Women’s Bike Sizes: 3 Steps To The Right Fit (& Size Chart)

You’re ready to buy a bike, but intimidated by all the numbers and specs? One of the first steps is knowing which size bike you need.

There are a couple of different ways women’s bikes are measured and sized, and we’re going to walk you through all of it. And there’s no need to feel intimidated: it’s all super straightforward.



Step 1: Understanding Bike Measurements

women's bike size measurements

The first thing to understand is that there are two basic measurements when we’re talking about bike size: frame size and wheel size. Wheel size refers to the diameter of the wheel and is less important than the size of the frame.

Mountain bike wheels come in three basic sizes: 26″, 27.5, and 29″. Very petite women may want a 26″ wheels but most will be best served by a 27.5″ or 29″ wheel.

These two wheel sizes are becoming more common on modern mountain bikes, so if you are buying a bike new, it’s likely to have 27.5 or 29 inch wheels. If you are buying an older used mountain bike, it may very well have 26 inch wheels.

Hybrid bikes and cruiser bikes usually have wheels that are sized in inches like mountain bike wheels, although they may also be sized like road bike wheels.

Road bike wheels usually come with 622 mm diameter (700C) wheels, although smaller women may want 571 mm (650c) wheels. Commuter bikes may use this same sizing convention as well.

All that said, wheel size should be a secondary consideration to frame size.

Step 2: Knowing How Women’s Bike Frames are Sized

Frame size determines how big or small a bike is and whether or not it’s going to fit you. Unfortunately, not all bikes are measured in the same way.

Women’s bike frames may be measured in inches or centimeters, or come in generic sizes (S, M, L). Much of this is dependent on the type of bike you are looking for.

Women’s Road Bike Sizes

Most women’s road bikes measured in centimeters. The centimeters refer to the length of the seat tube.

The smaller the measurement, the smaller the bike. Because different bike brands size their bikes differently, your best bet is to check the website of the bike manufacturer you are considering buying from. They should have a bike sizing chart that will use your height and inseam to tell you which of their bike sizes is best suited to you.

That said, you can also use the chart below help you get a general guideline of which size bike you should be shopping for.

Women’s Road Bike Size Chart

Rider HeightFrame Size (in centimeters)Frame Sizes (S,M,L)
4'10"-5'1"44-46XXS
5'1"-5'3"47-49XS
5'3"-5'5"50-52S
5'5"-5'8"53-55M
5'8"-5'10"55-57L

Women’s Mountain Bike Sizes

Many mountain bikes are measured in inches. The inches refer to the length of the seat tube.

These will commonly be sized as 15″, 17″, 19″, and 21″. The smaller the seat tube, the smaller the bike. Mountain bikes may also be sized more generically: S, M, L, etc.

Bike manufacturers usually have their own sizing guides, so once you’ve narrowed it down to a few bikes you might like, then look on the manufacturer’s website to ensure you’re getting the right size. These charts will usually use your height and inseam length, so make sure you have your measurements handy.

Although these sizes won’t be universal amongst manufacturers, you can also use this chart as a basic guideline of what size bike you’re probably going to need.

Women’s Mountain Bike Size Chart

Rider HeightFrame Size (in Inches)Frame Sizes (S,M,L)
4'10"-5'2"13-14XS
5'2"-5'6"15-16S
5'6"-5'10"17-18M
5'10"-6'0"19-20L

Hybrid, Commuter, and Cruiser Bike Sizing

Bikes that are intended for recreational and commuting type riding may be sized like a road bike, although they are more commonly sized in inches like a mountain bike. Use the guidelines above for road bikes and mountain bikes to understand the sizing.

The other thing to be aware of with these bikes is that the frame may have a lower top tube–these are known as a step-thru frame. This may make them a better fit for women with a short inseam (or simply those who would like to wear a skirt).

public c1
Photo Credit: Public C1

Step 3: Make Sure to Ride the Bike Before Buying

The best way to know if a bike is going to fit you is to get on the bike and ride it for a while. If you’re buying from a bike shop, they should let you go take it for a lap around the block. Some shops will even let you demo a bike so that you can

How do you know if the bike fits you? You should be able to stand over the frame of the bike with both feet on the ground. Swinging your leg over the bike to get on and get off should be easy.

The seatpost (which is adjustable) should ideally be neither dropped all the way or raised all the way. When riding the bike, the reach should be comfortable.

You shouldn’t feel stretched too far over to reach the handlebars, nor should you feel cramped. Your knees should have plenty of clearance between them and the handlebar when at the top of your pedal stroke.

The bike shop should also be willing to help you ensure you’re buying the right size bike. If they are unhelpful or make you feel intimidated, walk out and look for a different shop.

Saddle Sores

Bonus Step: Get a Professional Bike Fitting

If you can afford it, we highly recommend a professional bike fitting. Not every bike shop will offer this service, so ask google for one near you or ask friends who bike. While this service isn’t cheap, it will ensure that you get the correct size bike and that it is set-up correctly for your body.

Size Charts For Some Of Our Favorite Bike Brands

There are several brands we recommend time and time again to the women in our community. While this is nowhere near an exhaustive list, here are direct links to the size charts of some of our favorite companies.

loving your body as an overweight cyclist

Do You Need A “Women’s” Bike?

Not necessarily. While I love that more and more companies are offering women’s-specific bikes, don’t feel that you need to limit yourself to a women’s bike. A unisex bike might work great for you.

Some reasons you may want to choose a women’s specific bike are that they often come with women’s-specific components (like anatomical saddles) and that they usually come in smaller size frames. That can be important if you are more petite.

Finally, women’s specific lifestyle bikes will often have step-thru frames that makes it easier to ride with a skirt. And lets not forget that women’s bikes often just look more femine.

For more information on this topic, read our article on the pros and cons of womens specific bicyles.

Get More Help

Now that you better understand which size bike you need, use these guides to help you pick out the best bike for you and then get rolling

14 thoughts on “Women’s Bike Sizes: 3 Steps To The Right Fit (& Size Chart)”

  1. I am still confused I’m 5′ 8″ but have a short leg only 28 inch so I’m just having real trouble what to buy size wise also I’m in the heavy side so will need a bike that would support my weight
    Any advice would be gratefully received

    Reply
    • Hi Debbie,

      If you have short legs you want to pay particular attention to the minimum seatpost height and the standover height of the bike you’re considering, or the inseam length recommended in the bike’s size chart. Some brands will share this information on their websites, others don’t and you might have to email them or visit a local dealer to try the bike.

      One bike that would fit you well is the Priority Turi (size small): https://snp.link/d297e4ea

      Just make sure to buy a good quality bike (like the Priority or one from your local bike shop) as opposed to a big box store bike. Cheaper bikes don’t hold up well, especially for heavier riders.

      Hope that helps a little!

      Cheers,
      KB

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the information! I do have a question about bikes for petite women….I’m 4″11 with a 24in inseam…after looking at sizing for some brands, it looks like youth bikes might be better for my size. However, there seems to be less information about sizing for youth bikes and wheels seem to max out at 24 inches for youth bikes. Do you have any suggestions for very petite women? Can youth bikes still work for me? I only plan on using the bike for leisure/cruising in the city less than 5km.

    Reply
    • Hi Krista,

      I’m also 4’11 and I am having hard time looking for an appropriate bike size. Did you end up getting the 26″ youth size? How did it go? I’m considering size 24″ but I saw your comment and thought I might ask you first. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. i have concern with my mountain bike, i am 5’1 and have a 24″ bike is this too small for me? I find my foot rubs the front wheel when I turn. I have never encountered that issue before. PLease help me adjust my bike or i just have a worng bike

    Reply
    • I see no other reply, but seeing as I’m an avid road and mtn biker, I already did the research for my girls. you can adjust your 24″ wheel bike all you want, but your foot will always rub on front wheel when turning a bit(current bike for my girls, too). this is dangerous as you can lose steering control, hence balance and then take a spill. for your safety, please upgrade to a more permanent(for 5’1″ with 24″+ inseam) hybrid bike like Liv Rove 2 DDisc (xs) or Liv Bliss 2 disc xs or s; depending on standover height (give yourself a couple of inches of clearance). need to try in-store; check arm reach, too to complete sizing. Liv’s website does have online measurements. I find Giant/Liv best cost to benefit ratio. Trek/Specialized may on average be $100 more for name and possibly slightly better wheels. Make sure rear hub body (under cassette) can be upgradeable to 11-speed(width=35mm); which these are.

      Reply
  4. I am a tall large woman with a long torso. Often bikes are too short front to back. My cannondale fits well that way but as I age I am less able to be stable while standing and need a curb to mount the bike. It’s really too big to stand over. Is it possible to use smaller wheels? I’m also looking at a 19” Schwinn that is a step thru. Will it be too short front to back?

    Reply
    • try CGN youtube for proper sizing; which is key. what i’m reading is that your current bike is close but, wrong size for you. didn’t mention which year, model and size of cannondale you have. need some measurements of body to verify on each bike website. must have height, inseam and reach(body at waist to hands with 90degree bend at shoulder). only way to be sure is to try, in-person in local bike shop. they can help. some places take trade-in or kijiji it. good luck.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for this very helpful information. I’m having a difficult time finding the right city bike. I’m 5’ 10” and have a 34” inseam. Wondering if you can recommend or give some additional guidance.

    Thanks!

    Reply

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