Hey DC Tri:
I'm looking into buying a bike for my gf. She's a beginner (i.e., she doesn't ride) and she's extremely small - 5'1" and about 95 lbs.
I don't want to spend much. Any advice on a good beginner bike that is inexpensive?
Let me know!
That's a tough one. My girlfriend is 4'11, and although an experienced rider, she has a very tough time finding bikes to fit her. Quite a few manufacturers these days make frames in the compact sizing geometry, XS to XL, and we found that even an XS is too big for her. Generally we have to go with a frame that is of traditional geometry, measuring 45-47 cm, and then build it up with the right length of stem, bars and crank arms (165 or 162.5 (if you can find it)).
I am 5'4" and I got the Felt S32, an intro tri bike. I have the smallest frame at 48cc (I think that's right?). I have no torso and I am all legs which made the smaller frame (as opposed to the next incremental size up more comfy). My neighbor is shorter than I am, but has a longer torso - she has the next size up in the same model.
I don't know what inexpensive means, but the Felt S32 is an intro tri bike with aluminum frame and carbon fork. It was my Christmas gift 2 years ago from my indulgent husband. We got it at Bonzai in Falls Church. Tri bikes in my experience tend to be a bit more pricey than road bikes.
In any event, go to a reputable bike store (ie, Spokes, Contes, to name a couple) with experienced staff. Also, make sure you can exchange it if it is not the right fit. It is really important that your girlfriend have a chance to ride the bike and the store will make adjustments for a more comfy ride.