Why You Should Consider Changing Your Crank Length

Katie Aguilar is a two-time Kona qualifier and Podium Customer. Today she shares her insight on changing her crank length

I’ve been in triathlon for about 8 years. Not a long time. But long enough to know there are no silver bullets. If you fix one thing, something different may rear its head. Or maybe it was just time that cleared up an issue. The fact is you never know.

Last fall I went to Matt to talk about changing crank size. He threw a curveball at me and said:

“let’s change crank length too”.

To which I said “No. It’s the craze right now. It’s the next ‘big thing.’ Everyone is doing it, but why? Give me a reason.”

His response was “Comfort. It will likely help get rid of the saddle sore issue you’ve been having since having to change saddles.”

He had me at that. So I (grudgingly) took a loaner crank set (different size and crank length) to give it a whirl.

And as I rode it, I also researched articles. I trust Matt, but I was skeptical too. And I was so far convinced it was the latest trend that I needed to read and hear input from multiple sources.

In general, there has been little research. Information is more personal/anecdotal, and general thoughts on opening the hips with shorter cranks.

The article that got me to accept the idea compared athletes heights/leg length and ratios with crank length. That made sense to me. That got me open to the idea. I still had questions about power. I mean I was shortening the very lever that I used to generate power. It seemed counter-intuitive.

I was listening to the Ironwomen podcast and they talked about crank length. And they brought on Annalisa Fish, a professional bike fitter, and physical therapist. They had a full on discussion about many aspects of crank length. They discussed the trend to shorter cranks now, and why. Generally, it is about comfort and minimizing hip impingement at the top of the pedal stroke. They also talked about the effect of crank length on Power. Her take was there is no measurable difference in sub-optimal power. And this is something I have heard repeated since.And as I listened to Annalise I realized…5 mm isn’t much in terms of a lever. But in terms of body mechanics, it’s huge.

Crank length is not magic. Annalisa also talked about the saddle being her focus. A saddle that works is important. I’d agree.

I recently revisited my searches, armed with a little more information, and found more. For example, GCN also did an episode in 2016 discussing crank length. Emma Pooley has long been an advocate (based on experience) for shorter crank length for shorter women.

The discussion is “comfort is king”. The thought is the more comfortable you are the longer you can stay in an optimal riding position, and the faster you can be.

Again, there is no one magic bullet. But I will say that I believe the shorter crank has eased my saddle sore issues and has made riding more comfortable for me. My power did not diminish. If anything I feel as strong as ever on my bike and can keep up as well as ever. And it has been a worthwhile change for me.

If you’re wondering if crank length might make a difference in your comfort level, book a bike fit or stop by the shop to discuss it further!