Over the past few years, as internal bearing bottom brackets have been replaced with external bearing versions and cranks have been moved outboard to accommodate bigger tires and suspension linkages, pedals’ Q-factors have steadily increased. Though there are plenty of people on the interwebs who will argue for and against minimizing the lateral distance between a rider’s feet, the simple fact is that mountain bike cranksets put the feet about 20mm further apart than road bikes’- and some people find that uncomfortable. Though it was never something that I used to worry about, some recent, nagging hip pain has had me rethinking aspects of my bike setup. And this is where Crank Brothers’ Short SL Spindle Kit for Eggbeater pedals swoops in, quickly and inexpensively narrowing my stance by a full 8mm- with some nice added benefits.
At first blush, $40 for a pair of pedal spindles seems a bit steep. Still, riding without pain is invaluable to me, so I ordered up a set. Not having really read the kit’s description, when the kit arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the kit include a pair of shortened spindles (4mm shorter per side), but it also includes new seals, new bushings and bearings, new nylock nuts, and replacement end caps. Suddenly, $40 was looking like a bargain.
Following the enclosed instructions was straightforward and within 30 minutes of opening the package I had a completely refreshed pair of pedals. After a couple of months (and a second kit for Ms. Marc’s bike), both mountain bikes have stances far closer to that our my road rides’. Are they more comfortable? It’s hard to say- my hip pain hasn’t gone away altogether, but as a small-framed person, I’m pretty sure that they can’t hurt, and I like that my various road and mountain bikes all have similar setups. Besides, our pedals are a whole lot smoother and have less bearing play. Ms. Marc is smaller still and they seem to have helped with her knee alignment.
The one drawback to shortened spindles took me a while to identify- and depending on your perspective (and foot size), it may be fairly major. Not long after installing the short spindle kits, both Ms. Marc and I began having new and hard-to-replicate difficulty clipping out of our pedals. It wasn’t until very recently that we realized (both on the same ride) that our troubles were due to the short spindles. With pedal-being-unclipped at about 8:00 when viewed from the drive side, the pedal’s closer position actually allows the rider’s toe to interfere with the crank before the pedal releases. It’s an odd position to be unclipping from, but the situation does come up from time to time (usually in a panic) and being unable to clip out can be pretty dang important.
At this point, I haven’t quite decided to swap back to my old spindles. The narrower stance hasn’t dramatically improved my riding comfort, so I may well do just that- and appreciate the nice, smooth new bearings. Those looking to narrow their Q-factor will do well to give the Short Spindle kit a go- it’s inexpensive and their pedals are probably due for a rebuild anyways. Not everyone will have trouble clipping out and the rebuild is certainly worth something if things don’t work out. Because of their generally better-planned unclippings, road and commuter users (in the minority, I know) should have no qualms about the change.