Angles and Sizes, and How They Affect Your Bike

September 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

titer racer x mountain bike 300x200 Angles and Sizes, and How They Affect Your BikeBike geometry is a big term and comprises of many complex angles and lengths. Most of these remain standard for the most part and do not greatly affect the ride characteristics of a bike. However there are a few measurements that can help you select the perfect frame or bike.

  1. Head Angle is the angle of the head tube and fork with the ground. Cross-country bikes have tight head angles of 70-71 degrees. All mountain and downhill bikes will have a slack head angle from 66-69 degrees. A slack head angle will allow the bike to fly through technical sections easier; the downside is slacker head angles mean slower handling and climbing. The fork length directly affects this angle. Putting a 160mm fork on a XC bike designed for 100 will give the bike a slack head angle.
  2. Seat Angle refers to the angle of the seat to the angle of the chainstay. Steep angles will put you almost directly over the cranks for optimum pedal efficiency whereas slack angles will sit you back, to more easily take on the technical stuff. Bikes with slack seat angles are paired with slack head angles and vice versa.
  3. Bottom Bracket Height is the clearance your bike has. Your bottom bracket is the lowest point on your bicycle and when you’re getting into technical terrain and hoppin’ rocks, clearance can become a concern. All-mountain and downhill style bikes will have higher bottom bracket heights than cross-country bikes. Nevertheless the higher the bottom bracket height the higher your center of gravity. High bottom brackets mean slow cornering but can save your chain rings from bashing into rocks.

Fit is very important when it comes to bikes. Improper fit can lead to poor control, loss of power, and even pain and joint/muscle problems. This is just a quick guide to show you what different angles and sizes do to change the performance of a bike. For info on the actual fitting process do some searching or visit your local bike shop.

  1. Frame Fit is based on a couple of factors: Your height will of course be the main factor, but another thing to keep in mind is your riding style. For example a 6’2” person will be a perfect fit on a 21” cross-country hardtail, however they could also fit on a 20” or even a 19”. For long rides with less technical terrain, a larger bike will be better, in our example the 21”. Say our rider wants a hardtail but will be riding on more technical terrain with quick turns. In this case a 20” or 19.5” would be a better choice. A smaller frame will give you more control over the bike in tight and technical sections. Longer bikes will be more stable and comfortable for longer rides. I have a 20” single speed and a 19” geared hardtail. My single speed is great for cruising through national forests, while my geared hardtail is my first choice for anything really technical or fast.
  2. thomson mountain bike stem Angles and Sizes, and How They Affect Your BikeStem length and Angle will change your riding position on the bike. For more climbing run a longer stem (90mm –120mm), with 0-10 degrees or rise. This will keep more weight forward and put you in a more efficient pedaling position. For downhill and technical terrain run shorter stems (40 – 70mm) with 10-15 degrees of rise. For a combination run a stem in between these measurements.
  3. Seat Height is a pretty easy adjustment. Sit on your seat and stabilize the bike. Put the heel of one foot on the pedal and bring the pedal down so the crank arm is parallel with the seat tube. At this point your leg should be able to straighten out completely. If you cannot straighten your leg out fully raise your seat, and if it feels like a stretch lower your seat. For more technical riding run your seat lower. This will sacrifice pedaling power but give you more room to move around as you conquer the rough stuff.
  4. Seat Angle: For climbing point the nose of your saddle slightly up, for downhill and jumping put it slightly down. If you do both, keep it level.
  5. Seat Position (forward and backward position) will change your riding posture. This will mainly affect your lower back. The easiest way to adjust this is just try to feel it out (concentrate on how your lower back feels, tight or stretched) or have an experienced rider watch your position.
  6. Lever Position should be set up so when you brake, your arms and wrists will be in a straight line. For braking on flats your levers will be tilted downward more than for downhill. Choose a setup that will be comfortable for the majority of terrain you are riding.

The Single Speed Guide

September 29, 2008 by  
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bianchi lewis singlespeed mountain bike 300x199 The Single Speed GuideI remember when I was trying to put together my first single-speed. Being the guy I am, I HAD to know everything about them. Gearing, chain tension options, do I need different wheels? I spent hours scouring the net and consulting everyone who ever heard of one. Like most things in life everyone has a different opinion, and making sense out of all the differing information was difficult to say the least. I created this guide to help others make sense of the sometimes overwhelming amount of information regarding single speeds. I want to keep this guide open to additions, so if any SS aficionados have any tips or corrections please leave a comment. Any questions are more than welcome as well.

What is it and why should I Have One?
The single speed, commonly abbreviated SS, refers to a bike with only one gear or speed. SS’s exist in many different forms including mountain bikes, road bikes and BMX. There are also fixed gear bikes that have one speed but no freewheel: As long as your bike moves, your pedals move, so no coasting. These are referred to exclusively as fixed gear bikes, SS’s always have a freewheel for coasting. Single speed bikes, especially in the mountain bike world, have been steadily gaining popularity over the years, and for good reason. This guide is specific to single speed mountain bikes, although a lot of the information can be useful for road, BMX or even fixed gear.

The big draw for single-speeds is the simplicity. In a world of increasing complication SS’s mean two brake levers and pedals: There are no shifters or derailleurs to master, adjust and maintain, just jump on and go. They offer a retro feel, like you’re going back to a simpler time, getting back to basics. Besides that they are great for training: Spend a few weeks doing hill sprints, and deep sand and tough climbs will come easy. Another thing SS’s teach you is how to use the trail. With our full suspension bikes and infinite gears we like to plow through and over objects trying to conquer the next trail. Trust me, I’m one for the monster truck mentality, but finesse is good too at times. Singles will quickly teach you a new definition of momentum. Small dips and embankments that you used to classify as obstacles become tools to increase your momentum. You learn to become one with the trail and use every twist and turn to help you move faster and expend less energy. When you jump back on your geared bike you will notice a huge increase in your efficiency.

Besides training and simplicity a new culture has evolved around SS’s. Today many race circuits offer single speed categories and many websites are dedicated to the phenomenon. Perhaps the best thing about single speeds is they can be built from carbon and Ti, or created by transforming that old backup mountain bike you never ride. Either way try it! It doesn’t cost a lot to get a bike built up, and it offers a completely different experience.

Chain Tension
cog The Single Speed GuideOn a standard bike the rear derailleur uses a system of springs and pulleys to keep the chain tensioned. Chain tension is important so your chain fully engages with the cogs. Without proper tension your chain will slip and skip over teeth. Since you won’t have a derailleur on your single speed, you need to find another way to keep your chain tensioned.

If you do not already know, dropouts are the parts on your frame that the axles on your wheels sit in. There are three major types of rear dropouts, standard, track and horizontal. The standard dropout is the most common and means you will need to use a tensioner or something else to keep chain tension. If you have the angled style horizontal dropouts, or track (rear facing horizontal drop outs), you can tension your chain simply by pulling the wheel tight before closing your quick release. I have heard various opinions on the quick release’s ability to hold chain tension, so if you find that your wheel slowly drifts forward and you are using horizontal dropouts, buy a BMX style chain tensioner/tug nut (not the derailleur type, this tensioner mounts inside of the dropout and has a setscrew to keep the wheel’s axle from moving forward).  Read more

All About Dropouts

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Dropouts are the part of your bike frame where the wheel’s axle rests (See picture). Different dropouts let your bike do different things. There primary purpose is to keep your wheel in place and hold tension on your chain.

Standard Drop Out

standard drop 300x224 All About Dropouts

The standard drop out is, most common. It is just a slot that allows the axle to rest. These almost always include a derailleur hanger for mounting a rear derailleur. Unlike the other styles of drop outs they don’t allow for chain tension adjustment. For standard drop outs a rear derailleur or other device acts as a chain tensioner in order to keep the chain from skipping over gears


Horizontal Drop Out

horizontal drop 300x225 All About Dropouts

Horizontal drop outs, also called track drop outs, are usually found on single speed specific bike frames. These allow for the wheel to be moved backward or forward in the drop out to get the perfect chain tension. A chain tensioner, also called a chain tug, fits inside of the drop out and setscrews adjust the tension. Sometimes these will include a derailleur hanger to mount a rear derailleur, but it is rare.

Front Facing Horizontal Drop Out

front facing horizontal dropout 300x199 All About Dropouts

Front facing horizontal dropouts are angled and allow the chain tension to be adjusted a bit. These are common on older bikes to help get the tension perfect. They work well for single speed applications as well, and because of the angled design of the dropout, the tension will pull against the frame and the quick release. That means that a quick release can usually hold the tension on the chain without slipping, whereas a horizontal dropout usually requires a chain tensioner or bolt-on hub. With a normal horizontal drop out, the chain pulls directly against the quick release. These almost always include a hanger to mount a rear derailleur.

There are also all kinds of hybrid designs on the market: Everything from drop outs that morph from standard to horizontal, to strange eccentric drop out designs.

Interbike 2008 Expo: Pronghorn Racing Debut of Top Mounted Suspension Mountain Bikes

September 28, 2008 by  
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proghorn closeup of dt swiss 300x225 Interbike 2008 Expo:  Pronghorn Racing Debut of Top Mounted Suspension Mountain BikesInterbike 2008 sees the International debut of an innovative line of top mounted suspension bikes from Danish company, Pronghorn.

Definitely one of the more eye catching designs of the show, the complete line of bikes utilizes a top mounted suspension system that maximizes leverage and eliminates pedal bobbing.. spoke with CEO and founder of Pronghorn, Kenneth Dalsgaard, about this stylish line of bikes.

“We were looking for a way to take away some of the disadvantages of the range of suspensions systems on the market. We have a team in Denmark that completely engineered this system from scratch. It is a very efficient riding system, and until you try it you cannot believe the quality of the ride”.

Definitely something we would like to get our hands on for a test this fall.

Check out their products and company mission at

pronghorn mountain bike 2 Interbike 2008 Expo:  Pronghorn Racing Debut of Top Mounted Suspension Mountain Bikes

Going the Distance…The Tools and Gear to Bring With You on Your Next Long Distance Journey

September 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

mountain bike trail 200x300 Going the Distance…The Tools and Gear to Bring With You on Your Next Long Distance JourneyYou’re a seasoned veteran of the mountain bike and as you seek new adventures in untamed wilderness. BE PREPARED! Minimal first aid and backup supplies may work for the trail rider, but for those long adventures it is very important to be ready for any problems nature may throw at you… your life may depend on it. One of the main considerations with anything regarding bikes is weight and size. More gear adds weight, and nobody wants to carry a huge pack. By finding items that can fulfill a variety of uses you can drastically cut the weight and size of your emergency gear. I have designed this guide for the minimalist rider. It will give you the essential tools you need to survive, but you may want to further your knowledge and your gear selection depending on your needs and wilderness experience.

Bike Operation

Bike operation is simply what you need to keep your bike operational. A breakdown 30 miles from any civilized help can be a real issue. If you are reading this you probably have all of the essentials like the multi tool, tubes, patches, air pump and whatever else. One great tool you should include for your next adventure is a good multi-tool (as in a Gerber or Leatherman foldout, not the bike multi tool). The pliers on these can help you bend broken spokes out of the way or provide an improvised tool to fix a host of problems. Not to mention the screwdriver, knife and other attachments give you more options and wider variety of tools to fix whatever. Other things to carry are a spoke wrench, extra spokes, a tire boot if you don’t already (even if you’re not running tubeless), duct tape (reroll a few feet yourself to save space), a rag, lube, a chain breaker, extra links and even a small adjustable wrench. I know it sounds like a lot, but none of these items take up very much space and they can really get you out of some tight jams. Another one of the best tools you can carry with you is knowledge. I know some people don’t like to, but make an effort to learn how to repair your bike. There are numerous classes, books and WebPages that provide detailed instructions. The Park Tool website is one of the best, in my opinion.

first aid kit Going the Distance…The Tools and Gear to Bring With You on Your Next Long Distance JourneyFirst Aid
Hopefully you are already carrying the basic stuff with you. The biggest mistake I see people make is they carry only supplies like Band-Aids and ointment to take care of minor cuts and scrapes. I don’t know about you but minor cuts and scrapes aren’t really a big concern for me when I’m on the trail: On the other hand fractures, gashes and major wounds are. This is especially important when you are out blazin’ epic trails, across steep technical mountainsides, far away from civilization. On urban trails you don’t have to worry about first aid much, but as you venture farther away from civilization you usually encounter more difficult terrain and become farther from help. We take for granted the first aid services in the city and even small towns. Out in the wilderness we might be hours or days away from any aid, and that is if we can contact someone right away. If you are out of cell phone range, you may even have to hike back a ways just to send out a distress call! This is why it is so important to be prepared. Some things to bring are Band-Aids, moleskin (for blisters), duct tape (for closing large wounds in a pinch), 3M Coban (I prefer the veterinary stuff, also doubles as ACE wrap), gauze (roll it tight and put it in the center of the Coban roll), sterile dressings, large butterfly bandages, triangular bandages (many, many uses), Ibuprofen and Aspirin (take Ibuprofen to kill pain while you have a wound and Aspirin for headaches and other things…Aspirin is a blood thinner but also an anti-inflammatory), and an instant cold pack. There are many other First Aid products you can stuff in your pack, but these will allow you to stay minimalist and have the first aid gear you need for almost any situation. Splints are another good idea, but these can be improvised in the field without too much work (SAM splints are great though!). If you want to further prepare yourself, learn what to do: Take Wilderness First Aid! Many organizations offer it including the Red Cross. There are lots of options as far as First Aid classes go, but Wilderness First Aid teaches you what to do in delayed care situations, which you will be in. Standard First Aid classes teach you what you need to do to keep the victim alive until the ambulance arrives, but in the Wilderness, help may not even be coming until you go and get it.

Survival/Emergency Gear

You may find yourself in a situation where you get delayed, your bike is broken or you are injured too much to continue. A small kit of a few essentials can save your life! Some of the survival needs are water, food, shelter, first aid and signals. There are also other things like fire and human contact. The importance of each will depend on the resources on hand and what you can locate nearby. KNOW YOUR ENVIRONMENT! If it is cold and windy shelter and fire are going to be your first priority. Hot and dry means you might need to find another source of water and locate shade. Tailor your gear to your environment. Here are some essentials almost everyone should carry: A good multi-tool (I like Gerber), some rope (not string), a couple light sticks (for lake george topo map 219x300 Going the Distance…The Tools and Gear to Bring With You on Your Next Long Distance Journeysignaling), magnesium flint fire starter (lighters and matches suck in the wind), headlamp (Black Diamond has some of the best, with dual NiCad and AA operation, you’ll stop spending money on flashlights after you buy one), GPS (great idea to keep track of your position, Garmin has some with high gain antennas for better reception), extra batteries, water purification tablets, poncho, solar blanket, ID bracelet, duct tape (see a pattern?) map of the area, and a compass. Better yet don’t just pack ‘em, learn how to use them. Practice makes perfect and gives you the confidence you need to turn a life and death situation into a simple exercise in your problem solving skills. Read more

Interbike 2008 Expo: Xtreme Sports ID Bracelet

September 25, 2008 by  
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interbike 2008 xtreme sports id bracelet Interbike 2008 Expo:  Xtreme Sports ID Bracelet

Something really cool from the Interbike 2008 Expo…it might be a little Orwellian for some…we think it is brilliant!

The Xtreme Sports ID bracelet. It is similar to the Road ID in a plastic bracelet with online information (medical, emergency contact, address). The $8 purchase price buys you a year of coverage ($5 to renew and your account can accommodate multiple bands). The bracelet has your unique ID number and phone number on band for First Responders in case of an emergency.

Although we do not advise riding alone, when you absolutely must ride alone do yourself a favor and ride with one of these bracelets.  When someone else finds you unconscious and looking like the guy below they can call for help and all your medical information will be on file.

bloody mountain biker 251x300 Interbike 2008 Expo:  Xtreme Sports ID Bracelet

Interbike 2008 Expo – Day 1 – Pedro’s Trixie Cassette Tool

September 25, 2008 by  
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Pedro’s Trixie

Specifically designed for the fixed gear rider, the Pedro’s Trixie is the urban survival tool with all the right pieces to keep that fixie rolling.  Hardened tool steal give this tool a great feel and long lasting life.

  • 15mm box end wrench
  • Lock ring hook
  • 8.9.10mm box end wrenches
  • 5mm hex
  • Of course, a bottle opener

pedros trixie fixed gear mountain bike cassette tools Interbike 2008 Expo   Day 1   Pedros Trixie Cassette Tool

Interbike 2008 Expo Begins Today

September 24, 2008 by  
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Back in the early beginnings of mountain biking it use to be that there were several large mountain bike expos…I attended my first in Chicago somewhere in the late 90s. I remember staring in awe as Hans “No Way Rey” showed his jumping and balancing skills…I was hooked!  In 2000 I attended college at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois where I quickly became active in racing as part of the mountain bike club.  I only participated and raced my freshman year as my focus turned more towards girls and partying. I find myself here, eight years later, still with a love for mountain biking.

1982 interbike bikes belong 250x300 Interbike 2008 Expo Begins TodayThere is now really only one mountain bike expo in North America…Interbike. Today begins the Interbike Expo with over 1,000 of the top brands and nearly 23,000 attendees from over 60 countries.  Interbike is the largest bicycle trade event in North America and one of the most important stops on the global trade show calendar.  Stay tuned as we cover the exhibits, product launches, meetings and a celebration of the bicycle business at Interbike 2008.

Among the Interbike exhibitors unveiling new product launches are:

  • Mountain Cycle which will be unveiling its long awaited launch of its slopestyle frame, the Mountain Cycle Battery.  As Eric LaPointe of Mountain Cycle North America says, “The Battery will finally…I repeat, finally…be here in Oct./Nov. of this year.  Although not uber cool to everyone (since the Battery was originally unveiled by old ownership at Interbike 2005)…but very exciting for us at MC…that we will finally bring this Slopestyle creation to market.”
  • CLIX wheel release system which will be holding a “Fastest Wheel Swap” competition for a prize of $500 in booth 4409.  If you are going to the show be sure to check this competition out and say hello to Dave from us here at MTOBikes!
  • TAG Wheels will feature their new TR3 composite wheelset.  The new wheels are available in some pretty rad colors!
  • Pivot Cycles’s new Mach 429 claimed to be the pinnacle of 29er full suspension design. Using designs from Chris Cocalis and DW-Link designer Dave Weagle, the Mach 429 delivers on the promise of ultimate efficiency and unsurpassed performance from its 29″ wheels.
  • SRAM’s Truvativ HammerSchmidt, the newest breakthrough in front transmission technology  that provides the same benefits of a duel ring system neatly packed into one single ring.
  • And much, much more!

Stay in the loop by signing up for our email updates (just above the “Build my Bike” button) or by subscribing to our RSS feedMTOBikes correspondents will be in attendance at this year’s Interbike and we plan to post about what’s getting the most hype at the Expo.

Don’t know who Hans Rey is? Watch the video below.

2008 Interbike OutDoor Demo: 2009 Ventana El Chucho

September 23, 2008 by  
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2009 ventana el chucho mountain bike 2008 Interbike OutDoor Demo:  2009 Ventana El Chucho

The bike: 2009 Ventana El Chucho

The cool:
29” front wheel and 5” of front travel rolls over some pretty big obstacles
26” rear wheel accelerates faster, is stiffer and maintains standard gearing ratios
5.5” rear travel soaks up the bumps that the front rolls over
Rock solid rear suspension – no slop whatsoever

The luke warm:
Slightly slower 29’er steering
Need to carry two tubes on rides

The Options:
Shock options
Custom geometry, paint and sizes

The review:
If you’ve ever ridden a Ventana mountain bike you’re probably familiar with the solid trail feel that few other bikes can muster. The El Chucho is no exception. What makes this bike different is the 29” front wheel and the 26” rear wheel combines the benefits of both schools of current mountain bike design.
Now how does it ride? To me it feels a just like my two year old El Saltamontes. But the big front wheel on the El Chucho simply rolls over things where my Salty needs a little encouragement. The El Chucho also maintains the wheel stiffness and quick acceleration that most 29’ers lack since it sticks with a standard 26” rear wheel. It’s shorter (than a 29/29) wheelbase and standard 26’er gear ratio also make the El Chucho a quicker handling than any 29’er I’ve ridden. Great for attacking the steep and rocky trails we have in the Las Vegas area or any place where rocky technical conditions prevail.

Many of my riding buddies think it’s funny that Ventana hasn’t adopted a new fangled suspension design like all the other boutique mountain bike brands in the USA. But after riding the other brands, I still find the plushness and stiffness of a Ventana second to none. Sherwood Gibson has finely adjusted his faux bar suspension so that it performs at a higher level than most frames on the market.

2008 Interbike OutDoor Demo: Wimmer

September 23, 2008 by  
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The crazy concept bike award: Wimmer

The cool:

  • Crazy linkage Downhill Frame inspired by Moto GP suspension designs
  • Ti main frame, aluminum sub-frame members
  • Next generation will have cast magnesium frame fittings
  • Front fork compresses from top and bottom, dual crown only attaches and pivots at the top of the frame head tube (see pic 2).

wimmer concept mountain bike 1 2008 Interbike OutDoor Demo:  Wimmer

wimmer concept mountain bike 2 2008 Interbike OutDoor Demo:  Wimmer

Shown with Ti front brake rotor
Concept Only – No Test Ride, looking for licensing agreements


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