Stance Width OriginsIn 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
Snowboarding Stance Width SimilaritiesNow 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.
Photo credit: blog.yourstoryboard.com
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 WidthWhile 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 FactorQ 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 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:
- Ultegra 8000 – 53mm (+4mm option–57mm)
- Dura Ace 9100 – 51mm (+4mm option–55mm)
- 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.
- Zero Titanium – 50mm
- Zero Chrome-Moly – 53mm
- Zero Stainless – 53mm
- Zero Stainless custom lengths: 50mm, 56mm, 59mm and 65mm
- Thrust 8 (all types) – 53mm
- Thrust 8 custom spindle lengths – 50mm, 56mm, 59mm and 62mm
- *Xpedo, like Look, provides a 2mm longer threaded area.
- Road – 50mm
- Road + 5 – 55mm
- CRM Chrome-Moly 55mm (custom sizes below):
When to Modify Stance WidthAlthough 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:
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 SpindleFeel 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.
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.”