its most simplistic, a smaller rider should be picking one of the smallest frame sizes that a bike is available in.
Seat height range
Check that the seat post has enough range of movement to bring the seat to a comfortable height for you. On some electric bikes which have the battery fitted to the seat post, this can limit the height that the seat can go down to.
Also, bikes with a suspension-style seat post can add up to a couple of inches to the seat height for this extra cushioning. Whilst this may be welcome, it may also be possible to make a too-large bike fit you, by changing this out for a standard seat post.
This is a technical biking term that just means the distance from the top of the seat post to the top of the handlebar stem. This is a useful number to know because a bike that has a long reach may be too large for riders with shorter arms.
You will sometimes see bike dimensions listed with the length of the top tube. Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact match for the reach, which also needs to take into account the angle or slope of the top tube. A steeply angled top tube can reduce the reach to a level that is comfortable (as well as making the bike easy to mount and dismount).
Top tube height
Following on from this point. The height, and angle, of the top tube can be important. For shorter riders, a good slope on the top tube (from the handlebar stem down to the seat post) can make a bike much easier to get on and off.
For shorter male riders, it’s always worth looking at the options for ladies’ bikes.
These can often come in smaller frame sizes and with a sloping top tube and/or a low step-through design. Whilst manufacturers used to team these great features up with pink paint and sparkly handlebar tassels they, thankfully, now tend to come in more gender non-specific colors. Making them suitable for everyone.
Post-purchase Bike tuning
Bear in mind that you can often do a fair amount of fine-tuning to a bike once you have it, if you find that it’s slightly too large.
Handlebars can be adjusted to bring them closer. Saddles can be edged further forward. Seat posts can be shortened. Components can even be swapped for more ergonomically helpful ones, for example, changing handlebars to a sweptback beach cruiser style to bring them within more easy reach.
My Top 5 Recommended Small Frame eBikes
Okay, you’ve now got a clear idea of what to look for in your new ebike. So, let’s take a look at my recommendations for the best of the best electric bikes designed with smaller riders in mind.
The MOTAN M-60 L7(R7) is an upgrade on their M-60 and new for 2019.
A beach cruiser style bike, this looks great in either the black or white version. Be aware that the backrest and passenger pedals are optional extras, which you’d need to purchase separately from Addmotor. To be honest, they look so cool, that I don’t think there’d be anything ‘optional’ about them for me.
The battery is removable for easy charging and is teamed up with a 750W motor. A beast that can take you up to 28mph!
That comfort seat and laidback riding position make this a very comfortable bike to ride.
Addmotor say that the bike will suit riders between 5’2 and 6’5”, helped by the adjustable handlebars, that you can bring closer to or further away from the seat. Interesting to see in the customer reviews that one buyer felt that this ebike was particularly suitable if your legs were shorter (him being 6’2”).
There is a danger that I’m going to be accused of repeating myself here…
I’ve recommended the Motan M-350-P7 from Addmotor quite a few times now. I just can’t help it! I think it’s a fantastic bike and just so suited to a wide range of riders and applications.
It’s great if you’re new to biking and feel a bit unsteady (the three wheels give you extra balance and confidence). The upright riding position can relieve pressure on the wrists and forearms (ideal if you are prone to arthritis). For overweight people looking to get into riding, this can be an awesome choice as it’s rated up to 350 Lbs. Finally, just look at the cargo carrying capacity and tell me you can’t get a week’s worth of family grocery shopping on board!
With a low step-over style frame and the benefit of the three wheels, this is an easy bike to get onto for anyone, including shorter riders. Addmotor say that it will suit riders from 5’2” to 6’6”.
The great bike from American manufacturer, Schwinn. A good value piece of machinery with a host of quality components. It’s described as a “Mountain/Hybrid Electric Bike”, for me though, this is a bike that will excel both on the roads commuting to work and at the weekend, out with the family on the local bike trails.
A good downward slant on the top tube, which is great for getting on and off if you’re not as supple as you used to be. Plus the comfort seat is something that your butt will thank you for after a long day in the saddle.
The Small frame on the Men’s bike has a standover height of 75cm/29.6”, so compare that to your inside leg measurement. There is also a Ladies style bike, with a slightly smaller Small frame (74cm/29”).
A quick word on the battery. This is removable for easy charging and comes with a 2-year warranty (on the battery and other electrical parts). You can also get replacement batteries direct from Schwinn. This can be handy if you’re planning to go “off the grid” for a weekend bikepacking expedition or a similar adventure.
This is an exciting bike.
It’s very unusual to see a road bike style frame and set up, teamed up with an electric motor and battery. Most road ebikes are $6k upwards. So, it’s great to see an established manufacturer, like Schwinn, bringing out a bike like this. Especially when it comes in a range of size options.
If you want to go really fast, then you might need to swap out those knobbly tires for slicks. But frankly, if you’re anything like me, the routes that I go on tend to end up at some point on a gravelly path. So a more robust tire suits me just fine.
Mid-drive Bosch motor that can take you up to 28mph and mechanical disc brakes that can bring you safely back down to a stop quickly. The battery is removable for easy charging away from the bike (which takes around 6 hours).
The Small frame at 51cm/20” should suit riders 5’3” to 5’7” and the Medium frame at 55cm/21.7” suits riders from 5’7” to 5’10”.
Final word on Small Frame eBikes
We’ve always been brainwashed into thinking that bigger is better. But that’s not always the case.
When it comes to ebikes, there’s no point in messing round with a bike that’s just too large.
In the early days of the electric bike industry, it used to be the case that manufacturers just went with a one-size-for-everyone attitude. Thankfully as the market expands, more and more manufacturers are producing models that come in a range of size options and with the ability to adjust them to fit you, whatever height you are.
Take advantage of this. Buy a small frame electric bike. Get out and have big fun.