Mountain Bike Fit – pedal 2 butt – butt 2 handlebar

For me the fit sequence comes down to something like this…at least for a general use trail / XC MTB…

1. Pedal-2-butt fit be setup so that extended seated pedaling has proper leg extension and kinematics (not too knee-forward or knee-back from the pedal spindle). Dialing this in takes a combined tuning of saddle height, saddle setback, and crank length *based upon* the rider’s thigh, calf, and foot proportions. Like you have done, this can be tuned with different saddle fore-aft adjustments and various degrees of set-back on the seat-post. Seat post extension is a factor because typically as a post is raised or lowered the saddle will move for-aft depending upon how slack the true post angle is. For me this setup results in a position that can handle sustained efforts both on flats and climbing without excessively stressing any joint and while spreading the effort amongst all muscle groups. The hips and knees should be moving through smooth and full ranges of motion, again for me this has proven to provide the best long-ride endurance. Your butt should not be too far back, too close to a vertical dropped through the rear axle, if it is then this leads to having not enough weight on the front wheel. This reduces front traction, particularly when climbing, and thus control.

2. Butt-2-handlebar fit likewise is tuned starting with a seated pedaling position. The target is a rider-specific setup to be sure but I’d be looking for a body position that has the upper body at a moderate forward lean, the neck/head at a comfortable angle for extended periods with a comfortable forward and some upward view, the arms with a bit of bend at the elbow and a fairly neutral wrist angle, and the hands far enough apart to not restrict breathing in any way but not so far that there is excessive weight on the hands. I feel the rider should be able to maintain the same upper body position and ride no handed, at least briefly, without becoming unstable. This defends against surprises that cause you to pull hands-off now and then. The primary physiological factors that drive this are rider torso length, upper- and lower-arm length, and shoulder width. The adjustments on this come from the stem length and angle; handlebar width, sweep, and rise; and headset spacers or lack thereof. A sort of rough baseline to start with is having the handlebar grips *about* the same height as the saddle … there’s no hard line here though because the of rider proportions and rider preferences the individual may want more forward lean or upright body. Likewise if the rider has hip flexibility issues they may need to start with a more upright position (to reduce range of motion requirements) and possibly progress towards the more forward position. Under no situation should the rider end up with a vertical spine as that would transmit too much unbuffered shock from the bike to the spine and neck, even a slight angle here can be a significant safety guard and may prevent repetitive stress and other injuries.

All this of course starts with the bike configured for a neutral trail riding experience. With bikes having varying levels of adjustments to wheelbase length, head angle, suspension travel, etc., all those factors can change the rider balance point of the bike.

Then, I like to make sure the rider can move around properly off the saddle. Stand and pedal without unbalancing either wheel overmuch. Crouch and pedal. Get their butt back beyond the saddle and then get back on top. Pedal from a scrunched-forward-on-the-saddle position, et. al. Specific fit adjustments may change to accommodate these activities.

I feel that a rider should be able to handle anything in their skill envelope handily from a crouched position on the bike, butt not on the saddle but a couple inches off, allowing them to move their body fore/back/left/right to handle technical situations and allow the bike to flow with the terrain.

Once that neutral position is figured out a hard-tail or FS bike of course needs to have the suspension setup properly baselined…e.g.: set fork and shock sag. Each bike has a designed target that was in mind when it was, er, designed, and that should probably be followed at least initially. All riders have their own preferences and will likely tune their bike suspension a bit over time as they get to know the bike, and fit it more specifically to their needs.

Likewise, each rider’s style and choice of trails and activities may affect the best setup for the bike…someone riding predominantly downhill (e.g. on a DH bike) will likely have a much shorter stem and somewhat or dramatically wider handlebar.

There’s a big push in the industry for trail riders to have short stems and wide bars too, not just DH bikes. I feel like the Enduro racing style and promotion is what is driving this, but there’s no contesting that using wider bars gives you more steering control – it’s simply increasing mechanical leverage in the rider’s favor. Shorter stems are the compensating factor here, taking what would have pushed the riders hands too far away and pulling them in a bit with the relatively shorter stem.

I’m actually trying this out on my own personal bike (swapped 710mm wide bars with 90mm stem for 780mm bars and 55mm stem) but don’t have enough miles yet to say Yay or Nay yet. I’m accustomed to that bar proportion already though, it’s the same as on my DH bike.

Losing Ones Self

It’s frustrating, really. Knowing your mental health depends upon an activity, yet being unable to participate in that activity. Doubly so when it’s just your internal struggle that is getting in the way.

From 1999 through 2009 my cycling progressed to exactly where I wanted it to be, constant, fun, helpful, full of time, experience, variety, and friends.

I grew from a weekend-warrior old school cross-country mountain biker to a person who was on the bike almost every day, one bike or the other.

I was strong and healthy, I could ride for days on end – relentlessly as my friend Nando put it once. I was fit enough to enjoy riding in the high country of New Mexico and Colorado even if climbing steeps above 10k feet was slow and laborious.

Now, from 2009 through 2014, my activity level has eroded, I’m down to what amounts to being a weekend warrior even if my weekends are almost always three days long, and I’m nowhere near the fitness nor confidence I was only a few years ago.

And I’m not sure how to change this. Try as I might I just can’t get myself engaged in activities that help, not really.

I’m loosely connected with a downhill race team, but only got one race entered this year because I crashed out and broke my right clavicle in that race! The last race of that series is coming up this weekend and I’m feeling pressure to register, but fearful of participating.

I’m president of the local IMBA Chapter, but we don’t seem to be able to get that group doing constant activities. Maybe it’s just too young, maybe it’s the time of year and everyone is just too busy, I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s got three more years of my time to gain traction before I walk away.

I greatly miss the long, epic, trail rides that were the main-stay of my cycling from 99 to 09 … not there there’s no venues for it here in NE PA and the surrounding area, but that there’s so few people for me to do the rides with. None of my local cycling community seems interested and it is much more challenging to get with people from three or more hours away to meet and ride. I’ve done, and continue, to do these long back-country rides solo … and that’s not necessarily smart.

I don’t know where this is going, I don’t know where my cycling is going, I just know that something has to change for the better.

A big part of me is slipping away, and may not return, otherwise.