Big vs Small Riders?


I have been contemplating the relationship between height, weight and power since the last two episodes of the podcast have come out.

I am 6,3, roughly 80-81kg and training at an ftp of 293. That puts me in the ball park of a 3.6 ish watt per kg. To reach a 4 w/kg I am looking at 320’s and to be so ambitious to shoot for a 4.5 I’m looking at 360.

I know @Nate_Pearson is a big guy too and may be able to relate somewhat to this, question being are we at a disadvantage when it comes to achieving favourable numbers or is it actually all relative?

I realise patience and consistency is part of the game, would be interested to hear what physiological changes would have to take place to get to into the 4/5 club. And any other thoughts and opinions. :slightly_smiling_face:


I personally think it’s all relative. A smaller rider will have to put out much less power on a climb than a bigger one to keep up.

On the flat however, a bigger rider will be chugging along at a lower W/kg than a smaller person. Power is king on the flats, weight in king on the climbs.

An example is that I’d get my ass handed to me on climbs that average 7-8%, but on a climb where it averages 5% I can really start to put the hurt on the smaller lads in our group.

On the flip side, you’ll get the super genetically fit folks, a bit like Conor Dunne who will give smaller climbers a run for their money!

As to what you can do to reach that magical 4w/kg, you just need to keep following the plans and have patience. I’m 6 ft 3 and started TR at 85kg, 280FTP giving me 3.2w/kg. I’m now bouncing around 81kg and just over that 4w/kg :slight_smile:


I’m 6’ 3" 191# 87kg ftp 290 and 12% body fat on dexa. That puts me in the leanest 1% at 50 y/o and 3.3 w/kg. Obviously steep climbs are a problem but I’ve gone under 54 min three times in 40k time trials and under 53 min once so if you pick your events to suit your strengths you can do well as a bigger rider. I was down to 183-185# last summer but people kept asking if I was sick lol.

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6’4" 88kg, FTP currently 315ish (3.6W/kg). Got to 345W FTP (3.9W/kg) last season, but still got dropped going up any steep or sustained hill.

I’m of the opinion that heavier riders are at a disadvantage as it is easier for a lighter rider to sit in a bunch on the flat at 45kph, than it is for a heavier rider to have to put out 400W+ for 8+mins up any half-decent climb, or repeatedly hitting 1000W+ up the short sharp rises.

Even for a lighter rider to break-away on the flat, they are typically smaller and therefore it is easier for them to have a lower CdA. At the high speeds required to successfully break away, this reduces the advantage of the heavier riders’ higher W/kg. Yet, as soon as it gets to the hills, W/kg becomes the primary concern again and the lighter riders can ride away.

From my local racing experience, 300-320W FTP seems to be attainable by any reasonably-trained cyclist (almost irrespective of height) - leading to FTP’s of 4.5W/kg for a 70kg rider, but ‘only’ 3.8W/kg for an 85kg rider. Even 60kg climbers I know can push around 280W FTP (4.7W/kg).

However, from what i’ve seen, only a select few of the top local guys can push 360-380W+ FTP to hit the same 4.5W/kg. Yes, those guys are typically around the 80-85kg mark and can destroy people in a flat crit, but that and flat TT’s are about the only place they really expect to be able to get a result.

Is there a physical limit to the power output that is possible from the human body? I’d guess that there is, and it may be a hint as to why most worldtour riders are <75kg…

Not to say you can’t have fun in most races, just don’t expect to win any hill climbs!


I agree with this and have found myself in that position before. Keeping the pace with a lighter rider and having to throw out 450w + for 5mins or more. Putting me deep in the red for a long time.

This is what I have been contemplating. It seems like a monumental amount of power to produce AT THRESHOLD…! for only a 4.5W/kg

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This is something I’ve been wondering about too. I’m a big guy - 100kg. I could really push myself down to 90 kg but from experience that’s a stretch for my body and not sustainable. So I face the challenge of lifting my FTP to 400 w to obtain the magic 4w/kg. Right now, I’m on 3.3 w/kg and wondering if I’ll even make 3.5. Demoralising.


I found this calculator here giving an estimate how much speed depends on incline and power, interesting to see. At gradients not too steep, power penalty isn’t that great really.


I’m 6’3 and 167 lbs (76kg) with an FTP that ranges from 350-370 depending on the time of year and what I’m focusing on. Obviously body type matters, and I’m lean - but even at this weight I’m still within the normal range for BMI calculations and am not pushing up against looking sick by any stretch.

I’d challenge the idea that there aren’t gains to be had by dropping weight for most of the taller riders posting in this thread - it might not be fat, but you’re definitely carrying the weight somewhere. Not to say that should be your focus - but if you really do want to be a climber you need to start looking at those things.

I think at the extreme right hand side of the performance bell curve there is a penalty for being tall - but there is also a penalty for being short. There’s a reason that many of the greatest cyclists of all time tend to be in the 5’8-6’1 range for height (just google your favorite TdF winner’s height). Very small people (<5’6) and very tall people (>6’3) have different limits - there’s a reason that it is notable how small Nairo Quintana is - not too many all time greats are that size

Generally speaking, particularly at the area of the bell curve you’re riding in - you should be able to compete with riders of any size. You are not, presumably, pushed against your genetic limits - you’re just seeing the struggle on the climbs because that’s the only place on most rides where you can consistently see how strong someone is riding


This is true, I think true “performance” comes from when you take a consistent approach to both your weight and power. Taking the same approach to ones weight is easier said than done, being at 10% bf (on the scales)

When do riders tend to allot some time to drop some lbs. Considering we all use the same training plans. I have always thought maybe a rest week/low intensity week could be ideal as you aren’t as concerned about performance.

What is your background in the sport if you don’t mind me asking? In other words is that the culmination of 10 years of work?

I don’t have much to contribute here, but I just wanted to say that I’m excited we have a thread going for us “clydesdales” :joy:

I’ve never been a ‘heavyweight’ in any athletic endeavor I’ve ever pursued except for cycling. I’m 6’ tall and 79kg or 175lbs. I’m pretty lean, but I’m hoping to race this upcoming season below 170lbs or 77kg. I too am pursuing the mythical 4w/kg threshold – which would mean I’d need to have an FTP of about ~310 depending on weight.

I’m currently at a 285 FTP (and may have to edit this, because I have a ramp test later today) – but I have found all my gains above 260 watts to be EXTREMELY hard won.

My “A” race every year is like a mini Tour of Flanders – and there are about 10-12 climbs that last 3-5 minutes that range between 15% - 20% grades. There seems to be this sweet spot of racers that are about 5’10" tall and look to be about 155lbs. It’s like there is a cookie cutter formula for middle-aged racers - they all look the same and I really have a hard time not getting dropped on those hills. But I’m getting better every year . . .

All of this was to my advantage when I played football in high school and college – but it appears to be an anchor as a cyclist.

Oh well . . . I’m 44 years old and I still look better at the beach than my competition :metal: The muscle has hung around after all these years. I’m not going to complain :wink:


Base phase is when I target weight loss. During build and specialty (where I am now) I fuel and try to maintain my weight. I tend to slowly gain weight during the race season and then cut it back down during base

I started riding in 2011 at age 29 - commuting to save money and the environment (I was successful at neither).

I primarily commuted and did progressively faster group rides in 2011-2012 until some ‘friends’ encouraged me to start racing. I raced in 2013-2015 without any real structured training. At the end of the 2015 season I bought a Kickr and then a few months later a power meter and did some real structured training for the first time.

So I have eight years of regular riding and am starting my fourth year of structured training. That said - that first year of structured training (finishing the training blocks in spring 2016) had my FTP in the mid 360s


I think this sentence needs a bit more explanation. I would argue someone going through a series of plans would be reasonably well trained but that does not guarantee a 300 plus FTP.

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Not surprising really. 360 is still pretty savage whichever way you look at it.

Which phase do you normally notice the biggest increases in FTP?

Pretty much every P/1/2 crit around 75-90 minutes I’ve raced in requires around a NP of at least 300W to be active in the race. I could see only needing a NP of 240-250W to hang in, but that’s not nearly as fun as being on the pointy end of things.

So on the other side im at 62kg ftp 262. 4,2 wkg and on the fast flat group rides… Im struggling on the front :scream:.


I think big guy are in disadvantage regarding the W/kg metric, but this is not the only metric that matters.
I’m 65Kg with 286W ftp, that gives me 4.4w/kg. On a flat course, I would be left behind someone with a lower w/kg but with higher ftp.

W/Kg is overrated, I believe an other metric should be created to evaluated performance in a more general manner.

I believe something that gives more credit to pure Watts, maybe perf = FTP ^2 /Mass, food for thought !


Depends on what state I’m starting in - but usually I respond pretty quickly when I first start up again (early base) and then the second half of build. This year has been a bit different for me but I’d say I noticed the biggest gains during specialty due to taking some time to figure out some non-cycling related limiters that were new to this off-season

I got the same problem.

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I used to be the same, I’m 6’2” and was 68kg and little over 4.5w/kg. Dropping everyone on the hilly group ride and getting beat up on the flat ones…

Currently close to 73kg after a few years off and I’m focusing on raw watts. I still climb better than most and feel stronger overall. We’ll see if the racing season has me singing a different tune…


Im even a little light er ppl with 3.5 wkg drop me with like an ftp of 300+