The style and size of frame you choose can make a big difference to your comfort and enjoyment as it influences your riding position. Learn about the key e-bike frame styles and some of the main things to understand when determining which one is right for you.
When choosing your ebike you will hear three terms constantly used, quite often in the name of the bike itself, which indicate the style of frame it has. (Actually there is more as there can be more than one term that means the same thing due to the bikes originating from different parts of the world).
The frame style of the bike gives an indication of the geometry and ride position, a good first step in choosing which bike. Not always though, particularly with modern design and geometry. More on this later.
The three major styles of frames are:
"Stepthrough" frame, also called "Wave", "Lowstep" or "Comfort". This removes the crossbar entirely. It has a more "V" shaped appearance that you can easily step through to mount and dismount vs having to swing your leg over the bike. Traditionally chosen for city riding however now also becoming popular for all-terrain riding.
Firstly, let us dispel some common myths out in the market.
Despite the traditional names of ‘crossbar’ and ‘step through’, both styles are now equally popular between men and women. Fortunately, with modern design and engineering when deciding on suitable frame style you can choose on the basis of aesthetics (looks), utility (functionality) or riding position (geometry).
When it comes to looks, this is going to be personal preference. Often, it's going to come down to the specific manufacturer and how they've implemented the frame style. So, keep an open mind and see what's out there before settling on a particular frame style.
Step through and mixed frame styles have seen a big increase in popularity over the past few years as ebikes have gained recognition as an excellent everyday mode of transport This is primarily due to the lessened strain of getting on and off the bike and the ease of use this provides.
Persons with mobility issues - particularly around knees, hips, neck and back - will particularly appreciate the increased space and standover clearance of these bikes.
Crossbar bikes on the other hand continue to be popular for those who prefer that look and the sportier handling that often comes with them. Crossbar bikes often add additional places to hold accessories like locks and water bottles. They can also make it easier for transporting if using bike racks.
Something customers often aren't aware of is that particular frame styles are designed to put riders in certain positions.
Generally speaking, crossbar bikes will have a more leant forward or athletic riding position whilst step through frames will make you more upright (we'll talk more about this in a moment).
For now, remember to consider what your preferred riding position is and use that to help inform you on which frame style to choose.
Tips to bear in mind
Purchasing an electric bike is an investment in yourself, for the future.
For this reason we suggest considering what would be appropriate now and also in a few years. For example will you still want to ride a crossbar in two years time?
Another thing to note is that manufacturers will skew their products towards a certain riding position. Take sister companies Focus and Kalkhoff for instance. Focus bikes are sportier and thus tend to be more leant over or athletic whilst Kalkhoff bikes are generally more upright and give a more relaxed position.
Riding position is what counts for long-term comfort and ultimate performance (if that's what you are after).
The geometry of the bike is the nitty gritty of what your ride position will be and how your bike is likely to handle. Rather than get into the technical aspects of geometry, a huge and indepth topic, we prefer to simplify to "what personality do you want your bike to have?"
This may sound strange but it's very much true! Whether sporty or comfy, aggressive or relaxed, we break it down to three general riding positions.
Like frame styles, it is personal preference which one is best for you and the great thing is that you don't have to choose a certain frame style to get the ride position you want. For example, while many crossbar frames are sporty there are also certain brands/ models with crossbar frames that offer a relaxed ride position.
Similarly there are certain accessories or ancillaries that can be added to the bike you prefer to fine tune your ride position to what's most suitable.
That's what we are here for. With our knowledge and understanding of each of our ebikes we can help you narrow down to the best options for you based on what you prefer.
Sizing can also be quite unique to the individual, not only in terms of proportions but also the sort of riding you'll be doing. For example, mountain bike sizes are much smaller than road bike sizes.
Image courtesy of www.bikeroar.com
Usually, the best means of determining the right size is by test riding or sitting on the bike in our shop. If this isn't available to you though, or you're hoping to have some understanding prior to coming in the following guidance will assist.
Manufacturer guides and charts
Just like buying clothing, sizing is unique to the manufacturer. Most of the time there will either be a tool or guide on the manufacturer website asking you to input things like your height to determine an appropriate size frame. This is a simple, intuitive system to point you in the right direction.
Manufacturer charts can also be a great resource to compare between a bike you already own and the bike you're considering. Just know that fundamentally different riding positions like those mentioned above and different genres of riding (mountain biking vs road bikes etc) are difficult to compare.
When looking at charts and discerning what's important you'll likely need to know your height and your inseam. This will give you an idea of the standover height (the minimum height needed to clear a crossbar if applicable) and your approximate saddle position relative to the ground.
What to do if you're stuck in between two frame sizes?
Many customers get concerned when they're on the border between two size suggestions. So, what do you do then? Our advice is not to fret too much as both will likely fit.
Frame sizes only tend to differ between 2-5cm in both vertical and horizontal directions so they're rarely going to be radically different.
Here's a list of things to consider when you're tossing up between two sizes:
It is easier to make a small bike bigger than a big bike smaller - raising the seat height or handlebar height can help to make bikes feel bigger if you need them too. Lowering tends to be more restricted as you run out of room to bring things further down.
Consider the characteristics of smaller & bigger bikes - smaller bikes tend to make you more upright whilst larger bikes can feel roomier.
Do you have shorter legs and standover height? - if you like your feet closer to the ground or, have a crossbar and are worried about clearing it you may wish to opt for the smaller frame size.
Do you have longer legs and longer arms (relative to torso)? - If you have longer arms or legs relative to your torso you'll likely appreciate the extra reach and height available from a larger frame size.
Availability of stock - whilst you should never buy the wrong size, those on the cusp should consider stock availability at their retailer as both sizes will likely suit. If anything, it's a bit of an advantage.
Thinking of adding seat post suspension? - a suspension seat post can be a great add-on (see our article on making your ebike more comfortable) but requires a certain amount of space between the saddle and the seat clamp. Best to opt for the smaller size if you plan on this at any stage.
Tips for more adventurous riders
If you're into any form of mountain biking or like to explore offroad it’s important to consider the performance characteristics of smaller or bigger frames.
In general, smaller bikes tend to be more agile and playful. This is particularly important for tricky technical trails where you need responsive steering and the ability to shift your body weight more easily on the bike.
Larger bikes on the other hand tend to offer more stability and can be more comfortable over longer rides. Enduro riders focusing on more downhill terrain and jumps will appreciate this.
Keeping things simple
Avoid getting caught up in all the technical and keep things simple. Test ride it. If it feels good, then it is good.
If you can't get in to try it the have a look at some online reviews or speak to one of our knowledgeable staff.
Phew, we made it to the end! well done as you now understand the basics of frame style, riding positions and sizing. The good news is this gives you what you need to know when you purchase an eBike.
And the great thing for you, our customer, is that our sales staff incorporate all the above information and apply it to your specific needs when trying to find you the perfect eBike! Don’t hesitate to contact us.
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