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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Twin Cities, Minnesota
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    487

    Does Bicycle and body height affect how fast you can ride?

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    I have been riding now for 7 years, four of those on an XS Specialized Ruby Elite Carbon bicycle. I'm 5'1." I'm very long waisted with very short legs.

    Do people over 5'7" who ride much larger bicycles have an advantage with speed?

    I would think they could cover a lot more distance with one pedal rotation because their wheels are bigger and their legs are longer, than I can with my very, very short legs and "toy" bicycle as my SO calls it.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

    I have also decided that I am going to sell my XS Ruby and by an S. I just feel so cramped on the bicycle and I think it would be beneficial if I could stretch out more.
    kajero
    2013 Trek FX 7.6 WSD
    2012 Specialized Ruby WSD
    2004 Schwinn (I think that is the year)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,856
    I once asked a friend if the small wheels on his folding bike affected his speed relative to his regular road bikes, and he gave me a technical answer that basically was no, they don't make him slower. Though I don't remember the technical part.

    As for longer vs shorter legs, I guess the crank length might matter if yours are shorter than most, but I don't really know. On the other hand shorter people can have a weight advantage over taller folks, especially when climbing. I am 5'7" and will never weigh much less than 140 lbs barring serious illness.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Twin Cities, Minnesota
    Posts
    487
    I figured weight may have something to do with it. I weigh around 142 so I am lugging around some extra weight and it's all from the waist down. I figure if I lose some weight it would help and I've been working on losing it . . . like forever. . Then again, I am 65 in February so maybe I am allowed a few extra pounds or not.
    kajero
    2013 Trek FX 7.6 WSD
    2012 Specialized Ruby WSD
    2004 Schwinn (I think that is the year)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
    Posts
    1,204
    Power-to-weight ratio, aerobic efficiency and conditioning are probably more important than size. The kind of riding, climbing vs sprinting etc comes into it too. I’d say good frame geometry and mechanicals for a person’s size and how they ride is the most important aspect. Smaller wheels do have a positive impact on initial movement and climbing…..the world speed record was also done on 18” wheels.
    Thinking we should just understand what our strengths and abilities are geared towards, build a bike accordingly and enjoy riding. I have a larger heart and lungs than the women’s norm and I can do climbing well so that’s the challenge I enjoy doing most.

    weight certainly plays a role by itself but then i feel we should place more importance on enjoying the riding we do and work on things like weight as we can or even not ...especially if someone is healthy otherwise
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,143
    Kajero, I agree with all of what's said above.
    I am the same height as you. Do not sell your x small Ruby. I can guaruntee you will be too stretched out on the small. I am also long waisted, so while I am petite, in every other sense of the word, my torso is longer than other women my size. I think that what Rebecca said is important, in that power to weight ratio is the most important thing. Losing weight and maybe doing some targeted strength training will help. I am just a couple of years younger than you, so don't think that you can't improve with age. If I did more than I do, I would be faster, but I also know I am not super slow. I can put the hurt on if I need to. What I've found is that a lot of women don't want to "suffer" and have issues dealing with the pain it takes to improve. I certainly don't want to do this on all of my rides, but sometimes, you need to, in order to see change.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
    Posts
    678
    The answer for the technical part is that, assuming the same pedaling cadence, wheel diameter (rim + tire) does make a difference in your speed, in that you do travel a greater distance with one revolution of the pedal as the wheel diameter increases. If you pedal a bike with smaller wheels, then, it will require more pedaling (increasing your cadence) to keep with someone with larger wheels. Not the end of the story, though.

    It does take more effort to pedal larger wheels up to the same speed. Larger wheels accelerate more slowly. Finally, larger wheels are typically heavier and that also increases pedaling effort. This poses no problem for us gals with longer legs, since we have more leverage, plus we get to use longer crank arms with our pedals which also provide more leverage. If you have short legs, though, those smaller wheels might already be the most efficient for you in terms of effort expended versus distance traveled. Going to larger wheels may actually slow you down if they force you to drop your cadence too low for lack of leverage and strength.

    All is not lost, however. There are things you can do to your smaller wheeled bike to increase speed and efficiency. I've upgraded several bikes to lighter wheels and tires and noticed a real improvement in my speed. Even a small decrease in weight with your wheels makes a difference, since the rotation of the wheels is a magnifying factor. The bad news is that upgrading wheel sets can get very expensive, but it really is something to consider. Even going to tubeless tires and not having the extra weight of tubes can make a difference.

    Really, though, I'm with the others on this. Keep your XS bike, maybe upgrade it to better wheels, but mostly work on your cadence and conditioning. In the meantime, maybe test ride a S with bigger wheels, but make it a long distance test and an honest one. A ride around the parking lot or around the block won't cut it.

    Be warned. Wish I had a dollar for every bike I bought to solve one issue, only to discover that it creates others. Probably why I have a garage full of them.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Twin Cities, Minnesota
    Posts
    487
    Thanks for all the feedback.

    You would think that after riding 679 miles this summer my speed would have improved. I no longer have to walk up any of the hills I used to, except for one hill that I don't know if I will ever be able to conquer. Most of my rides include some type of hill. I find I like the challenge of not having to walk up them anymore.

    I don't really like to ride groups but I do have a group of friends, The Purple Pumpers, that I would like to ride with occasionally. They alternate riding in the St. Paul Classic and Minneapolis Bike Tour every other year. Everyone starts together but then everyone gets all split up. We meet at someone's house after for lunch. I don't feel so bad about my speed on these two rides. They also ride in the MS150 every year. I rode with them one year and they waited for me many times and I felt awful.

    I kind of went with them on a "maybe the end of the season" bike ride on Saturday. I left 45 minutes earlier and then met them for lunch. I waited 30 minutes after they left before I rode back. I didn't want them thinking they had to wait for me. This is the only arrangement that works for me where I can kind of ride with them and not worry about holding them back.

    So how can I increase my mph? I thought maybe riding a lot and going up hills would help, but I am still where I was four years ago! Most of the time I don't care because I like riding alone, but I really would like to be comfortable riding with the Purple Pumpers a couple times a year.
    kajero
    2013 Trek FX 7.6 WSD
    2012 Specialized Ruby WSD
    2004 Schwinn (I think that is the year)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
    Posts
    1,204
    Quote Originally Posted by kajero View Post
    So how can I increase my mph?.
    A routine of intervals a couple of times a week for awhile on the bike or trainer in the winter will help a lot in building speed. Optimal hydration and glycogen fueling before and during (and after for recovery) to keep the body prepared for the few maximal moments of those interval's and being physically and mentally rested for the next day you do intervals which speaks to good recovery tactics. Anaerobic intervals will also help in both your climbing, speed and weight.
    Lots of good info on the net about interval training. I used Joe Friel’s Training Bible as a resource years ago when I started looking into it. Probably lots of good studies on it since then too.
    Last edited by rebeccaC; 10-17-2016 at 03:20 PM.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
    Posts
    678
    Kajero, don't beat yourself up on this. Even with all the miles I ride in a year, I get passed, plenty. I'm 66 and in excellent shape and ride every day, but then another rider blows by me like I'm standing still and I feel down for a bit. Then I scold myself for letting it get to me because I know better. I ride because I love to ride and, besides, speed isn't the only way to rate your riding. The fact that you're riding those hills that had you walking, before, is no small thing.

    Living in northern Wisconsin like I do, the only way I can keep in good bicycling shape, year round, is by riding indoors on a trainer when the weather gets nasty in the winter. It's a great way to keep in shape for us northern gals. On the same note, some bicycle shops in snow country offer classes where you can bring your bike to the shop, setup on a trainer and have a coach help you with your riding. I'm sure there are such classes in the Minneapolis area. Might want to check it out.

    Also, you might try finding a riding buddy at, or a bit above, your level. Have done riding in the past with boyfriends and found that it helped push me a bit, but not too much.
    Last edited by north woods gal; 10-16-2016 at 08:15 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
    Posts
    2,608
    Just enjoy your ride and YES there are plenty of people out there who will be going faster or much much faster than you. There's always a bigger fish in the pond than you. Besides, its not a race. The riders who do pass you, are they older or the same age as you? Probably younger. 30 years ago, I was so much faster than today; but, I realize that it is unreasonable to expect to perform as well today as I did 30 years ago. I'm not as strong, not as fast, don't have the endurance and I take a lot longer to recover. Its life. sigh...

    Remember too that disgraced Lance Armstrong quipped that after his bout with cancer, he went out on a ride only to be passed by some old woman.

    bigger wheel, you need more torque but less rotational speed. Smaller wheel, you need less torque but more rotational speed. And power is torque multiplied by rotational speed so for same traveling speed, it turns out to be that power needed is same whether its big wheel or small wheel. And this is where thing called gear inches come into play. Basically if you have a smaller wheel, you need to be geared higher than on a big wheel. Even though you may be geared really high on smaller wheel, it basically takes the same amount of effort as it does on a big wheel geared low.

    Another reference point, racers and serious weekend warriors put in 150 to 200 miles a week minimum. They would also include interval training and its not pleasant nor is it pretty (chucking biscuit is pretty common).

    Agree with what everyone else has said already.

    Enjoy riding while you still can.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
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    1,204
    Quote Originally Posted by smilingcat View Post
    They would also include interval training and its not pleasant nor is it pretty (chucking biscuit is pretty common).
    LOL.....there are intensity levels that certainly don't have to lead to that.
    i've never had that problem and i go harder than i'm sure kajero will have to in helping her gain some speed ...and like i've posted before intervals help me deal with life's frustrations
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    California
    Posts
    216
    So here is another version of the technical answer.

    http://community.terrybicycles.com/p...facfe5733356c4
    Bike Friday Petite Crusoe
    Terry Trixie
    Gary Fisher beater bike

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,143
    What Smiling Cat said, is what I was speaking of. While I don't want to puke, doing intervals 1-2X a week will definitely help you. And, I have found winter training either on the trainer or in spin class allows you to do this is a way that sometimes doesn't happen outside. And, make sure you do winter sports that are aerobic!
    It is also hard for me to find a group to ride with. I have one, but now they have split into 2 on a lot of rides. One group, I am one of the stronger ones, and it makes me feel good. But, I never get better if I only ride with them. The other, I can keep up, but not on a 45 mile ride with big climbs. They make me feel badly, despite the fact they are very nice. My goal this year, is to ride with the faster ones in the winter, or in the early season, when they are milder in their style. But, I often get sick of trying, and I end up just settling back into my regular routine.
    Yes, there will always be someone faster. A few years ago (when i was a faster rider), I got dropped by a guy wearing jeans, a backpack, and on a mountain bike.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
    Posts
    678
    I'm no gear head, so hope I didn't confuse more than help with my version of the technical answer. Sorry if I did. I do have bikes with a wide variety of wheel sizes, so I do know there are differences, but translating that into something others can understand isn't easy. Again, sorry for my clumsy attempt, everyone.

    I stand by my answer of keeping your XS bike and working on your training, though, Kajero. From personal experience, I know it's much more the biker than the bike we ride. Best of luck, but no matter what you do, just keep riding.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,856
    You know, I do have some friends who get about 1-1.5 mph faster on average as the months progress from early spring to mid summer and I know they're not trying to get faster with interval training or anything like that. They just ride a lot, almost every day, with the ride distances becoming increasingly longer as the weather warms up. They're over 70, and even at their fastest are not as fast as they were years ago. But I do see a difference when I ride with them at different times of the year.

    As for me, when I ride with people who are faster than me I don't enjoy the ride as much, because I'm focused on trying to keep up and pushing through the exhaustion instead of enjoying the scenery. So while I also would like to be able to keep up with some people and I also feel uncomfortable when they stop to wait for me, I don't want to suffer that much in order to get faster. And there's only so much I can do to get faster, due to asthma slowing me down on hills and a tendency to have knee pain when I ride too big a gear. At the same time I am frustrated because I'm in-between right now when it comes to average speed, not fast enough to keep up with one group of people that I know but faster than another group and always having to wait for them.

    I find it difficult to do interval training training when riding outside, because I'm limited by things like traffic or stop signs and stop lights. So if i want to do "intervals" I really end up pushing hard at the beginning of the ride and then riding a comfortable pace at the end. I find it much easier to do them when riding indoors (or doing other indoor cardio exercise), especially because it makes the workout less likely to get boring.

    Editing to add: I do find that I am slower when I am uncomfortable on the bike or downright in pain. If a larger frame would to too large, and Crankin indicates, is there anything you can do to feel less cramped on the current bike? Like a different stem or something?
    Last edited by ny biker; 10-17-2016 at 10:32 AM.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

 

 

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