Top Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Step-Through Bike
Widely considered “the easiest bicycles to mount,” step-through bikes boast a downward sloping geometry (known as a downtube), meaning there’s no top tube or cross bar to throw your leg over while mounting. While there are a plethora of step-through bicycle styles offering a wide variety of features, step-throughs are chosen primarily for easy mounting and a relaxed riding style. They offer the commuter-friendly geometry, are great for those with mobility issues, and don’t restrict your riding based upon your wardrobe.
Comfort and easy riding aside, investing in a quality step-through bike means your cycling adventures will last for years to come. Our tried-and-true bike buying tips from our Definitive Guide to Buying a Bike stand true to ensure your step-through bike rides as flawlessly as it looks. So, if you're looking for effortless fun without compromising on reliability, read on.
Anatomy of a Step-Through
Step-Through Frame Design & Riding Position
While occasionally (and erroneously) referred to as “ladies bikes,” there’s nothing remotely feminine about them. In fact, head to Holland or Denmark and you’ll see an abundance of burly men who’ve taken to the ease and convenience of step-through bikes. Step-through bicycles are often synonymous with “comfort bikes,” commonly featuring a wide and cushy saddle and an upright and relaxed riding posture. The upright riding posture is most often accomplished with relaxed or sweptback handlebars, helping to reduce the pressure on your wrists by shifting your weight to your bottom. As opposed to leaning forward, this will position your back more perpendicular to the ground, allowing relaxed riding, as well as easy dismounting.
The step-through nature of the frame is unisex, favored by men and women alike. The ability to quite literally, step through, the bike and easily mount the saddle, also offers no wardrobe restrictions, allowing the rider a wider range of attire. The low barrier to entry (again, quite literally) offers easy mounting and dismounting for not only those with mobility issues, but also those who don’t want to endanger their wardrobe by attempting to throw their leg over their bike before cruising to brunch.
Step-Through Ease with Child Seat & Cargo
With a low center of gravity, the step-through design lends itself particularly well to carrying rear cargo. Consider the addition of a rear carrier coupled with a crate or basket and a cargo net, and you’ll have yourself the ultimate commuter-- even if you’re just hauling a picnic for two in the park.
Furthermore, step-through bikes are frequently sought after by those who plan to ride with their little one in tow. Considering rear child seats particularly, step-through frames offer unmatched ease, as they’ll allow riders to mount and dismount the bike without potentially kicking or knocking the child seat.
NOTE: If you plan to mount a rear child seat, we strongly encourage using the rear carrier recommended by the child seat’s manufacturer, as that carrier will have been safety-tested for proper load-bearing capacity, as well as compatibility with your chosen seat.
Gearing & Safe Riding
While single speed step-throughs take the cake for simplicity, we’d suggest opting for a 3-speed or 7-speed any day of the week to ensure your rides aren't disrupted by too much exertion, especially if there are plans to ride with a small human in tow. An ample gearing range will allow an effortless climb up that dreaded hill, then will get you up to speed to ensure you still make it on time for that picnic in the park.
While many step-through bikes may still come with a coaster brake (pedal brake), we have reservations as this creates a single point of failure should your chain become compromised. Instead, we favor rim brakes which are lightweight and provide ample front and rear stopping power.
Don't forget a bell to make sure you can be heard while encountering cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Be sure to find one that sounds as sweet as it looks. And if your rides take place after dark, and we say they should, don’t forget quality lights for being seen and seeing those around you. Check out our Safe Riding Guide for more tips.
The Cardinal Red Willow 3 with the addition of sweptback handlebars
Make it Your Own
Now for the fun part. One of the best parts of a step-through bike is making it your own, AKA accessorizing! Bells, bike lights, streamers, don’t hold back here. Another common trait you’ll see with step-through bikes is their ability to be customized and upgraded. This can include accessories like fenders, lights, panniers and saddle bags, cargo racks, wicker or metal baskets, and more.
Our Brighton is the most laid back of our step-through models, and perfect for the boardwalk or the sidewalk.
Our ever-popular Franklin combines function and style into your dream bicycle, while the Willow is our premium take on the traditional Dutch style commuter. Both sport color-matched fenders and chainguard, for a chic and protected ride. Dive into the differences between our Willow and Franklin with our differences guide.
Regardless of the model, all our step-through bikes feature a classic step-through design, ample gearing, and the ability to mount rear cargo.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s ensure your new step-through bike lasts. Given that many step-through bikes are ridden recreationally and for commuting, we heavily favor steel for its flexible and forgiving nature. In addition to the steel frame, ensure your other components such as cranksets, handlebars, seat posts, spokes and rims are all stainless, aluminum, or have an element of rust prevention. While this saves weight, it will also prevent your bike from becoming a rusty eyesore halfway through your first season with it. The same can be said with your bike’s chain, be sure it has some sort of rust-prohibitive treatment to ensure increased longevity. Our step-through bike collection features models equipped with KMC’s rust buster treatment which will keep your chain looking spiffy for years.
The last, but arguably most important thing - as with all bikes, we are huge advocates of having your bike professionally assembled. This gives you three distinct advantages:
- Properly adjusted bikes are safer (consider the importance of well-functioning brakes)
- Professionally assembled & dialed-in bikes have longer lifespans (consider the importance of proper lubrication and well-adjusted gearing)
- You’ll have a relationship with a local bike shop who’ll quickly and easily get you back riding, should something ever go wrong
Tooting our own horn, every one of our bikes includes professional assembly through our pioneering Buy & Ride Program. This affords you all the benefits noted above and of course also aligns you with a local shop should you ever need assistance with your ride or have questions as you embark on your riding journey.
Thanks for following along, now hit the road and enjoy the easiest ride of your life.
Craving more bike buying knowledge? We’ve got you covered there as well. Click HERE to get our “Definitive Guide to Buying a Bike” where we share six must know things to consider before hitting that add-to-cart button.
We build bikes for vivid lives—for taking adventures, reconnecting with old friends, discovering new neighborhoods and exploring hidden gems. Inspired by the streets of Brooklyn, our bikes are built for style, comfort, and durability. Made with top quality parts, crafted with care, and sold at an affordable price, your bike is yours for life. We scrutinize every component for maximum sustainability and performance, and every millimeter of the frame for ultimate comfort and style. We take pride in our process, in our products, and in the people who sell them.