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How To Find A MTB Cockpit Set Up That Works For You | GMBN Guide To Bike Set Up


Speaker: Hello and welcome to GNBN Tech This week, I want to show you how to fine-tune your cockpit to get the most for your personal needs

I'm going to talk about some of the finer details as well as some of the wider considerations for contact point adjustment First things first, we need to make sure everything is straight and aligned Now with our handlebars, getting them straight, square to direction of travel is obviously really important, but we do not line our stem up with the wheel in front of it We don't do this for a couple of reasons One, it's quite inconsistent

There's a lot of room to go off and it's not that accurate It even gets harder when you take into account shorter stems and mudguards, so we want to stay away from that What we want to do is using our handlebars, looking down the bike as so, we're going to go off our handlebars and get them lined up with the fulcrums This is a far more accurate and consistent way of doing it and will yield better results We've got our handlebar straight, what next? Well, we're going to talk about how we roll the bars, whether we roll them further back or further forward

Now this is really, really important because what we want, is we want our up body to be in a nice strong position The problem is if we have our bars too far back, we tend to have our wrists quite low That brings our elbows in and down and this isn't a very good position Imagine you're doing a press up It makes it a lot harder to do a press-up here than up here, so a nice strong position

Conversely, if we have our wrists rolled too far forward, and we take those impacts, well, you can always be pivoting around your wrists, going forward, yet again, it's going to fatigue you It's not a consistently strong position and it's going to make you feel very unstable How we roll the bars has a huge consequence on our body position, so we need to think about getting a nice, strong position leading from your wrists up to your elbows Now we all know that how we position our brakes also really plays its part, but I'm going to come back onto that later on because it's super important When you set your bar on, I want you to do so with your fingers away from the levers

Because we're going to come on back onto that, I want you to do it so you're at a nice, strong position just with your forearms You've hit the nail on the head and you've got your rollback perfect, excellent, but what if you haven't? What if you still are struggling to find yourself nice and comfortable on your handlebars? Well then, it's time to think about the geometry of the bars themselves The first dimension I'm going to talk about is backsweep If you imagine how your handlebars are on the outer extremities, now if they were very flat, your wrists would be joining in a perpendicular fashion Now that might not necessarily suit you and, in fact, it won't suit a lot of people

Because as you've got nice, wide handlebars, if they are coming exactly perpendicular, you might find that you get some kind of nerve issues, some pain in your forearm, from things like the carpal tunnel, the ulnar nerve, which in my experience, I've suffered from it and it can be very painful indeed The problem is that the knock-on consequence of that is a reduction in grip strength, which then means more fatigue, which then means more tired, and then the problem goes in a vicious circle You don't want to be too flat Similarly, those comfortable backsweep bars you might find in a town bike or in a more Enduro bike setup might be very comfortable for cruising around on flat roads, but when we ride aggressively, you might indeed find that they just don't have the control Now sweep is something, as I alluded to earlier on, that is really affected by width

If you've seen road riders riding on the flats of their bars, they do so quite happily That's because it's quite a narrow position and there's not large amounts of leverage or play The problem is when you want large amounts of control on a very wide bar Different bars like different bikes will have different geometry and finding something that works with you is really, really important If you find that handlebar that you particularly like, by all means, make a note of it

Now you might find different numbers work for you, but a typical dimension of backsweep on a handlebar is around 9 degrees So what other dimensions are there? Well a big one, and probably one you're familiar with, is rise Well, what is rise? Because it's often misunderstood To get a really clear idea of what the dimension means, I think it's best to think about a BMX handlebar From the center of the stem clamp, I want you to think up and that rise until it levels out, until it goes to the 22

2-diameter of your grips, that's the rise Now anything it does after that second bend is actually another dimension, which I'm going to come onto later That's the angle of a bar taken care of, but the dimension I mentioned earlier wrong was rise Now, what is rise, and what are the benefits of having bars of different rise? A high-rise bar is really good because it's a great way to maneuver your weight or at least give you the ability to do so over the rear axle I want you to imagine riding down a very steep chute cape that's got a drop halfway down

With a high-rise bar, you've got the option to really bring your weight back and unweight the front wheel as you go over it Now similarly, a low rise bar or a more weighted front end will make it harder to do so So what's the benefit of a low-rise bar? Well, because there is more weight on the front wheel, it often isn't favored in really steep terrain One thing it does prove very popular for is being able to weight the front end in flatter turns It's got more of a precise feeling

With the high rise bars, when you're riding with a bar that's too high or a front end that's too high, it can feel a lack of precision and that's just because there isn't the weight there What you're doing is you're trading off that precise feeling for the ability to manipulate the bike in terms of your weight more Personally, I find the places that I really don't like a high-end is in medium speed turns because I just feel, when I'm leaning the bike, very unstable It doesn't have that planted feeling that I want, but it's one of those things horses the courses that I think a lot of time, it's very dependent on the terrain you ride I've talked about descending a lot, but we also climb a lot on our mountain bikes

Now some people do like quite a high front end to climb because they feel it lets them get air into their lungs, but a serious XC rider would almost always favor a low front end This is because it gives quite a stable, almost planted feel on steeper terrain, because there is being more weight exercised over the front axle Yet again, no hard and fast answer here It's a personal preference Sorry

Why on earth would you go to all the effort of choosing a different handlebar when you have stem spaces at your disposal? Well, it's for a very good reason As you add height to a bar, you're doing it on a vertical plane When you add stem spaces above or below, you're moving that stem along the steering axis What that means is, the higher you have your handlebar, the closer it is to the rider, and you're basically reducing the length of the riding position Similarly, when you lower the bar, it moves it away from the rider's seated position

Now, is it useful to do? Absolutely Would I encourage you to do it? Absolutely Go out there and experiment After all, it comes at no cost to you, but if you do find a position that works for you, and you're running a particularly low rise bar, well it can be a way to get extra reach out of your bike for the same cockpit dimensions, which sounds pretty good to me Now I just mentioned a word there "reach

" Well, I'm walking on very thin ice indeed When we talk about reach, reach, technically speaking, is a frame measurement Sometimes you'll find yourself talking about reach as an overall bike measurement, which I think is forgivable Now context is important, but also say you can say to a road cyclist, "Reach," and they would think, "Hmm, handlebar reach," so it does depend Now you want to use language that is very consistent and clear, but sometimes that consistency often isn't about the bike industry

Something that categorically isn't reach however is stem length Now stem length is one of, for my money, the more interesting subjects in cycling, especially when you talk about super short stems, different mounts of trail, offset, leaning the bike It's fascinating To keep it simple, first of all, I'm going to go back to that example I mentioned earlier on when talking about riding a steep chute and a long or a short stem As you can imagine, if you had to pull up over the drop whilst riding something very steep, you would find it a lot easier to do with a short stem

Now a longer stem, like with the low rise bar, puts more weight upon the front wheel, which is great for going uphill Downhill? Not always your friend When you're riding a bike with a longer stem, it's a bit like an oil tanker It likes to hold its course, and it takes more persuasion to get moving, but we found in recent years with new geometry, what you can do is pair a wider bar with a shorter stem You basically take that length that was in front of the steering axis and move it behind

Now this plays really nicely with modern bike geometry How we keep our front wheel stable is incredibly complicated, and it's the product of a couple of different dimensions Yes, stem length plays its parts but largely because it affects how much weight we are actuating upon the front wheel Also things like trail, which is the result of a formula which can be affected by head angle offset, axle height, the list goes on We've actually done some really fun videos on these which I hope are quite informative

Doddy did his Geometry 101, and I looked into fork offset I'm going to include those videos in the description below so you can go do some extra homework The other consequences of stem length and what we interact with just goes on and on Now there's some bike manufacturers now that actually request that you change the width of your handlebars before you change your stem length because they don't want to affect that kind of design ethos for which they designed the bike around Similarly, you've got to think that your stem length is actually working inversely to how much you roll the bars back, how swept-back they are

You'll be surprised how much it can vary Now, how on earth can bar width be a substitute for stem length? Well, I'm going to tell you The narrower your bars are, the further they are from your chest Inversely, when you have wide bars, it brings your chest or your center of mass closer to the bars There's an old adage that two-centimeter handlebar width equals one centimeter of top tube, but I'll take that with a reasonably large pinch of salt

Now coming back to leverage, a wider bar will help you actuate more leverage upon the front wheel, which is handy when you want to resist external forces trying to knock our way above course There are a couple of reasons perhaps you wouldn't want to ride wide bars or at least I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend them I think your own stature and the geometry of your body is absolutely vital You don't want to be riding like this and that is for sure There are a couple of other reasons though, your stem length, your bike design, the geometry, you might even find things like the terrain you ride, and also what you ride through

People often complain sometimes fairly, sometimes not so much but they hit tree more often with wider handlebars Why is this unfair, how could it be so? I think as mountain bikers, we often want to go quickly and often trying to go quickly through trees I know if this is a tree, I'm going to put my hand there, and it doesn't really matter what this hand is doing if I'm riding the old 650 bars or 800s That hand is going to be close to that tree as I could possibly make it Accidents happen, eventually, I'm going to punch the tree and that's just that

Now something is important about handlebar width and it's a good opportunity to speak about it, we often get asked why one brand costs more than another when it's basically the same thing Now the reasons for that are varied and the list is long One big thing is quality control I want you to go to your handlebars and measure the center markings from end to end because you will be amazed by how many handlebars don't have those millimeter adjustments anywhere near the center Before you go spending 15 minutes tapping each end to get them absolutely bang on central, get the tape measure, and make sure those measurements are where they say they are

We have most things absolutely bang on but it's time to think about our bar controls First thing is brakes If I'm running a wide bar, I want to use every single millimeter of real estate that I can This is important, if you're running your hands to the out extremities of the bar, I want you to look at what your finger is doing, and it should be working parallel to the direction of travel Sometimes you see people stretching for their brakes as their volume their control is very inboard and that's going to give so much fatigue, and fatigue is going to become something of a buzz word as your hand stretches and overcompensates

Similarly, if you're running your brakes too close to the outside of the bar, you might find that the lever is fouling on your other fingers as you're pulling them, which is obviously what we don't want It's the same thing with your controls People often have scars there and rub marks all over because that's how they have their handlebar set up but it doesn't have to be like that I'm not going to say to take a file to your stuff as a first result, but if you know what you like it and you know you get a particular sweet spot that always causes you pain, I'd probably take a file too if I'm honest How you have your brake setup in terms of the bike port is also very personal

My ideal setup is to have loads of free stroke and then bite very sharply just, and I mean just before the blade bottoms out on the grip Most people get my bikes and they think it's absolutely horrible, they can't ride it, they don't trust it, that's fair enough But for me, I just find I want my hand to being almost in a fist I feel it's a strong position for me, and it helps keep arm pump at bay It is a personal thing

Don't feel you need to do what other people tell you, just find what works for you Now the big one and something of a current hot topic, lever angle I'm going to tell you a bit of a story [whistles] Lucky you For years, I've had my brake levers set up around 45 degrees and I've never had any problems

I've ridden like this pretty much the entire time I've been riding, down the hill bikes, trail bikes, Enduro bikes, whatever No problem at all until I went to Chile and the descents there were so long and sustained, I thought my hands were just going to fall off It was like nothing that I'd ever known Personally, I went a bit on a journey of flattening out my brake levers You might have seen some pro riders go to extreme lengths

But why do they do it? It's because of the way we weight our hands As you can imagine, if we're getting nice and steep, bearing in mind our body weights wanting to come forward and always leave the bike behind under heavy compression is leaving a huge amount of work for those fingers then into your forearm to do If you can have your blades slightly higher, it can be a really nice position and help you achieve a very strong position That's why early on I said you want to get your handlebars setup in terms of the role without the levers on because I think for my money, there are different things, and you want to be treating them independently of one another Another thing that is really important to consider when thinking about the angle of our brakes is the fact that not all of the human bodies out there are symmetrical, and that's the way it is

Even if you did get a symmetrical human body, then you send them mountain biking for 10 years and they hit trees, rocks, fall off things, fall onto things, all that sorts of business, they're probably not going to be symmetrical by the end People with shoulder injuries, people with hand injuries, arm injuries, don't feel we have to have a symmetrical setup Why? Just because it looks aesthetically pleasing? It does look good admittedly, it's just for vanity Find something that works for you There are so many pro riders out there

You just got to look through bike checks People know all sorts of stuff going on I even know of a World Cup rider that for years felt they rode better with their stem off-center So whatever works for you is the way to do it We are all proportioned differently, and just don't worry about it

If you are particular on your angle setups, you can get apps on your phone and you can get inclinometers quite cheap off eBay and Amazon What they will do is help you consistently achieve the same setup Once you do get your bars in a place that you like and get your controller set up to the nth degree, I really suggest just getting some Sharpie or permanent marker, making some marks around the controls so you get them in the same position every single time Having the right amount of flex and compliance is so important When you do spend more money on a handlebar, what you are probably going to get is something that is compliant in one plane yet stiff in another, which is something of a Holy Grail

The handlebars are often the culprit for feeling large amounts of harshness or vibration, but to be honest, it's not always the guilty party Think about your front wheel If you have ultra-stiff wheels, honestly, it's just going to be feeding loads of trail feedback right to your hands A handlebar, don't forget, can only go off the information it's given If it's given loads of harsh high-frequency rattling, that's what it's going to give to you, at least past the majority if at all

I also want you to think about tire pressure, fork setup, so many things can affect it Yes, your handlebar can be that culprit, but it is one piece in a larger picture Wider handlebars do tend to be a bit more flexy or at least historically was the case They also say the same about high-rise ones To be honest with you, with modern manufacturing, it's probably not as noticeable as it used to be if at all

Now as you now, on GMBN Tech, we love mountain bike tech, but it isn't always the responsible party If you're having persistent pain in your forearm, things like the nerves around here, your carpal tunnel, think about maybe some strengthening exercises, think about making some stretches, or going to see a physical therapist Because there's some things like just getting different sets of handlebars or a different clamp diameter won't be able to help with it You might actually need to do strengthening and conditioning to ride long days in the park, et cetera Now a really big fact that is absolutely worth thinking about is your grip material, the diameter, the general feel of them because that will have a massive effect on hand fatigue

Now something that's really important is– I know some people that say, "Go gloveless because it's more grip," and there're people that say, "Wear gloves because it's more grip" It's something that's really personal I've got horrible, clammy hands, so in the summer months, I have to wear gloves whether I like it or not, and in the winter, I can get by without Other people find that they just get the worst pump if they do wear gloves It's very personal

Experiment, see what happens You've also got systems like Revgrips, which actually add a bit of play in the grips themselves, negate any issues around rattling on the bars I think one of the biggest factors, in the way our hands feel especially when riding really rough tracks, is braking power This comes in a couple of different ways The first one is actually what we do with our fingers

Now having two fingers on the blade isn't going to affect the power of the caliper, but it is going to drastically affect the amount of control you have on the handlebar One finger braking is an absolute must In the last few years, disc brakes have become a whole lot more powerful, especially on your downhill brakes Now obviously, this is about stopping distance They want something that's going to stop them very quickly

The amount of pro riders that basically feel the big differences in hand fatigue would surprise you because they're clinging on for absolute dear life, they're hitting things that are hard Now you don't have to be riding at World Cup pace to be able to reap the World Cup advantages of better braking technology If you feel you've exhausted all your options and you just can't understand why you're getting such bad hand bump, but you're riding 160 mil rotors, that could be it Or maybe you're riding brakes that are poorly bled and don't really have any bite, that will add so much fatigue onto your hands I want you to think about all the elements, think about the bigger picture

Think about the size of your rotors, think about what compounds you use There are some brands if I use, the metallic, that lack of initial bite tires out my hands Similarly, there are some brands I use that– The organic pumps up under long, sustained efforts, and I feel like I've arm wrestled Pat Butcher towards the end of it Experiment as much as you can Another thing is tire choice

Now if you're riding really loose terrain all the time, things like semi-slicks, I wouldn't bother I'm guessing that's going to give you a really good braking feel because that will help you feel fresher for longer, get more runs and you can't lose Now, it is time for the good news The standards in handlebars aren't that varied Everything goes off the same grip diameter or at least pretty much everything

I can't think of anything that doesn't, and you get the 318 or the 35 mil clamp at the stem and that's it Which is great I think so at least Now the last part of the show and this is really important, I mentioned it before earlier on

I don't think we've ever done a homework assignment before, but I think we're starting I want everyone to go out and experiment because you're going to find things that are undoubtedly wrong, they're inferior, they are worse, but you at least will then quantify what that feels like It also means maybe you'll find something that works better It's such a complicated relationship between all parts of our cockpit and contact points that sometimes finding out and experimenting is just absolutely invaluable and it's going to help you problem solve in the future Homework, never thought I'd see the day

Now guys, if you liked watching, don't forget to like and subscribe Get in the comments below Let me know what you think and if you've done your bloody homework Thank you very much for watching and we'll see you next time [00:23:33] [END OF AUDIO]

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