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Shorter leg and lack or ROM

Old 06-04-21, 12:46 AM
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tls1210
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Shorter leg and lack or ROM

Trying to make this as short as possible (no pun intended, not referring to my right leg, lol!)... I had a sports injury at 15 yo that left my right leg shorter (Femur healed at an angle) and desperately needing a knee replacement, fast forward 32 or so years, I got my knee replacement. It totally changed my life! I became active again. One of the activities that got me through my TKR was Spin classes. I fell in love with biking! I hadn't ridden since I was a teenager. Since I fell in love with spinning, I had wanted to get back on a regular bike. I, finally, took the plunge and bought an entry level mtb, until I see if biking is for me, then I will get a better bike. While I am loving biking some of the trails, near me, I am frustrated with my ROM. I have been able to raise my seat in my spin classes, but, on my mtb, simply raising my seat doesn't seem to be the answer. No matter how high my seat is, my right leg is slipping off of the pedal due to the shortness and lack of rom. Plus, the raised seat is putting a lot of stress on my hand since a lot of my weight is pushing forward onto my hands/handle bar. I've read,in some post, about crank shorteners, wondering if they will help or hinder me. I've thought about putting one of the old pedals, from my spin bike on my mtb - they have the basket/cage- to keep my foot from slipping off of the pedal. I have even considered using clip-less pedals such as the ones I have on my spin bike. But, with the seat being so high, on my mtb, I struggle to touch the ground with my feet and worry if I'm clipped in, I won't get my foot unclipped and on the ground before I would fall. I am really loving biking and I really want to keep at it, but I am becoming very frustrated. Also, with my seat so high and all my weight pushing forward onto my hands, I'm finding it difficult to steer, so. I have to find a solution if I want to keep biking. Can anyone off some suggestions? Thank you, in advance!
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Old 06-04-21, 10:51 AM
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How much shorter?

I lost 2cm off my right femur... the bone was pulverized so not much of an alignment issue.

I ride clipless with the saddle adjust properly for my short leg.

Fortunately no significant issues with the 2cm (~3/4 inch?) difference
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Old 06-04-21, 04:54 PM
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tls1210
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Between 3/4 to 1 inch. It was 3/4 shorter before knee replacement and since the knee replacement, I've lost a little more. I am so afraid of falling off and getting hurt, that's why I am a little hesitant to go clipless. I have the seat adjusted for my shorter leg, but, I'm sitting up way higher than is comfortable.
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Old 06-05-21, 01:55 PM
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If it were me, I'd try to make the pedals and seat have the same geometry as the spin bike. Same crank length, the cages, and the same seat height and set back. This might require crank shorteners (or just shorter cranks) and also might require a set back seat post. Then I would raise the handlebars and/or shorten the stem, to take the weight off the hands. This would probably put you in a more upright position than you were expecting, but if it works you can gradually lower the bars as you gain strength in your back. Also, there are bar ends with various geometries including some that go straight up (or whatever angle you want) from the ends of the bars and some that go up and then in.

Good luck!

- Ed
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Old 06-05-21, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by groth View Post
If it were me, I'd try to make the pedals and seat have the same geometry as the spin bike. Same crank length, the cages, and the same seat height and set back. This might require crank shorteners (or just shorter cranks) and also might require a set back seat post. Then I would raise the handlebars and/or shorten the stem, to take the weight off the hands. This would probably put you in a more upright position than you were expecting, but if it works you can gradually lower the bars as you gain strength in your back. Also, there are bar ends with various geometries including some that go straight up (or whatever angle you want) from the ends of the bars and some that go up and then in.

Good luck!

- Ed
Thank you, so much!! A lot of good info!!!
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Old 06-10-21, 06:00 PM
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I lost a little more than a half an inch on my right leg following the repair of a broken femur. I now use a 5mm shim under the cleat on my road shoe and set the saddle to match my right leg with the shim. It has not been an issue.

To each his own, but I have always felt sort on perched on a mountain bike, whereas on a drop bar bike I feel tucked in, even though the drop from seat to bar is much greater.

As for hand pressure, my advice it to decide what you want to ride and get a fit from somebody who knows what they're doing.
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Old 06-10-21, 06:29 PM
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My right leg is 1/2" shorter (from birth and is a scaled down version of the left). I use 1/2" lifts in all my right shoes, either under my heel or as an insole insert or modification. My right cycling shoes get a 1/4" shim between sole and cleat. (I use as much lift as works for the heel of my cycling shoes but most cycling shoes aren't happy with a lot, let alone 1/2".) I raised my seats half the shim thickness. 1/8". Been riding a dream since the first ride. No acclimatization at all. Just "right".

I have both shorter thigh and shorter calf. Those shims work wonders. I get to stand straight and be straight and in line with the bike for the first time ever (in my late 50s). Shorter thigh changes things a little. The proper fix might be a little different but it's out there. I remember reading it when I was researching shims as I was enlightened but since it didn't apply to me, I've forgotten. Do some research. Many have had your issue and now ride with the proper solution.

I do not know what "rom" means so I cannot help you with your foot on pedal issue. Have you considered retention? Clipless pedals or toeclips? Forgive me if it is obvious that rom precludes those options.

Last edited by 79pmooney; 06-10-21 at 06:34 PM. Reason: Added my seat height raise
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Old 06-11-21, 06:40 PM
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Rom is "range of motion". My knee doesn't completely bend, so I have lack of rom. I am considering clipless pedals - I use them on my spin bike and LOVE them. However, I am a little afraid to use them on my mountain bike. I am afraid that I will need to dismount in a hurry and won't unclip fast enough before falling.
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Old 06-14-21, 07:40 PM
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Had trouble with the wall of text.

I have a much larger leg length discrepancy then you (50mm) and most of it (35mm) in in the femur. Dealing with a discrepancy in the femur is more complicated than with the lower leg (a lift on the shoe or shim on the cleat deals with the latter just fine)

I'd like to help, but you are not being very clear about exactly what your range of motion issue is, and exactly how it is causing problems. For example, if the issue is that your knee does not bend deeply enough, I don't get how clipless if going to help.

I will say two things to consider if the issue is your leg not being able to bend deeply enough:

1- Shims, or a lift in the shoe, by itself is going to make things worse because your leg will be more deeply bent at the top of the pedal stroke.

2- Shorter cranks will require less deep bending of your knees at the top of the pedal stroke.

3- Put the seat hieght were you need it for pedaling. Period. If the bars are too low, raise them.
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Old 06-14-21, 08:39 PM
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Use two different crank arms. There are a couple different cranks you can buy in significantly different lengths, you suggested a 2cm difference. Origin 8 makes a couple cranks that come in a range of sizes so you can buy 2 sets, which isn't too expensive, say a 170mm and a 150mm. There will be some compromise in that you'll have a double or single chainring but they use square taper so you can adjust chainline with the right BB. Suntour offers a couple junior cranks that are 155 or 152, put a standard crank on one side and a jr arm on the other for a triple. Some cranks can also be drilled and tapped. It gets easier if you don't care if the crank arms match each other. Because the shorter leg gets the shorter crank you can set the seat where it should be for best range of motion on both legs, the shorter leg won't have to spin as large a circle and the longer leg gets the extension it needs to not cause knee pain.

I would not use toe clips and straps on a mtb that I ride off road, on road no big deal. A wide platform mtb pedal with pins will grip your shoes pretty good and might be the best solution for your feet.
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Old 06-14-21, 09:38 PM
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While differing crank lengths do get around some issues that a lifted shoe or cleat would create for the OP, they do start to introduce a different issue: differences in leverage.

When I was playing around with different crank lengths deal with my discrepancy, what found was that once I got to 10mm difference, it felt like I was in two slightly different gears. 20mm would be really noticeable.
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Old 06-14-21, 11:17 PM
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Thank you, everyone. I do think I'm going to give a shorter crank a try. My discrepancy is in my Femur - long story short, there is a significant bow outward (not the usual side) of the bone which causes that leg to be shorter. The bow had put a lot of stress on my knee which I did have replace a few years ago. The bow in the femur restricts the knee from fully bending - I can go about 90 degrees.
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Old 06-15-21, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
While differing crank lengths do get around some issues that a lifted shoe or cleat would create for the OP, they do start to introduce a different issue: differences in leverage.

When I was playing around with different crank lengths deal with my discrepancy, what found was that once I got to 10mm difference, it felt like I was in two slightly different gears. 20mm would be really noticeable.
Leverage difference didn't occur to me, we had my wife's cousin do this, he has a 25mm difference and he never mentioned anything on it. The difference was causing knee pain from lack of full extension, might be he just expected the shorter leg to have a harder time pushing and didn't give it any thought. Is a good thing to be aware of though.
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Old 06-16-21, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
Leverage difference didn't occur to me, we had my wife's cousin do this, he has a 25mm difference and he never mentioned anything on it. The difference was causing knee pain from lack of full extension, might be he just expected the shorter leg to have a harder time pushing and didn't give it any thought. Is a good thing to be aware of though.
I guess the leverage thing is a finer point that may just need to be compromised on. In the end I imagine having both legs at proper extension is more important than the leverage issue.
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