It's not set in stone.
You can change your bike’s angles. Want to slacken your bike’s head angle, steepen its seat angle, lower it, lengthen it? Here’s how you can.
All these 2018 bikes being announced with sub-66° head angles, low BBs and long reaches are all well and good but what about those of us who aren’t willing or able to buy a new bike, what can we do? As it turns out, quite a lot actually.
If your current bike is only a degree or two away from its modern rivals, it can be brought up to speed. You can also lengthen and lower your bike by 5-20mm in various ways too.
Cane Creek pioneered these things. And, as with Hoover, their ‘Angleset’ has become the name that a lot of people call slackening headsets regardless of whether it’s a Cane Creek one or not.
The Cane Creek Angleset is still available and still a popular choice for racers that appreciate it’s multiple-angle options in the box. These days though more people are opting for simpler and cheaper fixed-angle slackening headsets such as those from UK’s Works Components.
You can slacken your head angle by up to 2° with a slackening headset (depending on your head tube length). As well as slackening your head angle, one of these headsets also slightly lowers your BB and steepens your seat angle.
Watch: How to fit offset shock hardware
Offset shock bushings
Bushings are those silver bits at either end of your rear shock that the bolts pass through into the frame. With offset bushings the hole isn’t in the middle of the bushing. It’s offset to one side. Hence the name.
These can be quite a tricky idea to comprehend. Loads of folk misunderstand them and mistakenly think they reduce the amount of travel your shock gives out, for example.
Pic from offsetbushings.com
Basically offset bushings reduce the eye-to-length of the shock. Essentially running an offset bushing (or two) mimics the bike running with more sag. There is a risk that your rear tyre may contact the seat tube under full compression but most bikes are fine.
There is also a risk that you negatively effect the performance of your rear suspension; some bikes are designed around a very specific amount of sag for anti-squat and offset bushings can upset the kinematics of certain designs.
You don’t have to run two offset bushings; it’s fine just to run one if you only want a smaller geometry tweak.
You can run offset bushings to do loads of things to your bike’s geometry. You can steepen things, slacken things, raise things or lower things. The amount of change they result in vary from bike to bike.
Usually though people use them for slackening and lowering their bike. Offers potentially up to 1-2° angle change and 10 to 20mm BB height change. It varies depending on the frame design.
It’s worth mentioning that, although cheaper and easier than a slackening headset, offset bushings affect head angle and seat angle in the same way ie. they slacken your head angle but they also slacken your seat angle. Sometimes this is a bad idea if the bike has a slack seat angle already.
Pic from superstarcomponents.com
Reach adjust headsets
Bike too long? Bike too short? You may be able to alter the reach of your bike with an offset headset.
These headsets are only ever really seen on World Cup DH racers’ bikes but as the concept trickles down we reckon we might see more reach adjust headsets on the trails.
Reach adjust headsets offer around 5-7mm of reach adjustment. Not a huge change admittedly but if you’re on the quest for personalised perfection, that’s the deal here.
The popularity of Specialized bikes and their use of certain proprietary shock mounts and direct-set headset standards has resulted in an aftermarket range of linkages.
BikeYoke are German company that make yokes that replace the existing shock yoke on Spesh bikes and enable you to run regular mount shocks and thus also run a set of offset bushings. Normally you can only run a single offset bushing on a Specialized rear shock – and you can’t run a slackening headset in a Spesh because they use Campy headsets with integrated drop-in bearings.
UK company BETD have also got an aftermarket linkage for Boardman full suspension bikes. It changes the head angle from 68.5° to 67°.
Change your pedals
The thinner your pedals are, the lower your effective BB height is.
Similarly, the lower the total stack height of your shoes and cleats, the lower your effective BB is.
Here’s an illuminating anecdote for you: when switching from some old Shimano winter boots and clipless pedals to thin flat pedals and a pair of FiveTen Freeriders I had to lower my saddle height 11mm.
By switching from SPDs and boots to flats and FiveTens I lowered my effective BB height by 11mm. That’s very noticeable. It’s one relatively unspoken reason why switching to flat pedals can result in better cornering and overall bike handling. Lower BB innit.
Longer travel fork
This is not something that we wholeheartedly recommend. Sure, running a longer travel fork results in a slacker head angle (approximately -1° for every 20mm of extra travel) but it also results in a slacker seat angle and, crucially, a higher BB.
Still, there are plenty of riders out there running forks that are 10-20mm longer than the fork their bike came with and they’re loving it. The trick is to setup the fork accordingly. Run it with a bit more sag and more progression and/or compression.
Geometry changes that cost nothing
You can change how your bike rides simply by adjusting what you already have. No need to buy or install anything.
Some of these tips aren’t perfect but they are certainly well worth trying before you commit to buying any of the items mentioned above. Or if your bike won’t accept the items listed above ie. bikes with bespoke rear shock mount or integrated ‘drop-in’ headsets etc.
Simply raising or lowering your stem – by moving spacers around – can have a surprisingly large effect on your body position and bike handling.
Same goes for handlebar angle or fore-aft ‘roll’. Simply by rotating your bars forward or backward affords you a similar effect as switching to a new stem length. You can’t rotate the bars wildly forward or backward (the sweep goes all weird) but you can certainly mimic a 10mm change in stem length.
Saddle position is another area where small changes result in big changes in position and feel. Wandering front end? Inefficient pedal power? Try shunting your saddle forward in the seat post clamp. Also try tipping the nose of the saddle down a degree or so. You can roughly add an effective degree to your bike’s seat angle with such tweaks.
You can also play with your suspension setup to change your bike’s dynamic geometry. Running more sag in your rear shock and/or less sag in your fork will result in a bike that rides slacker. Try upping your fork pressure by 10% and dropping your rear shock pressure by 10%.
Moving away from the textbook 25-30% sag window is best done if your suspension units have some degree of compression damping adjustment. Running more than 30% sag will probably require you upping the compression damping level. Conversely, when running less than 25% sag you should dial off some compression damping (and remove a volume spacer or two if you have any installed).