In this article of our bike setup series and we're having a look at your contact points.
We are doing this series on bike setup because we have seen a lot of riders out there who are shortchanging themselves due to poor bike setup. You can spend as much money as you want on expensive components but if you do not set them up correctly to your riding style and preferences you’re not going to get the best performance out of your bike. We want to offer a bit of our expertise and knowledge on how to set a bike correctly so that you can reap the benefits!
In this article, we will look at the contact points on your bike. These are your grips, pedals, saddle, and tires. The first three are obviously your contact between your body and the bike, and tires being the contact between you bike and the ground.
As we have said before, doing the right adjustments here can greatly improve the comfort and control that you experience while riding. Let’s get into it.
Looking first at the grips. They are a matter of personal preference. You shouldn’t let anyone tell you what you need or must have but you should figure out what works best for you. Some factors to consider are the width and diameter of your grips. If you have bigger hands, longer and thicker grips may be necessary to accommodate them more comfortably. Larger diameters can also help relieve arm pump. When purchasing a grip, look for a softer compound. This will increase the comfort of the grip but also enhance your control over the bike. Lock-on style grips that are secured with a small bolt are recommended to prevent the grips from twisting on the bar.
Saddles can be quite tricky to get right. We have all experienced the discomfort of an improperly fitting saddle. We would highly recommend that you check in with your local bike shop or do some research and find out where you can get a proper bike fitting done. The width of the saddle should correspond to the width of your sit bones which varies from person to person. The rest of the saddle design will come down to personal preference. I have personally found that a flatter saddle with a supportive paddling has worked well for me. If the padding is too soft it can start collapsing on longer rides. If it is too hard that may just be too aggressive for most people.
When setting the angle of your saddle, set your bike on a level surface and then set the saddle to be level with the ground. Tilting the nose of the saddle down slightly can set you in a better position for steep climbs but otherwise keep it flat. In terms of moving the saddle forward and backward on the rails, a forward position will get you over the pedals and assist with climbing performance. A rearward bias might be more suitable for flatter terrain. Adjusting this will also affect your reach while seated so make small adjustments and find what suits you.
It can be tricky to get your saddle height optimised. We would recommend that you do this by sitting on the saddle and placing your heel on the pedal while wearing your riding shoes. Your leg should be just about dead straight in this position which means that when in your normal pedaling position there will be a slight bend in your leg. If the saddle is too high your hips will rock from side to side while pedaling and this can hurt your lower back. If it is too low, this could put too much pressure on your knees.
If your saddle is not sitting on top of a dropper post, you don’t know what you’re missing! There are even some great lightweight short travel options for the weight weenies that will allow you to ride faster, safer, and actually conserve energy during a ride!
When it comes to the pedals there is often the great divide between clipless or flat pedals. Flat pedals can be a great tool for learning skills on the bike and for a more playful riding experience whereas clipless pedals offer the security of cleating in and are generally more efficient for racing and endurance riding. Choosing between these two is a matter of preference of course and there is no reason not to switch between the two!
Clipless pedals are somewhat divided between the SPD style that Shimano and other brands use or the eggbeater style common to CrankBrothers. The eggbeaters allow more float in your foot angle before unclipping and their tension is not adjustable. SPD pedals offer adjustable tension. This makes for a more secure attachment but can also be easier for beginners to use.
You also have the choice of a cleat only or a cleat and platform pedal. Cleat only pedals are lighter and more suitable for marathon and XC riding. Having the platform around the cleat can be helpful if your foot is unclipped but it can also offer a more secure interface between the shoe and the pedal.
Lastly, we will discuss the fundamentals of tire selection. The factors to consider are width, tread pattern, rubber compound, and casing. For a more marathon inclined rider, a 2.2 to 2.35-inch wide tire will be optimal with a faster rolling tread pattern. Don’t compromise too much on traction though!
On the trail and gravity side of things, you’ll be looking at a 2.4 to 2.6-inch wide tire with an aggressive tread pattern, particularly at the front of the bike. If you are a heavier or more aggressive rider, a stronger tire casing will give your tire more support at lower pressures and increase your traction as well as reduce punctures.
Softer rubber compounds increase traction but will wear out faster and roll a bit slower. We recommend a soft compound on the front of the bike for optimal traction and a medium or harder compound on the rear to reduce wear and rolling resistance.
We hope that gives you some good pointers for getting your bike setup dialed! Be sure to look at our other posts on your cockpit and suspension setup to get the full picture on your bike setup.
Remember that a lot of these factors boil down to personal preference. Don’t let simple things such as a poorly fitting saddle or uncomfortable grips ruin your time on the bike!
See you on the trails, J-Dogg.