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Increase Support & Improve MTB Small Bump Compliance

Products and Tips to Improve MTB Small Bump Compliance

As your riding progresses your settings and preferences are going to change. Faster, more aggressive riding puts different demands on your equipment and balancing your setup with these changes will help you improve your riding experience. You’re likely to find you need additional support from the suspension. This is typically done with increased compression or ramp rate which can compromise some of your small bump compliance. Let’s take a quick look at other components and techniques that can add some of your small bump compliance back as you ride faster.

 

Faster tends to be smoother

Imagine a boat going slowly riding up a series of waves. Up each face and down the back. Then the next. It has a certain “rock” to it right? Well if that boat is able to increase the speed it can decrease the vertical motion of “rock” by not dipping all the way down into each trough. Like “whoops” in moto – skipping across the top decreases the vertical motion. Same with your mountain bike.

Now, should you just skip out of control across everything? Nope. But momentum is often your friend.

Increase Support and Improve MTB Small Bump Compliance Cornering

Why You Need More Support

How does your setup need to change with that speed?

Well you’re going to need more support. If you’re running soft suspension it’s going to do a couple negative things.

First, it’s going to tend to “pack” and stay deeper in the travel then it needs to be. This will actually create a harsher ride as the PSI has increased while still being too soft for the next concern.

Burying the bike… Really a bummer and frankly can be kinda dangerous especially if the fork is too soft and buries itself into a hole or the front side of a rock you’re trying to roll past. Front end stuffs, bike slows way down or stops, your momentum keeps going and you’re a lawn dart. No fun.

So as your ground speed increases its important to give yourself that additional suspension support. While you might adjust sag a few percent most of this support is going to be through low and high speed compression as well as volume spacing to increase the air ramp rate and support.

Increase Support and Improve MTB Small Bump Compliance Support Image with proper compression

But, I Don’t Want A Bike That Chatters All The Time

No, you don’t want a bike that loses all of it’s small bump compliance.

And, sorry, but for just a second I’m getting on my soapbox: a lot of suspension talks about “small bump compliance” as the travel between full extension (you’re bike’s in the garage) and sag (with you sitting on it). This isn’t small bump compliance to me. This is droop. Sorry I’m a car guy and when the suspension goes away from me, or droops down – well that’s not what I consider absorbing a small bump. It’s falling away until the weight catches up. So, for this, Small Bump is referring to bumps that engage the suspension travel past the sag point in compression, ie you’re riding and hit a small bump and the suspension absorbs it…

OK, back to my point.

So you’ve had to make your suspension stiffer, or less compliant, in order to have it be able to “punch back” at the terrain without diving in and out of the travel. How do you keep your teeth from rattling out?

There’s a handful of places to look at that you can find small bump compliance outside of the suspension.

Rubber is a Damper

Many of the more “grippy” compounds actually are designed to incorporate additional damping. A lot of our racers will run the MaxxGrip front tire to get just even that bit more compliance since their suspension is so aggressive.

Tire sidewalls are playing a bigger and bigger role in fine tuning MTB riding compliance. Heavier sidewalls provide additional protection as well as damping through mass and material properties.

More aggressive sidewall technology provides additional mechanical support assisting the tire’s “air spring” to support your weight. This tends to allow riders to run a lower overall tire pressure providing better tire compliance and grip.

And yes, the air in your tire is a spring. And like your suspension it as it is compressed the pressures rise. The tire’s mass and sidewall properties effectively are the damper on this spring force. A heavier, stiffer sidewall is going to help slow the tire’s air spring better. This will help minimize harsh “run through” or even prevent or minimize rim strikes (which man, you can feel those in the hands!).

Another product that can help with compliance are CushCore tire inserts.

CushCore provide three unique modifications to a tires performance.

First, it’s a mechanical damper for the last bit of tire compression prior to the rim. Think of a jounce bumper in a shock: it’s a compressible item designed to absorb impact prior to it hitting a less compressible, and certainly less ideally compressible rim…

Second it works as a volume spacer in your tire. Similar to suspension adding volume spacers allows a lower starting PSI to more quickly ramp up to the proper supporting PSI.

Third and perhaps most notable and at the same time kind of the hardest to describe is how the CushCore’s contact point lowers the sidewalls leverage ratio in many conditions. That’s to say that by putting pressure on the sidewall, or maybe support is the better term, it shortens the available length of the sidewall which allows takes away some of the mechanical advantage the ground can apply to it. Think of waving a ruler holding onto the far edge, then holding in the middle. Lowering the leverage makes a big difference right?

Learn more about Maxxis tire compounds, sidewalls and tread patterns here

Magura MT7 HC MT7 and MT5 Levers Compared

Top to Bottom: Magura MT7 HC, Magura MT7 and Magura MT5 brake levers. Shop the Magura and Shimano brake lineup here.

Brakes, Braking and Slow is Fast

Stay with me on this one, it’ll make sense. Bigger brakes will help your small bump compliance. Well, bigger, more powerful brakes and a bit of technique.

You’ve probably seen it on trail – the rider heading into a chunky section who gets timid, grabs a handful of brakes, stuffs the suspension 1/3 down into the travel and then is, at best, jostled horribly across the terrain trying to regain control? So two things wrong there.

One, momentum is your friend like we mentioned earlier.

Two, especially with your fork, grabbing a bunch of brake OR staying on the brakes too late just stuffs the bike into it’s suspension. Instead of hitting the chunk at sag with say 80% of the travel left (and at the sag PSI) you’ve gone in at like half travel, cutting down both the amount of travel you have left as well as making the bike way more harsh as it enters chunk. No good!

Sort of like how when you corner there’s a point you need to be off the brakes and let the bike roll in (ya, you can trail brake to a point – but you’re not like smashing brakes while trail braking or braking through the corner) anyhow, so you ideally have a point that you need to get off the brakes and let the bike reset its rake and sag before you go blasting through chunk.

This allows you to take advantage of the more plush suspension further in the fork’s extension, have more travel left to absorb the terrain as well as resetting the headtube angle, and therefor trail measurements as well. All good stuff.

Handlebars, Grips, Gloves and Hands

So frankly, the two tips above are going to provide you the biggest jumps in small bump compliance as you up your compression settings. There are a few places that you can get a bit more feel, and every little bit does help.

Handlebars

Carbon fiber has a unique balance of stiffness while being able to slightly damp vibration input. Really that’s the beauty of carbon bars. Being a bit lighter is great too, particularly high up on a bike where center of gravity makes a big difference, but the real draw is the feel.

OneUp Components Carbon Handlebar Shape

Carbon also can be manufactured in a variety of shapes that would be really difficult in other materials. This allows two advantages. Weight saving and performance tuning. Removing material where it’s not needed such as the Tag T1 Carbon Bar with ovalized bar ends is an example of both.

The bar that probably takes the most advantage of this is the OneUp Components Carbon Handlebar. With it’s unique shape the OneUp bar is designed to improve small bump compliance by eliminating off-axis material in the rise transition.

Handlebar Width = Leverage Rate

Handlebar width is important to how your bike rides.

Obviously you need your hands in a comfortable position that allows you a power position to push the bar into corners and pull the bars over terrain. We’ve touched on that in other blogs over the years.

In regards of small bump compliance you’re looking at the leverage ratio of your bar’s design as well as your final bar width. As you narrow your bar you decrease the leverage ration which increases the bar’s stiffness.

We’ve actually seen handlebar manufacturers try to push a “one size fits all” on some stiffer bars because if you lower the leverage ratio they become like teeth rattling stiff. We don’t all need to run 800mm bars. (at 6’1” I run 785 as a point of reference)

If you’re trimming bars it’s worth a look how stiff the bars start out. If you’re trimming towards the minimum cut widths it might be worth looking at a less stiff bar to start.

Shop our favorite handlebars here!

Grips

Some riders are big fans of the grips with a slight rotation designed into them. We setup some clients on those if they want them – but – we don’t really ride those in the shop.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of the grip rotating and taking away some of the feel when I really clamp down on the handlebars. There’s also a part of me that doesn’t particularly like having more moving bits than needed on my setup.

Gripping

Now I’m not saying you death grip the bar. Far from it. Letting the bar slightly rattle in your hands helps minimize trail feedback. In fact one of the tips from my younger brother years ago on really long descents like San Juan Trail he would pick his spots and push his thumb into his middle finger and literally let the bar bounce in those circles. I never wrapped my head around that really – but he was doing 50 and 100 mile races and keeping your body feeling good was critical.

While we’re on how you grip the bar, it won’t change small bump compliance, but if your brakes or controls are out of position and require you to rock your hands “up” or “down” the trail feedback is much more likely to cause pain when you ride.

Similarly if you ride in gloves that are too big and “bunch” up in your grip position you can expect discomfort in your hands.

Gloves with large contact pads tend to create hand discomfort. Rather than minimizing trail feedback the extra movement thick contact pads either creates hot spots or perhaps has riders gripping a bit too much.

Wrapping It Up

Ok. Eighteen hundred words. That’s a bunch right? So to wrap it up in a quick paragraph:

Increase your compression and ramp as you ride faster to aid support at speed. Remember momentum is often your friend. Don’t slam on a handful of brakes into the terrain features and pack the suspension up. Run tires with appropriate support. Hold on right, not necessarily always tight. Should I have started with all of that and saved you the read? Hahaha… See you on the trails – Nate@BikeCo.com

 

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Getting a Grip: Ahead of Time is the New Just in Time

Getting A Grip Ahead of Time is the new Just In Time

I need new grips. The grips I love are allegedly not available for a year.

But the economy is dead, never to work again, in anyway shape or form? If you read the headlines it’s shocking we’ve made it this far. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you where the cliff is. Right, right, right past that next automated ad they’ve put in front of you (ironically, selling you something right?)

Pandemic changed things. True.

So did the blue trucks blocking the streets in every neighborhood. (I don’t have an account and I don’t use it but that’s something for another channel.

So did some family in middle America that was busy pricing out the little guys so cliché Americans could go use free scooters to navigate a megastore with a jumbo ultra super barrel of sugar. Oh, and you can get greeted by someone who has a lifetime of stories and probably did some important stuff but needs whatever micro amount of money is available to say hi to some snot nosed gamer walking straight past them. But, at least we learned you can copyright bizarre taglines about mountain sports in areas notably devoid of mountains.

Point is: the economy is dynamic, constantly changing and involves navigation. It is affecting us that’s for sure. But is it destroying a way of life? That’s a stretch. If the previously mentioned general pains in the ass to commerce didn’t break it not being able to access every whim JIT probably isn’t gonna break the economy.

So Get A Grip?

Ya. I want to get some grips. Mine are worn out. I thought I had another set in my toolbox somewhere, but guess not after search.

I’m particular and I really do love the WTB Padloc grips, I’ve pushed them a bunch over the years and I might be one of the few who do love em (people are intimidated of chamfering their bars or whatever).

Well guess what: not the most popular item? Read another way, not the most profitable item? Production got backburned it looks like. Can’t blame WTB – consolidate SKUs and get the most sought after product in front of your users. Makes total sense. Good on them frankly.

But I’m glancing at my distributors and I’m seeing April 2023. And I would guess that’s a pretty soft date and could be pushed back, if they’re made again.

Options and Choices

Well, I’m not going to be able to nurse these grips for a year. So, guess I’m looking at other solutions eh?

I could go deep on the web search and locate them somewhere else. And I might. If I do I’ll be shopping product name and manufacturer part number.

The part number probably isn’t super super critical with these grips as they didn’t have multiple compounds or whatever – but on something like a specific tire you’re looking for? MAN, I would be damn sure it hit all the boxes. Cause ya, I love the Minion DHF 2.5 front tire. But I want it in the specific sidewall and TPI that I want. And some strange mega-store’s spec of it with the cheap sidewall or whatever is beyond unusable and a huge waste of my time and expectation.

I’m also going to be judging the credibility of the resource that lists product as “available” for the same reasons. I don’t feel like dealing with the wrong product, or a week later being told it’s not available (sometimes things aren’t available, but credible sites can tell you really quick, before you’re waiting thinking its’ on the way to then being told nope, no dice)

So, picking your retailer is getting to be as important as picking your product. Well that’s good for quality retailers! We’re stoked to work with you.

Other Options instead of a Rabbit Hole?

What if I don’t want to play chase the part number around? Well looks like I’m comparing other grips right?

Personally I’m looking at the larger diameter Ergon grips as well as a couple other options our guys have brought into the shop.

Ahead of Time is the new JIT

So what extras do I keep around the toolbox? Here’s a current look, fresh from looking for my grips I thought I had!

Extra derailleur cable. I keep these around more to save the drive if I need one (I don’t work on-site every day so if I need a cable I’m going to a local cruiser shop or whatever)

Few feet of derailleur housing. See above

Derailleur Hanger.

Brake Pads. 2 sets, so front and back if needed.

Brake Fluid. Not sure if this counts as an “extra” so much as a quick maintenance thing from lever bleeds.

Front tire (Minion DHF 2.5). I keep 1 tire around just in case too. If I lose a rear tire I tend to put my existing front tire to the rear and the fresh tire in the front.

Chain. I’m leaning into the idea of putting together a full drivetrain but have found other places to spend money lately and haven’t done it just yet. Reading that I know I’m going to regret it if I don’t put a cassette and ring in my toolbox. Wednesday I’m picking those up hahaha…

Learning the new Economy

You know, I try really hard not to be a typical consumer about everything – I work hard not to get into the “need it today” mode unless I really do (or I want to go on an errand or whatever and whoa, I’m at my favorite haunt and just happen to end up with some toy for myself hahaha).

But some bits, like parts to keep my bike on trail, that’s super important to me and that’s where Ahead of Time is the new plan – and you’ll find them in my toolbox. I’m not hording tons of em – just the one I need.

So I guess I’m getting a grip on the new economy. In fact, I’ll be getting a new grip on the modern times – gonna go with the Ergons this time.

See you on the trails – Nate@BikeCo.com

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Gimble on Chesty?

Disclaimer(?) – not sure that’s the “best” word but in the modern social world I guess you have to announce all this right??

We do not sell GoPro bits or accessories. None of the pictured or utilized bits were provided in exchange for content or whatever. I bought them. Cause, it’s easier to buy stuff than to try to “bro” things all the time or EVER schmooze to a social media product manager, aka “influencer wrangler”. OK, off my soap box and onto something we think is fun.

Also – we make no claims that any of these bits are used as described and in fact some of our usages may void warranties with usage outside design expectations.

BikeCo is working to create a variety of additional video content this year. From mechanical advice to riding tips and tricks we’re gathering and editing a variety of media and as always working to produce it in new and interesting ways to our clients.

We don’t sell action cameras or accessories, but a TON of our clients use them and we thought we’d occasionally post ideas we’re working with to get something different in pixel form.

GoPro Bits - Hero 10 with Max Lens Gimble Roll Bar Mount Chesty

The footage and stills in the post, with the exception of the image OF the bits, was shot with the above bits. Chesty mount, modified mount attached to Roll Cage clamp, Roll Cage clamp was mounted around the gimble handle using a Hero 10 with the Max lens.

I wanted to try to find a way to better show how steep some of the trails we ride are. You know what I mean, like when you watch POV of UCI DH tracks and it looks like a park path until you see the trees or people at these extreme angles on the side and think, hmmm, they’re standing straight up and down!

Anyhow – this is kind of a BikeCo “UnBoxing” video, except I think its idiotic to show you a video of me opening a box…

But I bought a gimble to test, put it on the charger and then went straight to the trails. Didn’t sync it to the app. Didn’t sync it to the GoPro either. Figured I could do that later and I would lose light otherwise.

Here’s a quick edit we posted to social, a Tips in 60 look at it:

Like I mentioned in the teaser above I’m not shooting video to really impress anyone with my riding skills. It’s super hard when there’s so much content out there of people absolutely shredding right? Also, you tend to get the two factions when you send it to friends and family who don’t ride: those who are impressed you can even balance a bike and are amazed and those who kind of “hmm, oh kay” the stuff right?

I had the gimble in a “vertical” position, camera on top for this video. I tried it this way as I wasn’t 100% comfortable that the roll cage mount would hold it and figured if it was in the vertical position the camera and gimble head would hit the mount if it came loose giving me a second to deal with it.

I think I’ll try it with the gimble “inverted” with the camera lower to see if I can get a better balance point. I’ll probably use the 1/4×20 threaded bung at the bottom to mount a retention strap in case the thing slips out. If I get a dialed in rig setup I’ll post some pics down the line.

We capture video for a range of content we use to highlight product or tips and tricks. For my personal use I like to pull stills from the footage, which the new GoPro is amazing for btw.

Below are a couple images pulled from the ride with the gimble as well as a shot from the standard Chesty setup.

Chesty with Gimble Mount Riding Shot 1

The gimble kind of holds a position, and then sort of swung back into the expected axis. This provided some fun shots that highlighted the front wheel and suspension.

Chesty with Gimble Mount Riding Shot 2

So your chesty mount typically won’t have such an exaggerated angle, btw you should be turning your bike more than your body but trust me, I wasn’t leaning the bike THAT much more than my body here!

Chesty Riding Shot with GoPro Hero 10

Screen grab from a ride prior to the gimble. Also, this image has the standard GoPro Hero 10 lens, the video and images above are using the Max lens which has some interesting advantages. More on that some other time perhaps.

So – overall what are my thoughts?

Well initially while riding I was a bit concerned with how the results would come out. The rig was bouncing around a decent amount (oh man, some footage of my climbing while the gimble is bouncing off my gut will make you seasick in about two seconds) but at least in the downhill the software was able to stabilize the footage pretty well.

A couple times the gimble seemed confused and rolled around, you can see it at the end of the video teaser. It was kind of a bummer / frustrating on trail. But, the reality is this setup was in its first test configuration and I had made ZERO attempt to fully setup the gimble interface as instructed.

Reviewing the footage and pulling some images I was overall pretty happy. I plan to invest some time and get the setup more dialed in: both the digital app setup as well as how I mount the gimble in the first place.

Hope you enjoyed this quick look at a gimble on a chesty mount and maybe it motivated you to try some different ideas to generate content.

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When You Slip Down the Rabbit Hole Writing a Social Post

3-22-22 Five-Ten Freerider PRO Canvas Parley Plastic
OK, nothing’s simple. Welcome to the 2020’s right?
What started as a “rah-rah” post quickly turned into questions, a bunch of searching around on the web, ordering a wack of washing bags, learning about external washing machine filters I need to research more tonight – buuuuut, we’re trying really hard not to green-wash posts right? That counts for something!
 
Back to our post shown in bold:
 
Five-Ten Freerider PRO Canvas feature uppers made from 50% recycled ocean bound plastic and 50% recycled polyester.
 
The Freerider PRO Canvas contains plastic that would have been destined for the oceans through a partnership with Parley Ocean.
 
Will this pair of shoes save your planet? Well, nah, but supporting products like these announce a clear intent and manufacturers listen to your dollars…
 
You know, even a small angle of change now will make a huge difference down the line (think of a triangle as the legs start to stretch from each other, or you’re walking through the woods and start off 5 degrees off target – doesn’t seem like much at first but by the end the distance can be quite big right?)
 
I support everyone who’s making a commitment to a little less plastic or finding uses to repurpose existing plastic!
Shop the Five-Ten Freerider Pro at BikeCo.com
 
 
now, down the rabbit hole… right click to open in a new tab (or hold your finger down on your iphone I think that opens a new tab option too)
 
learn more about Parley Ocean & Adidas here:
 
or learn about how Adidas is working to help close the loop (important when you think how many synthetic materials are in our current kits right?) including a program to easily donate out of use shoes and clothes to be re-purposed minimizing virgin material production as well as helping keep plastic out of the trash / ocean in the first place: https://www.adidas.com/us/sustainability
 
or read about some options available to minimize both virgin and “up-cycled” clothing from depositing microplastics into the water systems: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/reduce-laundry-microfiber-pollution/
All and all – we should keep educating ourselves and working to make the planet a little better than it was the day before.
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Clipless or Flats for MTB?

clipless or flats for mtb? Pedal Comparison

Wondering if clipless or flats are right for you? Let’s take a minute and go through some of the differences and preferences that will help you define Clipless or Flats for MTB.

First let’s look at some pedaling basics that will help you whether you choose to ride clipped in or on platform pedals.

Good Pedaling Practices

Spinning Circles

Spin circles. Seems simple right? Ironically after all the years of riding this probably one of my least applied practices… I’m going to reference a clock face with 12 being straight up, 3 being forward and we’re talking about the drive side crank, clock reference is flipped for non-drive.

Ideally you’re using a combination of muscles and movements when you pedal your bike, not just smashing down in the say 1 to 4 o’clock positions. (I’m so guilty of that).

Now, whether you’re running clipless or flat pedals you can take advantage of spinning better circles. It’s more efficient, it’s easier on your body, it probably looks better (according to my riding buddies who give me a hard time). How does the concept work?

Even though there is clearly a position of the most power you can still “drive” the pedals throughout most of the pedal stroke whether you’re riding flats or clipless. On the bottom of the pedal stroke, like say 4 to 8 o’clock you “drag” your foot back. Think of it like a moonwalk move or scuffing your foot almost. On the top of the circle you’re pushing that “scuffing” until the pedal drops back into the optimum power position.

Does this add a ton to your speed? Nah. But it is more efficient (when I remember to do it) and it fires different muscles that in turn helps ease the load across the rest of your legs.

One of the things new riders imagine is that with clipless pedals you can “pull” up on the opposite of the power down stroke. And, sort of you can, but again, it’s not nearly as efficient as the down stroke but every bit does help.

Footwork Matters

Getting the right foot “down” at the right time makes  a big difference. Learn to corner with your outside foot down. It greatly improves your ability to weight the bike and “drive” it through the corner with your feet. It also improves your ground clearance as you lean the bike over.

Heels Down

Again, this is for either pedal type. Get your heels down when you’re descending. It improves how the bike is weighted and gives you much more control, particularly in steep chutes.

Downsides?

Let’s get these out of the way right off the bat and move on with the day right? Here are the most common fears for each type of pedal.

Clipless: “What if I don’t get out of them?”

Yup. It’ll happen, but, from my experience it is absolutely not in the situation you’d think. I’ve run full speed out of crashes and then thought about, man, I never even mentally made the choice to clip out. It becomes automatic really quickly.

When I found it “more” likely to happen frankly is tired, at the top of a climb, when I would think I clipped one foot out and lean over only to find that I had in fact, clipped the other foot out. Almost always happens when there’s people watching. It’s like Murphy’s law.

Flats: “What if they hit me in the shins?”

Ya. That happens too. The last real good one I had was at the top of a trail bouncing off like a 6″ tall by 2′ long “table” messing around while chatting with friends. I wasn’t paying real attention and just kinda tried to save a foot coming off and then yup, snakebite.

The few times I’ve had bigger get offs with flat pedals I’ve been well clear of the bike pretty fast.

So there are the typical worries. Let’s compare some other aspects.

Comparing Cliplesss & Flats

Where are the real differences in your day to day riding? Let’s take a look.

Efficiency(?)

I started out riding clipless and went to flats the last few years. Honestly I haven’t noticed any efficiency differences – but – I’ve never been renowned for my pedaling prowess.

I’d imagine that clipless pedals are slightly more efficient for the average rider. I haven’t really looked into the weight differences between flats and clipless plus cleats either. If you’re riding XC / Trail and long adventure days that weight will mean more than an hour and a half rip after work.

Technique

Clipless pedals tend to hide technique issues. You can cheat on your bunny hops, you can pull the bike up or yank it around side to side in the air a bit easier if you’re offline, etc.

Here’s the scoop on that though: probably no one is grading your technique at the end of the ride except you right? So if you’re more confident clipped in then go for it.

When I rode clipless I kept a pair of flats around for the occasional rip to work on technique. It’s interesting as I found that where I thought “flats will be great in the gnarly stuff” once I got bouncing around in it I realized “hmm, I miss being attached to the bike a bit more!”. The bottom of our local Car Wreck trail was my big eye opener on that.

Once I moved permanently to flats I found that I had to corner slightly different or my “upper” or inside foot tended to bounce off the pedals. Clipless had kept me hooked in for all those years and it was an eye opener that I had been just floating that foot essentially.

If you ride flats you’re going to need to concentrate more on keeping your feet “planted” on the bike consistently. Whether bunny hopping the obstacles, or ripping through the chatter.

Using your knees as “suspension” to absorb the bike up and drive it down is a great technique to practice whether you’re running flats or not.

Confidence

You know, your riding is really about you. What are you confident on? What causes you concern? Sounds over simplified, but really if you’re thinking about “extra” things when you really should be concentrating on other things that’s no good right?

I’m going to use a recent experience as an example, although not MTB related. I was on the freeway the not too long ago on my motorcycle. Now, I’ve got a lot of years and a ton of miles on motorcycles so admittedly it can seem a bit “autopilot” at times. It was a high speed day but with traffic – nothing too out of the ordinary heading up to the shop from San Diego. Anyhow, when the hills dropped away into Del Mar and I got a cross wind there was a repetitive thumping on the side of my head… Turns out I hadn’t fastened the helmet! Instantly that was all I could think about. I didn’t want to pull over in the construction area and get creamed by a car so I rode on a bit looking for an offramp. I’m big on helmet safety and this was really not a good feeling and I got hyper focused on it. To the point that when I got off the freeway to correct it I ended up pulling over onto a steep grade and nearly dumping the adventure bike on my legs! I had been so mis-focused that I made a mistake I probably never had made in 20+ years of riding moto… Point is, if you’re having to really put tremendous thought into something it will have other consequences.

Are you worried about that technical single track and whether you could get a foot out before you tumbled off the edge? Well, being aware of that is one thing. Hyper focusing on it to the point you are scared isn’t fun or effective.

If you’re confident or even cautiously confident or aware you’re much better off.

Clipless Pedals Explained

Clipless pedals use a cleat to engage with spring loaded “clamps”.

As you saw in the video most clipless pedals are engaged by stepping “in and down”. The forward tab of the cleat fits under the forward bar and then you step down with your heel. As you step down the rear of the cleat’s radius will put pressure on the spring loaded bar (shown as rear in the video, but could be either front or rear depending on design) opening the bars allowing the cleat to pass before the spring clamps the bars in place.

To exit clipless pedals you pivot your heel outboard. This rotates the cleat in the clamps allowing the cleat to disengage. The geometry of the design means that it generally takes less pressure to clip out than to clip in as the spring loaded bar doesn’t need to move the same amount.

It’s pretty simple and your muscle memory will pick up on it quickly.

Differences in Clipless Feel

The main difference in clipless pedals is the amount of “float” they have in the design.

Float can be two different motions: lateral or rotational.

Lateral float is how much extra area there is for the cleat to move inboard or outboard while staying engaged. For instance Time pedals tend to have more lateral float than Shimano pedals.

Rotational float is dependent on cleat design. Most pedals have a similar range of rotational float before the pedal disengages, although some manufacturers may offer cleats that have different shapes providing quicker or later disengagement.

Many pedals offer adjustable spring rates. This adjusts to rider preference for clip in pressure, hold while clipped in, and to a lesser extent the clip out pressure. When I rode Time pedals I like a mid pressure setup. If I ride HT clipless pedals I tended to tighten the spring more to provide a more confident clip out feel (seems sort of counterintuitive I know, but it works).

Shopping Clipless Pedals

As mentioned previously there is a feel difference between clipless pedals.

Riders looking for a very “set in” almost like a ski boot feel gravitate to the Shimano lineup.

Those who prefer a bit more movement in their pedals tend to shop the Time lineup. The lateral float is felt most during climbing if you are a rider who likes to wiggle around.

Shopping Flat Pedals

Flat pedals come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Pedals generally are somewhat “sized” depending on your shoe size. If you’ve got big feet you should shop bigger pedals – makes sense right? (Luckily we list the platform dimensions to help riders compare our selection of platform pedals).

clipless or flats for mtb PNW Loam Pedal Dimensions

Thinner pedals will slightly improve ground clearance. Thicker pedals may tend to have better bearings for heavier riders.

Some riders prefer more mechanical concave to help sit “into” the pedal.

Hell, some riders love the look and color of a model and that’s enough! We only carry proper pedals so you don’t have to worry about falling in love with a garbage brand or model here at BikeCo.com

The Worst of Both Worlds

OK, this is a bit of a soapbox rant based mostly on my opinion. Grain of salt if you want – or agree with me and be right! (hahaha, just kidding)

What about pedals that have clips on one side and flats on the other? Well, they’re the worst of both worlds.

Reasons to commit to one or the other:

Clipless side – if you’re trying to clip in and only one side of the pedal has the assembly what are the mathematical odds that it’s facing the correct way? You might think 50% – but you’re wrong. Murphy’s law comes into play and its almost ALWAYS on the bottom and you have to flip the pedal around with your foot till you get it to step into it.

Flat pedal side – ever seen the road biker clippty clomping around the coffee shop and then WHAM!! slipped on the cleat? Ya. Cleats are metal. Metal on hard surfaces tends to be slippery as hell. Clipless shoes have a large area removed to accommodate mounting cleats and allowing them to move forward to back and side to side. So, your clipless shoe with a cleat in it essentially has a big void of traction right near the contact point of your shoe. That means your choices on the platform pedal side are total shit traction, or you can move way forward on the pedal to get to the shoe’s sole around your midfoot or further back. Which isn’t great for control.

Hopefully you’ve learned about the differences between clipless and flats for MTB – we invite you to shop both types of pedals as well as The Best in MTB here on BikeCo.com!

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5 MTB FUNdamentals

5 MTB FUNdamentals and 10 Riding Tips

5 MTB FUNdamentals for your new Mountain Bike

A lot of new riders are gravitating to the Ibis Aluminum Frames, the Ibis Ripmo AF and Ripley AF. So what are some of the tips and tricks to help you have the most fun on trail? Funny you should ask…

Here are some of the top 5 things that help new MTB riders get the most out of their bikes.

Deity TMAC Pedal Rotation

Pedals: Flats vs. Clipless

Sport level bikes don’t include pedals. That’s because unlike your beach cruiser rider preference makes a big difference in setup.

Flat Pedals

Flat pedals, also called platform pedals, are fairly self explanatory. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes riders can pick a pedal size somewhat relative to their foot size. Flat pedals also are available in a wide range of colors to accent your build.

The upside to flat pedals is you don’t clip in or out. The downside, you don’t clip in or out, so riders need to be a bit wary of keeping weight on the pedals so they don’t spin into your shins.

Personally, I ride flat pedals because I feel they’re easier on my lower back these days. It did take a bit to get used to putting more effort into keeping my feet firmly planted at first, and you can’t “cheat” on bunny hops to get over obstacles. When cornering I keep my pedals at a bit of an angle to keep weight on them compared to clipless pedals which helps keep you firmly on the bike.

Shop our favorite Flat Pedals here

Shimano XTR M9120 Pedal rot 2

Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals, somewhat ironically named, you clip in to. There’s a story there but the long and short is they’re called clipless. Cleats on your shoes engage the pedals when you step “into” the pedal and disengage when you rotate your heel outward (rotating from the ball of your foot near the cleat).

Clipless pedals are technically going to be “more efficient” as you can “pull” up and drive “over” while pedaling (opposite to the down power stroke). How much more efficient is up for debate – the more efficient “circles” you pedal the more efficient they are. It’s good practice to pedal efficient “circles” in flats too.

Stepping in and clipping out can be intimidating to new riders. Let’s put it this way: it quickly becomes second nature. I’ve had full speed get-offs where I have no idea how my brain knew to rotate my ankles out of the pedals as I ran down trail trying not to actually hit the ground (cartoon style). However, it’s also likely that at least once in your riding you will think you clipped one foot out, when you clicked the other out, lean the wrong way and fall. Usually in front of people. Murphy’s law…

My advice to clients, you don’t want to be “thinking” about your pedals very much. If you’re intimidated of clipless start with flats. You’ll know when you’re ready to try the other. In fact, before I went full time to flats I kept a composite pair around to ride now and then to keep me from developing too many bad habits in clipless.

Shop Clipless Pedals on BikeCo.com

Suspension: Design & Setup

Without getting too far into it: suspension design makes a huge difference in a bike’s personality and performance. Well designed suspension is confident and predictable through the entirety of it’s travel. The Ripley AF and Ripmo AF both feature DW (Dave Weagle) suspension. Its efficient, confident and predictable. Ibis’ designers created bikes that have a good balance of material stiffness minimizing lateral flex without being tooth rattling stiff. (as a side note, there was a brand a couple years ago that had so much lateral flex that the suspension would tend to “lock” mid travel, creating an instant infinite spring rate flinging riders all over. You could see it on EWS riders… it was nuts)

Learn about suspension setup basics on the following tabs.

Each tab has a video with the basics of Air Spring / PSI, Volume Spacers, Compression, Rebound (or watch it all in one place with the final tab).

Each tab also has a text section with a bit more in-depth look at the typical MTB suspension settings and how they intertwine.

PSI / Spring Rate

MTB suspension must accommodate a wide range of rider weight. To achieve this nearly all forks and rear shocks use an adjustable air spring.

By varying air pressure riders set a desired sag, or percentage of travel that the bike “sits into” under neutral loading.

Modifying this sag percentage will change small bump compliance as well as bottom out characteristics.

Learning how to Pre-Charge your suspension pump will help you make finite adjustments to sag.

Typically 15% sag is for a firm setup and 20% sag is considered plush.

Air Spring Fine Tuning Control(s): Volume Spacers & Compression

Volume Spacers
Air springs ramp rate, sometimes called Spring Rate, is based on how air compresses in the containment cylinder. As the air is compressed the PSI increases according to the decreasing volume of the containment. This is done via non-compressible volume spacers in the air chamber.

Compression.
Hydraulic damping assists air spring providing support in mid-stroke and bottom out.

Opposing Control: Rebound.
Higher spring rate will drive the suspension back to neutral with more force than a lower spring rate. To keep the bike from skipping across trail rebound damping is utilized.

Volume Tuning

**on the Ripmo AF’s DVO Onyx fork much of this adjustment is done by the OTT or Off the Top negative air spring adjuster. However, Volume Spacing is used on most forks and nearly all air shocks.

As suspension compresses (travel reduces) a piston moves closer to the end of a sealed container. By decreasing the volume of the container the PSI pushing back on the piston is increased.

By adding or removing non-compressible volume spacers riders modify the air spring’s ramp rate which directly changes the amount of support and bottom out feel of the fork or shock.

By removing volume spacers a rider increases the available volume in the suspension. The larger volume compresses less per mm of travel resulting in a lower PSI per mm of travel. This creates less support and is utilizes more travel.

Adding volume spacers decreases the available volume. With less air volume the PSI per mm of travel increases providing more support and greater resistance to bottom out.

Opposing Control: Rebound.
Rebound may need to be adjusted for volume tuning depending on how drastic of a PSI change is being tuned in or out of the suspension.

“Helping” Control: Compression.
Compression provides additional support and bottom out resistance.

Compression

Compression controls provide damping to slow suspension travel as a load is applied and the suspension is compressed. (easy one right?)

When riders have found sag and volume spacing preferences compression controls provide minute adjustments to dial in performance. Adding compression provides more support allowing the suspension to ride taller in its travel which is important when dialing in a bike’s personality in corners, etc.

With too little compression a bike will sit deep in the travel. This compromises cornering and braking force resistance. Headtube angle, bottom bracket height, front to rear weight bias, etc are modified as a bike goes through its travel. Maintaining control of the use of travel is paramount for good performance.

Since compression hydraulically slows the suspension’s use of travel it therefor lowers the air spring’s PSI. Properly setting compression controls will help ease the load on the rebound system by controlling the air spring’s push back onto the rebound circuit.

Too much compression will cause a bike to feel harsh and not use appropriate amounts of travel.

Generally, compression settings are fine tuned after sag and volume spacing have riders “in the ballpark.”

Low speed compression controls mid-stroke as well as support in cornering and against brake dive.

High speed compression helps with bottom out and high shaft speed inputs.

3 positions switches are a type of compression circuit with Open the most plush, Mid providing some additional support and Firm for climbing. If you climb in firm remember to put it back to plush for the downhill or you’re in for a potentially rough ride.

Rebound

Rebound damping controls a suspension’s shaft speed returning to a neutral position. Or, how fast the air spring pushes back as the load changes.

More rebound damping slows the suspension by decreasing the amount of fluid allowed to pass through the hydraulic design.

Less rebound damping allows the suspension to return faster with less hydraulic restriction on the damper.

Rebound setting is based on weight, ground speed, terrain and aggression. Setting the rebound properly means finding the right frequency or feel for your riding.

If your rebound is too fast, or doesn’t have enough clicks of rebound, the bike will tend to skip and suffer poor small bump compliance.

When the rebound is too slow, or you have too many clicks of rebound, the suspension may “pack up” creating a harsh ride as each bump uses progressively more travel forcing the suspension deeper into the travel, which will have higher spring rates.

Opposing: Air Spring PSI / Spring Rate.

“Helping” Control: Low & High Speed Rebound.

Some suspension is designed with 2 rebound circuits. The High Speed Rebound circuit is designed to provide additional control resisting increased PSI late in suspension travel.

Typically High Speed Rebound settings are used as the Low Speed Rebound controls edge towards closed. Example: you might not use any clicks of High Speed Rebound until you reach “X” clicks on the low speed.

Suspension is designed to be setup with a certain amount of SAG depending on riding style. Most rear shocks are between 25-33% sag. So, when you’re balanced on the bike it will sit 25 to 33% into the travel. This allows the suspension to have droop for more control when the trail “falls” away while also helping with small bump compliance.

Too much sag will create a sloppy ride that lacks support and tends to bury itself into terrain. Too little sag and the bike will lack grip and abuse the rider over every small bump on trail.

Shocks also have a variety of ways to adjust rebound, compression and volume tuning. If you’re new to the sport having a good resource to work with will help you take the surprises out of setup for your skillset and terrain.

Rebound and compression dampers control how fast the wheel returns to extension (rebound) and how fast the suspension will compress (compression). Oversimplified, imagine plates moving through a liquid in a tube. The plate with the bigger holes will allow more fluid to go from one side to the other more quickly (less rebound or less compression) reducing the size of the holes will slow the plate’s ability to transfer the fluid (more rebound or more compression control).

Rebound settings will depend on the air spring’s pressure. More pressure will result in more rebound clicks to control the higher spring rate.

As your riding improves you will tend to speed up your bike’s suspension, by lowering the amount of rebound damping, to allow the bike to more quickly reset for the next terrain feature.

The Ripley AF features FOX Performance DPS rear shock and a FOX Performance GRIP fork.

FOX Float Performance DPS

Air Spring & Volume Spacers

The Ibis Ripley uses a 190 x 45mm shock, spec’d with the Fox Float Factory DPS.

SAG is adjusted by PSI – typically trail riding styles gravitate to 25-30% sag. This would measure about 13mm for a plush setup and 11mm for a more firm setup.

Volume Spacers

Volume spacing provides fine tuning options to support the air spring.

By changing to a larger volume spacer, thus reducing the volume, you increase the air spring’s ramp rate for improved bottom out support and pop.

Conversely smaller volume spacers produces a more linear feel as the air has more volume during shock compression per mm of travel.

Do not install more or larger volume spacers than the FOX advises. Installing more than the maximum volume spacers will result in  product damage and potential for injuries, etc.

FOX Performance DPS Rebound Adjustment

FOX FLOAT Performance DPS Rebound Controls

The DPS provides a rebound control with 11 clicks of adjustment.

Heavier riders will use more rebound control than lighter riders to slow the air spring’s return to neutral.

As your ground speeds increase it is common to allow your bike to rebound more quickly to prepare for the next terrain feature and avoid suspension packing from slow rebound setup.

FOX Performance DPS Compression Control

FOX Float Performance DPS Compression Controls

The Fox Float Performance DPS shock provides the blue 3 position switch which adjusts from Firm, Mid and Open. Also known as a “climb switch” the use of this is dependent on rider style, preference and terrain.

FOX Float 34 Performance Series GRIP Fork

Ibis Ripley Fork Travel Options

130mm Ibis Ripley

The Ripley is spec’d with a 130mm FOX 34. This provides the bike with it’s stock 66.5 degree headtube angle and 335mm bottom bracket height.

Riders looking for a little more aggressive setup may investigate the 140mm option.

140mm Ibis Ripley

Perhaps more than the additional 9% of travel the 10mm adds are the geometry modifications. Raising the front of the Ripley will slacken the headtube, increase the trail measurement and slightly lift the bottom bracket.

These are popular shifts for riders pushing the Ripley into bigger trails, attacking the steepest, burliest terrain.

Wondering which is right for you? Chat with our team today and we’ll help you define which riders benefit from which travel setup.

Air Spring & Volume Spacers

The FOX 34 provides riders a range of setup options using air spring as well as volume spacers.

Suggested sag is 15% for a firm feel and 20% for a plush fork. On the stock 130mm setup 15% equals 20mm or about 0.8 inch of sag. 20% will use 26mm or about 1″ of sag.

Riders who choose the 140mm option will find the sag settings quite close to the 160. 15% is 21mm while 20% is 28mm. (as mentioned in the previous tab the additional travel is more about the geometry change than “more” travel).

Volume Spacers

The 130mm FOX 34 is factory spec’d with 2 volume spacers (bike manufacturers may or may not change this). The 130mm fork can carry a maximum of 5 volume spacers.

At 140mm the factory spec is 1 volume spacers with a maximum of 5.

Do not install more volume spacers than the FOX advises. Installing more than the maximum volume spacers will result in  product damage and potential for injuries, etc.

FOX 34 GRIP Rebound Controls

The GRIP damper provides 10 clicks of low speed rebound located at the red knob on the bottom of the fork lowers.

FOX Performance GRIP compression lever

FOX GRIP Compression Controls

The Performance GRIP offers a 3 position on-the-fly adjuster for Open, Mid and Firm.

FOX also offers micro-adjust detents between the settings.

The Ripmo AF features the DVO Topaz T3 rear shock and DVO Onyx D1 fork.

Air Spring & Volume Spacers

The Ibis Ripmo AF uses a 210 x 55mm shock.

SAG is adjusted by PSI – typically Enduro riding styles gravitate to 25-30% sag. This would measure about 17mm for a plush setup.

Volume Spacers

Volume spacing provides fine tuning options to support the air spring.

By adding volume spacers, thus reducing the volume, you increase the air spring’s ramp rate for improved bottom out support and pop.

Conversely removing volume spacers produces a more linear feel as the air has more volume during shock compression per mm of travel.

Do not install more volume spacers than the DVO advises. Installing more than the maximum volume spacers will result in  product damage and potential for injuries, etc.

DVO Topaz T3 Rebound Control

DVO Topaz T3 Rebound Controls

The Topaz T3 has 22 clicks of rebound adjustment.

Topaz T3 Compression Switch

The Topaz T3 features an Open, Mid and Firm switch for on the fly adjustment.

Support modifications can also be made by adjusting the rubber bladder from 200 psi (lighter riders) to 200 PSI (heavier riders)

DVO Onyx D1

Air Spring

For the 160mm travel Onyx SC D1 suggested sag is 15% for a firm feel and 20% for a plush fork. On the stock 160mm setup 15% equals 24mm or about 1 inch of sag. 20% will use 32mm or about 1.3″ of sag.

DVO Rebound Adjustment

The DVO Onyx SC D1 fork offers a wide range of tuning capacity with 22 clicks of rebound.

DVO Onyx SC D1 Compression Controls

The DVO Onyx SC D1 provides Low and High speed compression controls to fine tune support.

DVO Low Speed Compression Location

The Low Speed Compression, seen above, features 6 clicks of adjustability.

DVO High Speed Compression

High Speed Compression is adjusted by spinning the above dial in full rotations. Don’t feel for detents. There are 5 rotations of High Speed Compression adjustment on the Onyx SC D1.

Tires: Size, Patterns and Pressure

If you’ve jumped around on BikeCo.com you see we’re heavily tied with Maxxis MTB tires. There’s a reason for this. We all buy our own tires, and Maxxis makes the best performing and longest lasting offerings.

Choosing the right Size & Tread Pattern makes a big difference in your bikes’ personality. Ibis’ aluminum bikes are spec’d with fairly aggressive tires. There’s a reason for this: nothing is worse than putting your new bike into a corner and having it slide out. Hard on the rider, hard on the psyche. So generally, you’ll see more aggressive tires to ensure plenty of grip.

Learn more about Maxxis MTB Tires in the video below:

Conversely, if you’re looking for the very fastest climbing you probably want something lighter, with less lug that will accelerate more quickly.

A lot of riders may find a slightly faster rear tire than the front provides a nice balance. With modern rim width most tires are in the 2.3-2.5 range these days. Stay even, or slightly wider in the front for a balanced feel.

There are many different types of sidewalls as well. Chat with your sales team about how different sidewall technology is applied based on rider weight, terrain, personality, etc. Heavier sidewalls tend to be much more resistant to cuts or punctures and offer additional damping for improved small bump compliance. The cost is well, they’re heavier.

Tire pressure is important. A lot of your bike’s small bump compliance will come down to how much PSI you run.

Tires will slowly lose pressure, so it’s good to check them before each ride. Depending on your weight, the sidewall technology, tire size, rim width, ground speed, etc, etc you might run from the mid teens to over 30 PSI. Most trail riders will find the lower end of the 20psi range appropriate.

You can look at the sidewall of your tire to gauge your PSI. If you’re seeing singular slash “/ / /” marks spaced across the sidewall you’re getting a good amount of tire compliance. If you see x marks, “XXX”, you should come up a couple PSI.

You want to balance small bump feel, cornering support and keeping your rims off rocks to fine tune your tire pressure.

If you’re the rider who tends to go a bit aggressive off the bat a more aggressive sidewall technology or even a rim insert like the CushCore Pro or XC on the rear tire will help keep the wheel round and true longer.

Still want to know more about tires? Check out more data on MTB sidewall and compound technology here.

MTB Brakes

So, mountain biking is a dynamic sport in a wide range of conditions. One of the real eye openers to me when I started riding was that in steep stuff you’re not going to be able to come to a full stop. Not a big deal really, but just pointing it out hahaha…

MTB brakes are designed balancing weight and performance. More bikes are spec’d with 4 piston brakes from trail and enduro riding while xc / trail bikes tend to have 2 piston brakes.

4 piston brakes provide more power most notably as they increase the contact surface area with larger pads than 2 piston brakes.

Rotor size also modifies performance. Larger rotors have more leverage as well as greater circumference, or more metal, to better resist heat saturation.

There are a couple enemies to brake performance: overheating (particularly chronic overheating) and contamination.

You’re going to occasionally overheat your rotors. You’ll typically hear them get noisier, you’ll feel power loss (don’t touch them while you’re riding – you’ll end up branded for a long long time) and you’ll see them darken by the end of the ride. This all equates to less friction coefficient and less efficient brakes. Don’t stress though there are ways to resurface the rotors after a big day in the steeps. What you don’t want to do is just stress them over and over and over and wonder why you’re having to replace them more often. If you’re constantly cooking rotors look at larger diameter or more heat resistant models.

Rotor and pad contamination is more a pain to deal with. MTB brake pads are extremely susceptible to contamination. Don’t use spray lubes, don’t use non-approved cleaners near them, don’t handle them excessively, obviously keep grease away from them… Contaminated pads tend to sound like a goose honk and lack power. You can typically salvage the rotors but often will have to replace the pads. Be aware of what gets near your rotors and pads. Personally I only wash my bike with water and Muc-Off to avoid any strange contamination issues.

You can check out the home mechanic section on BikeCo.com for how-to service writeups, blogs and videos. Or learn more and shop the best brakes, rotors & brake accessories in MTB here.

The final thing about brakes is how to best use them, which leads us into our fifth Fundamental.

Top 10 MTB Riding Skills to Improve Your Riding

(So here we have a list of the top ten MTB riding skills, inside a list of 5 MTB FUNdamentals to give new MTB riders more fun on the trail – quite the SEO coup right here eh?)

Let’s start with brake techniques

1:
Three seconds on, three seconds off. This helps keep you from overheating brakes. I was sure I had this mastered but our racers would get behind me and count when I started riding. Letting the brakes cool rather makes a big difference ensuring the power is there when you want it. When you get on the brakes get on them good, then let them go. Keeping them “kinda” engaged won’t slow you down and will heat up the rotors and pads reducing their efficiency.

2:
Brake where it matters! (obviously don’t shoot off a cliff saying “but Nate said!!”) Like we mentioned before MTB brakes aren’t able to pull you to a stop in every condition. If you’re riding down a steep chute it’s probably best to check up before you roll in, slow down to speed you can handle, let the bike accelerate down the chute and get on the brakes before the inevitable turn at the bottom. As your skills improve you’ll more easily see where you can pull a handful of brakes to slow down and let the bike work in the other terrain. Slow down BEFORE the corner, don’t grab a handful of brake IN the corner (it will stand the bike up and you’ll quit turning!)

3:
Get confident with 1 finger braking. Hydraulic brakes are plenty strong. 1 finger will give you all of the hydraulic power available while keeping more fingers on the grips for better control. Find a not scary steep section and feel how easy it is to lock up the brakes with one finger. Then work into being comfortable riding with 1 finger braking and the rest on the grips.

4:
This fourth one is one of my all time, keep you on the bike, in the sport tips: ride at 70 or 80% of your skillset. That leaves a chunk of talent left for the unexpected. If you ride at 100% of your skill level you are going to crash. A lot. And it hurts after a while. I would speculate that very few of our pro racers ever go a true 100% since slow is smooth and smooth is fast…

5:
Keep your head up! By the time your front wheel is encountering something it’s pretty well too late to do much about it other than maybe pull up or push down. If you drop your eyesight into your front wheel track you’re going to miss the next obstacle or turn setup and just really be a passenger on the bike. These bikes are really capable, don’t get super stiff and let the bike help you through the small and medium hiccups.

6:
Use your knees and elbows as suspension. Going back to the “don’t ride stiff” or “dead sailor”. You weigh more than the bike, so keeping your body moving as clean as possible will help the bike ride better and you enjoy the trails more. Learn to pump the trail, get light where you need to, suck the bike up over obstacles.

7:
Don’t sit down on descents. Keep your weight on your pedals, rather than your saddle. This helps keep the center of gravity much lower and your bike is less likely to become an inverted pendulum trying to fling you all over.

8:
Practice proper footwork. Learning to keep your outside foot down in corners will give you much better ground clearance to lean the bike into a turn as well as providing you the proper weighted position. Inside foot up, outside foot down. Turning left, right foot down. Turning right, left foot down.

9:
Your bike should be setup for you! Personal preference is something I’m not going to argue too much about, buuuuuut, when I see 5’8” riders with 810mm bars and at 6’1” tall with a 76” wingspan I’m running 785mm (advice I got years ago from some of our tall racers) I wonder you know? Too narrow of bars will be nervous and twitchy. Too wide and you’re going to lose your “power position” and not be able to correct small mistakes as easily. Think about pushup position. You don’t want to be too far either direction from where you have the ability to make power.

10:
Practice makes perfect, but don’t try so hard you overwhelm yourself. I often will find 1 thing to focus or work on even today when I ride. Like, today I’m going to have proper footwork through every corner and not stay in the 3-9 position being lazy for example. If I go riding with someone newer to the sport I try to offer maybe 1 bit of advice per ride. Adding too much can be overwhelming (believe me I have EWS pros offer me all kinds of advice and it’s good – but – at some point it’s like ya, not gonna be able to clear that huge section hahaha).


Hopefully this tips make you more confident in your riding and able to better understand your setup.

If you’re in the market for a complete bike, suspension upgrade, Pro Tune suspension, brake or wheel upgrades or any riding accessories make sure to check out BikeCo.com and chat with our sales team!

Navigating 2022 MTB Products

Navigating 2022 MTB Products with BikeCo.com

Navigating 2022 MTB Products and Getting the Most of Your Current Setup

We’re sure you’ve heard all about manufacturing, shipping, product sitting at customs, etc, etc, etc. Well, let’s look at some of the realities and solution of 2022 MTB Products to help keep you on trail, riding your bike and stoked.

We can break it down into a couple areas that affect the typical rider.

Product availability and how to stretch the service life of your existing parts.

Without writing a thesis on the product availability issues I’m going to try to break it down into the basics of what we see in the market and how its changing product availability and purchasing.

Ibis Exie Frame Detail Made in USA branding

New is still New! Ibis launched the USA made Exie for 2022

Bikes & Bits

2022 MTB Bikes

The pandemic’s rush on sporting goods doesn’t really affect bikes in the tiers that BikeCo.com works. Sport to pro race level bike sales have continued to grow over the years, but not at the explosive, and frankly unmaintainable, rates that say kid bike sales have exploded during the pandemic.

So why the delays and wait times on bikes at our level? Manufacturing slow downs from staffing legislation both domestically as well as overseas have had a big impact. Shipping and customs have been another choke point for product. (A lot of our local trails overlook the Pacific and the amount of ships sitting waiting to be unloaded is a literally staggering thing to see)

Brands have been forced to really look at what can be produced and in what windows. In order to protect their markets, as well as their dealer markets, most bike brands have gone to allocation models providing dealers access to a specific amount of goods per timeframe.

How does the allocation model protect the market? Well, its based on previous sales levels so retailers are able to at least maintain during this market transition until we get back to the old normal or define the new normal. It also keeps a single entity from putting together orders of scale that would push the quantity of dealers down which would dramatically affect the manufacturer’s market equity having “all the eggs in one basket” so to speak.

Some manufacturers have set exact size / color / build options and quantities that retailers will have access to. Others have an allocated quantity of availability and the dealer can pre-order size / color / build or frame options.

At BikeCo we’ve built out our website to show 3 levels of bike and frame availability to help clients understand ETAs. Under the Bikes & Frames menu we have an In-Bound and In-Stock option.

On this page there are listings for In-Stock products (pretty self-explanatory), In-Production and In-Bound bikes and frames.

In-Production product has been acknowledged as received by either the manufacturer or BikeCo and is in the process of build up or shipment. This is fairly imminent product.

In-Bound product is part of the next allocation window and has been assigned some details depending on vendor requirements and is due reasonably soon.

As products are pre-sold they are removed from the categories in pretty close to real time, so this is a fairly accurate portrait of product availability windows.

You can call, email, chat or use a contact form for more details and to secure products.

Available In-Stock, In-Production and In-Bound products are available with typical deposit requirements. If you’re interested in product that doesn’t show In-Stock, In-Production or In-Bound a pre-deposit option is available to secure a waiting list position for the next allocation. Pre-deposits are minimal deposits on product we have reasonable belief we will have access to (ie, we won’t be taking deposits for tricycles, cargo bikes or things we know we won’t have access to). Chat with our team for details on this. Shop In-Bound & In-Stock Bikes and Frames here.

SRAM 12sp Eagle XX1 Chains: Available in Black, Rainbow, Gold & Copper to add some bling to your bike

2022 MTB Bits

Delayed, but available. That’s been the theme so far. Our purchasing team has stayed ahead of the curve and while it’s not the “order on Tuesday deliver on Friday” model anymore typically we’ve been able to keep a reasonable stock of the right products available.

What’s not in-stock is likely on its way. Our website’s inventory is updated daily to provide local and web clients access to the best parts. Don’t see what you need? Contact our team and we’ll get you the details or other options available.

As of now we haven’t seen the supply chain grind to a stop at our tier of product like you may have heard about from lower end products, etc. The sport to pro race level product has a handful of advantages that have helped keep it in production and inbound.

First, while the margins are lower than the kid or beach cruiser bits the overall value is higher. So in the same shipping space your GX, XO1, XX1 (or equivalent) products will generate more cashflow for manufacturers.

Second, sport to pro race level bikes really do create a trickle down in brand acknowledgement so there has been a commitment to keep the eye candy products coming in.

Toilet Paper Hoarding?

Well, I never was the one having to move my car out of the garage to make room for the pallet of paper goods. That said, I do have a couple bits in my toolbox in case I needed them in couple week window that might be a dry spell for product.

In my “shit happens” kit I have 2 pairs of brake pads, a chain and an old front tire. Car still fits in the garage…

Brake pads can be contaminated in odd and annoying ways so it’s nice to have access to a fresh pair.

The chain gives me the ability to either replace my current chain at about 50% wear, while the cassette and chain ring are still viable and performance will be good.

I keep an old front tire around, not really because tires are hard to get but in case I need it before a last minute adventure when I can’t get to the shop.

These bits have been in my toolbox pre-pandemic and will stay in there post pandemic too.

I’ve been watching availability from vendors and most bits have had some availability or options available.

Let’s say I need a cassette – well, that might have some availability issues and could be a couple weeks out. But, most cassette issues aren’t a catastrophic failure (I’ve never seen one like break in half). So if I stay ahead of the wear rate I can pre-order the bits I’ll need a few weeks out for a drivetrain replacement. If I bend or break a tooth you can bend it back or file it down. If it’s in one of the smaller gears more dependent on each tooth you might skip over that cog when putting the power down. Long and short, there are ways around most issues.

So how can you get the most service life out of your existing bits?

Popular Maxxis MTB Sidewall Protection Options EXO EXO+ DD

The right sidewall will help you balance damping (increased plushness across small bumps), support (lower PSI for better grip and tire shape), as well as help keep your rims off terrain!

Maintenance (and non-maintenance) to Extend Service Life

Let’s keep you on the trail with your existing kit as long as possible. Here are some tips that we use to keep our bikes running well deep into service life cycles.

Clean

A clean bike tends to be a happier bike.

Before each ride wipe the fork, rear shock and adjustable seatpost shafts. This will minimize debris into the seals, foam rings and lube oil which will extend performance.

Wipe your chain, chain ring, derailleur pulley wheels and cassette to keep dirt to a minimum.

An occasional bike wash helps keep dirt and debris away from your suspension pivots.

But, Not TOO Clean

Aggressively over washing your bike will displace bearing lubricants leading to metal on metal contact and premature wear. Be wary when washing your bike not to spray directly into bearing access, etc.

I used to take my drivetrain apart and soak it in degreaser. Looking back, if anything, it might have lead to premature wear. It certainly didn’t extend the life of anything in my opinion. I would make a case that its hard to get the degreaser back out of the areas which will require lubrication. Maybe it was just an excuse to have some garage time alone…

I’ve never been one for the carbon fiber wonder spray, you know that restores that shine your bike probably never really had if its matte anyhow? Well, if you’re into it just be aware when you put it on that it’s likely to contaminate brake pads and rotors. If I was going to use it I would remove the wheels and put them a distance away to protect the rotors. I would spray the fluid onto a rag and wipe it on to avoid overspray on my brakes and pads.

Lube

Before each ride use the appropriate chain lube for your riding. We’ve touched on this before and you can read more here – but the jist is this: not enough lube expedites chain wear, which increases the rate of stretch, which hammer forms chain ring and cassette teeth. Use a lube for conditions – a wet lube in dry conditions is likely to attract and hold more debris than a lube for drier conditions.

I also lube my fork, rear shock and adjustable seatpost shafts now and then. There are a variety of lubes available for this – a little dab about once a month will help keep the suspension feeling fresh. Along these lines – occasionally burping your fork lowers, either with the modern burp valves or using a zip tie will minimize gulped air buildup and the negative spring effect which tends to make a fork feel harsh.

Other Odds & Ends

Bolt Checks: a loose bike is wearing out bits faster than it should. A quick review of your fasteners can help keep your bike on trail longer.

Suspension Setup Checks: you don’t need to check your fork or shock’s PSI daily, or weekly, hell I don’t check mine even monthly with a gauge. I do take a look at the sag when I jump on the bike and if it’s notably off I’ll put a gauge on it and correct it. The air springs on your bike are relatively low volume and susceptible to changes based on altitude, heat, etc. Make sure to precharge your pump when you measure the PSI or I can assure you you’re going to “find it low”… Running suspension a bit too plush typically won’t hurt the bike, but it is likely to affect your opinion of how the bike is riding and your enjoyment. Put a premium on your enjoyment and keep an eye on your setup.

Tire PSI, Sidewall & Rim Protection: even after all the years in the industry rebuilding a wheel is outside my scope. So, a folded wheel means I’m not riding until I get one of the guys to fix it. That’s not great.

Keeping an appropriate PSI for your size, terrain, ground speed and style will help keep your rims off those sharp lips that want to eat up your rim and spokes.

Riding the right sidewall technologies will go a long way to keeping an air gap between rim and terrain. The right rim protection is even more insurance.

Shifting: Avoid dump shifting! Just because “you can” push and dump a fistful of gears doesn’t mean it’s a good plan… Check out the video below for details.

 

Need more details? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to the BikeCo.com team and we will dial you in the with the best products and service in MTB.

How-To Videos & Links:

Click through the tabs below to see a variety of how-to videos and find links to other blogs on BikeCo.com below the videos!

Click through the tabs to see some of our How-To videos that will help you keep your bike on trail longer.

Links to more MTB Tips & Tricks

Check out some of our favorite Tips & Tricks for the Home Mechanic under the Content menu


MTB Bolt Checks – Simple but Critical To Your Safety

importance of mountain bike bolt checks


Chain Lube Best Practices. Its that important.

MTB Pre-Ride Chain Clean & Lube Best Practice


Pre-Ride Cleaning & Lube

chain lube video blog image


Basic Bike Wash Tips & Tricks

BikeCo Tips and Tricks Bike Wash Blog Title Image 3


Four Ways to Improve Chain, Cassette & Chain Ring Service Life

Chain Stretch Explained

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Adjustable Travel on Dropper Posts

Adjustable Travel on Dropper Seatposts OneUp & PNW

Adjustable Travel on Dropper Posts

Fine tune your MTB fit with these MTB  seatposts featuring adjustable travel on dropper posts.

Adjusting adjustable travel? Isn’t that like a double negative? No, not really.

For riders who are looking for the maximum travel on their dropper post the adjustable sizing from OneUp Components and PNW provides a wide range of fit options.

Your adjustable post fit is based on your leg length and frame size. While many riders are content running a size that will have the seatpost collar a touch above the frame collar others want all they can get.

If you’re one of those riders a post with travel adjustment is what you’re looking for.

You can purchase a slightly longer travel post than would normally fit and shim down the travel slightly. (we touch on sizing adjustable posts here)

So why not just stop the post where you want it? Well, most riders want the seatpost to sit at full XC pedaling position so they can quickly get back on the power. Having to adjust it each time is slower and will result in different lengths almost every time. (I’ve seen a DIY “travel stop” with a cable to the saddle – but I’m not sure I’d be looking for another cable looped trying to catch my legs, pants, trees, branches, whatever while I’m descending…)

OneUp Dropper V2

One of the most popular adjustable posts thanks to its compact total size combined with long travel the OneUp Dropper V2 features a toolless travel adjustment.

Watch the video to understand how to quickly adjust your OneUp Dropper V2 travel with the provided dowel spacers.

OneUp Dropper V2 Travel Adjustment

Adjusting the travel on your OneUp Dropper V2 is quick and easy.

First loosen the collar. Typically you can do this with your hands, although sometimes a soft strap wrench is needed to get the collar free.

You’ll need to bump the travel, in the video I do it on the post – it’s much easier with a remote installed, to free the white retainer.

Once the collar and the retainer are out of the way you install the desired amount of spacers for the proper travel adjustment in the three channels around the dropper post shaft.

Ensure that you have the same amount in all three channels before continuing.

Similar to removing the retainer a bump down in travel will help reseat the retainer in place.

Tighten the collar appropriately and test the function.

PNW Loam & Rainier Gen 3 RAD Seatposts

PNW posts are made to handle the rigors of the Pacific North West – often wet and muddy. The Rainier in particular is designed to compensate for these factors. Both the Loam and Rainier offer toolless adjustable travel to fine tune fit.

Watch the video to understand how to quickly adjust PNW Seatpost Travel.

How To Adjust PNW RAD Seatpost Travel

The PNW Rainer and Loam seatposts feature toolless travel adjustment. Adjusting seatpost top out allows riders to maximize their total seatpost travel with the seatpost installed as deep in the frame as possible.

Start by lowering the seatpost from full extension, but not so low that you can’t loosen the collar and move the adjuster. About halfway is fine.

Loosen the collar. Typically you can do this by hand, but a soft strap wrench might be needed to get it moving.

Carefully move the collar up the seatpost shaft. Do not scratch the seatpost shaft or you’re likely to have issues with the internals seals, etc.

Rotate the seatpost to expose the arc allowing you to get under the lip of the plastic adjuster. Pull the adjuster up to allow it to rotate.

Realign the adjuster’s arrow to the number corresponding to the amount of travel you’d like to limit.

Tighten the seat collar and check the post’s function.

Questions on which adjustable post is best for you? No problem, our team has you covered.

Call, email, chat or fill out the form below for more details!

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Understanding MTB Suspension Controls

Comparing How Pressure on Air Suspension Is Applied

Understanding MTB Suspension Controls

Air Pressure, Volume Spacing, Rebound and Compression work in concert to fine tune you bike’s performance.  Watch the video and read through the blog to be a step closer to understanding MTB Suspension Controls!

Video: MTB Suspension for Beginners

Click through the tabs below to learn more about the specifics of Air Spring Pressure, Volume Spacing, Compression and Rebound tuning.

PSI / Spring Rate

MTB suspension must accommodate a wide range of rider weight. To achieve this nearly all forks and rear shocks use an adjustable air spring.

By varying air pressure riders set a desired sag, or percentage of travel that the bike “sits into” under neutral loading.

Modifying this sag percentage will change small bump compliance as well as bottom out characteristics.

Learning how to Pre-Charge your suspension pump will help you make finite adjustments to sag.

Typically 15% sag is for a firm setup and 20% sag is considered plush.

Fine Tuning Control: Volume Spacing.
Air springs ramp rate, sometimes called Spring Rate, is based on how air compresses in the containment cylinder. As the air is compressed the PSI increases according to the decreasing volume of the containment. This is done via non-compressible volume spacers in the air chamber.

Opposing Control: Rebound.
Higher spring rate will drive the suspension back to neutral with more force than a lower spring rate. To keep the bike from skipping across trail rebound damping is utilized.

“Helping” Control: Compression.
Compression controls provide hydraulic damping to slow the fork through its travel.

Volume Tuning

As suspension compresses (travel reduces) a piston moves closer to the end of a sealed container. By decreasing the volume of the container the PSI pushing back on the piston is increased.

By adding or removing non-compressible volume spacers riders modify the air spring’s ramp rate which directly changes the amount of support and bottom out feel of the fork or shock.

By removing volume spacers a rider increases the available volume in the suspension. The larger volume compresses less per mm of travel resulting in a lower PSI per mm of travel. This creates less support and is utilizes more travel.

Adding volume spacers decreases the available volume. With less air volume the PSI per mm of travel increases providing more support and greater resistance to bottom out.

Opposing Control: Rebound.
Rebound may need to be adjusted for volume tuning depending on how drastic of a PSI change is being tuned in or out of the suspension.

“Helping” Control: Compression.
Compression provides additional support and bottom out resistance.

Compression

Compression controls provide damping to slow suspension travel as a load is applied and the suspension is compressed. (easy one right?)

When riders have found sag and volume spacing preferences compression controls provide minute adjustments to dial in performance. Adding compression provides more support allowing the suspension to ride taller in its travel which is important when dialing in a bike’s personality in corners, etc.

With too little compression a bike will sit deep in the travel. This compromises cornering and braking force resistance. Headtube angle, bottom bracket height, front to rear weight bias, etc are modified as a bike goes through its travel. Maintaining control of the use of travel is paramount for good performance.

Since compression hydraulically slows the suspension’s use of travel it therefor lowers the air spring’s PSI. Properly setting compression controls will help ease the load on the rebound system by controlling the air spring’s push back onto the rebound circuit.

Too much compression will cause a bike to feel harsh and not use appropriate amounts of travel.

Generally, compression settings are fine tuned after sag and volume spacing have riders “in the ballpark.”

Low speed compression controls mid-stroke as well as support in cornering and against brake dive.

High speed compression helps with bottom out and high shaft speed inputs.

3 positions switches are a type of compression circuit with Open the most plush, Mid providing some additional support and Firm for climbing. If you climb in firm remember to put it back to plush for the downhill or you’re in for a potentially rough ride.

Rebound

Rebound damping controls a suspension’s shaft speed returning to a neutral position. Or, how fast the air spring pushes back as the load changes.

More rebound damping slows the suspension by decreasing the amount of fluid allowed to pass through the hydraulic design.

Less rebound damping allows the suspension to return faster with less hydraulic restriction on the damper.

Rebound setting is based on weight, ground speed, terrain and aggression. Setting the rebound properly means finding the right frequency or feel for your riding.

If your rebound is too fast, or doesn’t have enough clicks of rebound, the bike will tend to skip and suffer poor small bump compliance.

When the rebound is too slow, or you have too many clicks of rebound, the suspension may “pack up” creating a harsh ride as each bump uses progressively more travel forcing the suspension deeper into the travel, which will have higher spring rates.

Opposing: Air Spring PSI / Spring Rate.

“Helping” Control: Low & High Speed Rebound.
Some suspension is designed with 2 rebound circuits. The High Speed Rebound circuit is designed to provide additional control resisting increased PSI late in suspension travel. Typically High Speed Rebound settings are used as the Low Speed Rebound controls edge towards closed. Example: you might not use any clicks of High Speed Rebound until you reach “X” clicks on the low speed.

More on Understanding MTB Suspension Controls

While illustrating what started as a real basic, kind of introduction to understanding mtb suspension controls there were some visualizations of “oh, I knew what that felt like, but when I ‘see’ it it makes even more sense”.

Getting a proper suspension setup involves balancing the available adjustments into windows where each characteristic functions. Quality suspension manufacturers tend to have their adjustments in a ballpark for about 140lb to close to 275lb riders.

What this means is that the 20 some clicks aren’t  all “for you” all the time. (which is one of the big benefits of our BikeCo Pro Tunes where we narrow the performance window for your riding style, goals, weight, ground speed etc meaning each click is controlling a smaller performance window giving you more options but more on that another time).

Your needs will dictate a smaller window of adjustment “works” for you. Then you have to find the sweet spot that all of the adjustments are in a functional state.

It’s kind of like a mixing board with a bunch of slider adjustments. There’s settings that produce a great sound – even, balanced. But if you get one of the dials way out of it’s sweet spot you’re going to have to try to use the other controls to compromise the sound (or bike performance in our case) but it’s never going to be that real true, great sound.

Understanding MTB Suspension Dial Comparison

If you want your suspension to work at it’s best you need to identify the “green” zones for your setup and work to keep Air Pressure, Volume Spacing, Compression and Rebound in high functioning areas.

Really the most influential animation in the video, for me at least, was the visualization of when rebound slows the air spring’s return to neutral creating a momentary impact until the forces trying to compress the suspension equalize and overtake the air pressure.

Let’s look at this a bit further.

Simplified Air Spring (eliminating heat) Equation

Pressure A / Volume A = Pressure B / Volume B

The smaller the volume the more the air compresses and pushes back on the walls and piston head.

It doesn’t matter if its your riding weight, an ACME anvil from a cartoon, a tie down strap or a hydraulic circuit that “keeps” the air spring compressed – when the suspension compresses and lowers the volume the PSI rises.

For the following example we’re going to look at too much rebound, or a setup where the rebound is too slow. Mind you this is happening in instants – but it is happening.

The suspension compresses and begins to return for the next feature.

Ideally the system resets with the air spring returning able in a range to support the next input as evenly as possible.

If there is too much rebound dialed in the suspension isn’t going to return to the ideal extension. This does a few things all kind of instantly.

It may change the roll over angle or approach on the next feature. It also may effect the bike’s geometry. This is particularly a bummer in square edge hits that might try to stop the bike while you go flying over the top.

Even in less consequential terrain you lose the suspension’s float momentarily. Since the air spring is being held compressed more than ideal its PSI is higher than ideal. This means when the suspension reengages it might as well be rigid until the forces applied over take the PSI on the piston and allow it to begin to compress.

As an extreme example imagine the difference between punching a padded wall or missing and putting your fist into the block wall behind it. The pad, or air spring, begins to absorb and dissipate that energy so there isn’t the “hard stop”.

This is also the reason you pump the trail when riding. Pushing the bike down and pulling it up give you a secondary, active, suspension system to minimize the shock loads.

Want the worst of all worlds? Set your bike to ride unbalanced on the air spring and then go ride it dead sailor! It’s going to rattle your teeth out, hurt your hands and skip of trail. Exactly the opposite of the balance we’re looking for when understanding MTB suspension controls!

Comparing How Pressure on Air Suspension Is Applied

In the image above we’ve illustrated what we’re using colors to represent loads (or weight, or pressure depending on what makes it easiest for you to understand).

On the left we show a setup with ideal rebound allowing the air spring to extend into a range equal to the next input load. The air spring will absorb the increasing forces from yellow into the orange range.

On the right we show a slow rebound setup. Slower rebound keeps the air spring compressed, lowering the air volume and thus raising the PSI / spring rate.

This means the energy from yellow to orange is forced back onto the rider until the darker orange of the air spring equals the load applied at which point the air spring will begin to carry the load.

This translates as a harsh feeling through the bars or pedals.

Similarly compression settings ideally work in a range with the air spring to allow a comfortable pickup during the suspension travel. If the compression setting is too aggressive the suspension will suddenly come “off” the air spring’s ramp rate and work only off the hydraulic damper.

This creates a harsh ride and sometimes will actually feel quite “notchy” as the suspension transitions from air to damper and back.

All of this circles back to a basic understanding of the ideal ranges of setup and performance and trying to find that sweet spot where the systems are truly working together and helping fine tune performance throughout the travel.

We thank you for the read and hope you took something away that will help you better understand how to dial in your MTB suspension.

We invite you to check out the other content and the best products in MTB here at BikeCo.com

BIkeCo clients have access to our team to help them fine tune stock or Pro Tune Suspension.

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