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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In many sports, height gives the participant an advantage. Have any studies been done to correlate height and success in cycling? The heights of most pro cyclists are given on Wikipedia and I’ve noticed quite a range. It would appear that it’s the all-important power-to-weight ratio that matters the most in cycling rather than the rider’s height. Has anyone analyzed this in further detail?
 

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I'd think it would be nearly impossible to do when considering that even within just road racing, you have grand tours, 1-wk tours, one-day racing, etc..... and someone with an "ideal build" for one may not be a contender in another discipline.

One basic example are two Tour winners in a relatively small time window: Pantani was under 5'8", Indurain was 6'2".

Johan Vansummeren, who won PR in 2011, was 6'6" or something ridiculous like that.
 

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I've never seen an analysis, but I strongly suspect that height provides no advantage, but not necessarily any large disadvantage.

Power-to-weight ratio is only one parameter that's meaningful. It's most important in climbing, but matters less for time-trial specialists, roleurs and sprinters. Absolute power, aerobic efficiency (VO2 max), recovery ability and many other factors matter.

Although there's a range of sizes in the pro peleton, my impression is that pro cyclists are on the small end of average. They are certainly shorter on average than pros in sports where height really matters (baseball, football, even soccer).

The tallest Tour de France winner was Bradley Wiggins at 6'3" last year; tallest previous winner was Miguel Indurain at 6'2". They'd be little guys in many other pro sports. Armstrong is about 5'10", same for Contador, Merckx a hair over 6'.
 

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I was thinking maybe more so in pro mountain biking, but I'd have to research it a bit more. Off hand it seems to me quite a few of the international pros are smaller guys.
 

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All my shorter friends are killer climbers. Not sure if that is just coincidence or has any true meaning behind it. Maybe since they're shorter than can theoretically carry less overall weight on them. I'm 6-1, I would take that over being being 5-6, just saying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've never seen an analysis, but I strongly suspect that height provides no advantage, but not necessarily any large disadvantage.

Power-to-weight ratio is only one parameter that's meaningful. It's most important in climbing, but matters less for time-trial specialists, roleurs and sprinters. Absolute power, aerobic efficiency (VO2 max), recovery ability and many other factors matter.

Although there's a range of sizes in the pro peleton, my impression is that pro cyclists are on the small end of average. They are certainly shorter on average than pros in sports where height really matters (baseball, football, even soccer).

The tallest Tour de France winner was Bradley Wiggins at 6'3" last year; tallest previous winner was Miguel Indurain at 6'2". They'd be little guys in many other pro sports. Armstrong is about 5'10", same for Contador, Merckx a hair over 6'.
I agree with your thoughts though I wonder if pro cyclists are on the small end of average when compared to men in general. Or were you referring to other professional athletes?

I looked up many pros and the shortest I could find is Levi Leipheimer at 5'6". Most are in the 5'8" to 6'0" range. I would suspect that heights over the 6'3" of Wiggins could potentially start to be a disadvantage. I'm not sure if that would apply on the short end. Most men are over 5'6" so there's not a big pool for a pro cyclist under that height to come from.
 

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I ride primarily on a very speed-friendly course (a paved 4 mile loop, no climbs, no lights, few cars - not even a sharp turn to slow you down). Everyone there is doing intervals or a pace line or otherwise trying to go very very fast.

Barring the occasional exception, it's my observation that the fastest guys around that course are the 6'+ giants with hams for thighs.
 

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I agree with your thoughts though I wonder if pro cyclists are on the small end of average when compared to men in general. Or were you referring to other professional athletes?

I looked up many pros and the shortest I could find is Levi Leipheimer at 5'6". Most are in the 5'8" to 6'0" range. I would suspect that heights over the 6'3" of Wiggins could potentially start to be a disadvantage. I'm not sure if that would apply on the short end. Most men are over 5'6" so there's not a big pool for a pro cyclist under that height to come from.
given the average male in the us is 5'10" why would most randomly picked not be between 5'8" and 6'0"?
Height Chart of Men and Women in Different Countries
(funny enough, dutch pros are as far as I can tell taller than spanish pros, in average. fits nicely with national average height).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I ride primarily on a very speed-friendly course (a paved 4 mile loop, no climbs, no lights, few cars - not even a sharp turn to slow you down). Everyone there is doing intervals or a pace line or otherwise trying to go very very fast.

Barring the occasional exception, it's my observation that the fastest guys around that course are the 6' giants with hams for thighs.
That makes sense for those conditions. I was thinking more of those who compete for the overall general classification in races that have a mixture of terrain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
given the average male in the us is 5'10" why would most randomly picked not be between 5'8" and 6'0"?
Height Chart of Men and Women in Different Countries
(funny enough, dutch pros are as far as I can tell taller than spanish pros, in average. fits nicely with national average height).
You just proved my point. Pro cyclists are not on the small side of average for men but rather right on average.
 

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In many sports, height gives the participant an advantage. Have any studies been done to correlate height and success in cycling? The heights of most pro cyclists are given on Wikipedia and I’ve noticed quite a range. It would appear that it’s the all-important power-to-weight ratio that matters the most in cycling rather than the rider’s height. Has anyone analyzed this in further detail?
Right, like heading a ball in soccer, rebounding, leverage on a fastball and so on.

But what can you point to in cycling where height, all other things being equal, could be an advantage? If anything it would be a disadvantage I'd think. If a tall and short person had identical weight/power, the shorter person would probably have better aerodynamics and thus be faster.

Taller than average people may tent to have better genetics, bigger lungs or whatever, but it's not the height, per se, that would help or hurt a cyclist.
 

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I ride primarily on a very speed-friendly course (a paved 4 mile loop, no climbs, no lights, few cars - not even a sharp turn to slow you down). Everyone there is doing intervals or a pace line or otherwise trying to go very very fast.

Barring the occasional exception, it's my observation that the fastest guys around that course are the 6'+ giants with hams for thighs.
Roleurs. Muscular guys with great power-to-drag ratio. The biggest pro cyclist I ever heard of, Magnus Backstedt, was 6'4" and 210 pounds. He pulled some trains in his time. But he didn't climb mountains very fast.
 

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Height can matter in a sport that involves running because one's stride can matter. On a bicycle it's irrelevant. It's a matter of PWR or even more basically the gear ratio combined with the cadence that the rider is pushing.
 

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Roleurs. Muscular guys with great power-to-drag ratio. The biggest pro cyclist I ever heard of, Magnus Backstedt, was 6'4" and 210 pounds. He pulled some trains in his time. But he didn't climb mountains very fast.
it's still his time, he races in the UK now :)
(yeah sure he is not going to win Paris-Roubaix again).
and to get back on the topic of size differences among the pros.
Backstedt with de lucas bike
www.cyclingnews.com - the world centre of cycling
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Right, like heading a ball in soccer, rebounding, leverage on a fastball and so on.

But what can you point to in cycling where height, all other things being equal, could be an advantage? If anything it would be a disadvantage I'd think. If a tall and short person had identical weight/power, the shorter person would probably have better aerodynamics and thus be faster.

Taller than average people may tent to have better genetics, bigger lungs or whatever, but it's not the height, per se, that would help or hurt a cyclist.
Interesting. I would think, though, that there would be a cut-off where being too short would start to be some kind of disadvantage. I wonder if shorter female cyclists do as well as female cyclists who are closer to the male average height. Would a 5'0" height translate into a lower power potential?
 

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Interesting. I would think, though, that there would be a cut-off where being too short would start to be some kind of disadvantage. I wonder if shorter female cyclists do as well as female cyclists who are closer to the male average height. Would a 5'0" height translate into a lower power potential?
But you don't think there would be such a cut-off on the tall end?

Sure, I don't know any good 5'0" cyclist. Don't know of any 7'0" good cyclist either.

Pointing out that real short people don't have good cycling potential doesn't point towards taller people having it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
But you don't think there would be such a cut-off on the tall end?

Sure, I don't know any good 5'0" cyclist. Don't know of any 7'0" good cyclist either.

Pointing out that real short people don't have good cycling potential doesn't point towards taller people having it.
I already posted above that I thought Wiggins at 6'3" would be at the very top range of height before it would start to be a disadvantage.
 
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