All Bikes Are NOT Created Equal
While this might seem obvious to everyone, what actually makes “The Difference”?
The first thing in building confidence is feeling stable on a bike. Without this comfort you can’t progress to the next level. Feeling stable makes you feel more in control which is a huge confidence builder. A longer wheel base creates a stabler platform to ride on. This can be achieved by a larger frame, bigger wheels or slacker head angle. Feeling stable is very personal and different for each rider, so try as many bikes as you can on the same trail to compare.
Tip: If you’re in between bike sizes go with the larger size and adjust the headset and stem for comfort while retaining stability. Kelly fit on the small and medium Patrol, so she bought the medium and it has never felt too big.
All 140mm forks are not the same and don’t respond the same. There are different technologies from different manufacturers with firmer and more supple ride adjustments. We started with 120mm forks, went to 140mm and now have 170mm. If you’re riding smoother trails smaller travel will be just fine, if you’re looking to ride bumpier and rockier terrain or downhill parks then step up the travel and adjustment capability. Kelly’s old Rockshox Sektor fork boasted 140mm of travel but didn’t respond anywhere close to my Rockshox Pike at 140mm. Our new 170mm Rockshox Lyrick forks eat everything we throw at them. Just the other week riding in Alabama a rider in our group bottomed out there 140mm fork while my 170mm felt like riding on air.
Tip: Unless you’re racing Cross Country, in my opinion Bigger is Better especially if you plan on going big.
There’s a lot that goes into handling; braking, climbing, etc. You have to have a stable platform first, so make sure you don’t skip STABILITY.
- Braking: You need to know you can stop when you have to. The new 4 piston brakes by SRAM are amazing. We definitely ride more confidently knowing we can stop before hitting that tree at the end of the line we are scouting.
- Climbing: Whether it’s a technical climb over rocks and roots or your bike is just heavier because you’ve put on a 170mm fork you want something you know is going to get UP & OVER that obstacle. The new SRAM Eagle 50 has rocked our world. It has made big climbs and short steep climbs a piece of pie. People argue you don’t need that, in some cases that might be true but in our opinion when you are trying to ride bigger and better stuff without getting fatigued make sure it’s on the back of your rig. Yes, of course skill is needed, but not being fatigued helps too.
- Hub Engagement: Hub what? Ever pedal your bike and feel that dead space before it actually starts moving, the play in the crank so to say. This is measured in degrees, how many degrees do you have to pedal before your bike engages and climbs over that root or before that burst of speed you’re trying to put to that rear wheel actually gets there. This is infinitely more important than you might think if you’re riding anything technical. Imagine coming around a corner at moderate speed and seeing a feature right in front of you that you need a few pedal cranks of power to make with no time. Having instant power will boost your confidence to try a feature vs getting off and walking or crashing. We upgraded our wheelset and hubs to I-9 Enduro 305 with 3 degrees of engagement and have loved every ride on them. This has been huge for Kelly especially since we travel full-time and don’t ride the same trails often, so there are a lot of trail surprises around corners.
Tip: Balance your components. If you have a bigger travel fork allowing you to go faster down a trail you’re going to need bigger brakes to stop all that power and force.
Putting It All Together
When you assemble the right components and geometry everything just works! My wife, Kelly rode a very similar bike to me all last year but couldn’t ride anywhere close to the same level. Both bikes were 140mm forks, 130mm rear shocks and both from the same company and based on similar geometry. One was a $2,000 bike and the other was almost $4,000. Her less expensive fork didn’t perform nearly as well so she was bounced through things feeling like she was going to eat it at any moment while I rode smoothly. The fork had her shoulders, wrists, and hands aching after a technical ride. Her rear cassette had fewer teeth, so climbing was harder that paired with poor engagement left her so frustrated she wouldn’t even attempt those technical bits. Was she a bad rider? NO! She needed the correct equipment for the job. She sold the bike in January and spent months searching for the bike that was right for her.
A New Bike = A New Rider
Kelly has had her new bike for about a month. Since then she is absolutely slaughtering trails and building new skills every time she rides. She has conquered Log Piles, Huge Rock Gardens, technical uphills and downhills, Skinnies and DROPS! Yes DROPS, Kelly has never jumped off anything in her life on a bike. We went to work on some basic drop skills and she was hitting a 1′ drop her first day and then easily hit a 2′ drop her next ride out with a fall away landing. Her confidence and pride glows with each new accomplishment! Kelly loves her bike and the way it rides. She constantly is watching skill videos to improve her riding and now I am chasing her. Having the right bike for her has been life changing on the trails.
Tip: Sometimes it’s not just the rider it’s the bike, the right bike inspires confidence in the rider!
Which Bike is Right for You?
Everyone has different requirements for what they want in a bike. Are you doing cross country, technical riding, downhill, or racing? No one bike or brand works for everyone. Knowing your budget and what terrain and trails you typically ride will help guide your search. If you’re interesting in seeing which bike Kelly picked read our article on how she demoed bikes until she found the glass slipper!