BF Podcast Ep. 2: The Science of Saddle Height with Dr. Rodrigo Bini

Part 2 of our series on saddle height in bike fitting continues with our episode this week The Science of Saddle Height. Our guest Dr. Rodrigo Bini joins us remotely from Latrobe University in Australia.  

While last week, our guest Tom Wiseman focused on pelvic stability as the indicator of potential saddle height problems, Dr. Bini delves into the research that supports saddle height change.  We talk about some of the following great topics:

  • The amount of saddle height change needed to show statistically significant values in force or oxygen uptake
  • Knee angles
  • Static fitting knee angle vs. dynamic fitting knee angle
  • Should I throw out my Goniometer? Spoiler Alert – No
  • Technology in Fitting
  • Much much more… 

If you missed last week’s episode, you can listen to it here.

Rodrigo Bini, PhD, is a Lecturer and researcher in Exercise and Sports Biomechanics at La Trobe University – Bendigo Campus in Australia.

Currently, Rodrigo is an associate Editor of the Journal of Science and Cycling and the Human Movement journal. He also is a member of the Editorial Board of the Sports Biomechanics Journal, the Journal of Sports Sciences and the European Journal of Sport Science.

Rodrigo is also one of the editors and authors of many chapters in the book Biomechanics of Cycling, published in 2014. Rodrigo has published over 60 articles, the majority involving studies on sports biomechanics and he pursues particular research interests in the application of muscle mechanics principles in sports actions, with special attention to cycling and running.

BF Podcast Ep. 1: Establishing Saddle Height with Tom Wiseman

Saddle height is an often debated topic in cycling and there are multiple methods used to establish it.  Due to the massive amount of information about saddle height, this is our first of 3 episodes delving into this ubiquitous topic.

Professional bike fitter and BikeFit Pro Tom Wiseman of Cycling Solutions joins us for a candid conversation on how, after over 1250 bike fits completed, he establishes saddle height, the definition of pelvic stability, the importance of fit in the process, and identifying factors of improper saddle height.

Tom Wiseman initially studied fitting with Michael Sylvester, then at the Serotta International Cycling Institute.  Next, he completed both Level 1 and Level 2 courses with BikeFit, established a mentorship via Curtis Cramblett to achieve his Level 3 status with the International Bike Fitting Institute and also studied special topics in fitting with specialist fitter Happy Freedman.  He is also a Level 2 USA Cycling coach and a fantastic mechanic.  Tom’s business, Cycling Solutions, provides comprehensive bike fitting, coaching, and bike service to the Akron, Ohio area.

What to Expect in a Bike Fit

The expectations of a bike fit can vary depending on what you need and where you are fitted.  BikeFit breaks down the definition of bike fitting and some realistic expectations for a quality fit.

The short answer to the title in this article: It depends.  It’s impossible to place an “all-encompassing” practice such as bike fitting and apply it to the plethora of cycling disciplines and types of activities on a bike.  That would be equivalent of seeing 1 doctor for every possible ailment.  Beyond the general practitioner, there’s a specialist for almost every condition.  Bike fitters also range in their experience, tools used, education and process.  Therefore, what you should expect will vary but our mission is to help you find the individualized fit you need and to identify the most important elements.  Although anyone can offer bike fitting, it may not necessarily meet your goals.

What is a Bike Fit? 

1.) Adjusting the bicycle to fit the individual needs of the cyclist.  

2.) Educating and aiding the cyclist to function best on their bicycle.

For this article, we are going to focus on part 1.  The second part delves into the world of bike fitters, physical therapists, and coaches who provide riders with ways to improve strength, pedaling technique, flexibility, breathing, and other rider-specific exercises.  This is certainly not saying that you didn’t receive a full fit if these missing from your fit session, but there are different types of fitters and finding one that meets your needs is imperative.  

Let’s begin with the basic understanding of the definition of a bike fit: adjusting the bicycle to fit you.  Other times we’ve defined this as customizing a symmetrical bicycle to an asymmetrical body.  I hope no one is shocked by this nugget of truth but even the ridiculously beautiful people of the world whose eyes are perfectly spaced could have high arches, two different sized feet, or a leg length discrepancy. To take this a step further, we contacted renowned bike fit professional Jessica Bratus of Bike FitMi in Ann Arbor, MI to glean her definition of a bike fit, “It is a process in which every contact point of the bicycle, as well as the macro relationships between contact points, are optimized for that particular body.”  Since we are seriously nailing this point home, the fit is about you, the individual, and your unique body (height, weight, flexibility, physical activity, injury, asymeetry…etc.).   

Fitting Goals

Since we’ve established the individual and subjective nature of fit, it is imperative that before you seek out a fitter, you ask yourself 2 questions:

1.) What results do I want from a bike fit?

This will likely be synonymous with your goals.  Most of these results fall into 2 categories: eliminate/reduce pain or increase performance.  Here are a few examples:

  • Solve my issue with recurring pain on the back of my knees after each ride.
  • Reduce hand numbness that occurs after a few miles.
  • Find a position that will help increase aerodynamics for my next triathlon.
  • Optimize position for best power expenditure while racing.

There are a plethora of results you may desire but the important part of this puzzle is to recognize that a fitter is not a miracle worker.  As a rider, we have to manage our expectations of the fit outcome.  Many fitters provide an excellent experience but they are not going to change you from a beginning rider to a world-class athlete.  

2.) What type of riding or rides will I do in the future?

This is where the “need” or goal of the individual plays an important role in the fit process.  To understand what we mean by “need”, think of the results or goals you want to attain combine it with your type of riding.  Here are a few examples:

  • Gran Fondo
  • Local time trial
  • Club rides every weekend
  • Charity rides like Bike MS
  • Triathlon
  • Commuting to work
  • MTB (downhill, enduro, xc…etc.)
  • Gravel Riding
  • Racing (any discipline)
  • Fat Bike Adventures
  • BMX

Within these examples, there may be some variability of your needs based on the distance, the amount you’ll ride, and competitively, your expectations.  For example, it’s one goal to finish a Gran Fondo and another to be competitive in the top times in your age group.  It’s also noteworthy to mention that the more time you spend on the bike will dictate how much more important a quality, comprehensive fit will help you.  Pain is intensified by duration.  If your aspirations are much simpler like riding at the beach once in a while, you may benefit from proper setup but the full fit experience will be focused on your intensity, duration, and type of riding. 

Bike Fitting vs. Bike Sizing

Now that you’ve established what you want from a fit, let’s explore some common misnomers in fitting.  Bike fitting is an odd and confusing concept in cycling, but it’s even more profound compared to other products and industries using the term “fit.”  What does it mean to find the right fitting shoes, pants, dress, hat…etc.?  If I take the following measurements of my body, this particular article of clothing will supposedly fit (unless you’re a body builder, speed skater, sprinter or track cyclist).  To apply this same sizing logic to cycling:  we assume that if you are a certain height and have a specific inseam, this amazing new bike is going to “fit.”  There are even some systems in bike shops where the body is scanned or medieval torture instruments are used to take measurements which in turn place you on the “perfect fitting bike.”  It may be the correct size, but it’s unlikely that it will “fit” based on the definition we described previously without adjustments or corrections.  Consequently, it’s important to understand the definition because the terms bike fitting and bike sizing are often confused even by professionals and bike shops.  

Without going into excessive detail on the differences between them (we delve into this in another article), bike sizing happens prior to purchasing a bike. The process involves taking measurements of an individual and applying those specific measurements to match a person to the correctly sized bike frame.  Most competent fitters will perform both bike sizing and bike fitting and will understand the relationship between the two.

The Main Components of a Bike Fit

Although there may be a few other processes that some fitters use, most professional bike fits will have the following: An interview, an assessment, adjustments of the 3 main contact points, testing, and a report.

Pre-Fit Interview

Before you sign up for your first fit, we strongly recommend contacting a fitter to discuss your goals and type of riding.  It’s possible that you’re a mountain biker and the fitter you contacted has only worked with road and triathlon bikes.  If that’s the case, it may not be a good fit.  This is also significant if you have an injury (recent or past) that may need the attention of a physical therapy-based fitter.  A quality fitter will tell you about their experience level, whether they’ve helped cyclists attain similar goals, or will inform you if this is outside of their general practice.  If that’s the case, they should refer you to another local professional with the experience to best serve you.

The Interview

Assuming you’ve found the right match, a knowledgeable fitter will interview you either prior or during the fit to glean as much relevant information as possible.  Here are some examples of what they may ask:

  • Goals or objectives for the fit
  • Cycling goals
  • Current type of riding (how much and how often)
  • Injury history including current issues
  • Medical conditions
  • Areas of discomfort
  • Previous fitting information (have you had a fit prior to address the concerns)

There are fitters who may ask more detailed or follow up questions based on their training and comfort.  These are some of the basic ones that every fitter should ask.

Assessment

This varies significantly across the spectrum from fitter to fitter.  If you receive a fit from a medical professional fitter, they will likely perform an off-bike structural assessment or flexibility assessment as part of the fit.  This is not a requirement of a bike fit.  Unfortunately, there are many fitters who are not qualified to assess your flexibility by grabbing your leg and checking its range of motion.  If a fitter does incorporate off-bike assessments, they should explain to you the purpose and how it affects the fit.  The qualified ones will be forthcoming and assure you are completely comfortable during the process.  If you’re not, inform them immediately.

For those who do not perform an off-bike physical assessment, they will likely start their assessment process by observing your pedaling motion and body movement during the warm-up phase of the fit. 

Adjustment: Fitting Should Focus on the 3 Main Contact Points

The founder of BikeFit, Paul Swift, popularized the term, “making the bike disappear.”  The idea that you are literally in space fully functioning in whatever activity or event that’s occurring and the only resistance you encounter is the wind, the mountain, the rocks, your muscles screaming or on a rare occasion, an ostrich chase.  Unfortunately for many riders, you are keenly aware of the presence of your bike including discomfort or pain in the three main contact points: feet, hands, and rear end.  

Regardless of your goal, style of riding, or reason for getting a fit, you can expect a competent fitter will aptly examine and potentially adjust all 3 main contact points.  We’ll argue that even a fit for a flat pedal (as opposed to clipless pedals), while it may require less attention, should still properly examine and correct at the feet.  As Jessica mentioned earlier, every fit should focus on these contact points and the relationship between them.  Unfortunately, there are countless stories of riders who invested significantly into professional fits that ignored one of these three areas or only barely scraped the surface.  Although we won’t to delve into the extent of how each area should be examined in this article, you should expect a fitter to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to adjust all points thoroughly.  When this doesn’t happen, you get a case like one of our customers:

Mark set a goal to complete in a 170 mile,  3-day ride across Florida.  Unfortunately, after every ride, he experienced significant knee pain–the longer the ride, the worse the pain.  Mark went to 5 different bike fitters in 7 years and although they examined him using some state of the art equipment and 3d motion capturing, they failed to fully examine the foot/pedal interface and offer solutions that could have reduced his pain.  In the end, he ended up solving the issue by visiting a BikeFit Pro who extensively focused on his feet and fitting him for Cleat Wedges.

Although this may be an extreme example, if a fitter does not spend ample time on each contact point, you did not receive a full fit.  In our experience, it seems that the feet are the contact point that is ignored most often, although arguably it’s the most important.  For most riders, you can ride without your hands on the handlebar or you can ride out of the saddle but the contact point that’s always connected is the feet, except if you attempting to superman on the bike.  BikeFit’s legal team advises that no one should attempt to superman on their bike.

Testing

As we mentioned before, a fitter is not a miracle worker and small changes can make great differences but not necessarily immediate.  It’s important that after the accommodations and changes are complete, you test out this new position outside of the environment of the fit studio.  Usually, you aren’t fit while climbing hills, descending treacherous trails, or pushing for your best 1 hour time.  Consequently, the changes made by the fitter may feel odd at first .  That doesn’t mean the fit was a failure but the body, in some cases, takes time to adapt.  For some individual, the benefits are immediately apparent, especially for those who previously experienced pain.  Some fits allow a cyclist to ride more efficiently over the same distance at a lower heart rate, since they are not using their joints an muscles to stabilize the bike but rather they’ve become 1 hybrid of bicycle and human: a buman or a hike (buman is much better).  Most fitters will offer you the opportunity to return within a realistic period of time to reassess if you are experiencing anything negative, lingering effects from the fit.  If a fitter doesn’t offer this service, they are putting their business in jeopardy.

Reporting or Measurement Sharing

Throughout the fit, professional fitters have different methods of note-taking to document the bike and body changes.  This is a crucial part of the fit and information that, in our opinion, must be provided to the cyclist at the conclusion of the session.  Some fitters will use a program that creates a report like the BikeFit Pro App.  

Other fitters may use a word document, a full readout of numbers and measurements from a fit bike, or pen and paper.  There isn’t a “right or wrong” way to provide you with measurements but is it wrong if they are not supplied at the conclusion of the fit.

Post Fit

While the goal of the fit is to provide the cyclist with their desired results, sometimes this is not the case.  If for some reason your fit does not help you meet your original goals, we always recommend going back to the fitter to inform them that there is an issue.  Just like any other product or service, you would return if the results were not what you expected.  If you visit the doctor initially and your symptoms persist, you’re going to call the doctor back.  Professional bike fitter Tom Wiseman of Cycling Solutions mentioned in an interview recently, “I want customers to come back to me if they are not satisfied.  The only way to learn how to solve the problem is to know there is one.”  Jerry Gerlich, a professional fitter from Castle Hill Fitness, guarantees his work, “Everyone is a different ball of wax and if you guarantee your work, that really gets you to focus on what’s going on to solve the problem.”  Although it’s difficult lesson, it goes to show that if you are in some way unsatisfied or especially still in pain, you should return to your fitter.

Final Fitting Thoughts

Although it’s part of the expectations, we did not go into detail on the techniques, tools, technology or specific biomechanics of a fit.  The reason is that this varies widely from fitter to fitter and the main aspects of every fit should be the same.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  Happy Freedman, Professional Fitter from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York says, “Not all fitters are created equal but a great fitter will adjust to your needs.”  This is true of any profession in the world where, for example, there are great teachers and there are not-so-great teachers but experience does not always correlate with excellence.  The second part of Happy’s statement is the one that’s the most important.  Is the fitter attempting to meet your goals and needs or trying to force you into a position dictated by a machine?  This isn’t technology slander, since we use it daily as part of our fitting and fit training, but we don’t rely on it solely.   

Paul Swift described it like this, “The less you know about bike fitting, the more you look at a number to dictate the fit.  The more you know and look at bike fitting, the more you look at the overall picture.”

Our advice: contact the fitter and ask them about the expectations delineated in this blog, explain your goals to them, learn about their experience and process, find out if they’ve solved problems or attained goals for cyclists with similar ambitions, and how they address the main contact points.  If you want to know what to expect in a bike fit, ask a competent fitter.

Introducing the BiSaddle ShapeShifter EXT BikeFit Edition: A Collaboration in Comfort

Bulk pricing available to retailers/bike shops and other qualified professional partner/dealers

Kirkland, WA—June 5th, 2019—BikeFit has teamed up with BiSaddle to launch the Shapeshifter EXT BikeFit Edition Saddle.  The saddles are available now for purchase at www.bikefit.com, with wholesale pricing options available for retailers, bike shops and other qualified professional partner/dealers. 

 The all-new ShapeShifter EXT BikeFit Edition features unique front and rear adjustments, providing cyclists with an extensive range of width options from 130mm to 185mm.  It also features the UCI minimum requirement standard length of 243mm and allows for optimal fore/aft body movement.  The saddle comes with 2 sets of wedges, flattening and rounding, to customize the shape of the saddle. 

“With the growth of different cycling disciplines more men and women than ever are experiencing pain produced by their saddle,” said BiSaddle Owner Jon Petty.  “Saddle pain is most often caused from riding a saddle that is not properly fit to a person’s unique body shape. To help alleviate saddle pain, we are excited to be partnering with the leading bike fit company, BikeFit. This new partnership will help cyclists around the world experience how an adjustable shape, custom fit saddle can be used to train harder, ride further and cycle faster.”

 The BiSaddle ShapeShifter EXT BikeFit Edition will retail at 3 different price points based on the rail material: Carbon $349, Titanium $299, and Chrome Moly $249.  Contact us for dealer/wholesale pricing.

For more information visit www.bikefit.com/saddles

New BikeFit Distribution: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia

Kirkland, WA—May 16th, 2019—BikeFit is proud to introduce our newest distributor, PROSPORT.LT, who will provide BikeFit products and tools in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.

“PROSPORT.LT is a world leader in sporting goods distribution,” said general manager Jonas Strom.  “We started our business to meet the needs of every fan of tennis, skiing, cycling and a healthy lifestyle.”

PROSPORT.LT is recognized for carrying the following brands:

Tennis: Wilson, Tecnifibre, Lotto, and Luxilon.

Bicycles: Bianchi, Scott, Brompton, Frog, Conway, Classic, Kona, Atala, Bergamont, Victoria, and Whistle.

Skiing: Atomic, Bolle, Dainese, Bogner, Lenz, and Snowlife.

Sports Watches: Suunto and Garmin.

PROSPORT.LT was founded in 2009 and is celebrating its 10th successful year in business. The team is a qualified and enthusiastic group of sports consultants who will help select the best products for every person’s favorite sporting activity or active leisure.

The mission of PROSPORT.LT is to provide sports enthusiasts with the most appropriate and effective equipment. Our goal is consumer confidence and leadership in Lithuania.

PROSPORT.LT – Passion for Sport!”

“Our goal is to help every cyclist experience pain-free performance regardless of the cycling disicpline,” said BikeFit Operations Manager Damon Wyatt.  “PROSPORT.LT supports our mission and helps us expand our mission into countries less familiar with our line of ride-improving products and tools.”

PROSPORT.LT will be shipping products to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland.  Please contact Jonas for details or questions on how to become a BikeFit dealer in those countries.

BikeFit Distribution in Argentina

Kirkland, WA—March 25, 2019—BikeFit is proud to announce our partnership with SUD Outdoors to distribute BikeFit products in Argentina.

SUD Outdoors is a rapidly growing, multi-faceted company that also will distribute Respirfix and Elit Bicycles.  They represent and distribute premium brands specializing in outdoor activities such as cycling, snow sports, trail running, and sport fishing; offering leading, innovative and high-quality products.  They offer passionate people the best brands and products with well-deserved service.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to expand our product distribution into South America,” said BikeFit Operations Manager Damon Wyatt.  “Cycling popularity there is at an all-time high so the need to customize the riding experience through bike fitting products is paramount.”

SUD Outdoors will ship products into multiple countries of South America including Chile, Uraguay, and Paraguay.

BikeFit’s expanse into South America means that our products are now available from our international distributors on 5 different continents.

The New Shape of Comfort: 1 and 2 Degree Cleat Wedges for SPD and 2-Hole Cleats

 What is the shape of comfort? BikeFit examines each one of our products to assure that cyclists achieve the most comfortable ride.  With that goal in mind, we often review our products to see if we can improve upon a great idea.  

In 2018 we updated many of our plastics with a stronger more durable compound and we updated the shape of our popular Look/Shimano Cleat Wedges.

For 2019, our SPD / Mountain Bike 2-hole wedges received a signifcant makeover.  

2019

Previous Version

Benefits:

  • Better fit with the most popular brands of 2-hole cleats on the market
  • Stronger more durable material (withstands the rigors of anything you throw at it)
  • Conforms to the sole of any cycling shoe
  • Allows foot to pedal in a neutral position (inherent tilt)

2 Degrees of Separation

Due to the popularity of the Look 2-Degree Cleat Wedge, we’ve also released a 2-degree version of our SPD/MTN Cleat Wedge as well.  This thicker version of the wedge allows bike fitters the ability to fine-tune fits without fumbling with multiple 1-degree wedges.  Currently, the 2-degree SPD/MTB wedges are only available for dealers and wholesalers with a wholesale account, but we may expand that market based on the demands of cycling enthusiasts.

BikeFit to Distribute G8 Performance 2620 Orthotic Insoles

Bulk pricing available to retailers/bike shops and other qualified professional partner/dealers

Kirkland, WA—February 19, 2019—BikeFit, which offers an array of products and tools that enhance the cycling experience and optimize performance, has signed an exclusive a deal to distribute the G8 Performance 2620 Pro Series Orthotic Insoles in North America. The G8 is available now for direct purchase at bikefit.com, with bulk pricing options for retailers, bike shops and other qualified professional partner/dealers.

The G8 Performance 2620 Orthotic Insole contains advanced, highly flexible material, delivering comprehensive toe and arch support that passively strengthens the arch and enables the foot to better flex and pronate for increased comfort. Its highly customizable arch piece(5 heights included for each foot) augments comfort and accommodates changes in foot strength and flexibility.

“BikeFit and G8 share a common vision to reduce injury and increase athletic performance. They are a fantastic partner, highly respected by the cycling and bike fitting community worldwide,” said G8 Performance founder David Lee.

“We sell the best bike fitting products in Cleat Wedges, Leg Length Shims, and Pedal Extenders but we needed to provide cyclists with arch support as well,” commented BikeFit operations manager Damon Wyatt.  “G8 Insoles deliver exceptional comfort and adjustability which aligns perfectly with our goals.”

Learn more about the G8 2620 Orthotic Insole.

 

Bicycle Stance Width and Q Factor: Origins, Examples, and Solutions

Stance Width Origins

In his early days of track racing, Paul Swift (founder of BikeFit and CEO of CyclePoint) constantly heard the incessant yelling of his coaches, “bring your knees in!”  This assumed that there was something inherently wrong with Paul’s form and he needed to force his knees into the “correct” position.  Paul is unlikely to admit that his form was anything less than perfection, but the “knees in” adage was fundamentally flawed.  At the top of the pedal stroke, the knee was not under the same amount of pressure, and it moved outward naturally to get closer to his ideal position for comfort.  The knee then followed the foot faithfully down to discomfort town forcing it inward at the 6 o’clock position.

Paul was not the only person who suffered from this potentially debilitating issue which not only affects alignment but also places significant torque on the knee when it’s forced into an unnatural position.  The result: pain and potential injury (not to mention the power loss). Even though 150 years have passed since his racing days and bike fitting is much more popular in cycling culture, the concept of stance width is largely ignored.  Our blog article today aims to explain the factors involved, when to make changes, solutions, and our recommendations from years of bike fitting experience.  Before we go any further, grab your favorite beverage and let’s go over the terminology we’ll use in this article:

Stance Width – The distance between the center of one pedal to the center of the other pedal.  This article will also reference individual leg stance width, which is defined by the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the pedal.

Q Factor – The distance between the outside portion of each crank arm where the pedal attaches.  The term was originally coined by Grant Petersen while he worked for Bridgestone Bicycles.  The “Q” stands for “quack” which referenced the wide stance of a duck.  This is seemingly contradictory because the argument can be made that q-factor (unchangeable and determined by multiple factors such as bicycle and component manufacturers and the width of the chainstay) is, in many cases, too narrow on a road bike.

Pedal Spindle Width – The distance from the outside of the crank arm to the center of the pedal.

Snowboarding Stance Width Similarities

Now that you’ve thoroughly digested the major terms of the article and you’ve realized you need a signifcantly stronger beverage, let’s completely change gears and talk about snowboarding.  When you Google “Stance Width,” a plethora of articles about snowboarding flood the screen.  Significant time and energy focus on the adjustment of snowboarding stance width.  Their starting point is based on a measurement from the center of the kneecap to the floor, applying that measurement as an initial width starting point, and then specifically adjusting both width and foot angle until the individual achieves maximum comfort.  In most of the articles we discovered, a trial and error method was utilized.

Clearly, we are unable to apply the same measuring standards from snowboarding to cycling but there is a striking similarity: the feet need to be set up correctly because once set, the individual is unable to self-select their stance width.  Author, bike-fitter, and physical therapist Dr. Katrina Vogel reminds us that “you self-select your stance (width) when you walk, run stand or jump.”  Therefore, in sports when you are “locked-in,” achieving the correct stance width is paramount to power delivery, efficiency, and injury prevention.

Determining Factors of Bicycle Stance Width

While snowboarding uses multiple pre-drilled holes in the board to customize the stance width of the bindings, in cycling, we have two determining agents (as well as some customizations that we’ll discuss later): q factor and pedal spindle length.

Q Factor

Q factor is roughly the same within specific categories of bike types i.e. road bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes…etc.. The cranks need to be wide enough to clear the chainstay and a wider tire will, in turn, affect the chainstay width.  We will not spend much time on q factor because it’s largely predetermined (based on bottom bracket width, crank offset, bicycle type, and manufacturer specifications) and since the ultimate goal is to find the most comfortable stance width for the individual, this article will focus on pedal spindle length and stance width customization.  With that said, it’s important to notice the q factor of the road bike vs. mountain and fat bike:

Road Bike: Approximately 150mm.  Currently, many Shimano cranks boast a 146mm q factor and the masterminds at Campagnolo prefer 145.5mm, just to mention a few.

Mountain Bikes: Approximately 170mm.  Sram XO1 and Shimano XTR both width-in at 168mm.

Fat Bikes: 200-230mm. 

Pedal Spindle Width

Largely uniform in the industry (like q factor), this is the best area for stance width customization.  Let’s take a look at some of the common road pedal spindle widths:

Shimano:

Look:

  • Blade, Max, Sprint, and Classic (all versions) – 53mm
  • *Note – Look Keo pedals have a threaded area that is 2mm longer than other pedals, allowing for the safe installation of up to (2) 1.5mm spacers.

Speedplay:

  • Zero Titanium – 50mm
  • Zero Chrome-Moly – 53mm
  • Zero Stainless – 53mm
  • Zero Stainless custom lengths: 50mm, 56mm, 59mm and 65mm

Xpedo:

  • Thrust 8 (all types) – 53mm
  • Thrust 8 custom spindle lengths – 50mm, 56mm, 59mm and 62mm
  • *Xpedo, like Look, provides a 2mm longer threaded area.

Issi:

  • Road – 50mm
  • Road + 5 – 55mm
  • Flash III: 52.5mm (standard), 58.5mm and 64.5mm
  • Trail III: 52.5mm (standard), 58.5mm and 64.5mm
  • Flip III: 58.5mm

Crank Bros:

  • Eggbeater, Candy, Mallet, 505, Double Shot – 52mm 
  • Extended Spindle Kit (sold separately) for Candy, Mallet, 505, Double Shot + 5 – 57mm.

 Keywin:

  • CRM Chrome-Moly 55mm (custom sizes below):
    • 49mm
    • 52mm
    • 58mm
    • 61mm
    • 65mm
The last 2 examples may not be as well known on the market, specifically, Keywin is difficult to acquire in the United States, but we mention them to accentuate pedal manufacturers focusing attention on stance width.  In our opinion, this is a largely ignored, pivotal factor in achieving optimal comfort, power and efficiency on the bike.  Although some companies like Speedplay take this into account, for most riders some customization is required to optimize peformance and reduce injury.

When to Modify Stance Width

Although research for this blog post discovered zero articles on common trends in cycling stance width, the consensus of the experienced minds at BikeFit, our trained BikeFit Pros and the popularity of Pedal Extenders, support the need for stance width modification.  It’s difficult to believe that the majority of every asymmetrical human male and female size 4’8″ to 7’2″ would be accommodated by a 252mm (about 10 inches) stance width (252mm was obtained by using an average 53mm pedal spindle width on each side and a 146mm q factor). Considering the pedal spindle width and q factor example, cycling is like the “one size fits most” of clothing.  We are not sure of who fits the “most” category but in our experience, “most” is more like some.  Granted, we already mentioned the possible extended pedal spindle width but think about the amount of emphasis on bike size rather than stance width–every company offers multiple bike sizes but not every company offers an array of stance width options.

With the argument made for customizing stance width, let’s take a gander at a rider who requires modification:

Video Courtesy of Quest Therapy Consultants
Take a moment to evaluate each knee.  The left and right (more significant) distinctly move outward at the 12 o’clock position and then back in at the 6 o’clock position.  Even without the aid of the laser guide, it’s obvious the knee craves a wider stance width but is forced to follow the position of the foot inward during the downstroke.  This is incredibly common. We challenge you next time you’re on a lovely weekend ride with others, observe the pedaling of your compatriots.  Do you notice knees kicking out at the top of their pedal stroke?

Without delving deeply into the world of bike fitting, the “knees out” rider may also have a saddle height issue or a need for Cleat Wedges.  If the saddle is extremely low, a similar pedal stroke will develop.  In the case of the video above, saddle height is not the culprit.  The client did require wedges, but in order to not confuse the issue, stance width is the main problem.

Stance Width Solutions and Drawbacks

*In case you’re scoring at home (of course you are), this is a quintuple blog repeat score for using “stance width” in every major heading (spoiler alert, they’ll be 8).  It exemplifies how we feel about the topic.

To solve the “knees out” issue and achieve maximum comfort, the foot needs to align with the knee–it’s not the other way around.  Consequently, the foot must be adjusted/moved out.  Here are some solutions:

1.) Longer Pedal Spindle

Feel free to reference some of the pedals mentioned earlier such as Speedplay, Issi, and Keywin.  While Shimano Dura Ace pedals now offer a 4mm extension, the “regular” spindle width is already tight at 51mm.  As a result, a 55mm spindle width may not be long enough for many riders.  When Road Bike Action reviewed the first model (9000) with the extended spindle option, they made this bold statement, “for those looking for a wider stance without bulky extensions, the Shimano cleat has ample lateral adjustment. The pedals also have a 4mm-longer axle option to widen your stance width even more.”  To say the cleat has “ample lateral adjustment” is like saying that a Ferrari Portofino has ample seating space.  It does, if your only intention is to drive yourself and one other extremely lucky person through the streets in style.  The Shimano cleat does have ample lateral adjustment for some people, but most will require more and even a 4mm longer spindle option will often not solve the problem.

2.) Cleat in, Foot Out (Picture to the Right)

Most bicycle cleats and shoes have some room for lateral movement.  While some cleats/shoes offer more flexibility than others, this simple change makes a noteworthy difference and is the most affordable adjustment.

These small spacers provide an extra 1.5mm to stance width.  We do not recommend using more than (1) per pedal.  It’s important that there are enough threads to safely install the pedal into the crank.  As we mentioned earlier, Look Keo pedals are built with a longer threaded area to accommodate an additional 1.5mm spacer.

This is not a gratuitous sales ploy by the marketing team at BikeFit.  These extenders have helped a multitude of riders.  When the lateral movement of the cleat, a longer spindle or the 1.5mm spacers are not enough, the 20mm pedal extender works wonders.  Using the previous equation based on the q factor of a Shimano crank, adding a pedal extender to each side would add 40mm to the overall stance width for a total of 292mm or about 11.5 inches.  Considering an avg. mountain bike q factor is 170mm, adding 40mm to a road bike at 146mm will likely help many cyclists achieve desired comfort and alignment.  BikeFit offers both a Hex+ 20mm Pedal Extender for those pedals that require an 8mm wrench for installation and our regular 20mm Pedal Extender for all other pedal installation types.

We would also like to note that Road Bike Action’s earlier claim that extensions are “bulky” is the equivalent of calling a pro peloton sprinter overweight.  Clearly, they both are the correct size to achieve specific results.  The extenders are imperative for many riders and at 37 grams, it’s worth the extra “bulk.”

5.) The Combo Move

Every person requires their own specific stance width.  Therefore, combining the different methods together will yield the best results.  If you need more space than the 20mm extenders provide, add a 1.5mm spacer.  If the 20mm extender is just a bit too long, consider laterally moving the cleat out (foot in) after installation.  Many riders even combine the longer spindle of a Speedplay pedal with a pedal extender or a pedal spacer.  

Single Leg Stance Width

This one may seem like a head-scratcher but it’s true for most riders.  We’ve mentioned this in other articles but a bike is a beautifully crafted, symmetrical machine.  The human body is a flawed, somewhat challenged, aging, potentially injured, often uncoordinated, sometimes imbalanced, asymmetrical biped.  Consequently, when we are bent over and clipped into a symmetrical machine, problems arise.  In order to fit an asymmetrical being to a symmetrical bicycle, it’s important that each leg is evaluated independently.  This means that one leg could be perfectly aligned and the other one could have the 12 O’clock kick-out occurring during every stroke.  Each leg will potentially require its own modification independent of the other.  For example, BikeFit sells more single left-only pedal extenders than the right-only.  This doesn’t mean that human nature has a propensity to a wider stance width on the left-hand side (it may, but that’s another blog post), it further supports our assertion (spearheaded by Paul Swift), that “each leg has its own individual stance width.”

After Stance Width is Adjusted

Considering our earlier video of when a stance with modification is needed, here is a view of what alignment looks like after adding a 20mm pedal extender:

The diagram to the right displays the differences an adjusted stance width offers the rider.  Although it shows a “longer pedal axle” as the optimal intervention, the same methodology can be applied using the solutions mentioned previously.

Conclusions and Final Stance Width Thoughts

If research was conducted on cycling stance width, a bell curve of the most prevalent measurements may exist.  Even if that information for cycling was available, in our experience, bike fitting is somewhat subjective.  Therefore, the perfect formula for cyclist A may be horrific for cyclist B.

Stance width is worth examining for every cyclist on any type of bicycle.  As we’ve mentioned in other articles, if a cyclist is out of alignment riding at 85 rpm, that’s 5,100 pedal strokes per leg, per hour.   If we carry this scenario out further, let’s say the average cyclist rides 6 hours per week, which is roughly 122,000 pedal strokes per month and over 1 million per year, per leg.  With that number of pedal strokes, the strain on the body (especially the knee) is significant.

In cycling, the industry usually grabs us with the flash of style: aero helmets, new colors, more gears, less friction, larger pulleys, more carbon…etc, but none of these are more important than fit.  Does it matter how your bike looks or functions if you’re in too much pain to ride it?

If you’re a bike fitter or a bike shop, we implore you to analyze the stance width of every rider you fit or bike you sell.  If you’re a cyclist, as much as tinkering with fit may improve your comfort, it also may make it worse. It’s worth every penny to get a professional fit.  Before you schedule a bike fit, ask your fitter whether they examine stance width and what modifications or process they use.  Glean as much information as possible before you book it or you’ll be unhappy with the results.  If you have questions about fitting or stance width, feel free to drop us a line.

Enjoy your ride.

-The BikeFit Team

Cleat Wedges in the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish is well known in the cycling world for being one of the greatest sprinters and arguably one of the best cyclists of all time.  With 48 grand tour victories, 30 in the Tour de France alone, and winning the 2011 Road World Championship, his accolades are undeniable.

BikeFit products are used throughout the cycling world and these pictures of Mark’s new kicks complete with Cleat Wedges clearly show the need to adjust for foot tilt among the pro ranks.

Will Cleat Wedges help you win the Tour de France or at least a few stages?

The BikeFit legal department was crystal clear to us that we can’t imply a direct correlation between using Cleat Wedges and attaining grand tour victories.  At the same time, it’s extremely difficult to achieve your best performance when you experience bike discomfort.  Many cyclists find relief from foot pain, knee pain, and even saddle discomfort by using wedges.

Find your Cleat Wedge #

Measure foot tilt with the Foot Fit Calculator and your Android phone!  All you need is a friend to help, and you can quickly find out if Cleat Wedges will improve your ride and how many you require.

If you don’t have an Android phone, see our blog article for more help on discovering foot tilt and the importance of cleat wedges.

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