Being short in a tall person’s world can be challenging at times. I sat on a pillow to see over the hood in my old 1987 Buick Regal of which I adored. I didn’t find out it had an electric seat that could make the seat higher until the day I traded it in. Boy, did I feel dumb! But there are some cars that I can’t drive because of my height. The same can be said of electric bikes.
Electric bikes are heavier and of course they’re motorized so it’s important to have good control of them. Mounting and taking off from a dead stop on a heavy bike that’s too tall for you can be awkward. It’s not only awkward but can also be treacherous.
It is important to ride a bike well suited for an individual’s height and weight and even more important if that bike is electric.
So, you’ll want a bike that you can confidently handle and one that is comfortable to ride. When you’re short, say under 5’3″, your choices are going to be more limited.
Direct Order E-Bikes
Rad Power Bikes
Probably the most popular e-bike for a shorter rider is the Rad Mini Step-Thru. It’s a folding fat tire e-bike that many people of varying heights enjoy riding. There is a large online community of Rad Bike enthusiasts and Rad Power Bikes is a reputable company known for very good customer service.
Another bike from Rad that is suitable for a short rider is the RadRunner which I own. If you are under 5’1″ it might be too much for you. My biggest gripe is that I can’t use a suspension seat post with it for a more comfortable ride. A suspension seat post requires a few additional inches that places the seat too high for me but I still enjoy riding the Runner with a standard seat post. I’d just enjoy it more if it had suspension.
Now there’s also the RadRunner Plus which features a front suspension fork which won’t help your rear but will help absorb shock to wrists and shoulder. I really wish my RadRunner had front suspension.
You also want to make sure that you consider more than just leg length because reach is also important. This is the distance between the rider and the handlebars. I don’t have any issues with reach on the RadRunner and I wouldn’t expect to have any issues with the RadMini but on a full-sized bike it’s something you’ll want to keep in mind.
If a folding e-bike or the RadRunner isn’t really your thing there are some other great options that I’ve come across.
On the more affordable end is the 700 Series ST from Ride1Up. The step-thru frame is recommended for riders between 5′ and 5’11 but with such a wide of range of heights like that make sure that your inseam and reach are right for the bike.
The lowest setting of the seat is 30.5 inches. I typically have my seat at about 32-33 inches even though my inseam is 28 inches. This is so I can get proper leg extension when pedaling. I can still comfortably balance the bike on one foot while sitting on the seat as long as the bike isn’t too heavy for me.
The 700 Series weighs about 62 pounds which isn’t exactly feather light but it’s fairly typical for e-bikes. The reach is 18 inches so that’s definitely doable for most shorter riders. The handlebars are also swept back some which should help. Some bikes also have adjustable stems which can bring the handlebars closer or farther away.
The advantage of buying a bike directly from the maker as is the case with Rad Power Bikes and Ride1Up is that the bikes are more affordable since there is no middleman. You’ll have to do some assembly but you’re saving quite a bit of money.
Local Bike Shop E-Bikes
On the other end are e-bikes from brick and mortar shops that carry usually higher end brands such as Trek. An advantage you have with going with Trek is that many of their bikes are available in different frame sizes and you probably live near a Trek dealer so you can try the bike in person before buying. You also won’t have to assemble the bike when it arrives as your local bike shop takes care of all of that for you. The bikes are more expensive but you’re paying for a good warranty, several different frame size options, usually higher end components (brakes, gears, etc) and local customer service.
Prices for Trek e-bikes can be over $10,000 or as low as $2500. To get front suspension similar to Ride1Up’s 700 series you’ll have to spend closer to $3500 with the Allant+ 7 Low Step. The 700 Series is $1499. Big price difference. Btw., For a budget e-bike the 700 Series does use better components than many other e-bikes in the esame price category. If you don’t care about a front suspension fork the Verve+ 2 Lowstep is an option at about $2500.
All of the Trek e-bikes feature mid-drive motors as opposed to hub motors which Rad and Ride1Up uses. Hub motors are typically located in the rear wheel. Advantages of mid-drive motors are that they’re typically quieter than most hub drive motors (not always) and possibly more responsive. It’s also easier to perform maintenance on the rear wheel, such as changing a tire a fixing a flat, etc.
The position of a mid-drive motor is also ideal for weight distribution on the bike since they sit at the middle of the bike at the pedals. This makes the bike easier to handle since the weight isn’t centered towards the front or back but in the middle.
A disadvantage of a mid-drive motor is that they can sometimes chew up chains and then you’re left with a bike that can’t utilize the motor. Hub motors can continue to be used without a chain. The chain has nothing to do with how a hub motor operates. Also, you have to spend more to get a mid-drive motor with the same power as many less costly hub motors.
Trek’s Verve+ 2 uses the Bosch Active Line motor which is great if you want to do much of the work yourself for a nice workout. The motor certainly helps but if you’re tackling monster hills or just want more get up and go then you’ll want to look at the Verve+ 3 Lowstep which uses the Bosch Active Line Plus motor. It’s provides a little more power.
For even more power the Allant+ 7 Lowstep uses the Bosch Performance Line CX. This would be more ideal for those wanting a more versatile bike to handle rougher trails and steeper hills.
Liv Cycling Amiti E+4
Liv Cycling is part of Giant, a very established and well known bike company, and is dedicated to women’s bikes. They have more than just e-bikes but since we’re focusing on e-bikes one that stands out to me is the Amiti E+4. It retails for $2600 but has some really nice features that outdo Trek at the same price point.
The Amiti E+4 gives you a mid-drive motor from Yamaha, a front suspension fork to even out those bumpy trails, a Shimano Deore derailleur which is fairly high end, 9 speeds, and is available in 4 different frame sizes – all the way down to XS.
A bummer is that it is only available in white and fenders are extra but it has integrated lights and even a cool daytime running light. The fenders aren’t pricey to add either.
If you choose this bike you can purchase it in person at a local bike shop that carries the brand or online and have it shipped to your LBS where they will assemble it for free. You can pick it up or have it delivered to your house for about $50 or free depending upon promotions.
This happens to be my e-bike which I love riding and you can read much more about it here.
The bottom line is that it is super important to choose an e-bike that is right for your height and physical condition. A bike that’s too tall or too heavy can be an expensive mistake. Budget will likely play a big part in which bike you choose and any of these bikes are fairly safe bet depending upon your needs.