The disadvantages of being short
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
TZ-3 Super Bright Flexible LED
I’ve opted for the Red rear LED Light. The LED light is a great addition to your high-vis set up. This little light has a recessed button so you can’t accidentally switch it on by dropping it or resting something on it, it has a large button that is easy to use with gloved or cold fingers. It comes housed in a solid body with a stretchy flexible silicone mount loop. Press the on off button once and you get a solid light, press it again and it will flash intermittently (don’t use in flashing mode if on a bicycle or motorbike), press once again and it switches off… simple. There are two small recessed screws on the underside of the body to allow you to replace the battery (CR2025) which the manufacturer says should last you 100 hours.
I’ve tried the light on my bike frame and handlebars and because the light has a shaped underbelly it sits comfortably on flat or curved surfaces and with the silicone stretch loop it won’t slip or move against metal, handlebar tape, carbon fibre or painted surfaces and fabric. The loop can be pulled up and fully over itself depending on the diameter of the item you’re wrapping it around, you can put the strap over the front of the light body or further back over the casing and it doesn’t press or restrict access to the button. It’s coped fine with the scrapes and drops it’s had so far. It really is ideal to attach to your helmet, it neatly slots through the helmet vents and is a real upgrade to just using a reflector, because it’s so lightweight you don’t notice it’s there. I’ve also attached it to bags and backpacks and it works a treat. When you pair it with the Verso High-Vis Gilet by TwoZero (read our review here) it sits neatly on your back just above your shoulder blades and when you have a backpack under your gilet it sits up and faces behind you without being obscured by your backpack, it takes over from your helmet reflectors if they become hidden behind the bulk of your bag. It comes in a choice of white or red LED light and both provide a strong bright light. A great addition to you cycling safety gear, it’s small, lightweight, flexible and it fits neatly into a pocket when it’s not in use.
Colour: Red LED or White LED
RRP £9.99 with free UK delivery
Available from: www.two-zero.co.uk for delivery worldwide
also available from other online and high street retailers
What TwoZero say about their product:
Easy fit silicone loop LED
Flashing or Solid State
Long Battery Life 100hrs (replaceable)
red and white LED version
easy to attach to TZ bags, Verso Gilet and rucksacks
It’s time to pull out the high vis winter cycling gear for the commute so we thought we’d take a look at a couple of products, these two items caught our eye as they work together or individually, the Verso High-Vis Gilet and the TZ-3 Super Bright LED Light (read LED review here). They’re a new addition to TwoZero’s range, the award winning company is already known for it’s range of cycling and motorcycling bags. I own one of the cycling bags which I’m mightily impressed with so I thought we’d try some of their other products. I enrolled the help of my hardcore commuter cycling pal to road test them.
Verso High-Vis Expandable & Reflecting Cycling Gilet
I’ve chosen the black gilet in size S/M, even the style conscious cyclist wants to be visible but not in your face and to be honest I can’t quite pull off the 1980’s neon rave look, maybe back in the day but not now… and to be honest the black doesn’t look too much like a high visibility jacket when you’re off the bike in daylight.
First impressions upon unpacking it… looks well made, lightweight, quality stitching and fabric, with good finishing, piped edges in both normal and stretch fabrics. It has a slight tailored shape to it, it’s not just a box shape, it also has stretchy lycra side panels these stretch a further 3cms on each side. The bottom edge of the gilet is elasticated to stop it flapping around. The yellow version has black stretch fabric vents with reflectors and black stretch side panels. It will pack away into the sort of space a pair of below the knee socks would take up…. no idea why I used that comparison but it’s what sprung to mind, so I’m going with it!
The full length zip down the front has a fabric pull loop for when gloved or cold fingers can’t quite manage fiddly fastenings. The high vis panels on the gilet are well designed, there are two soft reflector fabric stripes across the front and back of the shoulders, below that on the front and back of the gilet there’s a bonded or possibly screen printed abstract triangular design in reflecting flexible ink, it’s very well applied and I’ve not seen any signs of wear yet, it doesn’t look like it will flake off over time as I’ve found with similar products, I’ve had a good old pick at the edges of the ink and it’s tough. The collar edge isn’t rough against your skin unlike other high-vis wear I’ve purchased in the past, once out in the cold damp night air you often find collars chafe but the piped edging stops this.
Click on the images above to view them in detail.
The back of the gilet scoops down over your rear like a regular cycling jersey but the main feature which makes it perfect for commuting by bike is the ability to unzip the two concealed back vents, these vents are also elasticated and covered in even more reflectors, they allow you to put the gilet over a backpack, this means you don’t have to trundle around town during the day with a particularly neon or reflector spattered bag just to be prepared for your dark journeys to and from the office or trip into town. The vents really do give plenty of room and because it’s stretchy you don’t find it rides up as you move, nor does it flap around behind you like a cape in bad weather even with a bag underneath. The extra reflectors in the vents do also mean you’re more visible side on at junction as the reflectors continue all around you.
If you put your hand behind the none elasticated areas you can see through it, it’s certainly breathable something that generally is a problem with high-vis winter products, they tend to be a bit industrial, bulky and make you look like you’ve walked off a building site. The Verso is designed to be worn over your winter clothing it’s only to provide you with visibility with the option of putting your bag underneath. It allows you a full range of movement thanks to the lycra side panels. It’s also easy to wash but I’ve found running it under the tap and wiping and mud spatters off is just as easy and quicker than using the washing machine, because it’s such a fine fabric leave it to dry overnight and it’s ready for your next commute.
Verso & light Combination:
On the back of the gilet there is a loop just below the shoulder reflector stripes, this is for you to attach the other product in the TwoZero range, the Super Bright Flexible LED Light, you loop it through and back over itself and then set it to the desired mode. If you don’t have the Super Bright you could use other lights and reflectors but the way the light is designed combined with the position of the loop means the light sits perfectly. Read the full TZ-3 Super Bright LED review here.
I’m my opinion the Verso Gilet is perfect for commuters and with a choice of colours (hopefully more colours and designs will be added to the range) there’s a limit to what you can do with high vis, it can never be minimal because that would make it pointless. It’s certainly been designed with cyclists and motorcyclists in mind but if you run with a rucksack (if you’re mad enough) then it would work for you too.
From a safety point of view the side reflectors in the vents when expanded do really give you a better profile when pulling out of a junction. The Verso Gilet is endorsed by IAM (institute of Advanced Motorists).
It’s in the mid to high end price bracket of the market but it’s certainly better made and better quality than others I’ve seen and it has the added zipped vents to allow a backpack which I’ve struggled to find on other products, it also has the ability to add the LED light for extra visibility, it’s well worth the money.
Available in black or yellow
Sizes: S/M or L/XL
RRP £34.99 with free UK delivery
Available from: www.two-zero.co.uk for delivery worldwide
also available from other online and highstreet retailers
What TwoZero say about their product:
Dual purpose expandable high visibility vest
integrated rucksack cover
unique expanding back will unzip to fit over your backpack
stylish high visibility graphics for increased safety
tailored to hug the body
elasticated panels for comfort
lightweight fabric allowing your skin to breath
back panel loop to attach TwoZero LED flasher (sold separately)