I was hoping you would be able to help me with some technical advice, I have a 2006 Cannondale Prophet 800, size medium. I’m 5ft 10in and I find the bike spot on for standover height and manoeuverability. I do most of my biking at Glentress and the like, and I cannot fault the bike on the descents, however, on the climbs I seem to be finding the bike really cramped. Do you know of any way I could improve the riding position without adversely affecting the downhill, technical
performance? Could I fit a longer, lower stem and maybe a higher rise bar? The bike is totally standard at the moment.
Richard Matthews, email

Thankfully there is a way to increase the cockpit length on the Prophet without altering the handling
characteristics. Swapping the bars and stem as you suggested however, is not the way. This would place too much weight over the front of the bike and upset the perfect weight distribution which, combined with the geometry, is what makes the ’Dale so great when gravity assists.
A new seatpost with a layback would give you up to an extra inch of stretch. It may even improve traction when climbing, as more weight will be over the rear wheel. If you can find an old Easton EA70 (black aluminium shaft and silver forged head), it had almost 30mm of layback and the current EC70 post has 25mm. FSA does seatposts with three choices of layback, and Ritchey’s WCS post has 45mm.
Any of these, or any post with layback rather than the inline post fitted as standard, will give you a more stretched-out position when seated, and maintain your coveted performance on the fun stuff.

I remember reading that a large number of the letters you are sent ask for advice regarding bike choice and, I am afraid to say, this is no different.
I have been riding for about 10 years, the last year of which has been in New Zealand. Before travelling I splurged on a Trek EX8 which I thought would suit my riding needs. Unfortunately I have had a number of problems with my bike. I bent the front wheel beyond recognition in a fairly unpleasant stack in Christchurch (although this gave me the excuse to upgrade to some very nice Sun Ringle S.U.V’s!). I then blew the lockout valve on the rear shock (a Rock Shox MC 3.1), which cost £100 to fix. Finally I cracked the top tube in Rotarua, although the bike was never more than 12” of the ground. All along I felt that the geometry, while suited to climbing and eating up the distance, left a lot to be desired in the descents. Trek are replacing the frame as part of its
life-time warranty but I am unsure that this bike is one which I should
keep riding.
I am 5’11” with a 32” inside leg and have a normal reach for a guy my height. I am rather heavy at 105kg and, while I intend to lose some weight, this is unlikely to change greatly. I have been considering a more robust bike with more than the 4in of travel offered by the ’05 Ex8. The articles I have read (mostly in your magazine) suggest that 5-6in are best for all mountain riding.
I will be doing most of my riding around Edinburgh and the 7stanes (notably Glentress and Innerleithen) but I will also be travelling to France this summer for some uplift heaven. My riding partner (girlfriend) is super fit and, sadly, enjoys climbing as much as descending. Furthermore I would like to continue to increase the caliber of my riding and hope to invest in a full-face helmet and body armour to complement the elbow/knee pads I already use so
I can tackle some of the friendlier DH found in the 7stanes. So, in summary, I require a bike that will allow me to keep up on the climbs but will not restrict me on the descents and allow me to progress to gnarlier stuff (although I doubt I will ever drop off anything more than about 4in). I appreciate that these bikes will all come at a weight penalty.
My budget is around £2000 pounds, some of which will come from the sale of my newly framed Trek EX8. With this in mind I have narrowed the choice to one of 4 bikes and I would be interested to hear your opinion. The short list is: Commencial Meta 5.5, Kona Coil Air (2006 model in sales), Specialized Enduro Expert, and finally, and top of my list, the 2007 Mongoose Teocali Super. I love the look and price of this bike. It doesn’t seem too heavy but I do have one or two issues with the OEM package. Firstly, I have already broken a MC 3.1 shock and I am worried the similar MC 3.3 that comes with the bike won’t survive me. Secondly the Dual Air Pike 454 forks seem to me to the wrong choice when the adjustable travel Pike 454 forks are only £20 more expensive. Would you recommend changing the shock to the Fox 4.0/5.0 and should I go for the air or coil-over version? Should I try and switch the dual air 454 for the adjustable travel at the point of sale?
I hope that you are able to give me some help. I do intend to test one or two of these bikes but demos are not easy to organise and, increasingly, cost money so I would like the list reduced before I even reach that point. I realise that a test ride will be needed to accurately size the frame.
Alexander, Scotland

Lets get this straight, you want a bike that will climb like a mountain goat on crack but still allow you to descend like Peaty? And it’s got to take the sort of pounding a guy your size is going to give it? Sorry, but no bike can live up to these expectations.
You’re right about the six-inch bikes being almost too much bike for the vast majority of your riding. They will come into their own in the Alps, but for the rest of the time, only you’ll know if you want to put up with the excess weight and travel.
The best bet would be 140mm travel machine. The Meta 5.5 is a great compromise machine. While not as stiff as the bigger bikes, it’ll only be a tiny bit off the pace on the downs. Another option worth a glance is the Cannondale Prophet range, but with only one pivot taking your weight, you’d better get used to replacing the pivot bearings and shock bushings. Both are medium travel, but with a slack enough head angle, and long enough wheel base to remain stable as velocity increases.
The Mongoose feels more sturdy, and is a good all round machine. The chain torque influenced suspension also makes for a solid platform for climbing. Moving to coil shocks will add weight and will put the bike in the same weight range as a 6in bike. If you want to keep up with ‘her indoors’ locally, then these shorter travel machines, combined with your plan to lose some weight (speak to your doctor for safe dieting tips), would be a better idea. If your heart lies in the descents, then chuck a leg over the Enduro, I’m sure you wont be disappointed.

I am planning to start mountain biking in the next couple of months. I have been buying your magazine for the last few months to get an idea of what sort of bikes are out there, and I can’t believe the amount of choice. My budget is £700-£800, but what should I go for? Hardtail or full-suss? New or second hand? Or maybe go for ‘05 or ‘06 models. I’m going to be mainly riding Cannock Chase and Sherwood Pines with maybe the odd trip to Wales, so have you any ideas on what’s good to buy?
Phil Warrington, email

First up, welcome to the family. While it’s easy to be blinded by all the shiny stuff on show on the pages of the mag, you don’t need much to enjoy yourself in the hills. A good quality hardtail would be the best place to start. For this price, you’re likely to get a good fork, reliable hydraulic, twin piston, disc brakes, well-built wheels, long-lasting components, lightweight, grippy tyres and a reasonably light frame. A suspension bike at this price will be great fun to ride, but in a few months of muddy, dirty riding you’re likely to find the limits of the basic shock and forks; hubs will show signs of wear, and any time with the bike in a workshop is time off the trails. Check out the March issue for a test on these very machines.
As for ’05 or ’06 bikes, yes you’ll get a better bike for your money, but remember technology advances at an alarming rate. In our annual Dirty Dozen test of £500 hardtails, we find parts that, only two years previous, would only have been found on bikes twice the price.
The best thing to do is track down a good, local, independent bike shop and get some advice on what’s available locally to you. Any relationship built up now, will serve you well for years to come.

I currently ride a 1995 or 1996 Rockhopper A1 with Manitou Mach 5 forks. I have had a good decade of riding XC with it and have on the whole no complaints. However I have a hankering for a full-suspension bike, the problem is, as ever, money; I could at a push get together £600. My dilemma is, for that money will I get a significantly better bike? Or considering shelling out that much is going to hurt, would I be better off buying some well chosen upgrades for my current bike? If so what components will give the greatest benefit?
Simon Hitchcock, email

You’re not going to get much of a full-suss bike for only £600. So for you, either a second-hand bike to get a huge jump in performance terms, I’d still look at hardtails though.
As for upgrades, the most important things that affect the performance will be: forks, wheels and tyres, and disc brakes. We’ll start with the latter. Your frame has no disc mounts, so you’d either need some kind of adapter (we’re yet to find one we’d be entirely happy with) or limit yourself to a front disc and rear V-brake. This would still make a big difference, and for a full hydraulic, twin piston brake you’re looking at £60 plus. Avid’s Juicy 3, Shimano’s LX or Deore, and Quad’s Stinger are all superb.
As for wheels, a set of hand-built wheels would transform the way your bike rides. It will instantly feel more lively, accelerate better and they will be stronger to boot. Wrap these with a set of good quality folding 2.1in-plus tyres and you’ll be in a new world. Mail order outlets can supply these for anything from £90 upwards. Even cartridge bearing hubbed wheels are available from £160
per pair.
Lastly, suspension forks have improved beyond all recognition since your Manitou Mach 5’s. Nowadays a set of £140 Rockshox Tora’s boast: a hollow crown, compression based lockout, 32mm stanchions and adjustable rebound damping. This would keep your front wheel tracking accurately and prevent it from being bounced around on bigger hits that will overpower your outdated shockers. If wound down in it’s adjustable travel to 85mm, it would not even affect the geometry of your bike. You’d also have the opportunity to see how much travel your frame can cope with before becoming a chopper.