One thing I hear almost every time I fit someone is, “I can’t believe how much difference small changes make!” It’s true – small tweaks can really improve your comfort and power. Frequently there is a threshold effect, where if you just open your hip angle enough, or your knee angle, things improve dramatically.
Take Fuel Belt Race Team member Dean. He’s a strong rider, but has unusually immobile hips. This causes his knees to splay outward when pedaling – not great for aerodynamics or for power production. Ideally we want those knees close to the frame and vertically aligned with hips and ankles. Since we recently received our shipment of Keywin pedals from New Zealand which are available in a variety of axle-widths, I was anxious to try him on the widest axles: +6mm – these pedals would widen his stance (q-factor) by 1.2cm.
In the video below you can see how the wider stance helped align his knees better. He still has a ways to go (and certainly release therapy and flexibility work could help) but the wider pedals really improved his comfort and added at least 10 watts at the same perceived effort level.
Dean has also recently moved to a P4 from his trusty P3, and although we tried to match the contact points when building the P4, some travel and seat post slippage had left him feeling “off”. You can see from the video that his position looks good, but motion analysis showed me that his saddle was a bit low and his front end drop was a bit overdone. His hip angles were pushing the limit, and I suspected that we could raise his armrests while not affecting his frontal area. The video shows that this was in fact the case, and the two additional adjustments added 20 more watts with greater comfort and no aero penalty!
The moral of the story: don’t underestimate the value of small fit adjustments. After all, how much training would it take to improve your FTP by 30 watts??