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Interesting article about Hinault

matchmaker said:
For SS, I would think that 165mm has its advantage, because your leg pace changes continually. On a road bike, gears can make up for changes in resistance.

Anyway, I just hope people are less biased against different crank lengths. I think it is mainly a personal thing. I ended up trying the shorter ones because of a knee injury and I have no regrets. I do enjoy riding the normal length cranks also now my knee is back to normal.

IMO, people should go with what works for them and staying injury-free is probably the most important thing in any sport. You don't improve much by sitting at home with ice packs. For certain people shorter cranks can certainly alleviate knee problems and once they get used to it, they won't even notice the change anymore.

One can only lament the limited availability of different crank length, especially from a certain prestigious brand. Whereas it might be true that 170-175 caters to most, there are also many shorter people (many women are getting into road biking) and taller people that could respectively be served by 165 and 180 cranks.

The intention was to get the 1.73-cm tall Hinault sitting further back but also higher. As such, his saddle height was raised from 72.8 cm to 73.5 cm, but gradually over a 3-year period from 1979 to 1982 to as not to place too much strain on him, particularly his knees (Greg LeMond also endorsed this higher riding position).

Unfortunately, during one stage of the 1983 Vuelta, his saddle was accidentally set at 74 cm, and this exacerbated the strain on his right knee, which had been causing him trouble since 1980 and he had dropped out of that year’s Tour because of it. In the summer of 1983 it was operated on, causing him to miss the Tour for that year.
The new riding position was partially to allow Hinault to climb better in the saddle. He had a reputation for pushing large gears while climbing, often out of the saddle for long stretches, which was attributed by some as the cause of his knee problem.
This was a sensitive issue for Hinault and he maintained that he always had a smooth cadence, but that he would “choose his gears according to the pedalling cadence that suits me – above this cadence I get out of breath too quickly; below it, my muscles are too contracted”. For him, that optimal cadence was between 70 and 90 rpm, a fairly generous range.

I see this thread got started after the other closed. My POV is that a lot of this stuff is very subjective and I'm of the opinion that going from a 172.5 to 175 crank is not all that much of a difference. Blindfolded I don't know whether I could detect a difference.

I'm 175 cm tall and have an 85 cm inseam which would necessitates a 75 cm saddle height according to the LeMond .883 x inseam formula. I like my saddle lower though so I can ankle a decent amount. I wear a 45 or 46 shoe and have strong lower legs.

I prefer a saddle height of around 73.5 to 74. I could ride 75 but the saddle feels like it's weighted too much and down around 73 I feel my knees are too flexed but I think I could ride the lower height rather than the higher one if I was forced to choose the extremes.

Could I tell the difference in a blindfolded test, between saddles .5cm difference? If I had a direct comparison, yes, most likely, but if I just got on a bike with an unknown .5 cm increase/decrease, I might sense something was slightly off.

It's interesting in the article that Hinault went from a 54.5cm top tube to a 56.5 cm tt. The article doesn't mention the STA but the 55cm Seat tube KG381 I'm riding has an approx 56.5tt. That would be considered a big bike nowadays.

By contrast Contador is riding a 52 Specialized with 53.7 cm tt.
Critical measurements

Rider's height: 1.77m (5' 10")
Rider's weight: 62kg (137lb)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 748mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 490mm
Head tube length: 120mm
Top tube length: 537mm
Total bicycle weight: 6.80kg (14.99lb)

428 Posts
SystemShock said:
First off, I'd like to thank Blackjack (non-sarcastically, to be clear) for researching around instead of merely going, "Nuh uh, not in my opinion." This is valuable, and I intend to be reasonable/nice, assuming that others are.

For further background on the incident mentioned, here is a passage from the presumable original source, Hinault's own book, Road Racing Techniques & Training:

The year of 1983 was marked by a knee operation, after a mistake in setting [Hinault's] saddle during the Tour of Spain. This mistake– which was the final provocation, if not the actual cause– forced Hinault to pedal on a saddle raised to 74cm for the whole long mountain stage in which he assured his final victory.

A sudden increase of 5mm– especially in such a difficult stage– couldn't help but damage the tendons of a rider whose position was being adjusted so precisely and gradually. If the saddle had been lowered instead of raised it wouldn't have done the same thing. A saddle that's too low reduces efficiency, but doesn't cause this kind of injury.

From the book, we can see that Hinault's saddle being set 5mm too high did indeed cause him problems, though to be fair to BJ, Hinault had not been completely kind to his knees previously. Still, many riders could be accused of same.

It is also noted in his book that Hinault did, in fact, learn to start pushing smaller gears partway through his career. When exactly he started doing this is not stated:

In the mountains, I now use smaller gears than when I was a young pro. Where I used to ride a 22-tooth cog, standing on the pedals when needed, I now use a 24 and stay in the saddle much longer. I sit further back and pedal much more smoothly.

Far as my own experiences with crank length(s) go, I've ridden 170, 172.5, and 175 extensively, and prefer 172.5s.

I especially A-B'd 172.5 and 175 cranks a lot fairly early on in my cycling, and could definitely tell the difference... my pedaling was smoother and felt better on the 172.5s. Which was surprising/disappointing to me, as I kinda liked the idea of having 175s as my crank size ('more is always better', and all that). The 175s felt 'torquey-er', but just weren't smooth enough. But at an 82cm inseam (178cm tall), I suppose that was pushing it a bit. I do have very long thighs, though.

I like a saddle height of around 72.3 mm, and I find that I notice if, when playing around with my setup, I don't have that saddle height dialed in precisely or extremely close.

I worry about things like knee and ligament injuries, but, knock on wood, none experienced so far.

// I agree with the OP that it would be nice if more cranks were available in 165mm and 180mm lengths, to fit the short and tall. There's a few, but the majority of cranks don't offer this.
Fair enough, the rag fest, back and forth starts getting old anyway.

Someone mentioned that anyone who rides a lot would be able to detect small differences or that they would matter to such a person. I ride about 10k miles per year though, so that's a decent amount of time on the bike and it makes very little difference to me whether I'm running a 172.5 or 175 crank..

The only injury I'm worried about on the bike is my back, which I injured through overuse on the job. What helped make it worse on the bike was getting cut off by a car when I was going 25mph.

A lot of these adjustments are personal preference. For example, moving the cleats back more towards the heel from the ball of the foot. I think even LeMond did this for more power. I myself would never dream of moving the cleats back but then I've never had fatigue in the gastrocnemius or the soleus on a bike. To be able to ankle the pedals like a Boonen provides a lot of my power, which is one of the reasons I like a lower saddle than that which others might feel is more efficient.

One of the things a lot of people don't consider with cranks is the size of their feet. I wear an 11.5 to 12 US at 5'9" which is pretty big. If the cleats are in the same position relative to the ball of your foot, all else being equal, and your foot is a size 8 or 9, that cm or so will alter your pedal stroke somewhat..
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