Being short – does it leave you on the backfoot?
I want to write about something slightly different to the kind of things I usually write about. So my topic today is – Advantages and disadvantages of being small in cycling.
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly small at 175cm but compared to the majority of the guys I race against I am definitely on the smaller end of the scale. Being a smaller rider is often used as an excuse for being weaker than some of our larger counterparts. However, I don’t really agree.
There are a few main points you will hear people come up with, why being small is an inconvenience in cycling. Firstly, and one which I can definitely relate to a certain extent is, trying to find a bike that fits you properly! This can definitely be a bit of inconvenience when you don’t fit between the standard 54-58cm frame size bracket. In my case, it’s not my height that causes a problem as I fit quite nicely on a 51-52cm bike, but it’s my body geometry. Inevitably passed down from both my parents, I have short legs and a long torso. This usually means a super small bike so I can get enough saddle height and then a nice long 14cm steam to allow for my overly long reach. However, once you have managed to hunt down a frame that’s small enough for you – I have seen a lot of people who have clearly given up on the search and ride bikes way too big for them – there are some definite advantages to a small frame – it’s lighter and more compact which usually makes for a more responsive and stiffer machine.
Secondly, a lot of people believe it can be hard to compete against the larger rider in TT’s and those horrible flat windy races. It’s true that to do well in these disciplines you need to be able to produce a lot of power and having the larger levers does usually help in this field. However, the fact you’re bigger means than you’re having to push more of that wind. This was one of my excuses when I taking a beating in past races, but it more came down to the fact that I wasn’t strong enough, or fit enough to compete with the other guys who had simply trained harder than me! So now I am training correctly, I think I should be a lot closer to these guys. Another aspect I’ve been looking into, to make those all important ‘marginal gains’ is aerodynamics whilst road racing. I’m experimenting with a few ideas, but the main and seemingly most obvious one to do was to cover the vents in my road helmet. The idea was stolen from my team mate Martyn Irvine, but after doing some research and seeing numbers and phrases such as ‘12% more efficient‘ it seemed stupid that I’d never done it before. Especially after knowing an aero helmet over a regular road helmet in a TT is one of the biggest equipment gains you can make.
After looking through my last 2 paragraphs of mindless ramblings, it appears I haven’t really made any proper points yet. So I’ll sum this post with a list of bullet points I have rattling round in my head about the advantages and disadvantages of being small-
- Can be hard to get a correctly fitting bike
- Spectators/Photographers/Helpers find it almost impossible to spot you whilst in the middle of a bunch
- Not being able to fit bottles over 500ml into your bottle cages
- Cycling shorts being too long
- Lighter and stiffer bikes
- More aerodynamic – you should be! but some people manage to somehow not be able to achieve this
- Can fit through small gaps
- Usually more aggressive – small man syndrome (I am no exception whilst racing/sprinting!)
- Gives you an excuse when; it’s too windy/it’s too flat/you haven’t trained hard enough – or all 3
So to sum everything up, height doesn’t really make too much of a difference as long as you work on the aspects which will help you in those inevitable windy/TT/flat races. Basically, train hard and stay low and you’ll be fine. I hope.
p.s not to be taken too seriously