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Step-Through Bikes 101

By Megan Flottorp

The name pretty much sums it up. On a step-through bike, you can step through the frame to mount the bike without having to hoist your leg up and over the rear wheel. There is no major lifting or swinging required. You just straddle the bike and sit down, making getting on and off comfortable and easy.

Initially developed in the late 1800s to accommodate the new influx of women riders who mostly had skirts to contend with, the traditional design has stuck around and now suits a variety of dress and pants-wearing cyclists. Some love the look of step-through bikes, with their classy, elegant, and upright design. For others, step-through bikes are simply the most practical choice. If you’re trying to decide whether a step-through bike might be right for you, read on to discover some of the advantages and disadvantages this unique style has to offer, in addition to some of the top models for 2021! 

Women cycling
Thinking about acquiring a step-through bike? © Profimedia

Step-through advantages 

As we’ve already noted, the number one thing that sets step-through bikes apart from other two-wheel mobility machines is the fact that they are extremely easy to get on and off of. For this reason, step-through bikes allow riders who struggle with hip mobility or simply don’t have a full range of motion to enjoy all the benefits of cycling without having to deal with the stress of an uncomfortable mount and dismount. This also makes them a popular choice among older riders who might feel hesitant at the thought of repeatedly having to lift their leg over a traditional bike frame.

The other main advantage of step-through bikes is that they can easily support a lot of cargo and are quick to jump on and off of in stop-and-go traffic. If you often have your bike loaded up with parcels, a step-through bike can be the solution to help you manoeuvre quickly and efficiently throughout the day. This same riding flexibility is also what makes step-through bikes a favourite of commuters. If you’ve got a relatively easy commute to work and prefer not to have to change upon arrival, step-through bikes are more accommodating to formal attire like suits, dresses, and skirts. They allow you to keep your outfit looking fresh and arrive at your destination without breaking a sweat.

Cycling in Shanghai
Step-through bikes support your outfit choice. © Profimedia

Step-through disadvantages 

All that said, is it not as though you aren’t getting any exercise on a step-through! After all, cycling is cycling, and you can still make some serious fitness gains and build muscle mass pedalling around on this style of bike. If fitness is your primary goal, though, you might want to look for something lighter. There are exceptions to the rule, but because 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 and tend to be thicker than a conventional bike. Depending on how you look at it, the fact that they are often made from more durable materials and are sturdy and safe to ride could be seen as an advantage. But unless you opt for an electric, traditional step-through bikes usually won’t serve you well if it is speed you’re after.

They also perform much better in flat areas and are not generally recommended if you’ll be facing a lot of hilly terrain. When you ride uphill, your bike’s frame is put under significant pressure that can cause it to bend slightly. Due to the construction of a step-through bike, this sensation can feel pretty unstable when you’re going uphill and could even cause you to lose your balance.

Some of our favourite step-through bikes for 2021

If the pros outweigh the cons as far as you’re concerned, here are some of the best-value step-through models currently on the market.

Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1

Co-op bicycle

Made for urban cruising, this bike features a low crossbar for easy mounts and dismounts, a flat handlebar, and a versatile 3×8 drivetrain. An aluminium frame and fork offer a smooth and stable ride, while its trigger shifters and 24-speed drivetrain are efficient and easy to use. This one certainly provides a comfy commute, and with full fender and rack mount compatibility, it can easily be outfitted to carry plenty of cargo around town.

Schwinn Collegiate Step-Thru

Schwinn Step-Thru

A well-established player in the world of hybrid bikes, Schwinn has a great line of urban commuters. This model features a simplistic 1×8 Shimano drive train with Revo twist shifter and Acera rear derailleur. It boasts a soft density foam saddle to cushion whatever shocks your route has in store. A little more rugged than other step-through bikes, this machine can easily handle rougher paths or trails.

NAKTO 26″ 250W Cargo Electric Bicycle


NAKTO step-throughIf an electric bicycle’s added support sounds appealing, this high-quality performance bike offers step-through comfort for casual riders and those with a load to haul. The high-strength carbon steel frame provides shock absorption and durability at a very reasonable price point. Its low step frame construction is easy to hop on while handling a load of up to 300lbs. The look is still modern and stylish, but keep in mind that lightweight is certainly not a word we’d use to describe this one.

Retrospec Venus Step-Through City Bike

Venus step through bicycle

Whatever this one lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in reliability and simplicity. It’s a modern single-speed hybrid bike designed for the average urban rider. With an appealing retro aesthetic, this straightforward ride is excellent for smooth cruising on flatter roads and will make you feel confident even when navigating heavy traffic. The rear coaster brakes make it simple and easy to operate, while its lightweight step-through steel construction means you always feel in control.