Mixte Frames

Michael’s recent acquisition of a Rivendell Betty Foy has piqued my interest in mixte frames. For the uninitiated, mixte frames provide the increased standover clearance of step-through frames while maintaining much of the strength of traditional diamond frames. Mixte frames are distinguished from other step-through designs by the fact that the top tube(s) runs straight from the head tube to the rear drop outs, effectively creating three sets of rear stays. Mixte frames are sometimes classified as “women’s bikes”, but this is a misnomer as can be evidenced by Rivendell’s Yves Gomez men’s mixte.

Mixte is a French word meaning “mixed” or “unisex”. The proper pronunciation is “MEExt”, though “MIX-ty” is more common in the U.S.

24 Responses to “Mixte Frames”

  • Mike says:

    I’m the proud owner of two Mixtes, both from the 70s. The first is a French-made Mercier that triggered my renewed interest in cycling (and buying lugged steel-framed bikes). The other is an immaculate Nishiki that serves as my road bike.

    You’re right about “women’s bikes” being a misnomer. I think a lot of them were bought by women who didn’t realize that many of these bikes have a fairly aggressive geometry. Both of mine were built to go fast…

    Entries on each are on my blog at mikespokes.blogspot.com

  • Erich Zechar says:

    We have a Raleigh Mixte from the seventies, a Super Course, and it’s a wonderful bike to ride. I steal it from my wife from time to time, and it’s very smooth and lively. I have to disagree, however, about these frames not being a women’s frame. That argument was really settled a long time ago, and I’m pretty sure these mixte frames were indeed originally designed for women, contrary to what Sheldon Brown may have said in the past. All the “it’s not a girl’s bike!” nonsense masks a more fundamental question: why can’t a man ride a women’s bike?

  • Erich Zechar says:

    Also, you may enjoy The Mixte Gallery.

  • Alan says:

    I like to think of mixtes as “easy on/off” bikes that are suitable for people of any gender who have difficulty mounting a diamond frame or need to get on-and-off a bike frequently. That might be the elderly, the disabled, delivery people, or those who ride in a skirt or dress.

  • Rob Sayers says:

    My wife has a Peugeot UO-18 that I love, if It was my size she would never get a chance to ride it. There’s just something very distinctive about that frame style that I really like.

  • John Tubbs says:

    I too am a guy who thinks a mixte should swing both ways. I built up a fixie mixte for my wife (she loves it) but while testing things I fell in love with the extremely smooth ride. It was a nothing special bike (Concorde) so I attribute the great ride to the geometry. Unfortunately like other men here, it’s too small for any real riding.

    I’m curious about using a mixte for an Xtracycle. I’d love a lower top tube, especially with my kid on the back – can’t swing the leg over without hitting him. Anyone try that?

  • bongobike says:

    I’m not sure if we can call the Yves Gomez a “true” mixte. Instead of the traditional slender twin top tubes, it has a regular single top tube. It’s like a regular girl’s bike with the addition of an extra set of stays in the rear triangle.

  • bongobike says:

    Well, I guess it’s the same situation with the ANT.

  • Alan says:

    @bongobike

    Sheldon said this:

    “A variant on the mixte uses a single, full sized top tube running from the upper head tube to the seat tube, but retains the middle set of stays. A lady’s type bike that lacks the middle pair of stays is not a mixte”

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_m.html

    It would be interesting to know if there are advantages to either design.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • CedarWood says:

    Last summer, I bought an inexpensive 70’s Chicago Schwinn mixte for the purpose of converting to an Xtracycle. After further considering my needs, I decided to use it for hauling a cargo trailer instead.

    Since we don’t yet have the trailer, we constructed a strong and beautiful rear rack for it and use it as a cargo bike. The large frame fits us both and the ride is very smooth with or without a load. We refer to it as “the mixte”, not as a men’s or women’s bike.

    For cargo use, the strong rear triangle, relatively lightweight frame (as compared to dedicated cargo bikes), and easy on/off are ideal. I’m really looking forward to rebuilding it as a gorgeous, yet practical towing/touring bike.

  • bongobike says:

    Alan,

    Yes, it would be interesting to find out if there are advantages to one or the other, but I can tell you that, aesthetically, I prefer the slender twin tubes– they look much more elegant to me.

  • Rex in Phoenix says:

    Another “I built an old mixte for my wife and now I love it” vote here… for pretty much the same reasons indicated. We bought a second one on CL to dedicate to the rear child seat that was previously on and off hers. I think a mixte/step-through is practically non-negotiable when using a rear child seat.

    In answer to Erich’s question, men can’t ride women’s bikes because doing so is injurious to our macho egos! I need the “it’s not a girl’s bike!” mantra when I indulge in riding my wife’s smooth, comfortable mixte!

  • Rex in Phoenix says:

    Doh… ours is not a real mixte… no middle set of stays. The top tube has similar geometry to a mixte however, as it forms a triangle rather than being parallel to the down tube, as in a full “women’s bike”. Alwell, the same general thoughts apply.

  • Alan says:

    @bongobike

    “Yes, it would be interesting to find out if there are advantages to one or the other, but I can tell you that, aesthetically, I prefer the slender twin tubes– they look much more elegant to me.”

    I too, like the looks of twin tubes, though this little lug just might make up for it… :-)

  • bongobike says:

    Yes indeed. Betty is a pretty girl no matter how may top tubes she has. :-)

  • Bob says:

    Rivendells and ANTs are great, but the Soma Buena Vista is a good mixte option for anyone on a budget looking for a new bike. You can get one at The Bicycle Business for only $475.
    http://www.thebikebiz.com/Soma_Buena_Vista_Mixte_p/bk-com-soma02.htm

  • bongobike says:

    Bob, Bike Biz says that price is for frame and fork only.

  • Bob says:

    That is right. It’s at least $525 less than a Rivendell Betty Foy.

  • Bob says:

    You can spend all the extra cash on some great bags or a Schmidt dyno hub and light.

  • Alan says:

    @Bob

    The Buena Vista looks super. I haven’t had an opportunity to see one in person but I’ll drop by The Bike Biz sometime to take a look. Thanks for the link!

    Alan

  • Russ says:

    About two years ago I found a 1979 Raleigh ‘Record Ace” mixte in a man’s size that fits my 6′ 1″ frame just fine. I wanted a step through frame for those large loads in the rear baskets and not that expensive so I could leave it outside a store, on a cable lock, while shopping and not worry too much. I have been very pleased with this bike and ride it often for shopping trips. Here is a link to my entry here over a year ago.

    http://www.ecovelo.info/2008/09/18/gallery-russ-raleigh-grocery-getters/

  • Mike Flanigan says:

    Alan,

    Thank you [again] for posting pictures of my bikes.

    To answer a few questions:

    I see nothing wrong with buying a bike that you can afford that is built in Taiwan, China or Japan or where ever. However to use that money saved to buy expensive parts, like a Schmidt hub?

    If an imported bike fits you then that is great.
    However why ride a bike that does not fit and in a color that everyone else has or that you do not like?
    I can make most any style of frame, in any size and in any color. Most Mixtes or ladies frames come in 2 sizes and one color. A lot of the bikes I build are for people that had bought something else to save money, then found out the hard way that it was never going to fit. I guess everyone has to go through that.

    My favorite of the “Step Through” designs is the twin tube mixte frame. They are the lightest of the designs and very stiff [for a non diamond frame].

    Next would be the single tube mixte with exta stays. A little heavier, but pretty stiff.

    I love the way the curved Dutch style frame looks and they give the best in step through ease, but have to be built very heavy to make up for the lack of frame support.

  • Alan says:

    @Mike

    “Thank you [again] for posting pictures of my bikes.”

    It’s always a pleasure, Mike. Thank you for making such smart and beautiful bikes that we feel compelled to post pictures of them… :-)

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Bob says:

    Mike is right that fit is more important than anything else. I am a big proponent of handmade and custom frames, and I don’t think that people should only spend $300 for a complete bike. I do think that those of us with nice bikes already and or bigger budgets sometimes don’t pay enough attention to some of the more budget minded quality products out there.

 
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