Pearson Physio Blog

Small cyclist problems

My 51cm S-Works Amira (I have a long body)

Once upon a time, I saw on social media that the definition of a “short” female is being under 5’4” (163cm). This is basically me, so I take particular interest in small person issues as they relate to the bike. NB. I hardly consider 5’4″ to be “short”!

Bike is too big

Until recently, a lot of bike manufacturers just didn’t make bikes that were small enough. It was hard to find road bikes with a virtual top tube length of less than 50cm. As a result, the rider will find themselves over-reaching and in an uncomfortable stretched out position. Some people have tried to solve this issue by making the stem inappropriately short, or pushing the saddle as far forward as able, which can compromise your pedalling, weight distribution and handling of the bike.

Cranks too long

Emma Pooley – awesome short rider

The smallest bike in a range will often come with 170mm cranks, which for some short people, is still just a bit too long (particuarly if you also have short legs). This can effect your pedalling efficiency, but also increase the closed angle at your knee and hip joints at the top of the pedal stroke, compressing these joints and leading to issues over time.

Handlebars too wide, long and deep

Women in particular usually have narrower shoulders than their male counterparts, and often the bars are too wide. If the bars are not short reach and compact drop, then this will also contribute to the over-reaching issue as above. This can lead to pain particularly in the upper limbs (wrist, elbows, shoulders) and neck.

Inability to reach the brake levers, especially in the drops

Another awesome rider – “Helen the Shorter” on her 49cm S-Works Tarmac

Small people will often have small hands, and a lot of people have difficulty pulling the brake levers in the drops, as they are just too far away. This will lead not only to sore hands and awkward wrist positions, but decreased confidence with descending and braking. On many shifters these days, you can wind in the brake levers so that they are closer in to begin with. The shape of the handlebars and placement of the hoods on the handlebars will also have an influence on where the brake levers sit.

If you think you may have any of these issues, and would like to book in for a Bike assessment, contact us on or 07762 114770. For more information on Bike assessments, click here 

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