Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

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Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Brenchen » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:46 pm

Hi all,

Hope I don't get grilled for this topic from people saying there are lots of discussions out there... There are indeed similar discussions that I had a look, though not directly related. However, I'd still like to hear your opinions/facts on this.

From the tour, I realised pretty much all the riders that I can see clearly have a very nice aero position, and looking at the bikes itself, the saddle height to handlebar height ratio is somewhat significant compared to mine.

For me, I have quite short legs but relatively long torso, and my body metrics have always been my limitations to do anything sportive... So I have always been very jealous of people with long legs. Anyway, to cut straight to my question. I can't imagine everyone on the tour are over 170cm tall and have perfect torso/leg length ratio, and for the riders (including you) like me (quite short legs vs long upper torso), how do we achieve (if at all possible) the aero positions on non-custom fit bikes?

I understand the whole discussion of seat height vs handlebar height is not everything, but just for this topic, how if possible to get myself into more of an aero position (saddle/handlebar) with my metrics?

I am 165cm now, riding a Merida reacto 50cm frame. Saddle height almost the lowest it can go with a perfect reach on the upper half.
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by BNA » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:04 pm

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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby DoogleDave » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:04 pm

My initial thought (from a relative newbie - who also has shortish legs) is that perhaps crank length could be shortened allowing you to have your seat higher
This would then still keep your seat to peddle length the same but would raise your seat higher without changing your bars.

Further to this, if your setup allows, you could move any spacers that might currently be "below" your stem to "above" your stem - efectively lowering the handlebars.
You might then need to play around with stem length and/or angle to find a comfortable/suitable "reach" for your riding positions.

Do you know what length cranks you currently run on your Merida?

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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Brenchen » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:17 pm

I took my bike into pro bike fitter due to inherit injuries to my knee, and I was suggested to change a few contact point size. I was suggested to change 90 for 80mm stem (did that), change crank length from 170mm to 167.5mm if possible, though not crucial (didn't do that), and with the spaces he took a few off at my request, but then I took all of them out, but still have the bigger tapered spacer (trying to find the smaller one, misplaced it somewhere).

He asked what's the next size down for the bike, from memory I told him 46.5cm frame. But he said I'm right on the edge between two frames, so probably the 50 was right for that bike for me...

With the crank, I also obtained another racer's opinion (MTBer), he said crank length does zip, they only vary in different few mm, which I guess kinda makes sense. And I'm not sure why the fitter said that few mm would be good.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby eeksll » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:42 pm

Brenchen wrote: I can't imagine everyone on the tour are over 170cm tall and have perfect torso/leg length ratio ...


why not? at the very elite level, natural ability may be all that separates them.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby misterhorsey » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:50 pm

Brenchen wrote:I took my bike into pro bike fitter due to inherit injuries to my knee, and I was suggested to change a few contact point size. I was suggested to change 90 for 80mm stem (did that), change crank length from 170mm to 167.5mm if possible, though not crucial (didn't do that), and with the spaces he took a few off at my request, but then I took all of them out, but still have the bigger tapered spacer (trying to find the smaller one, misplaced it somewhere).

He asked what's the next size down for the bike, from memory I told him 46.5cm frame. But he said I'm right on the edge between two frames, so probably the 50 was right for that bike for me...

With the crank, I also obtained another racer's opinion (MTBer), he said crank length does zip, they only vary in different few mm, which I guess kinda makes sense. And I'm not sure why the fitter said that few mm would be good.


Hey there Brenchen. I'm 167cm tall and ride a size 46 surly cross check (i think surlys sizes are bigger than the numbers indicate, so you'd have to look at the geometry specs to see if its comparable - but it is a small bike.). Just a few thoughts:

- i saw a physio bike fitter as well and she recommended that I change to 167.5mm cranks, with 165mm as the second option (from stock 170mm). I'm curious as to why you'd go with another racer's opinion over a bike fitter. After all, isn't the bike fit person meant to know what's best from a biomechanical view rather than a racer's individual anecdotal opinion? I think crank length can make a difference, although I'm not best acquainted with the science behind it ( http://sheldonbrown.com/cranks.html ).

The only other thing is that 167.5mm is almost impossible to find. I've ordered some new old stock suginos from the states and they haven't arrived yet!

- also, regarding aero position. Do you mean when the back is horizontal or when the bum is right up?

If the latter, perhaps that position is because the big boys are having to overcompensate for having long legs and trying to minimise their wind resistance? Assuming that guys like us are smaller, is it that much of an issue when we are already a small wind break in the first place? I don't have a problem tucking right in when going down hill. But perhaps its because my frame is a lot smaller and in proportion to me than my previous bike, which felt like a station wagon.

- lastly, my previous bike was a size 54, which my physio later said was way too big - and which caused me to go buy a much smaller bike. Interestingly, I have just sold the 54to a friend who is only a few cms taller than me, but the bike fits her fine. Her inseam is about 5cms longer, and her arms longer as well! She's also a woman, so this isn't totally surprising. But just goes to show what a difference leg length can make.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Brenchen » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:05 am

misterhorsey wrote:
Brenchen wrote:I took my bike into pro bike fitter due to inherit injuries to my knee, and I was suggested to change a few contact point size. I was suggested to change 90 for 80mm stem (did that), change crank length from 170mm to 167.5mm if possible, though not crucial (didn't do that), and with the spaces he took a few off at my request, but then I took all of them out, but still have the bigger tapered spacer (trying to find the smaller one, misplaced it somewhere).

He asked what's the next size down for the bike, from memory I told him 46.5cm frame. But he said I'm right on the edge between two frames, so probably the 50 was right for that bike for me...

With the crank, I also obtained another racer's opinion (MTBer), he said crank length does zip, they only vary in different few mm, which I guess kinda makes sense. And I'm not sure why the fitter said that few mm would be good.


Hey there Brenchen. I'm 167cm tall and ride a size 46 surly cross check (i think surlys sizes are bigger than the numbers indicate, so you'd have to look at the geometry specs to see if its comparable - but it is a small bike.). Just a few thoughts:

- i saw a physio bike fitter as well and she recommended that I change to 167.5mm cranks, with 165mm as the second option (from stock 170mm). I'm curious as to why you'd go with another racer's opinion over a bike fitter. After all, isn't the bike fit person meant to know what's best from a biomechanical view rather than a racer's individual anecdotal opinion? I think crank length can make a difference, although I'm not best acquainted with the science behind it ( http://sheldonbrown.com/cranks.html ).

The only other thing is that 167.5mm is almost impossible to find. I've ordered some new old stock suginos from the states and they haven't arrived yet!

- also, regarding aero position. Do you mean when the back is horizontal or when the bum is right up?

If the latter, perhaps that position is because the big boys are having to overcompensate for having long legs and trying to minimise their wind resistance? Assuming that guys like us are smaller, is it that much of an issue when we are already a small wind break in the first place? I don't have a problem tucking right in when going down hill. But perhaps its because my frame is a lot smaller and in proportion to me than my previous bike, which felt like a station wagon.

- lastly, my previous bike was a size 54, which my physio later said was way too big - and which caused me to go buy a much smaller bike. Interestingly, I have just sold the 54to a friend who is only a few cms taller than me, but the bike fits her fine. Her inseam is about 5cms longer, and her arms longer as well! She's also a woman, so this isn't totally surprising. But just goes to show what a difference leg length can make.


Thanks for your reply, indeed very useful. The bike fitter indeed to say I could go with the 167.5mm but not crucial. I had a look at the prices for the cranks, they ain't cheap, so I kinda just left it there. Could you let me know where you got your 167.5s from? I also had some trouble finding it.

I was going down a mountain brakeless, with the tuck, I seemed to only get down to about 60 odd kmh, while same hill, a bigger person (friend of mine) got up to 80. I know there could be lots of factors from that, but one of which I was interested in my drag profile.

Your point about the physical frontal area vs some of the bigger boys makes very good sense! However for the drag was one of the reason I envy guys with high seat low handlebar position, look is also another :oops: They look very very good on bikes with higher seats and lower handlebar positions :mrgreen:
Brendan Chen
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Nobody » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:17 am

Brenchen wrote:Thanks for your reply, indeed very useful. The bike fitter indeed to say I could go with the 167.5mm but not crucial. I had a look at the prices for the cranks, they ain't cheap, so I kinda just left it there. Could you let me know where you got your 167.5s from? I also had some trouble finding it.

I was going down a mountain brakeless, with the tuck, I seemed to only get down to about 60 odd kmh, while same hill, a bigger person (friend of mine) got up to 80. I know there could be lots of factors from that, but one of which I was interested in my drag profile.

Your point about the physical frontal area vs some of the bigger boys makes very good sense! However for the drag was one of the reason I envy guys with high seat low handlebar position, look is also another :oops: They look very very good on bikes with higher seats and lower handlebar positions :mrgreen:
167.5 cranks can be found easily in Japan.
http://www.alexscycle.com/cranks/road-1-2-3-4-5-6/

If you have having knee problems, the things that make the most difference are usually saddle height, saddle for/aft, foot position (including cant) and crank length. I have a 81cm inner leg and so I prefer 165mm cranks due to knee problems. My ideal crank length according to one calculator (below) is 166.25mm (between 167.5 & 165).
http://www.machinehead-software.co.uk/b ... lator.html

Bigger people generally will go down hill faster and often on the flat too (all other things being equal) because they have a lower frontal area for their mass.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby misterhorsey » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:27 am

Brenchen wrote:Your point about the physical frontal area vs some of the bigger boys makes very good sense! However for the drag was one of the reason I envy guys with high seat low handlebar position, look is also another :oops: They look very very good on bikes with higher seats and lower handlebar positions :mrgreen:


Yeah, I don't think you should get hung up about the look. I'm sure no one else is noticing, and from what I can tell, the form ultimately follows the function. If the big guys could tuck themselves in without the bum sticking up in the air, they would probably do it. Your heavier friend who descends faster than you is probably doing so primarily due to his greater weight. I have a tendency to tuck in and catch up to a lighter friend when I'm on the descent partly because me and my bike are heavier.

So, you can either handicap yourself by carrying around some lead weights in the back of your jersey to increase your descent speed. Or perhaps concentrate on getting better in area where your body size and weight may give you an unnatural advantage - CLIMBING!

I'll let you know where I got the cranks from if they ever arrive.......

But I see Nobody has suggested Alex, which does stock them as well. I didn't go there as they didn't have the type I wanted. But he made the same excellent suggestion to me I think when I was first looking.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Nobody » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:46 am

misterhorsey wrote:But he made the same excellent suggestion to me I think when I was first looking.
:oops: Um, that was High Tea. I thought it was worth repeating though.

viewtopic.php?f=9&t=54208#p821670
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Chris249 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:55 pm

You'd be dead right if you can't imagine that everyone on the Tour is over 170cm, at least. I'm 170 and although this is not something I've thought about until I read your post, I thought I may as well grab the programme and check the pro's heights.

PEraud (top 10 last year, even better in MTB) is 172, Maxim Igliensky 171, Cadel 174 (and known for long arms and I think short legs), Dumoulin 159, Duque 170, Gautier 168, Casar 171, Oscar "3 time world champ" Friere 171, Joachim "2011 World #1" Rod. is 169cm, Damiano "The Little Prince" Cunego 169cm (Giro winner, worlds runner-up, world #1), Matt Lloyd 171, Liepheimer 171, Albasini 172, Alby Davis (worlds podium) 171, Simon Gerrans 170, McEwen 171, Cav 175.

Of the 17 riders under 175cm, three have won worlds, one has won the Tour, another placed at the Tour, one has won the Giro, two have been worlds #1, twoi have placed in the Worlds, two have taken Monuments, another podiumed (?) a Giro, three have won Green Jerseys, etc.

Not surprisingly, inner leg length is not available publicly as far as I can find out, but it seems that being economically sized is not a major issue going by the very high success rate of the shorter riders; in fact one always read that Cav does well in the sprints because he can tuck in anywhere, but the tall sprinters cannot hide behind him.

Going down to a MUCH lower level, you can be an 170cm old fart with short legs and win in club B grade, etc.

I was going to say that short riders do better up hills but the performance of Leipheimer and the slightly taller Evans shows that they can TT well too.
There are many types of racing cyclists. There is the sprinter, the rouleur, the stagiaire, the danser, the descender.... sadly, I'm a mediocre. :-(

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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby misterhorsey » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:18 pm

I enjoyed your analysis Chris249!

Maybe un-tall cyclists don't have any mountain advantage other than being light! Then again, I guess there is some kind of ideal power to weight ratio. I've exhausted my capacity to think about these things tho. Can't really change height, can change weight and power - I'm more focused on making the most of what you have. Just happy to be able to cycle!!
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby hooman » Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:24 pm

Totally agree with you misterhorse. I am 170 and a gymnast in my early days so I'm a bit bulky at 84kg. I had my new bike fitted to me and he raised the bar and lowered my seat. Bike looks average but it flies! No back pain or knee pain. My kneck is relaxed and I am just bloody happy to be able to cycle at 47. I just need to get on the bike more often.

I do wonder if a size 50 is right. Bikes differ so before I bought, I went for a measure with my guy and we sat on the net finding bikes with the right geometry. On Giant it was 46.5 or 48. On Colnago, 50. On Time XS OR S. Pinarello, 50. So get all your measurements then decide.

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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby wurtulla wabbit » Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:33 pm

I am opposite and need shorter reach.
166cm ish, 63kg now and 800mm inseam. Even my small bike frame has me extended a bit on my bike with a 90mm stem and seat full forward.
Rather this way than the other though.
Not sure on the advantages of small over big on hill climbs neither, mates 6ft, chunky centre half in our footy team and goes ok.
Think climbing is a mind set as my other mate is 46, used to race as a youngster, hadn't been of a bike for months and absolutely destroyed us !( we both play footy twice per week, golf and cycle. )
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby misterhorsey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:37 pm

wurtulla wabbit wrote:I am opposite and need shorter reach.
166cm ish, 63kg now and 800mm inseam. Even my small bike frame has me extended a bit on my bike with a 90mm stem and seat full forward.
Rather this way than the other though.
Not sure on the advantages of small over big on hill climbs neither, mates 6ft, chunky centre half in our footy team and goes ok.
Think climbing is a mind set as my other mate is 46, used to race as a youngster, hadn't been of a bike for months and absolutely destroyed us !( we both play footy twice per week, golf and cycle. )


Hey Mr Wabbit. Have you tried a non-offset seat post? It will bring you close to the handlebars without having to shorten the stem (resulting in twitchier steering). It may have other consequences tho, which I have no idea about! I tried a non-offset briefly before getting a smaller frame.

I just measured myself again - 167cms with a 750mm inseam. Far out. I'm like one of those baby ponies. No wonder it was hard to get the bike fit.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Nobody » Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:51 pm

misterhorsey wrote:Have you tried a non-offset seat post? It will bring you close to the handlebars without having to shorten the stem (resulting in twitchier steering). It may have other consequences tho, which I have no idea about! I tried a non-offset briefly before getting a smaller frame.
You need to setup the for/aft saddle adjustment in reference to the BB. It is not a great idea to move the saddle around to compensate for other fit issues.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby wurtulla wabbit » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:03 pm

misterhorsey wrote:
wurtulla wabbit wrote:I am opposite and need shorter reach.
166cm ish, 63kg now and 800mm inseam. Even my small bike frame has me extended a bit on my bike with a 90mm stem and seat full forward.
Rather this way than the other though.
Not sure on the advantages of small over big on hill climbs neither, mates 6ft, chunky centre half in our footy team and goes ok.
Think climbing is a mind set as my other mate is 46, used to race as a youngster, hadn't been of a bike for months and absolutely destroyed us !( we both play footy twice per week, golf and cycle. )


Hey Mr Wabbit. Have you tried a non-offset seat post? It will bring you close to the handlebars without having to shorten the stem (resulting in twitchier steering). It may have other consequences tho, which I have no idea about! I tried a non-offset briefly before getting a smaller frame.

I just measured myself again - 167cms with a 750mm inseam. Far out. I'm like one of those baby ponies. No wonder it was hard to get the bike fit.


I have the seat forward, plumb line from knee to ball of foot is now set well. Top tube and reach will be ok with shorter stem and bars.
The bikes not a perfect fit but it was a good buy and that'll do me for now, I reckon I'd be better on a short bike but beggers can't be choosers.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby misterhorsey » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:20 am

Nobody wrote:
misterhorsey wrote:Have you tried a non-offset seat post? It will bring you close to the handlebars without having to shorten the stem (resulting in twitchier steering). It may have other consequences tho, which I have no idea about! I tried a non-offset briefly before getting a smaller frame.
You need to setup the for/aft saddle adjustment in reference to the BB. It is not a great idea to move the saddle around to compensate for other fit issues.


Indeed, I am going to dob DrHorsey into the Medical board for malpractice!

But I should have stated that any adjustment of fore/aft via a non-offset post be undertaken under the supervision of your bike fitter. But presumably they would have suggested it if they felt it was appropriate.
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Re: Short Legged People and Aero Position = Possible?

Postby Eleri » Sat Aug 04, 2012 3:41 pm

I'm 154cm in height and ride Shimano Ultegra 165mm cranks. Easy to get.

The best aero position for you is the one that you can get into. You have the advantage of not needing to have your seat pumped up high. High seat, low bars isn't necessarily best for everyone. Some of them are in that position because they have to based on the geometry of the bike. For others it's a desire to look "pro". Others are genuinely in the best aero position for them.

Somewhere, Steve Hogg has written about this, but just can't lay my hands on it at the moment.
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