Spin Bike Q-Factors and How To Choose The Best One
As indoor cycling continues to grow in popularity, people are becoming more and more familiar with the usual aspects that come with the increasingly advanced indoor bikes. How the weight of the flywheel affects the speed, what statistics the monitor features, and the type of resistance that the bike uses. However, one aspect that many people continue to overlook is how the Q-Factor affects how they workout on these indoor bikes.
For those who are unaware, the Q-Factor of a bike is the distance between the pedals. They are generally used as a measurement to determine how comfortable someone would be while exercising on one of these bikes. It is widely considered that narrower is better, however, we are here to clarify that somewhat. We’re going to look at various spin bike Q-Factors and see just which ones are best for the majority of people. With all of that out of the way, let’s get right into why spin bike Q-Factors matter!
When we stand, our feet are far apart to give us balance, but when we walk our feet move toward the center of the body. This helps the body move efficiently and decreases stress on the hips and lower back. Better spin bikes such as Stages SC3 have tighter pedal spacing to mimic the body’s natural movement. So, if you want to see what is the best q-factor for you, stand up and walk a couple of steppes to observe the distance between your feet when WALKING (not standing).
The Four Main Spin Bike Q-Factors:
Q-Factor 110mm to 140mm (Too Narrow)
As we mentioned above, those who are aware of how the Q-Factor impacts the workout on these bikes might believe that it should be as narrow as possible. Unfortunately, if it were as easy as that, spin bikes would have turned two dimensional a long time ago. No, there are certain bikes that take the narrow Q-Factor a bit too far. This narrow design causes issues with the legs positioning, which can lead to joint pain and decrease the efficiency of power transfer throughout the pedal stroke. Fortunately, spin bikes rarely move into this realm of narrowness, as it just doesn’t naturally line up with human anatomy.
- There’s no real pro to this Q-Factor. Only that most people don’t have to deal with it thanks to the rarity of this design.
- This range of Q-Factor only serves to cause pain and discomfort while riding. The actual pedalling efficiency goes down and it is just overall not picked for a reason.
Q-Factor 140mm to 170mm (Narrow)
Up next is the size that is generally regarded as the best for most riders. Falling anywhere in between 140mm and 170mm, this Q-Factor allows the riders to maintain proper positioning on the pedals while having the highest degree of efficiency when pedaling. This distance serves as the best size for most riders thanks to the way that the standard body size works. It’s just wide enough that the legs aren’t pointed inwards, but not so far apart that they are actively impeded from doing their job. Unless the body shape of all humanity changes anytime soon, it seems like this size range will be the most appropriate for the majority of cyclists.
- This size range allows for the ideal distance between feet. It’s not too narrow and not too wide, while it fits the standard person rather well. This allows for efficient pedalling for all who use indoor spin bikes.
- There are certain exceptions for those who do fall outside of the “standard” range of sizes. They might find this range too narrow if they are exceptionally tall or some biological factor.
Q-Factor of 170mm to 210mm (Wide)
Next is the Q-Factor of 170mm to 210mm. This range of distance between the spin bike pedals is still generally regarded as fine (Keiser M3i and many other spin bikes fall within this range), though not quite as fitting as the previous set. For quite a few people (especially elite riders), it tends to be too wide, giving a sense of discomfort while pedaling. It’s not so wide that it will actively take away all pedaling efficiency or anything quite as wild as that. However, it does serve as just wide enough to note that something is off. Of course, there are certain people who find this range of distance perfect. These are the people who are the outliers in the previous group and found the 140mm-170mm range too narrow.
- It isn’t so wide as to completely ruin the workout on the spin bike and can actually serve as just the right distance between pedals for some people.
- For some people, it does lead to an uncomfortable sensation and loss of pedaling efficiency.
Q-Factor of 210mm and Above (Too Wide)
Finally we reach the worst of the lot. Q-Factors of 210mm and above are almost never a good thing and fit almost nobody. When a spin bike has a Q-Factor of this size, it generally shows that it’s not of the highest quality. The distance is simply too far between your legs, making you lose pedalling efficiency while also feeling uncomfortable. Even worse than simple discomfort, this level of Q-Factor can lead to joint pain or other injuries further down the line. There is absolutely no benefit of these large Q-Factors and they should be avoided at all cost.
- There are none. Zip. Zero. This wide gap between pedals is absolutely useless in terms of the positives.
- The Cons: You lose pedalling efficiency and will have some massive discomfort assuming you are shaped like a human being. It will also lead to joint pain if used for a longer amount of time. It’s just not good.
Generally, you shouldn’t need to measure the Q-Factor yourself. It should be available somewhere online or through some other review. However, if you are determined to find out for yourself, you simply need to measure the distance between inside of the pedal attachments on the crank arms on either side. The Q-Factor is the gap that you measured.
If you haven’t figured that out by now, then we’ve no idea why you’ve just skipped the above section and come straight to the FAQ. But we’ll still humour you. In our opinion, the best Q-Factor for a spin bike falls in between 140mm and 170mm. This is because it allows the user to have just the right distance between pedals without losing any pedalling efficiency during the workout. They won’t be stretching because it’s too wide, nor will they be struggling because their legs are pointed inwards thanks to a narrow Q-Factor. It allows for straightforward workouts for the vast majority of spin bike users, keeping their mind off of the Q-Factor while they exercise. It’s actually rather simple. If you are thinking about the distance between the pedals while you work out, there’s something wrong with it.
Once again, this is speaking in regards to the general population of indoor cyclists, but no. It is better to have a narrower Q-Factor rather than a wide Q-Factor. What this does not mean is that a bike should shoot to have as narrow a Q-Factor as possible. People’s knees don’t naturally bend inwards while riding a bike, so this is a major problem with those spin bikes that have Q-Factors in between 110mm and 140mm. The pain and injuries that can be picked up from those sorts of Q-Factors are certainly a major problem. However, the general rule of indoor bike manufacturing and design is that the Q-Factor should be smaller in order to reach that ideal range of 140mm to 170mm. Since this is the range that the majority of users will fit comfortably into and by extension want, that is what should be aimed for. That is why a narrow Q-Factor is better than a wide Q-Factor, though too far in either direction is certainly not ideal.
Modifying a spin bike’s Q-Factor can seem like a pretty appealing process. After all, not every spin bike is made personalized for the buyer, so why not go that extra mile and do it yourself? There is both good news and bad news in this regard, as that modification is possible. However, it is only possible in one direction. The distance between pedals can be made wider by purchasing and installing pedal extenders. That way, if the Q-Factor was previously too narrow, you could fix it yourself. For those looking to see that wider Q-Factors can be narrowed down, here is where the bad news comes in. That just isn’t possible. While the pedal extenders make it possible for the Q-Factor to be extended, there are no “pedal condensers” to do the opposite. Another reason why it is generally better to look for good spin bikes with naturally narrower Q-Factors, since they can be changed if they end up being too narrow.
The spin bike with the narrowest Q-Factor is the Wahoo Kickr. This spin bike has a Q-Factor of 140mm. This runs right on the edge of what is generally considered too narrow or just right, depending on the person who is riding the bike. In fact, this is one of the reasons that the Kickr is criticized. The rider’s leg often rubs against the seat tube thanks to the combination of this narrow Q-Factor and the wider seat tube that it has.