Bike Frame Size vs. Wheel Size

When it comes to buying a bicycle, matters such as whether or not it’s built for the road or off-road excursions, so to speak, typically represent the first choice a buyer has to make.

The quality of the build, the make of tires, as well as secondary equipment, would then follow as important questions that also need to be taken into consideration.

That said, not many people pay attention to the size of the bicycle.

Typically, this is because the height of the seat and the handlebar are adjustable, so many people assume it doesn’t matter what the overall size of the bike is, as long as they can change these ‘parameters’, so that the two-wheeler fits their needs.

Of course, the size of the bike plays a major role in how well you can handle it during the ride, as well as how comfortable you’ll feel while on it.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the intricacies of different bicycle sizes and why it’s so important to pick the right measurements for yourself. As you will see, things do tend to get a bit tricky here, but it’s nothing that cannot be figured out as long as you put some thought and research into it.

Here’s the deal.

Types of Bicycle

There are many different types of bicycles out there, many of them representing a sort of a crossover between different kinds. Here are the most common ones that you will encounter on sale, whether online or offline, so to speak.

  • Road Bicycles

As their name suggests, road bikes are intended to be ridden on a road. This is why they have skinny tires, lightweight frames, as well as curved handlebars. The reasoning behind these curved handlebars is that you have to bend to reach them, which puts you in an aerodynamic position while riding them.

The idea with these bikes is to cover large distances without getting too tired, so aerodynamics and lightweight design are an important part of their build.

  • Mountain Bikes

Representing the rough-and-ready cousin of the road bike, mountain bikes are designed to handle tough, uneven terrain. This is why they have much bulkier knobby tires, which reduces the chances of them getting punctured by sharp rocks or other obstacles.

The frames of these bikes are also made out of more durable materials and they have lower gears that help you navigate difficult terrain at low speeds.

  • Cruiser Bikes

Unlike the other two types of bicycles we described above, cruiser bikes typically feature only one gear, and they are built for leisurely rides at low-to-medium speeds.

These bikes aren’t as sporty or quick as the other two types above, but their purpose is to give you a solid, well-built vehicle that you can take anywhere with you and not worry about it breaking down easily.

  • Other Types

As we said above, there is a multitude of different kinds of bicycles, so we won’t venture to describe every single category in great detail. For example, other than the three kinds we described above, there are also BMX’s (built for extreme sports), kids’ bicycles, touring bikes, utility bikes, recumbent bikes (which you steer pretty much lying down on its massive seat), and some other ones.

Bike Frame Size

The first of the two most common and unfortunately overlooked methods for measuring a bike would be according to its frame size.

Now, the way this is measured is fairly simple – you measure the distance between the crank center and the top of the seat tube. (So, not the top of the seat itself, but the end of the tube below it.)

Usually, in most road bikes for adults, this measurement goes from 50 to 64cm. The same kind of measurement system can also be applied for various hybrid bikes that have a similar frame build to road bikes.

Mountain bikes can also be measured according to the size of their frame, but it often happens that these measurements aren’t entirely precise. For example, one of the most common ways you can see the size descriptions of mountain bikes on sales would be as – Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large.

While this way of representing the size of the frame does do its job when it comes to telling you how big the bike is, it also isn’t as precise as if you had the precise measurement in centimeters or inches. So, if you want to know the exact frame dimensions of a mountain bike, you would typically have to look for them yourself by checking some bike forums or e-mailing the manufacturer.

Wheel Size

… and by ‘wheel size’, we mean wheel diameter.

This would be the second measurement system for bicycles that many different manufacturers, as well as retailers, use routinely to describe what they’re selling.

When it comes to the most common wheel sizes available on the market, three numbers seem to be the most popular – 20-inches, 26-inchers, and 29-inchers.

These wheel sizes apply both for road bikes and mountain bikes, as well as many other different types of bicycles. The 20-inch wheels are usually installed on kids’ bikes, BMX’s, as well as some types of mountain bikes.

The 26-inchers are by far the most commonly found type of wheel when its size is in question. It’s used for road bikes, mountain bikes, as well as cruiser bikes.

As far as the 29-inch type of wheels is concerned, these would fall into the category of extra-large wheels and they are sometimes used for off-road bikes, but most often for road bikes and in general on bicycles designed to go longer distances on smooth roads.

Another advantage of 29-inch wheels would be the fact that these wheels can be quite useful for tall riders, as the ride would feel more natural and comfortable.

How to Choose the Perfect Bike for Yourself

Overall, the best way to choose the optimal dimensions for your bicycle would be to take both the wheel size and the frame size measurements into consideration.

When it comes to the frame size, a good way to determine whether or not a bike would fit you would be to stand next to it and determine what its stand-over height is. Then measure your inseam (the distance from the floor to your crotch) and compare it to the stand-over height. You should look to find a bicycle that has roughly the stand-over height as your inseam.

As far as the wheel diameter is concerned, if you want to choose it according to your height, a good rule of thumb would be to consider the following system:

Your Height Bike Frame
4’11 inches – 5’3 inches 13 – 15 inches
5’3 inches – 5’7 inches 15 – 16 inches
5’7 inches – 5’11 inches 16 – 17 inches
5’11 inches – 6’2 inches 17-19 inches
6’2 inches – 6’4 inches 19 – 21inches
6’4 inches + 21+ inches

Of course, you can always pick a different size of tire, if you need it for some other reasons, such as navigating rough terrain or riding a BMX bike (where even adult versions are small).

All in all, other than figuring out the gears and the material the frame’s made out of, it’s also important to pay attention to the size of the frame and the tires, too. If you nail both of these measurements, you will have a much smoother and comfortable ride for years to come. We hope this article helped you get a better idea of how bicycle sizing works and merry and stress-free cycling.

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