Some women can fit on a “man-sized” bike. At 5 foot nothing, I am not one of those ladies. I always have to go with the “female proportioned” bikes. When I am in the market for a new bicycle it takes scads of researching before I can even find a bike to fit, much less find out if it’s a good bike or not. This is why I am sharing my last bit of road bike research with others; I know I’m not the only woman that has dealt with this problem.
I have been riding a 2008 Bianchi Dama Silvia since 2008. It is wonderful bike, a little bit more than “entry level” but not quite yet “holy cow!” Since I have been racing on Ms. Silvia for a few years, she has suffered a bit of wear and tear. By the end of 2011 I wanted to upgrade. Time to do homework!
I didn’t want to spend much over $3Gs, which meant no custom bike for me. I also wanted to know, once and for all, should I get 650c wheels because I am a tiny person or stick with ye olde 700c? Because I really believed the old fable, one complete rotation of a 700 takes you further than a 650 so therefore it should take more work for a smaller wheel, right? WRONG! If that were true, Porches would have tractor tires. There’s a lot more too it than that (like rotational weight), but I am not getting into that because, frankly, I don’t understand physics all that much. I dug and dug on the Internet and finally found a very helpful article on rodbikes.com. After reading it, I was 90% certain I wanted smaller wheels. Then, because no bike shops stock tiny bikes, I had to test ride another small woman’s custom bike that had the smaller wheels. I liked the way it felt. Finally, Brandon Elliot, a fit expert and owner of Iron Cycles allayed any additional fears I had of not being able to keep up on my short stack bike.
When you want a bike with 650 sized wheels there’s not too many options out there. One is to go custom, which I didn’t have the dollars for. So I did the next best thing and bought the Felt ZW4. Now that I have it there are so many things I love about it.
Just looking at the bike, you can see why a bike that small needs smaller wheels. It looks in proportion and it feels better too. I can’t totally describe it, but i feel more like I am one with the bike. I feel more on top of the bike — instead of the bike swallowing me up. The big chain ring has a couple more teeth to make up for the smaller wheel size. That’s how the bike can get the same umph with less rubber.
It’s not just the wheel size I like, by any means. Riding the ZW4 is so smooth. I mean really. When I ride it, I just feel like I’m gliding — like I am gliding on butter. I know that doesn’t make sense, but trust me. Maybe it’s the carbon frame, which I have never had. It also could be the nicer components. The ZW4 comes with Shimano Ultegra which shifts quickly and easily. For this price, that’s a pretty good grouppo.
Also the looks of the bike are sweet. I love the white and blue color scheme. There are a lot of good looking details, like Felt emblems with little wings on the underside of the frame and inside the fork and seat stays.
I will say that the stock wheels are pretty heavy, but at this price the bike is aimed at serious cyclist, who usually want fancier wheels, specific to their particular needs. The stock wheels will make a great set for training. Also, I know for a fact that Zipp makes 650c sized wheels. That’s another fear you have when buying a bike which used 650c wheels — will you be able to find the wheels/tires/tubes you need? I haven’t researched buying a new wheelset yet, but I am sure other companies besides Zipp make them to fit.
Even after I got the bike, I was a little nervous about keeping up with folks on regular sized wheels. What can I say, I’m a skeptic. However, one team ride and one ride with my boyfriend later, I feel 100% positive that there is no speed lost because of my mini wheels. I would totally suggest it to another shorty. I also highly recommend the Felt ZW4, whether or not you get the petite frame that comes with smaller wheels. I think its an awesome bike for the money and my specific needs.
Written by Pretty Fast contributor Vanessa Buccella