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Technical FAQ: Q-factor and IB Band Syndrome

Question: I  have a question about Q-Factor (the lateral distance between the left and right pedals) and knee injury. I have an ongoing but manageable problem with IT Band Syndrome in my right knee.

I borrowed a bike during a recent trip that appeared to have wider cranks (higher Q-Factor).  Over several rides I experienced less irritation in my right knee riding this bike using a position that wa s”as close as I could possibly make it” to my own road bike.

This bike also has longer cranks than my bike, which I feared would aggravate my knee.  I know my perception of this is highly subjective, so I was wondering if there has been any research as to whether a higher Q-Factor is beneficial for some body types or knee injuries.

Also, I noticed that Look now makes a pedal with adjustable Q-Factor.  Is this feature related to injury treatment or prevention theories?

Answer: Having suffered myself from IT band syndrome, I can relate. Since the IT band attaches above the hip, spreading the legs would seem to decrease the tension and hence the pain. Spreading your legs is the opposite of the stretching routine physical therapists give you to make the IT band longer.

I don’t see how crank length would affect it one way or another.

—Lennard