Skill tips for shorter people?

First of all, thank you for all your work on books and website – it’s eye-opening regardless of skills level.

I have a question about body position and riding techniques for short people. Being 170 cm (5’7”) I feel that some of the normal “tricks” are harder to perform, especially those requiring more movement around a bike, like correct turning (leaning the bike heavily, but not the body) or manualling. It’s just impossible or very difficult to move the weight far enough over the rear wheel to lift the front end, or in case of turning – to move the bike between your legs and stretch the inside shoulder enough to lean the bike without leaning yourself too much.

Maybe you have some experience from coaching shorter people? Are there any smart ways of overcoming these limitations?


Hey Michal,

Thanks for writing, and thanks for the kind words.

I coach riders of all levels, styles and sizes, and I can tell you this: Good riding is independent of rider gender, age, experience and size.

Pro racer Judy Freeman is five-foot-nothing, and she shreds an XC bike with a traditional XC cockpit. How? We’ve been working her skills for years. She’s strong. She practices. Heck, Judy recently took 2nd in the Fontana pro Super D. Go Judy!

Some thoughts:

• Make sure your bike fits you. Most riders’ cockpits are, in my opinion, too long for optimal handling. A shorter stem can do wonders. Stay tuned for my next book, which will be about bike fit for Riding (capital R). If you’re not sure what to do, slap a cheap 50mm stem onto your bike and see how it feels!

• Learn to Ride. Pay attention to balance and range of motion. Here in Boulder, CO little kids manual DH bikes all over town. Skill will get you farther than being taller, richer or better looking.

• Lower your seat in the interesting sections. This give you a lot more room to move. I believe strongly in dropper seatposts. A QR lever or pinch bolt can be changed too. Once you learn to move well, you can move around a high seat. Until your movements are dialed, you really should drop your saddle.

• One can never be too stable, mobile or strong. Work these things off the bike.

• Practice with intention. This counts for everyone.

Have fun out there!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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6 replies
  1. Nick says:

    To move around the bike you need flexability, that means making sure to stretch, on off days , after a ride etc. I have seen people who will swear they are over the back wheel on a decent but they are barely behind the seat. Yoga is great for this, opens your range of motion and builds core strength.

  2. Chance says:

    keep at it Michal, you will get it… I have tons of little groms around me that are closer to 5ft then 6 and they can manual, bunny hop and all that stuff… Like lee said it all comes down to technique… also getting stronger and more flexible like nick said wont hurt ! good luck

  3. Markus says:

    this reply made me go “damn!” about three times… i guess i cant blame everything on my shortcomings. I am 5’7″ and struggle with the same stuff. i read a lot about footwork and dropping them heels and get more flexible and voila. manual. superscary when it happens all of a sudden. Now working up the balls to keep the front wheel up there and not getting scared and aborting everythime it actually happens…

    working on cornering and pumping, too… so much to do, so little time.

    is there any nicely condensed training for gravity oriented mountainbikers who have a sitting down job and kids that actually fits into a week? no bikeparks or pumptracks around here… only rolling hills and trails.
    love this site. its a gem. just found it. stoked!
    Markus – Berlin – Germany


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