Mountain Bike Setup (Part 1)

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Before getting started, it’s worth noting that many bike shops offer a bike fitting service. This is the simplest and fastest way to get a bike setup and fitted properly for its rider. Otherwise, for those who are interested in working through the process on their own, here are some guidelines.

The simplest way to understand mountain bike (or any bike) setup is to break things down into the three points of contact – feet, seat, and hands.

It’s common for beginners to overlook the importance of their feet in mountain biking. Running shoes are often their first choice because most people already have a pair in the closet. However, the flexible cushioned soles on athletic shoes don’t usually make them the best choice for cycling. Cycling-specific shoes have stiff soles, which significantly improve power transfer to the pedals. This translates into less work and fatigue for the rider.

With pedals, grip is key. Many cyclists choose clipless pedals – a confusing name that actually means pedals that a rider’s shoes clip into.  While clipless pedals do offer definite pedaling advantages, the fear of being unable to unclip in certain situations may never leave some riders’ minds. A good shoe matched with a grippy flat pedal is a great alternative. High quality flat pedals have metals pins on them that bite into the sole of the shoe for maximum grip.

The saddle does much more than offer the rider a place to sit. An appropriate saddle height is vital for efficient pedaling. An easy way to check saddle height is for the rider to place their heels on the pedals and cycle through a few pedal rotations. With their heels on the pedals, the rider’s knees should lock straight at the bottom of each pedal rotation, without them shifting side-to-side of lifting off the seat.

Using this approach typically results in fairly optimal leg extension once the rider repositions their foot to its normal pedaling position. Of course, skill level and the type of terrain/riding must be taken into consideration here as well. Most advanced mountain bikers choose to use a dropper seat post (height adjustable) to give them a more flexible seat height for both safety and performance.

The saddle can also be tilted and positioned forward or back, along its rails, to provide the rider with a comfortable, ergonomic, and efficient pedaling position. Experiment. Small changes can make a big difference. A level saddle is a good starting point for most people. However, taller riders are more likely to tilt their saddles slightly downward and smaller riders may tend to do the opposite.

We’ll pick up the bike setup discussion again next month, but I’d like to pause things here in order to mention a special event happening later this month.

The Peterborough Trailbuilders Association (PTA) is hosting a premier of Return to Earth, a new movie from Anthill Films. The event is a fundraiser to support local trail initiatives.

The PTA is a volunteer run, not for profit organization, dedicated to the betterment of local non-motorized trails. They are very active at Harold Town Conservation Area and have helped out here in Millbrook, as well. They also recently announced a partnership with the Ganaraska Forest to revitalize a small portion of their vast trail network.

The screening happens on July 20th at 7:00pm at the Gordon Best Theatre, in Peterborough. Tickets are $15 and are available in advance at Wild Rock and Fontaine’s.

This month’s trail tip: Point your elbows out and look further ahead while riding. This draws your weight down and forward, resulting in a lower center of gravity and improved traction.

A Singletrack Mind by David D’Agostino

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