A tweaker's paradise
Every little tweak will have some sort of effect on your ride. So here’s a run down of our best advice for getting yourself the perfect setup.
Sometimes, even the tiniest little details about the way you set your bike up can make a massive difference to your riding enjoyment. Sometimes these details can be pretty obvious, sometimes almost borderline pedantic.
It’s quite easy to make a mistake when setting up your brake levers and you wouldn’t be the only person that rides a bike with mis-aligned brakes. Regardless of the angle you like to run your brakes, both levers should be set up the same. I like to check my levers with my eyes closed, this allows you to ‘feel’ for the right angle without being distracted by how it looks. Loosen the bolt a touch and adjust until they feel perfect.
I’ve lost count on the number of times I’ve ridden other people’s bikes and noticed the stem angled off to one side. While most of us will adapt to a little bit of a wonky setup, it can massively impact on your control and comfort – shifting your weight unevenly through the bars. It’s easy to check if your stem is off. Stand over your bike and look through the stem towards the front tyre. You can use the straight edge of your wheel to check the alignment. If it looks off, loosen the bolts attaching the stem to the steerer slightly and gently nudge the stem straight. It helps to brace the wheel against something, even your leg, to help keep things straight. When you are happy, tighten the bolts again.
This one’s properly easy. Most of us use lock-on grips so there’s no excuse to suffer from slipping grips. Be sure to tighten the collars enough so they don’t spin. While you’re at it, check your grips for wear. A good set of grips doesn’t cost the earth so replace them before they get you into trouble.
Line up your valves
Pedantic? Yes. Useful? Absolutely. When you fit your tyres make sure to align the main logos with your valves. Not only does this result in your bike looking properly pro in pictures, but it also makes it easier to locate your valves when the time comes to top up the pressure.
Don’t mismatch tyres
Just as Romeo and Juliet ended in tragedy, your tyres are another area where different families shouldn’t meet. Each tyre brand design their tyres to work best when matched front and rear. We’re not saying you can’t mix and match, we’re just saying you shouldn’t.
Your tyres work best when kept at the right pressures. If you know what tyre pressure you normally ride it’s just a simple job to check it before a heading out for a spin.
So this can be a little tricky dependent on the make and model of saddle you use. As a rule of thumb the middle third of your saddle should be pretty much level with the ground. A lot of saddles have a dropped nose to make it more comfortable when climbing and a kicked up tail to hold you in place. Some riders do have a preference to angle the saddle a touch for personal comfort but make sure it’s not too severe as it will put your weight in the wrong place for most riding situations.
Finding the perfect saddle height won’t enhance your descents, but it will improve your ride by a mile — maybe literally in some cases — because the more power you can save, the more singletrack you can ride.
It’s relatively easy to get your saddle height in roughly the right position. Put yourself next to a wall or handy tree to hold on to. Sit on your bike and place your heel on the pedal. You’re aiming for a completely straight leg in this position to get your saddle set up right.
While you’re at it, you might want to make sure it’s perfectly aligned and pointing dead forward. There’s no excuse for riding side-saddle here.
Sort your suspension
We’ve produced a load of brilliant videos about properly setting up your suspension so take a look at them to really understand how to set up your suspension. But for now there are three areas to really think about to get that set up dialled.
If you do nothing else, make sure you sort out your sag. Getting this right will allow your bike to track the ground and generally this is dependent upon your riding weight. Make sure before you start that you are wearing all of your normal riding kit, including helmet and pack if you use one. Use the O-ring indicators to measure how far the suspension sags under your weight. Either add or take out air to get to the correct position. RockShox print handy measurement guides on their stanchions, for other brands refer to their recommendations or our other videos.
Rebound dictates how fast your suspension returns to its original length. You’re looking to set it fast enough to deal with multiple hits without losing performance but not fast enough that it transforms your bike into a pogo-stick. However you set the rebound, try to balance front and rear setups. There’s nothing worse than riding a bike that feels like it’s made of two completely different halves.
It shouldn’t really need to be said but we all still do it on occasions. Don’t forget to release any lockouts before starting the downhill!
Clean yer bits
There’s a huge range of reasons for why you should clean and maintain your bike. Firstly a clean bike will be more reliable, it’ll be less likely to let you down as clean bits work better than those covered in mud and gunk. Cleaning enables you to inspect your bike thoroughly after a ride so you can spot and stop any damage or wear to your parts. A clean bike will also be much smoother and quieter to ride. Your riding mates will especially thank you for this, after all nobody likes listening to a dry chain or creaky bits. But most importantly, caring for your bike instils a sense of pride and makes you more likely to want to ride!
Tidy the cables
If there’s one simple way to ruin the look of a great bike it’s a massive mess of cables. Not only does it look awful but cables are one of the worst culprits for a noisy bike. It doesn’t take long to trim them neatly to length or even more simply, use a ziptie to keep them tight and rattle free.
So there you have it, some really useful tips to getting your bike setup totally dialled. Don’t forget to subscribe to get access to our latest videos as soon as they are released. And if you have any other tips to get a pro setup why don’t you put them in the comments section below.