Last year I bought myself a used (although almost never ridden) road bike from around 1985. I love the bike. It is reasonably light and I love the diamond geometry.

My girlfriend wants to get a used road bike but we are having a hard time finding anything on Craigslist, Kijiji, etc. I think that this is mostly because of her height. She is about 5'2'' so I think that she would ride something like an 18'' (46 cm) frame.

I have thought about looking at bikes with low top tubes or mixte but I think that they are heavier and more flexible than diamond shaped bikes.

So here is what I am looking for:

  • A 18'' inch frame (give or take)
  • A diamond shaped frame (lighter, less flex)
  • Used ideally from the 80s or 90s so that the bike is under $300 for a reasonably well made bike. (A newer bike would be great as well however I think that it would be out of the price range).
  • Road frame with drop bars

Does this bike exist? If so why can't I find any online?


6 Answers 6


Given your budget I think you are limited to second hand of the age you mention.

Back in the 80's and 90's bikes were generally steel and only in the late 90's did aluminium wheels really become reliable. So most of the surviving bikes from that period are pretty low quality. By asking for a decent one by todays standards you're pushing the original price up, and looking at a racing bike rather than a mass market bike.

Even today, most racing bikes are for adults, and adults who are tall. Back then road bikes tended to be taller than they are today as well - one side effect of the improvement in materials has been the ability to reduce frame sizes without compromising strength. So a small frame by todays standards would have been considered very small 20 years ago.

If I look around right now for a light, fast second hand bike for someone under 160cm tall those are hard to find. Sure, you can buy new ones, but they're usually owned by competitive riders and passed down the family or friendship trees until they are worn out. At cycle clubs they do come up, but there's usually a kind of waiting list formed by parents having a word with whoever owns the bike.

Back when those bikes weren't as cheap and there were fewer of them that effect was more pronounced. Imagine they started at, say, $3000 instead of $1000 new today. That's the effect. So when people did have one, every kid in the club who was at all promising got to ride that bike. By the time it was retired it was pretty conclusively ridden into the ground. If you find it second hand now it'll be ready to be restored for display, not riding.

What I suggest doing is buying a cheap, heavy second hand kids bike while you save and search. It is just patience and putting up want ads. I mean paper ones - print out a few and put them up in bike shops and velodromes. You need to jog someone's memory rather than finding someone who is looking for you. Also, watch for end of season sales at the bigger shops. Bike shops don't usually stock the small sizes because they don't sell. But if there is one, it probably won't have sold, so it'll be in the sale. You might get a new "last season" bike for half price.


I'm answering the unasked question: "How do I find a hard-to-find bike?"

Certainly this bike exists, but you may have to stick with your search for some time before finding it. (I sympathize with the situation. I take a 19" frame in mens, and most bikes are too large for me.)

Mens' bikes often have a reach that's a bit too long, and handlebars that's a bit too wide for ladies. (Not always, depends on your girlfriend's dimensions.)

Some general thoughts:

  • Work with your bike shop. They may have something in stock, but more importantly, a good shop will keep an ear to the ground for you.
  • Try a bike co-op. You may find a used frame inexpensively, or even maybe a complete bike.
  • Keep searching on Craigslist and Ebay. Learn what frames and bikes you're looking for; on Craigslist in particular, sellers often think that bikes only come in the sizes "kids", "boys" and "girls", and don't list the frame sizes. If you find out what bikes came in the sizes you want, you can at least target your searches better.
  • Do you have a bike club? Spend time on bikeforums? Subscribe to any mailing lists for bikes? Spread the word!
  • Did I mention to work with your bike shop?

Stick with it. Keep searching.

If you're not willing to wait, you'll have to either adjust your budget or your expectations. But don't lose hope; the right bike is out there somewhere.


My wife is 5'2" also and found a decent road bike (aluminum frame, cheap carbon fork, cheater brakes, Shimano 105 group) online. The bike she bought is indeed 46cm with 650c wheels and fits her really well. It was about $500 new from one of those cheap places I'm embarrassed to mention where you have to tune it up and put the bars and brakes on yourself. You won't get much cheaper than that new but these bikes do exist.

I'd recommend setting up an RSS alert on Craigslist for "650c".

  • Hey Paul, Thanks for the response. It would be very helpful if you could post the place where you got your wife's bike. (Setting up an alert on Craigslist right now). Commented May 10, 2011 at 11:17
  • sportymamabikes.com but buy local if you can. Do as I say not as I do :)
    – Paul
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 14:59

Yeah, I have the opposite problem - most bikes are too small for me. All it means is that you have to look a little harder. 46 cm road frames aren't that exotic. Just be glad you're not this guy.

Keep in mind that most bike components are not size-specific. The hard part for you will be finding a frame that fits. Consider buying a bare frame, or a bike that has the right frame but doesn't quite meet your needs, and putting on your own components. I've bought a couple of used frames on Ebay - you might want to check there.


For your info, 5'2" usually is closer to 49 or 50cm than 46cm. Make sure you have someone qualified fit her on a bike before you purchase. It would be a shame to search, and find the perfect bike, only to discover it is too small (or too large) once you have it.


Terry makes bikes especially for women, but they start at over $1000. A used Terry (check Craig's List, et al) might be the ticket, though.

Terry makes their bikes with smaller wheels than the standard 700/27inch standard for men's bikes. And on some models the front tire is smaller than the back, to allow the top bar to be lower.

As a low-cost option, probably finding a good "youth" bike and adapting it would be the way to go -- look for 24" models.

(One thing you should do is determine her "stand-over" height to size the bike frame. Easy enough to do with a broomstick and yardstick -- and with a few romantic possibilities to boot.)

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