Love my Specialized Tricross...but then that's a whole different sorta bike. I like the tip about your local bike shop: buy from a local bike shop where you get good vibes, where they try to understand what you're looking for and allow you test rides and take time to chew the fat over bikes & cycling. Combine that with whichever bike rides the best for you and I think you've got your winner! :-)
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Whatever she feels the most comfortable on and she'll ride. 29er? 650b, maybe. Most of what I've read and hear re: 29ers is that the geometry is wonky for smalls. Then again, I ride a 26 hardtail. Probably depends on your trails, too. East coast rock gardens/roots? Flowy singletrack of the West? Lots of variables, just see which one she likes the most, will your shop let you take them on trail, or just for a spin around the parking lot?
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The 3 bikes are most likely very similar. The frames might even be exactly the same. If you have to purchase them from different shops you might want to go with the shop you like the best. Your wife should be able to ride a 29er if she wants. They sell them with small frames. From what I have read the main benefit of the 29" tires is that they roll over stuff easier. The main benefit of the 26" tires is that they corner better.
I'm a Trekkie! Love my Trek road bike, and I loved my sweet (as in cute) Trek hybrid (urban) bike. I recommend having your wife "fitted" for her new bicycle. Your local bike shop should be able to do that.
Welcome to the site. I mountain bike and am about 5'3" and use the standard, an older Gary Fisher with 26" wheels. I have short legs and the 29" wheels aren't really recommended for me by my cycle shop guy. There are some 27" wheels that are out there, relatively new on the market. I'm so happy with my older mountain bike and can do all the trail riding I want for the sheer joy of it, that I just upgrade parts on this bike. Your wife will know what she feels comfortable on testing the bike. Near our area, we have had bike shops through various cycle manufactures offer testing. I did this once with a group of women and it was fun to use a new bike. I am somewhat attached to mine, though. I need to get out and bike more as mountain biking does pull off the calories, of which, I need to lose the pounds.
I've narrowed it down to 3 models in the $400-$550 range. Specialized Myka, Trek Skye, and the Marin Wildcat. All of these seem to be pretty much the same bike. Any opinions? Also the bike shop guy suggested a 29er although she is 5" 4" and 105 lbs. Does this sound right?
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