My wife is a pretty hard core biker, both on the road and on the Mountain Bike. She likes to do some XC and also adventure races, but loves technical single track and (for some unknown reason) likes to climb…..and is strong at it. She has a 2008 Specialized ERA, and I am trying to talk her into upgrading but she’s not big on change. She says she’s comfortable but isn’t opposed to the idea. The one thing I know she doesn’t like, is the look of a 29er, and since her frame size would be small, I tend to agree. She likes the maneuverability of her current bike. Any suggestions or ideas on both aluminum and carbon would be great. She said she only wants to spend between $3000-$4000.
Sounds like you have healthy budget and seems to have chosen the wheel size 27.5. I think she may be surprised how much she likes the change of a bigger wheel if she is riding a 26er. Also based on the details you shared it would lead me to look at an XC or trail bike. Liv seems to be a good option. She likes her Specialized so that seems like she has narrowed the brand down for you too. That should leave you with a few options based on style, brand, and wheels. Now choose one that she will love the looks of or boost her confidence.
Some of the women’s brands are not any different than their male counterparts, and often more expensive for the same thing. I say look at a Giant Trance Advance 2. Does most things quite well. MSRP $3100.
We recently bought a new 27.5 Mountainbike for my 5’3″ wife and it was a bit of a challenge to find a bike that fit. Nearly all the 29er’s and many of the 27.5’s had a too high standover height even in the small and extra-small sizes. Most size small bikes had the right toptube length but a too high standover. Some size extra-small bikes had adequate standover but then the toptube was too short and the only way to get the right fit was to use a too long stem. Seems that bike companies feel that having a water bottle in the frame is more important than getting a low enough standover. Clearly bike makers aren’t focusing much attention on shorter riders. I hope you don’t have this problem.
She took test rides on a lot of bikes. Ultimately we bought the The Yeti Beti SB5 which was about $1500 more than we had intended to spend but was one of the few bikes that fit right. We also liked the Ibis Mojo, Juliana (Santa Cruz) Furtado, and Liv (Giant) Intrigue. However, the size small Mojo was unavailable and the Furtudo and Intrigue didn’t fit as well.
If your wife is still riding a 26er from 2008, she will be blown away by how much better bikes are today. Wider 27.5×2.6 tires, better quality suspension and brakes, and modern progessive geometry have transformed Mountainbikes for the better. A couple of rides on the Yeti Beti and her old 26er Juliana was quickly handed down to my 11 year old son.
In the end, I would suggest that you test ride any bike that you consider to be certain that the fit is correct. I feel that most bike makers are not adequately serving shorter riders by building bikes with too high standover heights.
I rode Specialized Stumpjumpers and Epics before moving to Colorado. The medium frames fit me perfectly and I loved the way they rode – I can totally understand her reluctance to upgrade the Era.
Moving from 26” Specialized bikes, I will share my experience on wheel size, fit and ride.
1. Adding a 27.5” wheel can really enhance the ride of make a 26” bike. That may be an inexpensive way for her to test the feel of bigger wheels.
2. If she enjoys technical climbing and does some racing, PLEASE have her demo a 29er.
3. I have owned and demoed a lot of bikes since moving to Colorado. Specialized is still Specialized, but I also feel instantly at home on Santa Cruz and Pivot bikes. Yeti and Ibis feel a little different to me, but not in a bad way.
3. Bike Nerd recommended some awesome bikes – I currently ride a Mojo and love it. I would add the new Stumpjumper to his list.
4. I know she is not crazy about the looks of a 29er, but I also highly recommend the demoing the new Ibis Ripley and any “Trail” version of the Pivot 429 before spending $3000-$4000.