Big vs Small Riders?

Thanks for the comments.

Gearing up-hill is definitely something that I may improve on.
At the moment I’m using 52/36 - 11/28 which I think is a standard setup and works in majority of terrain.
While I always try to keep high cadence I am often getting caught out by the steepness of the climbs.
If it’s a headwind and 10%+ then the cadence drops quite dramatically.
Having said that, even at cadence being equal to that on the flat I think I can’t do anywhere near the same power.

I never considered cooling as a disadvantage for bigger riders but now this has been said, it makes a lot of sense.
I’ve noticed my power suffers in warm weather too and that’s in any terrain, flat, uphill etc.

I am super confused when everyone speaks about wkg goals and seeing that 4wkg is a decent benchmark for cyclists.

I don’t really train at the moment - I’m 175cm 64kg my baseline is 4wkg - Unless I have some decent genetics that I don’t know about - I’d imagine a 90kg rider hitting 4wkg (360W) is more comparable to me hitting 5wkg (320W) - not equivilent but you get where I’m getting at - is this right to assume?

Trying to keep up with a 90kg rider on a the flats or even decline use to be a struggle! CDA is definately important too as I am 5’9 at 64kg where as some of you guys are 6’2 at 64kg - you are likely to have a higher CDA than me and therefore have to put out more watts.

To those heavier riders hitting 4wkg - massive kudos to you guys

Smaller people have on average better power to weight ratios across sports - cycling, lifting weights, whatever.

This is just an average. You still get bigger guys with great power to weight.

For the same power to weight, bigger guys go faster, even on climbs.

Who has the advantage? Depends on the course. Look at what size and weight of rider tends to win on which type of course. (Note that to compare with non pros add a few kilos)

Also note, forvwee guys the bike is a bigger proportion of bodyweight


W/kg is probably the least bad way of benchmarking people who come in a whole variety of heights and body shapes. I’m sure you could come up with a more complex formula that gives a number that is better weighted to account for outliers. E.g. if you do something like W per root of kg then it might scale a bit better - a 4W/kg rider at 60, 75 or 90kg would have a W/root kg number of 31, 34.6 or 37.9, reflecting that a 90kg guy getting to 4W/kg is “better” than a 60kg guy getting to 4W/kg. But it’s still a far from perfect benchmark and it’s no longer a simple one either so it’s arguably less useful.

I would say that even allowing for 4W/kg being easier to achieve at 64kg that hitting that kind of number without training much is indicative either of some decent genetics and/or a good training history leaving you with decent residual fitness even if you’re not doing much right now.


I kinda like W per root of KG but I agreed with your argument.

Just to clarify - when I mean ‘training’ I mean structured training - I still cycle probably 3-4 times a week but just not very consistently and no structure - I’ll have a week off or some slow weeks of 0-200TS every month or so and even periods of a few months off. It’s not like I’d get on my bike after a year hiatus and be at 4wkg. Its just the number I’m always at, regardless of riding short term. I’m genuinely worried I’m pleatued at 4wkg but I haven’t put the work and consistency in so I’m probably just being silly… This is my 2nd year cycling and hope to get into it more seriously after I graduate arch school (in a month!!).

Just to put my hat in the ring, 5’9 at 61kg with an FTP of 255. For my riding with mates around a similar ‘level’ I definitely struggle on flats, on bumpy roads and in windy conditions. The last is counterintuitive as a smaller person should have a lower CDA, but it’s the truth :man_shrugging:t2: I definitely see hills as ‘recovery’ on harder rides relative to my bigger mates. To be honest, if you’re not riding grand tours or alps everyday, I’d take an extra 5-10 kg and the raw power that goes with that.

Smaller riders are generally disadvantaged in the wind as power increases more with size than CdA does. I.e. for proportionately lean and fit riders, the 80kg rider’s power advantage will outweigh the 60kg rider’s CdA advantage.

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Ah got it, thanks! Always wondered.

Im big and almost all gravel races the smaller riders do well at. I’m Envious

There is also the fact however that generally for similar height and build the better trained rider will often be leaner and lighter just due to healthier habits and more training…hence lot of people think it’s always the smaller guys who do well. I used to be one of the larger guys (rugby 2nd row at school and university)…now most of my mates think I’m FAR too skinny, but they don’t want to head to the hills with me in a bike (even if I think of myself more as a time trial person!). 6ft 2 and 11.5 stone (74kg or 161 lb). Used to be about 14 .5 stone

So, I am a smaller rider… “5’6” who probably weight too much at 70kg (used to be 100kg back in 2002).
my ramp FTP is 251 and that gives me close to 3.6kg/w.

And I can tell you for a fact… that a bigger person doing 3.6kg/w with a ftp of 300 will kick my ass on any triathlon.

Power is king on all cycling disciplines…

the w/kg is just another pretend number that looks good but dont really give me much…

power to weight is used ALL THE TIME by car enthusiast… Specially owners of small engine/small weight cars…
The Honda s2000 was hailed for its price and wight to power… IIRC is was something like 11.x

Now… a 2017 mustang GT has a siminlar 11.8 ratio…

And I would not hesitate to pick to Mustang to win on alsmot all conditions over the s2000…

You’ve pretty good genes (or your power meter’s reading high).

Most people of any weight will need to work to get to 4w/kg. On average less work for smaller guys. But that’s just an average - plenty large riders will get to 4 as easily as you.

Also note, we can tend to gravitate to similarly fit people. So you might think of yourself as pretty average compared to people you cycle or have done other sports with.

I’m quite a small rider and thank to illness I’m quite a bit lighter.

Pre my road cycling days at school I was 73kg at 176cm (11st7lb @ 5ft9.25inch, lol the 0.25 is important as it makes me taller than my older brother :joy:).
I then took Pacreatitis (having never drunk in my life up till then) and fell in the space of a few months to 57.2kg (9st).

I built up a bit and got 67kg (circa 10st7lb) and then started road cycling and subsequently training. My weight hovered around 65kg once I started training and I pushed my self to 5w/kg.

I had a opp though which instantly lost me 3kg and that seemed to be sustainable and I got the w/kg back to 5w/kg and the best shape of my life. ,just in time for the 2020season :roll_eyes:

A bit off stress saw me fall to 55kg (I’d been really worried if it hadn’t coincided with clear scans and test) and I now hover around 60kg (4.1w/kg)

If everything feels good though despite being past my optimum years (45 yo). It feels like I am faster than I have ever been and results show it. However if I don’t feel confident results can be relatively poor and I’ll get beat by bigger riders who can get their watts out confidently.

Where I live (Boston metro), the roads are winding with short, sharp hills (6-10%). Very little in terms of hills over 4km (or over 10mins). There are plenty of big dudes here in the over 80kg category who can crush on those hills. But these are experienced riders, many who used to race, and they just know how to handle their bodies, using momentum to keep going. I believe that in hills up to 4km at around 4-5% it makes no difference at all between a lighter rider and a heavier, technically skilled, fit rider. False flats or rolling hills leading to a steep road is where they shine. For the record i’m 6’ (182cm) and 75kg w a middle of the road FTP.

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Actually - I suppose low-key brag I always have suspected I have good genetics - I’m just unsure how big my capacity to its maximum extent - I might just have a decent base but no top-end fitness - I cannot fathom holding above 300+W for more than 10mins at this point… It must be a weird feeling being able to hold your old V02max as a SS or Tempo effort, like your kneecaps exploding or something - my goal is to hit 300+ W FTP - this will be my first summer dedicated to riding my bike consistently

I have basically no long-term training history - I actually never did much sports as a kid - I smoked, drank and (other bad stuff) from when I was 13+ to 18-ish, I’m 25 now.

But yes, I bought a bike for commuting 5 years ago and loved cycling around town - I started road cycling 2 years ago and think I do about 200-250 hours (including commuting) a year - so really haven’t pushed myself - its only since September I bought a PM and listened to the podcast but am waiting to finish arch school as I can’t commit to consistent training at the moment. My FTP has been the same since sept as I didn’t change anything since. But love looking at numbers!

Regarding gravitating towards fit people, actually I don’t know many cyclists - as you can tell with my background - I don’t have a lot of ‘sporty’ people in my life! So it’s hard for me to compare but a good lot of you in this forum are super fit - I suppose that’s the extent of my comparison.

I am half Sovenian so there must be something in our DNA !! ( Joking )

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w/kg scales well with weight until it doesn’t, which tends to be right around 73-75kg.

But, for fit upper category riders, w/kg only matters on longer climbs over 5-6%. What’s longer? Depends on the category – for a Cat 1 or 2, maybe 5k. For a pro? Even a “big” pro can stay with the front group on a 10km, 5% climb.

As has been said, where big guys get even is on low-inertia environments that don’t involve gradient – rough roads, crosswinds – or that involve short bursts up steep climbs (300-1000m).

Fortunately for “big” guys, the vast majority of category racing favors them, rather than the flyweight types.


I’ve had a couple of really interesting races recently where rider size has been a big factor. One race was on a rolling course with a slight gradients and one gentle climb. As the biggest rider in the bunch I put it in the gutter on a slightly downhill section with a decent crosswind and managed to create a split in the bunch. It all came back together and the smallest guy in the bunch then came out and returned the favor up the climb. He put the hurt on everyone and also managed to create a split. He definitely had me beaten in W/kg, but I probably had 100w more raw power than him.

The next week was a tough course, very few flat sections with a decent climb that maxed out at about 14%. W/kg definitely wins on that sort of course and I was doing it tough from the start. I got gapped the last time up the hill and had to chase for 20mins to rejoin, just in time to get left behind on the uphill drag to the finish.

I’ve been spoilt the last couple of weeks with races to choose from each week. I deliberately chose the climbing course because I didn’t want to hide from the hills, got to do it to get better at it. I’m looking forward to payback on a flat windy course soon though.


Would totally agree with this - the majority of racing for non-pros favours raw power.

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For XCO that has also been my experience that raw watts rule the day, at least in the Midwest, USA. I’m neither Big nor Small, but I’d imagine be considered Medium at 6’1” and 173 lbs (4.05 w/kg). Climbs for my XCO/XCM races are typically 1-2 mins and a long climb is anything over 3 mins, lol. So featherweights never get the advantage. It used to baffle me when I got dropped on a climb by bigger riders.

I’ve had a significant fitness improvement this past winter and I was able to test it this past weekend. First actual race since 2019 and 6 mins into the race I was able to test these new raw watts on a climb (1:30 long) that averaged 16% and topped out at 22%.

Hills used to be my nemesis and I’d never pass people, but now I will almost look forward to them. I passed people that were clearly both bigger and smaller than me. Was a pleasant surprise :smiley:! We’ll see if this holds true once we get into the real race season.

For reference the climb can be seen here at the 5:55 mark:


Whilst there’s some truth in the big vs small attributes, I think that too many people get physiologically beaten by it (including myself :roll_eyes:). You’ve got folk like Ganna though who is big but can smash folk up hills who are smaller than him, because he has put the effort in and at the local level (probably some one similar at a higher level) folk who are quite small but can smash bigger riders on the flat and into headwinds because they have also put the effort in.

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