Cycling and body types

After looking at a photo someone took of a group ride I was on, I came to the stark realization that my body-type sucks for cycling. I’m 180cm and 95kg, my shoulders are nearly twice as broad as the other cyclists in the group, and I’ve got super long calves and short femurs. The other cyclists are like a spear going through the air while I’m a shield; I get comments all the time about how great it is to draft behind me…that’s great cause I’m in full aero tuck :roll_eyes:.

With this type of body, what should I focus on to be an effective cyclist? I’m the lightest I’ve ever been but that’s not going to change my CdA. Would it be better to focus on becoming a diesel engine with a massive FTP to counter my horrible aerodynamics? I’m not racing crits and I probably will only do a handful of road races next year.



Yeah, that’s tough. I’ve thought the same things in the past. I’m a ‘smaller’ guy (5’10", 155 lbs), but when I see a ‘real’ runner (long thin legs, effortless stride) I generally feel badly about myself.

Did you ever consider focusing on a more power-intensive cycling genre, like cross or MTB? Something where power to weight is less of an issue? Pure power can get you through a lot on the dirt.


Thanks for the reply. I’ve not formally tried cross or MTB, though I have done some trail riding off and on. I enjoy it but I’m still a roadie at heart, I just like the feel of the road and the speeds you can get on tarmac. The other thing is that I bike commute and the major reason why I want to get faster is so I can get to work quicker with relatively lower effort.

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I’m not really built like a cyclist either but still hold my own against the thinner kind. Just work at getting faster and don’t give yourself reasons why you think you’re not ideal for the sport. If you have this mentality that you’re fighting from behind, you won’t have what’s necessary to succeed. There’s all kinds of fast guys out there who are in all different shapes and sizes. Watts will keep you moving faster on flats, W/kg will help you get up hills. Figure what you want to do and crush it. I’m 5’9" and 183lbs but have longer legs for my height so I feel like that outweighs my overweight-ness. If I really wanted to slim down I could be at 160-165, so I’m a long way off from where I could be best


Same here 6’2" and 200lbs :rofl:


Yeah, that makes sense. However, I will just say that sometimes you get surprised. I was a hard core (as in 16 ironmans in 86 months) triathlete for quite a while. I got burned out and jumped into a CX race for fun. I went in thinking I was this hot shit because I could ride my bike for 5-6 hours, and ended up getting my ass handed to me week after week. I really loved the challenge of something new and I loved how easy it was to completely bury myself in less than 45 minutes (the fact that there is running involved didn’t hurt either). Given my background (I never rode MTB, and barely ever touched my road bike, it was all tri bike all the time) I never expected to enjoy cross as much as I do.

Pretty soon I considered my self a cross racer who used to do triathlons, and started getting into MTB as well.

These past couple of years I’ve gotten back into tri more casually, but I still focus on dirt. I can say unequivocally that I’m enjoying tri more now, and also that combining tri and cross (look very different, but are both individual, high-suffering type efforts) has helped both.


Great question for @Nate_Pearson to field. He’s not the stereotypical cycling frame, but has made incredible gains in fitness and results.

…he gives bigger guys like me (at 6’2", 84kg…and dropping) hope that we can race against the skinny guys who give NO draft.


This is very true, @Nate_Pearson has made huge gains since he started training consistently, this with a number of health issues I recall. I think another person I’d like to look into is Peter Morris, he’s another guy that is similar to my body type though not as stocky, but he’s able to race well in criteriums.

Now that I think of it, it’s probably got more to do with race craft than fitness or body composition.


I though im the only one getting compliments on my draft :rofl: 190/84 here. Look like a baboon man handling a skinny bicycle. Throw in some lack of flexibility as well. I think flat crits with some punchy hills would be perfect for me. Unfortunately im surrounded by mountains :flushed:


I think you should just ride how you want and don’t worry about something you can’t really control.

Chances are you’ve got more power to gain than you’re losing by not having an optimal body type for a given type of riding.


Granted I live in a very flat area, but there are tons of fast guys on the local group rides and a few locally successful Cat 1’s who are your size and shape.

Pros and people who want to do lots of climbing with the fast guys need a particular body type. But for amateurs getting it on on the weekends, raw power, which usually comes along with being big, and a desire to work (plus avoiding off big climbs :wink: trump body type and is more than enough to do just fine.


I guess that’s the issue though, is it necessary to have a large body to put out more power over an extended period of time? I was so proud of bumping my FTP to 268 this past week, until I realized that most folks I ride with are probably in the 300 range AND weigh 20kg less than me.

One of my local buddies has an FTP of around 360 and weighs 165lbs, so no, having a higher weight doesn’t have much to do with power.

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Although I am large, I am quite week on the bike … This year prior to my A race I managed to test at 241 and my long ride power is very low

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A few thoughts. One is that it is what it is so make the most of what you’ve got and don’t worry about it. The things you need to do to get faster are the same as everybody else - increase your power, trim weight if you can. We all have limiters!

Another is that you may well find that over a period of a few years your body will continue to adapt to being a cyclist if you stick at it. A friend came into cycling from a basketball background, think he was 90kg and about 9% bodyfat when he started and he thought he therefore couldn’t get any lighter. A year later he’s lost 6-7kg, simply from his body adapting to an endurance training stimulus instead of an explosive power one. You’re never going to be a stick insect but you might be surprised how much that frame shrinks.

Last thought is that if you can put out high power then you’d be a great team guy. Sprinters would love sitting in your draft. Being part of a team helping somebody else to get on the podium can be (almost) as fun and satisfying as racing for yourself.


I’ve struggled with this a lot. I’m a woman and don’t really fit the standard “cyclist” mold either. I’m never going to be a skinny climber. I am also unfortunately not blessed with terrific fast-twitch/explosive power. I’m definitely a diesel, trying to improve my sprint and explosiveness, but it’s slow going. I’m also a roadie like you, so it’s extremely hard to be in this environment and look around and feel like the sore thumb. In particular, the “road cyclist build” image that everyone has in mind is based off the Grand Tour riders. There are pro women out there who aren’t the Mara Abbott ridiculous climber types, just like there are pro men who aren’t the Chris Froome builds. I’ve been trying to look for those women, and it would be good for your body image to do the same–which you indicated in your comment about looking at Pete Morris. Exactly! Figure out what sort of racing you excel at. Work on the tactics and the race craft. I’m never going to be a climber but can do well on flatter road races. I happen to love crits and the chess game associated with them (I actually just think of road races as very long crits, and that seems to help my mental game), and have been dabbling on the track with some of the mass-start racing to try to figure out how to beat the sprinty types out there. Plus @cartsman has a GREAT suggestion:

YES. Exactly this, too. From personal experience, this is totally right. Hang in there.


Your physiology and fitness matter a lot more than the shape of your body. If you got up to 4 W/kg, you’d be pushing close to 400W FTP and would be a beast on flatter courses, regardless of your body shape (and 4 W/kg would is pretty good on climbs also).

So focus on improving FTP like any other rider. And you can improve CdA by positioning on the bike.

Look at Pete Morris. He’s hardly a stereotypical cyclist shape but is doing pretty well.

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On a recent cycling trip to Spain someone on the road side shouted out to me “vamous fatso”, Im 69kg and 5’8" :man_shrugging:


Be proud. As hard as it might be, I’d suggest you stop comparing yourself to others. I’m a little taller and roughly same weight. At an FTP of 260-280 and enough top-end, I can go out and have a lot of fun on flat group rides (with a lot of lighter guys with FTP >300W).


I always like to say that I’m a medium American and a giant European. :slight_smile: