Should I Choose a Step-Through or Step-Over eBike?

It's time to debunk the myth that step-through bikes are "girls' bikes" (this isn’t elementary school, after all)! Despite what some people may think, step-over electric bikes are not just for men, and step-through bikes are not just for women. Choosing a bike based on gender is like basing your car choice on your hair color - it just doesn't make sense!

As we age, we may experience a loss of mobility, making it difficult to enjoy the activities we once did. Electric bicycles provide a wonderful solution for older adults who want to stay active and enjoy the outdoors without putting too much strain on their bodies. When it comes to electric bicycle frames, there are two main types to choose from: step-through/thru and step-over. In this article, we will explore the differences between the two and how they can benefit you.

Step-Over Electric Bikes:

Step-over electric bicycle frames are designed with a high top tube that requires the rider to lift their leg up to around hip height in order to mount and dismount. These higher frames are typically sturdier than step-through bikes and are often preferred for off-road riding. With an additional top bar, step-over bikes generally have a higher payload rating and are the best option for carrying heavy loads (side note: step-over bikes that feature full suspension may have reduced weight capacity compared to hardtail bikes).

Lets take a look at the Biktrix Juggernaut Ultra FS Pro as an example. These bikes are designed with powerful motors that can help tackle even the steepest hills. This series also utilizes fat tires that provide excellent traction on rough terrain. The FS Pro is designed for versatility, with front and rear suspension to help absorb bumps in the road and a 1000 Watt Ultra motor for ample torque and power.

The Juggernaut Ultra FS Pro is a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts who have no problems lifting their leg over the top tube (image credit: Jeff Doyle, The_Mountain_Hunter on Instagram)

You May Want to Consider a Step-Over eBike if…

You’re No Stranger to Riding on Two Wheels: Step-over eBikes may be a better option for experienced cyclists as the frames offer more stability and responsiveness than their step-through counterparts, which is crucial for those who rely on their bikes for performance. Step-over frames might also offer more flexibility when it comes to customization and personalization; as experienced cyclists often have very specific preferences when it comes to bike components. Plus, experienced riders may prefer the sense of familiarity and comfort step-over frames provide. This can help them feel more confident, comfortable, and in control, making for an overall better riding experience.

You’re Outdoorsy: If you plan to use your eBike to navigate rough terrain, steep inclines, or uneven surfaces, a step-over model may be a better option as they’re generally more rigid and stronger than a step-through frame, which provides better control and stability on challenging terrain or at high speeds. The added top tube of a step-over bike can be utilized to hold accessories (such as water bottles and cell phones) and increases the integrity and weight capacity of the bike to efficiently tow or carry supplies.

Step-Over Pros:

  • Sturdier than step-through bikes
  • Suitable for off-road riding
  • Can handle rough terrain
  • Higher payload rating

Step-Over Cons:

  • May be difficult for riders with limited mobility
  • May not be suitable for riders who prefer to wear skirts or dresses
The lightweight and nimble Monte Capro Lite has a step-over frame and can handle off-road trails with ease.

Step-Through Electric Bikes:

Step-through electric bicycles (sometimes called open frames, drop frames, or low-step frames) do not have a top tube, thus, allowing the rider to easily step into the bike to mount and dismount. Initially designed and marketed for dress-wearing women (to avoid “flashing” any onlookers while climbing onto the seat), these bikes are now recommended for anyone with limited mobility, as they eliminate the need to lift your leg high to get on the bike. Regardless of your preferred apparel, a step-through bike is a fine choice for the dress, skirt, and kilt wearers among us (we feel so bad thinking about anyone who might have given up on cycling simply because they didn’t want to be seen riding a “girl’s bike”). 

One great example of a step-through electric bicycle is the Biktrix Swift Step-Thru. This eBike is designed with a comfortable upright riding position, making it easy to get on and off. Its accompanying 500W motor to power over hills and a variety of terrain with ease.. The Swift Step-Thru is also designed with comfort in mind, with a padded saddle and front suspension fork to absorb bumps in the road.

Step-through eBikes, like the Swift Step-Thru, have no top tube and are therefore easier for riders to mount and dismount.

You May Want to Consider a Step-Through eBike if…

You’re Older: With a step-through electric bike, seniors can easily get on and off the bike without having to lift their legs over the frame. This feature reduces the risk of falls and makes it easier for seniors to enjoy the outdoors and stay active. Additionally, the electric motor on a step-through eBike can help seniors to cover longer distances without overexerting themselves. This can be especially helpful for seniors who want to ride with younger family members or friends.

You Have Physical Limitations: For individuals with disabilities, riding a non-electric bike over long distances may be impossible. However, a step-through electric bike can provide a viable alternative. The step-through design allows individuals with limited mobility to easily get on and off the bike, while the electric motor provides assistance with pedaling. This combination of features makes it possible for individuals with physical limitations to enjoy the outdoors and stay active, even if they might be unable to ride a traditional bike.

You’re Expecting: Pregnancy can be a challenging time,  especially when it comes to physical activity. However, staying active during pregnancy can have many benefits for both the parent and the baby. A step-through electric bike can provide a low-impact form of exercise that is easy on the joints and helps to maintain cardiovascular health. The step-through design of the bike also allows pregnant people to easily get on and off the bike, even as their bellies grow larger. This can be especially helpful for those who want to stay active during their pregnancy but may be limited in their mobility.

You’re a Courier:  When making deliveries on an eBike, couriers can be on and off of their bikes numerous times in a short time. On a step-over frame, that can be a lot of wasted energy spent just on leg lifting! Commuters and couriers who want an easy and convenient way to run errands around town can use a step-through electric bike as a reliable and cost-saving alternative to driving traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

Step-Through Pros:

  • Easy to mount and dismount
  • Ideal for couriers and anyone who is making frequent stops.
  • Suitable for seniors or those with limited mobility and physical limitations
  • Because of their ease-of-use, step-through bikes can be used by a variety of riders
  • Less risk of stretching or ripping clothes when mounting the saddle
  • Potentially safer than bikes with high top tubes; a rider who loses balance can step through the bicycle without becoming entangled

Step-Through Cons:

  • May not be as sturdy as a step-over bike
  • May not be suitable for extreme off-road riding
  • The structural integrity of step-through frames may not be enough for heavy riders
  • Fewer places to mount accessories, such as an air pump or water-bottle holder
  • More difficult to carry or lift off the ground due to fewer places to hold on to and a lower centre of gravity
Step-through eBikes, such as these Juggernaut Hub Duos, are appropriate for both men and women (image credit: Jason Coon).

Cruiser eBikes: The Best of Both Worlds

Cruiser-style eBike frames, like those found on our Stunner LT and Stunner X eBikes, feature a sloped top tube that provide a low step-through height for easy accessibility. While technically classified as step-through bikes, these types of cruiser frames benefit structurally from having a bonus top bar; increasing the payload rating to a level comparable to step-over frames. However, looks can sometimes be deceiving! Since the top tube connects to the post directly under the rider’s seat, it may not be possible to comfortably swing one’s leg through without contacting the edge of the saddle. The actual step-through height on cruiser-style eBikes may be an inch or two higher than the lowest point of the bike’s top tube.

The sloped top tube of the cruiser-style Stunner LT provides additional structural integrity and a lower mounting clearance (image credit: Denise Lafferty).

Which is Better for Older Adults?

Both step-through and step-over electric bicycles are suitable for older adults, depending on their specific needs. If a rider has limited mobility, a step-through bike may be the better option as it eliminates the need to lift their leg high to get on the bike and adds additional confidence while mounting, riding, and dismounting. However, if a rider plans to do off-road riding, haul heavier loads, or just wants a sturdier bike overall, a step-over frame may be the better option.

Watch: 78-year-old Dennis loves riding his Stunner X eBike!

Final Thoughts:

Electric bicycles are an excellent way for older adults to stay active and enjoy the outdoors without putting too much strain on their bodies. While some riders may not have a strong preference in the frame type of their eBike, both step-through and step-over electric bicycles offer unique benefits and drawbacks. The Biktrix Swift Step-Through and Biktrix Juggernaut Ultra FS Pro are great examples of each type of bike and can provide a comfortable, safe, and reliable mode of transportation for experienced riders who want more power and range, older adults who wish to stay active, or anyone with specific riding needs or goals. With the right electric bicycle, almost anyone can enjoy the freedom and independence that comes with cycling.

Each rider has individual needs and preferences. Consider your own before deciding whether a step-through or step-over eBike is best for you! 

*eBikes referenced and images shown are accurate as of publication date.