In the two centuries since bicycles were invented, there have been many styles and designs invented to accommodate the many purposes for which these machines may be used. Unfortunately, these many designs can lead to a lot of confusion among those who are new to cycling, who may be unfamiliar with these different styles, and what the differences are between all of the different models.
So, let's take a look at one of the most common and multipurpose styles of bike, the step-through. The "step-through" refers to the style of frame that the bike has, and this article will take a close look at what this bike is and has to offer riders.
What Is a Step-Through Bike?
A step-through bicycle uses an open frame which is one of the two most common frame designs and is easy to distinguish by its lack of a horizontal top bar. The bar will generally instead curve downward nearer to the ground allowing the rider to step through the frame in order to mount or dismount.
This is why it is called a step-through bike in contrast with the other most common design, the step-over frame, which uses a horizontal top bar that runs across the middle to join the seat tube and the chainstay. This forms the distinctive diamond shape that these bikes are known for and requires the rider to lift their leg over the frame to mount or dismount the bicycle.
The presence of the top bar on the step-over bike design allows it to evenly distribute shocks resulting in a more durable design. As a result, a step-over frame is a go-to choice for regular and electric bicycle manufacturers when creating most bikes for off-road or other intense applications. However, because the design is so durable step-over bicycles are often made with less durable lightweight material. This makes these bikes lighter and makes it easier to reach high speeds, but it also means that not every step-over bike is suited for heavy off-road use.
With an open frame, there is no horizontal top bar, and instead, if there is a bar, it will angle low toward the bottom bracket. This is an inherently less durable design that places all of the pressure on the bottom of the frame. As a result, these bikes are generally made out of thicker or heavier material in order to compensate for the reduced durability.
Advantages of a Step-Through Frame
Now that you understand what makes a step-through bike unique, you may wonder why you would choose this style of bike. The most significant advantage of an open frame bike is the ease with which it can be mounted and dismounted. This is perfect for those with limited mobility or range of motion because it allows the rider to simply pass their leg through rather than over the bike. It also allows a rider to ride without worrying about damaging restrictive business attire or causing their dress to ride up, making it perfect for daily commutes.
Plus, the design of a step-through bike places the pedals farther forward than on a step-over style allowing the rider to take a more natural sitting position which is far more comfortable. This also allows the rider to more easily place their feet on the ground, which is safer as well.
Lastly, this design allows for folding bikes and ebikes such as the Espin Nesta for easier transport and storage.
Disadvantages of a Step-Through Frame
The geometry of a bike with an open frame is inherently weaker than that of a step-over model, and to compensate, most manufacturers will use heavier materials or more of them to compensate. This means that a step-through model will generally be heavier. This also means that they are generally less suited for riding in rough or hilly terrain.
Due to the lack of a top tube, these bikes also offer less space to mount additional accessories. However, high-quality step-through e-bikes like the Espin Nesta have overcome much of these difficulties and are capable of riding over just about any terrain while offering front and rear racks for storage.
Do Step-Through Bikes Have Weak Frames?
These bikes have frames that lack the same ability to distribute pressure that is possessed by step-over frames. As a result, these frames can distribute pressure unevenly, leading to a higher potential for bending on hills or hard terrain. However, high-quality e-bikes have adapted with stronger materials, designs, and tires to suit every purpose. So, when you choose an e-bike, simply ensure that it offers the design and durability you need for wherever you intend to ride.
Who Are Step-Through Bikes Right For?
When step-through bikes were originally designed in the late 19th century, they were intended for female riders in order to accommodate the long dresses which were the norm for the era. However, today these bikes are perfect for just about every rider. They make it more comfortable to ride and easier to get on and off the bike while holding few disadvantages.
The easy mounting and dismounting, as well as the more comfortable riding position the step-through bike offer, make it great for older riders or those with disabilities that may have a reduced range of motion or mobility. Folding step-through ebikes like the Espin Nesta are great for travel, storage in small spaces, and daily commutes. There is even a step-through e-bike designed for off-road use.
So, who is a step-through bike for? Well, the answer is that this is a proven design that is the perfect choice for any rider.