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  1. #1
    BIGchainRING
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    cycling and leg length

    I always marveled at the pro bike features on the internet that had the riders measurements. The latest one I read was a rider 1.85 m tall with a saddle to BB center measurement of 79.5 cm.

    The reason why I marvel is I am 1.86 m tall and have a 82.0 cm saddle to BB center measurement. I always assumed I had long legs.

    Today, I found a forum for leg lengthening (who knew such a thing existed?) where it was suggested to measure your leg length to see how 'normal' you are.

    The computation takes inseam and divides it by height.

    I did mine and found I have a 49% leg length to height ratio. The average is 45%.

    My question is do my long legs help me when riding a bike? I am not a great cyclist, but I have been riding for many years and commute by bike daily. One thing I have is plenty of power when needed. Do long legs help with this?

    Also, does anybody know if any of the cycling greats had abnormally long legs? I guess I still have dreams of being an awesome rider; just not a climber.

    thx

  2. #2
    Happily absent RBR Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by centurionomega View Post
    I always marveled at the pro bike features on the internet that had the riders measurements. The latest one I read was a rider 1.85 m tall with a saddle to BB center measurement of 79.5 cm.

    The reason why I marvel is I am 1.86 m tall and have a 82.0 cm saddle to BB center measurement. I always assumed I had long legs.

    Today, I found a forum for leg lengthening (who knew such a thing existed?) where it was suggested to measure your leg length to see how 'normal' you are.

    The computation takes inseam and divides it by height.

    I did mine and found I have a 49% leg length to height ratio. The average is 45%.

    My question is do my long legs help me when riding a bike? I am not a great cyclist, but I have been riding for many years and commute by bike daily. One thing I have is plenty of power when needed. Do long legs help with this?

    Also, does anybody know if any of the cycling greats had abnormally long legs? I guess I still have dreams of being an awesome rider; just not a climber.

    thx
    Bicycles are mechanical devices for converting leg power into smooth rotating wheel power. As such it removes some of the advantage of different body types that would be critically important to a swimmer, speed skater or basketball player. Because of this, pro cyclists vary more in height and proportions than most other pro athletes.

    Most of the greatest cyclists have been average sized people. Very small people tend to have a climbing advantage due to a higher proportion of lung volume to weight, while larger people have an aerodynamic advantage in that they have less frontal drag area for the amount of muscle they have. Tall people will tend to fall into the second category, but if they are in the first category they are thin enough that they might lack the mechanical muscle advantage of shorter person.

    I doubt long legged people have any real advantage unless those long legs are correspondingly powerful and their short torsos actually save enough weight to offer a climbing advantage. But gearing should make short, powerful legs just as useful to power a bike.

    Mostly long legged people are at a fit disadvantage because their proportions make it hard to find a stock bicycle that locates the handlebars high and close enough.
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  3. #3
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    If people have long legs they probably also have long arms thus avoiding a "high and close" handlebar fit problem:
    the handlebars don't need to be close due to the long arms, and they should be high enough as the frame can be rather large (relative to the overall height of the cyclist).

  4. #4
    Happily absent RBR Member
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    Arms would have to be even longer proportionately than the legs to make up for a short torso. Big frames are designed to fit people who have long legs, arms AND torsos.

  5. #5
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    You'll only be an awesome rider by riding tens of thousands of miles and by being genetically gifted in a couple of departments relative to cycling.

    Leg length has pretty much nothing to do with either.

  6. #6
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    this is a good question, has been asked many times, but no definite proven answer exist. In running, it's pretty known you want a short torso and long legs, I mean the East Africans, most are this body type. And there's isn't gonna be too much argument over this.
    However, in cycling, things are complicated by the bicycle (a mechanical device providing a mechanical advantage).

    What Kontact said is good!
    I will also add in some ideas that I've heard and read. Legs length in cycling doesn't provide the same mechanical advantage as in running. I mean look at the pro peloton, you have a mix of skinny dudes and big dudes. In elite running, this isn't the case. A big dude, no matter his VO2max in cycling, will get grilled by skinny dudes. You'll never see big tall dude like Indurian dominating running like in cycling. (That's why I have said, running is much harder than cycling). The other thing about long legs is that, everything being equaled, long legs do help. The reason is because long legs also means you tend to have more muscles, and the more musclse you have, the more you can do work. Specifically, long femur of the legs that will help a bit. I may be off, but that's what I've read (as I recall it). Anatomy experts can correct me if i'm wrong

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
    Specifically, long femur of the legs that will help a bit. I may be off, but that's what I've read (as I recall it). Anatomy experts can correct me if i'm wrong
    There are a lot of super quick 5 footish Kenyan and Ethiopian women...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
    Specifically, long femur of the legs that will help a bit.
    Quote Originally Posted by pedalbiker View Post
    There are a lot of super quick 5 footish Kenyan and Ethiopian women...
    I've been coursing my way through Friel's "Fast after 50." (Not that I have any delusions about being a competitive racer- it's just that I'd like to get back to being able to ride with the local clubs' 'A' groups from time-to-time.) Anyway, Friel asserts that a longer thigh relative to the lower leg is advantageous for a cyclist- but conversely a long shin relative to femur length is advantageous for a runner.

    Anyway, from my highly limited perspective, the "trinity" of cycling performance comes down to: power, cardio, suffer capacity. I can't do anything about the skeletal morphology of my legs... but I can do something about the triune elements that go the furthest to making me a stronger rider.
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  9. #9
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    All else being equal, yes - longer legs are advantageous. If two guys are 6' 175lbs with the same fat, muscle, VO2, etc. One guy has an inseam of 31", the other has an inseam of 35", the guy with the lighter bike will be faster... whoops, sorry. Meant to say: The guy with the longer legs will be the stronger cyclist - for the simple reason that his legs make up the greater percentage of the mass being moved. His torso is shorter/lighter, his legs are bigger/stronger - doing the same work.
    Last edited by OldZaskar; 04-25-2018 at 05:22 PM.

  10. #10
    I make Eagles fly
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    Just stumbled on this thread, was thinking of stuff like this the other day. Iím the 6í1 person with a 35 inch inseam, what can be done to maximize the advantage ?

    I also ride BMX, my road bike has 175mm cranks, my BMX bike has 180mm cranks. For the first 20ish minutes when I get back on my road bike, the crank length really feels short.
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