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17 Struggles Faced by the Short Cyclists of the World

A few frustrations suffered by our pint-sized friends...

Being a female cyclist is hard enough sometimes (except all of those times it’s awesome). But for short female cyclists, there are even more complications.

The cycling world caters little for women full stop, and when it does, it tends to focus on the ‘average’. We’ve had the conversation with brands many a time, and their response is usually that women make up around 5 to 15 per cent of their sales, so: ‘if you’re going to cater for a niche (women), you have to cater for the largest group within that niche (average women)’.

We get it, we really do. We’ll just take our money elsewhere and head over to the brands who DO make an effort to cater for women of all shapes and sizes. FYI, their male to female sales split is probably more equal.

In the mean time, here are some of the struggles smaller riders face on a ride-to-ride basis…

Riding 650c wheels on the road, tyres and tubes are like gold dust

Emma Pooley famously rides bikes built for 650 wheels – very well!

You’re a slight, petite, and probably quite light rider – so why should you pay the weight penalty of wheels designed for much larger cyclists? Bike builders tell us that smaller riders are generally better off riding road bikes with 650c wheels – less rotating mass plus shorter wheelbase means they accelerate much faster and adjusted geometry eliminates toe overlap.

So you find a brand that makes proper road bikes (for adults – none of this buying a kids bike with low spec stuff) with 650c wheels. Great. Except when you get a puncture and can’t just walk into a bike shop and buy a tube like everyone else. And your choice of tyres? lol.

The ‘women’s bike or not’ choice is totally taken away from you

Image: Liv

Ah, look at all those ‘average height’ women, debating the pros and cons of buying a women’s bike, or going unisex. It must be super tough for them, having all that choice. Most unisex bikes simply aren’t available with a small enough frame for you, so you’ll be choosing exclusively from the women’s options – whether you like it or not. It’s a good thing you like pink. You do like pink, right?!

Short legs down to your knees, and sleeves down to your elbows

The good thing is that roadie fashions of late do follow a more ‘euro style’ ethos that sees leg grippers coming closer to the knee, and long sleeves on jerseys are being celebrated. The complications for short women arrive when they buy anything ‘euro style’ and find the shorts are close to becoming 3/4 lengths… The best option is to buy ‘short shorts’, which will probably finish kind of where they’re meant to.

On the plus side, you can get away with buying kids clothes sometimes – thus saving on VAT…

You might have to CNC your own cranks at this rate

The jury is out on the ‘perfect’ crank length – it depends upon your pedalling style, body dimensions, even what you want out of your riding. But what we do know is that shorter riders generally need smaller cranks. And as long as you’re in the minority, they’re going to be a PITA to get hold of.

Smaller women’s bikes usually come specced with 165mm cranks – but if you want 160mm or less for quicker accelerations, a smoother pedal stroke and reduced toe overlap, you might want to book yourself onto a metal working course.

Brake levers

Stopping… stopping… sto… can’t stop!

With a bit of know how, most brake levers can be adjusted (on road and mountain bikes) to offer a better fit for people with little hands. It’s just a shame it takes most little-handed-people quite a few absolutely petrifying rides to realise this.

You can see Sweet-F-A when riding in a peloton

Oh – was there an attack? I didn’t see it – because I can’t see anything over the top of your massive head… (yes you, rider 144).

Standover height

It was all going so well – you were flowing down that trail, getting into the  groove. Then you had to stop for a moment. Getting back onto the bike pretty much always requires a small step ladder, or one of those mounting blocks they used to have at the stables when you were a kid…

Thank goodness for dropper seat posts and bikes that don’t walk away from the fence.

You are so in the firing line on wet and muddy rides

Everyone eats a little bit of grit and mud on a wet, puddle ridden ride. But if your face is just that little bit lower down, right in front of the wheel? Well – you’ve just got to hope your mates run mudguards.

Shoes in your size do exist. But you’ll need to order in.

Once upon a time, most women were forced to buy men’s kit. Since you don’t get many men with UK size 3 feet, the was an absolute nightmare. Thankfully, now that more brands make women’s kit – including shoes and gloves – there is gear available in most sizes. But is it available on shop floor? Jog on. Your shoes will be with you in 6-8 weeks.

Small head? Ah – this helmet will fit you perfectly…

Erm – is that made for a small child, aged around 5-6?

Want more than one bottle? Sorry…

You’re never going to fit two ‘normal’ sized water bottles in that little triangle on your frame. Good excuse to carry less, and ask a taller mate for a refill, though…

Glasses that fit your face are a figment of your imagination

So you wear glasses that don’t fit your face and your mates are like ‘wtf is wrong with you?’

And they fall off your nose. A similar battle takes place with cycling caps, and gloves.

Pretty much all bike shops like to use slat walls, and pile it high…

Slat walls are fairly attractive, not too expensive, and allow retailers to move their wares around by swapping hooks into a new position. Funny how that new position is never, ever, lower down.

Saddlebag and a light on that seat tube?

For an average heighted person, this is no problem. But if you’re on the small side, and have a small bike and little legs, there just isn’t enough seat post to secure a saddle bag and a light. Tricky choice to make.

Your Garmin basically takes up all of your stem

Long stems are fashionable on the road – and better for handling. But it does need to be proportional to your actual bike – and if you’re small then your bike is probably small, and thus your stem will be on the titchy side too. If you’ve not gotten around to buying an out-front mount, trying to squeeze your Garmin/cycling computer into position can be a pain. Extra points if you’ve got a scuff on the bottom right hand corner from every time you brush it past the stem cap.

Ain’t no one wanting to sit on your wheel

You’re about as useful to draft off as a twiglet with a wind turbine attached to the back of its twiglet-mobile. Everyone jumps in front of you, onto the wheel of some 6 ft giant. Still, this could work in your advantage if you want to shirk the efforts at the front.

You’re miniature and people think that might mean teeny tiny capabilities (and power numbers)

That’s fine though. All the more power to surprise them with.

Got any additions to this list? Let us know in the comments! 

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