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I'm a 5'1" woman looking to purchase a classic bike for transport/leisure. Unfortunately here in the London and in neighbouring cities/countries, I can only find 17"+ frames available. Most sizing charts recommend 15" for me.

Perhaps I have more flexibility given that I'm not properly sizing for a road/mountain bike or anything. Would a 17" frame be ok? I don't want to strain my knees or risk back issues.

Total novice at this, but I also measured my inseam in two different ways. 28.5" maximum if I want 1 inch of room while standing over the seat. 23" if I use the book method and allow 5 inches of room while standing over the seat. Seems like a lot of 17" bikes online lower down to 26" inseam height.

Many thanks!

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    17" will be too big. Look for an LBS that has kids bikes rather than top end $10000 bikes. You really need to try a bike for size before buying and any decent sized bike shop should have a bike in your size.
    – mattnz
    Jun 3 '20 at 3:44
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    The fit systems only put you in the ballpark for a size. You absolutely need to get on a bike and try it out. London will have plenty of Local Bike Shops to choose from.
    – Criggie
    Jun 3 '20 at 5:35
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    Best bet is to actually go to a shop and sit on a bike. Look for a shop that offers bike fitting services as they will be able to recommend you the right size for you, avoid halfords and you'll be fine!
    – Axemasta
    Jun 3 '20 at 15:50
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I helped a friend having a similar issue long time ago (she was 154cm ... I think it is similar height to yours, right?).

What we found was that a 17" frame would be okayish regarding leg's length, but a bit of a stretch regarding the torso/back, because the handlebar was too much forward. However, for cycling stretches of 20-30 minutes this may be ok and you may still have a relatively simple albeit unconventional solution: reverting the stem (the metal piece used to attach the handlebar to the fork) to point backwards

In our case, the solution was to buy a 26" bicycle. Sometimes these bicycles are advertised as "young adults bike" but they are completely adequate for your declared purposes.

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  • referring to a 17" frame then a 26" bike might be confusing to readers, can you disambiguate? And explain why a 26" bike would be the solution, what frame size etc?
    – Swifty
    Aug 4 '20 at 17:13
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Would a 17" frame be ok?

If you can stand over the frame, most likely it is ok. Just install a very short stem. Stems are available as short as 60mm. Especially city bikes often have handlebars that curve towards the rider. This somewhat reduces the need to have a short stem.

Without the stand over test, don't purchase anything unless the specification explicitly mentions standover height and you have measured what standover height you need.

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  • If you can stand over the frame, most likely it is ok With compact-style frames and their sloping top tubes, this isn't really true. If you can stand over it, you can test ride it. If the bike is 5 cm too big, shortening the stem by 2-3 cm from the standard 80 or 90 mm stem is going to force the saddle forward, potentially shifting a lot of weight onto the hands and making longer rides uncomfortable. Or other fit issues. Aug 4 '20 at 19:04

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