Step-Through vs. Step-Over Bikes: Which is better?
January 29, 2024
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the differences between step-through bikes and step-over bikes. We’ll also touch on their advantages and disadvantages, to help you better decide which one is right for you.
These two styles, each with its unique characteristics and advantages, cater to different needs and preferences of cyclists. Whether you're experienced or new to cycling, we'll help you understand nuances between these frames and choose the right bike for your needs.
Join us on this journey as we explore the following topics:
What is a Step-Through Bike?
A step-through bike frame has a lower or missing top tube, making it easy to get on and off the bike without lifting your leg high. It's great for riders in skirts or with mobility issues, or when the bike has cargo. These types of frames focus on comfort and convenience.
Step-through bikes offer riders the most upright riding position and will also be the easiest for riders to mount and dismount by simply stepping through the open frame.
What are the Advantages of a Step-Through Bike?
Long gone are the days of step-through frames being made for a specific gender. This no longer applies. Step-through bikes are praised for their many advantages for all types of riders, including: ease of mounting, convenience for carrying cargo, and stability.
Ease of Mounting
One of the most significant advantages of step-through bikes is that they are extremely easy to get on and off. They are a fantastic option for riders that don't have a complete range of motion. These ebikes are fantastic for older riders or riders who have a difficult time lifting their leg over a traditional bike frame.
Step-through bikes are also great if you’re commuting to work. Especially if you have to wear formal attire that may not be as flexible. This can include a suit, dress or skirt, allowing you to get on and off the bike with ease and without breaking a sweat.
Convenience for Carrying Cargo
Additionally, step-through bikes are an excellent alternative for individuals carrying parcels or stuck in commuter traffic. If you have a delivery ebike loaded up with several boxes and bags, a step-thru bike can be an excellent bike for riders who need to jump on-and-off the seat multiple times throughout the day.
Furthermore, step-through ebikes are excellent options for heavy adults due to their accessibility and ease of use. The low, step-through frame allows for effortless mounting and dismounting, which can be especially helpful for individuals with limited mobility or excess weight.
Additionally, the electric motor assistance can make pedaling more manageable, reducing the strain on joints and muscles, making it a comfortable and enjoyable option for heavy riders seeking an active lifestyle.
What are the Disadvantages of a Step-Through Bike?
Step through ebikes, while convenient, still have their disadvantages as compared to step over bikes. Here are a few downsides to design of step-through frames:
Feels Less Sturdy Than A Step-Over
Step-through bikes don't have the top bar securing the front and back of the frame together, they can be perceived as less sturdy than a conventional bike. Some users feel that step-through bikes are "floppier" and less stiff, which might affect handling, especially in off-road conditions. For this reason they are often made from more durable materials, which means they will be slightly heavier. This ensures they are sturdy and safe to ride.
Potential Bike Weight
Step-through bikes can be heavier depending on the style and model of the ebike, which may impact performance and the rider's experience. A heavier bike can make it more challenging to balance before taking off, or while at a stand still.
Not Suitable for Aggressive Riding
Traditionally, step-through bikes were deemed insufficient for riders that prefer more speed. For this reason they were often not ideal for track cyclists. Since then, and with the invention of electric bikes, step-through bikes are now just as fast as their counterparts. Aventon's step through models reach the same speeds as the traditional step-over models and depending on the ebike you choose, can go up to speeds of 28mph.
Additionally, step-through bikes are not the preferred bicycle style if you are traveling through steep hilled terrain, such as San Francisco. When you’re riding uphill, a lot of pressure is put on the bicycle frame, which can cause the frame to bend slightly. With step-through bikes, this sensation can often feel quite wobbly when used on hills and, in some cases, could be rather dangerous.
Traveling with a step-through bike can also be a challenge, as it requires a top tube bar adapter to be added to secure the bike to a vehicle hitch rack. Otherwise most hitch racks won’t work with your step-through bike.
Some users have expressed their desire for more variety in design and aesthetics, and for high-performance materials like carbon fiber to be more commonly used in step-through bikes.
Step-through bikes can also be quite tricky to accessorize. Because of the style of its frame, step-through bikes are not designed for attachments such as water bottle holders or mini-backpacks, which can be a drawback for some riders. As they have gained popularity, more accessories are being made for these models.
What is a Step-Over Bike?
The most popular bicycle frame is the step-over frame, otherwise known as the diamond or triangle frame. This particular frame has changed very little over the years due to its simple and robust design.
Step-over frames are most commonly seen on city and road bikes, mountain bikes, high-end racing bikes, and hybrid bikes and provide riders with additional pedal power and a more balanced ride.
What are the Advantages of a Step-Over Bike?
The familiarity of the step-over design is what people think about when they think of a bicycle, and there’s good reason. Here are a few advantages of riding a step-over bike:
Familiar, Tried & True Design
Among the most significant benefits of step-over bicycles is their longevity. A bike can be a considerable purchase, which means you want your investment to last for a long time. With a step-over bike, you can be sure that your bike is made with tried and true geometry design and will last you for thousands of miles to come.
Additionally, step-over bicycles are also generally designed to be ridden through all sorts of terrains. Whether you like to ride up hills or take your bicycle off-road, a step-over bike is built for any kind of ride because of the sturdy frame geometry.
Step-over bikes are sometimes made with lightweight materials. The frame design ensures its strength, making it easier to reach high speeds and go farther with less energy. While this is more of an advantage for step-over, it isn't necessarily an issue whether you ride a traditional and step-thru ebike, as both ebike designs can reach speeds up to 28mph, depending on the model you choose.
What are the Disadvantages of a Step-Over Bike?
Difficulty Mounting & Dismounting
The difficulty in mounting and dismounting a bike with a higher top tube, like in step-over frames, is primarily due to the physical effort and flexibility required to lift one's leg over the tube. Here's a breakdown of why this can be challenging for certain riders:
Limited Mobility and Flexibility: Riders with restricted movement or flexibility issues may find it hard to raise their leg high enough to clear the top tube. This could be due to age, injury, disability, or simply a lack of flexibility.
Clothing Constraints: Wearing certain types of clothing, such as skirts, dresses, or more restrictive outfits, can make it difficult to lift the leg high enough without discomfort or risk of entanglement.
Older Riders: Older riders often have reduced flexibility and mobility, making the high leg lift challenging.
Physical Limitations: Individuals with specific physical limitations, such as joint pain, balance issues, or reduced strength, may find the motion of lifting their leg over a high top tube too demanding or even painful.
Step-through designs, with their lower or absent top tube, eliminate the need for this high leg lift, making them more accessible and easier to mount and dismount for a wider range of riders.
Less Stability When Stationary
Getting on and off a step-over bike can be less stable, especially with cargo or in busy places, because of its high top tube. Riders need to lift their leg over this tube, which requires balance and can be challenging, making the bike harder to keep steady.
When the bike is stationary, especially if it's loaded with cargo, this lifting movement can shift the bike's center of gravity, making it harder to keep the bike balanced and upright. In crowded areas, the space to perform this maneuver is limited, increasing the risk of bumping into people or objects, which can lead to instability or falls.
In contrast, a step-through frame, with its lower or absent top tube, allows for easier and more stable mounting and dismounting since the rider can step through the frame without lifting their leg high, thus maintaining better balance and control.
Inconvenience with Heavy Loads
The inconvenience with heavy loads on a step-over bike arises from the challenge of swinging your leg over the top tube when there's cargo on the rear. Here's why this can be difficult:
Limited Space: When there's cargo, especially if it's bulky or extends above the height of the rear rack, it reduces the space available for your leg to pass over the top tube. This can make it awkward to mount or dismount without disturbing the cargo.
Increased Instability: The presence of heavy or unevenly distributed cargo can shift the bike's center of gravity, making it less stable. Attempting to lift your leg over the top tube in such a scenario increases the risk of the bike tipping or the cargo shifting, leading to potential falls or damage.
Physical Exertion: Swinging your leg over the top tube with additional weight on the bike requires more effort and balance. For some riders, especially those with limited strength or flexibility, this can be physically challenging.
Safety Concerns: Trying to navigate your leg over the top tube while avoiding cargo can lead to awkward movements, increasing the risk of injury or accidents, particularly in tight spaces or when hurried.
In contrast, a step-through frame, with its lower or absent top tube, simplifies this process as you don't have to lift your leg as high, reducing physical strain and improving stability, especially when carrying cargo.
Potential Safety Concerns
The potential safety concerns with a higher frame on step-over bicycles, particularly in emergency situations or during quick stops, arise because the design can hinder rapid dismounting. Here's why this is a concern:
Delayed Dismounting: In an emergency or when a sudden stop is required, the rider needs to dismount quickly to avoid danger or collision. The high top tube of a step-over bike requires the rider to lift their leg over the frame, which can take crucial extra time and effort.
Reduced Stability: During a quick stop, the rider's balance can be compromised, especially if they need to maneuver their leg over a high top tube. This reduced stability during sudden stops can increase the risk of falling or losing control of the bike.
Limited Maneuverability: In urgent situations, the ability to swiftly disengage from the bike is crucial. The high frame can limit maneuverability, making it harder for the rider to quickly step away from the bike or avoid obstacles.
Physical Restrictions: Riders with limited mobility, flexibility, or those wearing certain types of clothing might find it especially difficult to dismount quickly from a high top tube, increasing their vulnerability in sudden or emergency scenarios.
Choosing The Right Frame Type
There really isn’t a wrong answer when deciding whether to purchase a step-through or a step-over bicycle. While each one has unique characteristics, whichever style you choose is based on your riding style and preference. If you aren't sure which ebike is best for you, we encourage you to ask yourself a few simple questions:
- What is the main use of the ebike?
- What type of terrain will I be riding on most?
- What type of accommodations will I need to secure or store the ebike?
These can help you navigate through which is best for your: step-over or step-through. Compare Aventon ebikes today to find the right ebike for you.