Pedal "stance" too narrow?

I came from a ball sports background (football, basketball) where an “athletic position” was feet shoulder-width apart, butt down and head up. I found in downhill skiing that the feet together stance felt very foreign and my instinct was to allow my feet to drift apart. Fat, rockered skis kinda allowed for this but that’s another topic.

Fast-forward to cycling and I’ve had a Guru fit session along with a follow-up a year or so later. One take home that we addressed as much as we could the first time and it came up again in the check-up was that the distance between my cleats seems and feels narrow. Only so much can be done with a washer or two and cleat placement. I’m running Speedplay pedals and as I understand it they offer a longer spindle model but I’d rather not commit to the money without having a chance to ride it and check the fit. Has anyone had a similar experience or have any recommendations?

There are also some spindle extenders you can buy. It may be a good, more affordable way to try out a wider Q-factor without spending on new Speedplays right away. There’s a popular brand called Kneesavers, which seem to go for $45 for the steel model, or $120 for titanium. Keep in mind though that the wider you go on Q-factor, the more likely you are to clip the ground when peddling through a corner. Make sure you get used to them before ripping through some switchbacks at the edge of a mountain road…

I played a lot of badminton as a teenager and remember the ‘readiness position’ fondly.

On a road bike there isn’t much need for the wide stance as a form of control so keeping things as narrow as possible is a good thing for efficiency. In an ideal world the plane that your pedal rotates on should be exactly in line with your hip joint so that everything can move on that plane.

Greame Obree famously lay down on his bed and pedalled in the air. He noticed that his feet were much closer together than on a normal bike. He used the narrow bearings from a washing machine to make a very narrow bottom bracket on his bike, Old Faithful, which he used to break the world hour record.

Having said all of that, if you don’t feel comfortable with the narrow stance then using longer spindles or moving your cleats as far inboard on your shoes would be a good solution. Mountain bike cranksets are wider than on road bikes so if you can use one for a period of time, you might find out if it’s going to be a viable solution for you.


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Whoever taught you to ski with feet together is, well, not really a ski instructor. Basic stance is shoulder-width apart.

In relation to skiing in powder I’ve had multiple lessons at higher levels where we were taught by CSIA instructors to think of our skis as one big plank and to keep feet closer together to have better control.

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Duh. No.

Skiing stance aside…

Does the narrow pedal stance give you any discomfort/pain, affect the vertical line of your knees etc?

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I get some left knee discomfort but hard to say if it’s a direct result of this. Also my knees are pretty well aligned over the pedals but when viewed from the front or rear it looks like my hips/knees are trying hard to get to that position. I’ve had pretty extensive ankle surgery on both ankles so it may be that my ankles are unable to compensate/absorb any misalignment and are transferring the lion’s share of that realigning to my knees?

That’s what is hard is it’s all theoretical without actually spending some time on wider pedals.

I’ve always wondered about this. You should go for it if you think it will help.

Ever ride behind a kiddo on a kiddo bike? Their Q-factor looks like it’s 30% of their height! :joy: Doesn’t seem to bother them. So if you think it will help to increase your Q I think it will be no worse than benign…so go for it!

So my personal opinion is that if, after a year, you’re still not comfortable with your stance and it may/may not be the cause of issues, then the investment in the longer spindles is worth it. In some ways this is no different to a saddle issue -it’s all about points of contact, right? - so go for it.

I had a bike fit a few years ago (Qualified physio, PhD, lecturers at Uni and publishes papers on these kinds of things). Had a bike fit I was comfortable with for a few years.

Got my new bike - got sore knees, so tried to be loyal to my lbs - Did a brand name bike fit that put my cleats really wide (partially due to hip issues) & wanted me to purchase speedplay with long axles. Never got around to speedplay as I was relatively comfortable on my cheapy MTB pedals.

It never seemed right though going wider.
After 12 months I had sore knees again.

Went back to the original bike fitter who did the exact opposite with the cleats - as narrow as possible and my knees are much happier. Also my particular hip issue doesn’t mean I need to go wider with stance to fix it.

So… it’s a case of deciding who to trust with your bike fit I guess?

To the OP though - I guess the take-away I had was that if it feels like your knees aren’t being pulled in the right direction when you pedal then they’re probably not.

eBay is your friend for extended spindles. I’ve been running titanium ones that I picked up from a well rated Chinese seller. Took a couple of weeks to arrive but I paid less than £35 and they’ve clocked up over 4,000 miles without any issues.

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Maybe try spending some time with a physio working on hip rotation. I have poor hip range of motion, especially internal rotation. That combined with slight duck feet caused me to shift my cleats and add pedal washers to maximize Q-factor. But I still felt constant inward pull from my pedals on my knees, and my heels still clipped the crank arms to the point that I have worn holes in the heels of my shoes. I considered the pedal extenders I mentioned in my previous post but never got around to purchasing them ( and was concerned about pedal strike). Last spring, while visiting my physio for an unrelated injury, I mentioned my peddling issues. He checked my hip rotation and discovered how bad it was. After several months of performing the prescribed excersises, I no longer clip my heels, and my knees are completely comfortable with a standard road bike stance.