How to Buy a Frame for a Town Bike

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How to Buy a Frame for a Town Bike

The town bicycle, otherwise known as the European city bike, is a bicycle designed primarily for relatively short rides through largely flat, urban areas. Unlike mountain bikes, built for rough ground, or road bikes, which are built for speed, the emphasis in town bike design is on the comfort of the ride, with considerations like the weight and speed of the bicycle being less important.

This makes the town bike popular with casual cyclists and commuters. The frames of this kind of bike reflect these priorities. Modern bicycle frames are constructed from a series of connect tubes, with differentiation in the positioning of these tubes making up different designs. Bicycle frames are available in a range of designs and materials, and these can be found on eBay.

Bicycle Frame Structure

The modern bicycle frame consists of a series of connected tubes.

  • The head tube is at the front of the bike, and is the tube to which the handlebar will be connected. Here, the ‘headset’ is connected to the front wheel fork, allowing the cyclist to steer the bike.
  • The top tube, also known as the crossbar, runs parallel to the ground and connects the seat tube and the head tube. Control cables, such as the breaks cables, run alongside or sometimes inside this tube.
  • The down tube runs from the head tube to the bottom bracket shell, the lowest point of the bicycle frame. It is common for accessories such as bottle cages to be attached to this part of the bike.
  • The seat tube runs upwards, from the bottom bracket shell to the seat post, which holds the saddle. The height of the saddle is adjusted by altering how much of the seat post is inserted into the tube, though there is often a minimum insertion level market on the post, which shows the minimum amount the seat post can be inserted while still being safe to use.
  • The chain stays connect the bottom bracket shell to the rear wheel fork. These run alongside the bicycle chains and can vary in shape to allow space for the wheel, chain or the heels of the cyclist.
  • The seat stays connect the top of the seat tube to the rear wheel forks.
  • The bottom bracket shell is the lowest point of the bicycle frame, and the chain stays, seat tube and down tube all typically connect here.

Frame Design

The diamond frame is the most commonly used design of frame used in many types of modern bicycle, including the town bike. The diamond frame consists of two ‘triangles’. The front, larger triangle consists of the head tube, seat tube, down tube and top tube. The smaller rear triangle consists of the seat tube, seat stays and chain stays. The geometry of the tubes produces a structurally sturdy frame, allowing for a strong frame to be built using the minimum of materials, which allows both the weight and cost of the frame to be kept down. More specialised bicycles, such as road bikes, sometimes have variations in the geometry of the diamond frame to, for example, place the rider in a more aerodynamic riding position.

Another popular design of frame, particularly for town bicycles, is the step through frame. Originally designed to allow women wearing skirts to more easily mount and dismount their bicycle, the step through frame has seen increasingly widespread use. This kind of frame has a lower, or sometimes completely removed top bar which makes it easier to mount and dismount the bicycle. In addition, this kind of frame can also be safer in the event of a cyclist losing balance, as it is possible for them to step through the frame with less risk of becoming entangled with the frame. This kind of frame is often used in what are sometimes considered ladies town bikes.

Town bike frames are often positioned so that the rider is seated in a comfortable, upright position. While this is less aerodynamic and does not allow for riding at particularly high speeds, it offers a more comfortable ride and is in keeping with the more relaxed riding style the town bike is designed for.

Frame Material

As with many kinds of bike, town bicycle frames are available in a range of materials which are suitable for different uses. As town bicycles are designed primarily for comfort over speed and agility, the consideration of weight is less important than it may be for bikes designed for racing, or for mountain bikes. Even so, some cyclists still prefer a lighter town bike for practical reasons.


Steel has long been the material used to bicycles, and remains a common choice for town bicycle frames. The traditional town bicycle frame is made of low carbon steel, and steel frames remain widely available. Due to the ease of working the metal and its wide availability, steel bicycles also remain among the least expensive option for frame materials. Steel frames are strong, and often have a degree of flexibility which affords the bicycle some degree of shock absorption, which can lead to a more comfortable ride. This, however, can be of less importance for the town bicycles which are designed primarily for flat, urban surfaces. Steel frames also have a long lifespan, as long as they are protected from rust and corrosion. Steel frames are also heavier than frames built from other materials.


Aluminium has overtaken steel as the most commonly used material for many kinds of bicycles. The material gained in popularity when developments in welding made it easier to work. This combined with the wide availability of aluminium frames means that such frames are often only slightly more expensive than their steel counterparts. Aluminium has a higher strength to weight ratio than steel, meaning that frames can be made strong while also kept light. This not only makes higher speeds possible, but it also has practical benefits, such as making the bicycle easier to lift. Aluminium is also more resistant to corrosion, as it does not rust. However, these frames are often more rigid, which means there is less shock absorption inherent in the frame. This can lead to a less smooth ride, though this is not such a concern for riding on flat surfaces. Furthermore, some cyclists prefer the more rigid feel of the aluminium frame. Aluminium frames can, however, fatigue faster than steel, though these frames can still generally be expected to last between five and ten years.

Carbon Fibre

Carbon fibre is an unusual, though increasingly popular choice for frame materials. Primarily used for more specialised bicycles such as road bikes, carbon fibre has a very high strength to weight ratio, and can make strong and light frames. The material can be fine tuned to be stronger in some parts of the frame, and more flexible in others to allow for greater comfort. Carbon fibre is popular for racing bicycles, as it allows for more aerodynamic shapes than other materials, though this is of limited benefit to town bicycles. Though fully carbon fibre frames are unusual for town bikes, and among the most expensive kinds of frame available, it is not uncommon for certain parts of more affordable frames to be made of carbon fibre. Aluminium frames with carbon wheel forks, for example, are increasingly available.


Titanium is the most expensive metal used in the construction of bicycle frames, as it is unusual and difficult to work. However, titanium frames are some of the lightest and strongest available, as well as highly resistant to corrosion. Like carbon fibre, titanium is more popular for use with more specialised bicycles such as mountain bikes, and could be considered unnecessary for town bikes. This, combined with the price, makes titanium town bicycle frames very unusual.

Sizing the Frame

While there is scope to alter the height of a bicycle for a rider by, for example, altering the height of the seat, it is still important to correctly match the height of the frame with the height of the rider. A too large or small frame can have a considerable adverse impact on the comfort and safety of the ride.

The ‘bicycling inseam’ is the key measurement for matching rider to frame. This is measured from the bottom of the cyclist’s crotch to the floor, and this measurement is shorter than the trouser inseam.

This measurement should be compared with the length of the seat tube on a given frame, which is usually prominently displayed along with other key information in the item entry. If the cyclist were to straddle the frame, there should be a few inches space between the top of the bicycle and the rider’s groin. Frame manufacturers can sometimes measure their frames in different ways, and will often provide their own sizing charts. It is therefore advisable to refer to any sizing information provided by the seller or the manufacturer of a particular frame.

Finding a Town Bike Frame on eBay

A wide selection of bicycle components can be found on eBay, including a range of town bike frames of various designs and materials. The full listing of available town bike frames can be found in the Cycling Section of the Sporting Goods portal. It is possible to browse the entire listing of town bike frames in the Bike Frames section. Here, frames can be filtered by type of bicycle they are designed for, including those for town bikes. The frames can also be filtered by material, distance to seller, condition and price.

The important specifications of individual frames, such as material or size, are prominently displayed in the individual item listing, making it fast and simple to see if a particular item meets any particular specifications. Further information can be accessed on the item’s page, along with information about the seller such as feedback and item reviews, meaning a purchase can be made in confidence. It is also possible to ask the seller a question regarding the item.

The search function available at the top of every page can often be the fastest and most effective way to find a particular item. For more information on how to effective use eBay’s search function, refer to the Search Tips page.


As with many kinds of bicycle, the town bike has specific requirements which a frame has to meet. The right material, size and design of frame are important to a comfortable and safe cycling experience, and eBay offers a wide choice.

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