Setting up your mountain bike to boost cycling performance

Setting up your mountain bike is about creating a balance to get the best support and cycling performance out of your bike. It’s tailoring it to your body weight, how and where you ride. Each rider is different, so the bike settings shouldn’t be the same as your cycling friends’. That’s why you need to learn how to set up your mountain bike specifically for you. 

Whether your bike is new or has seen some action on the mountainside, you have to set it up to increase comfort and efficiency, particularly if you’re preparing for a lengthy ride. When you do the setup, you should be fully dressed in your cycling clothing. That way, you’re able to go for a test drive to check if your settings such as your mountain bike gear are serving their intended purpose.There are various options for mountain bike clothing in South Africa, and we’ve already provided you with a guide on how to dress like a pro

Let’s get you started with the setup, use this guide below.

Bike size 

We know what you’re thinking, and no, you cannot adjust a bike’s size. When you buy a mountain bike, you have to make sure that it’s the right size for you. Your weight is possibly one of the most obvious telling signs that your mountain bike is too big or too small for you. Any reputable bike shop that has off road cycles for sale will advise you on the ideal buy. The performance on your ride is highly dependent on how comfortable you are on your bike.

Seat adjustments 

When a mountain bike seat is incorrectly set up, it can lead to soreness, fatigue and potential injury during the ride. It would require that you use more power to pedal forward than you would have, had it been properly setup. It comes down to three adjustments, height, angle and fore-aft position. To adjust your height, you’ll need to measure it against the actual length of your leg. Put your heels on the paddle, start to raise your mountain bike seat position to the highest point until your hips rock as you paddle backwards. For the angle, you’ll need a hex key to undo the bolts and adjust the seat as close to a flat angle as possible. For a fore-aft position, you’ll need a seatpost. Loosen the bolts, then slide the seat backwards and forwards until you reach a comfortable position, and tighten the bolts.

Handlebar height adjustments 

When it comes to handlebar height adjustments, your focus is finding the right posture and weight distribution. Again, you’ll need a hex key or a torque key to make the adjustments. The focus here is the stem clamp. Loosen the stem clamp bolts only enough to freely move or slide off. Raise your stem up until you reach a comfortable level, according to the manufacturer’s spec, and try to align the stem with the front wheel as straight as possible. When that’s done, tighten the stem clamp bolts based on a comfortable fit. 

Brake lever adjustments 

To make brake lever adjustments, you’ll start by loosening the brake lever clamp bolts and experiment with a lever angle best suited for you. When you’ve found an angle that works for you, realign the bolts and tighten according to the specs provided by your manufacturer.

Suspension setup 

Suspension set up comes down to three adjustment elements; sag, spring rate progression and rebound damping. Performing this setup is easier when you have a friend assisting you, but it’s doable alone. For the sag set up, you’ll need a shock pump and if you have compression damping knobs, put them on a fully open mode. Remove the air valve cap, secure the pump and make a note of the pressure. Close the airflow and sit on the bike, bouncing up and down as you would on a trail when you ride. What this does is, it gets the oil moving through your suspension to ensure that your shock or fork isn’t stuck. 

Setup the o-ring to roughly 30 percent. Add or remove air until you reach the right percentage. When looking at the spring rate progression, it requires added volume to the volume spacers. This adds firmness to your suspension stroke to give you the capability to ride your challenging trail without bottoming out. Setting up rebound damping on the shock is as easy as adding a full damping ad riding off slowly to check the performance of the rear suspension. If it springs back and the recovery is fast enough to feel like it’s overshooting, you’ve achieved a base setting. For the fork, close the rebound, compress the fork with your body weight and quickly release. If it rebounds fast without causing the front wheel to jump off the ground, the base setting is done.

Final thoughts 

Performance on your trail ride depends on how well set up your MTB bike is. If you’re confident in your DIY skills, go right ahead and use the above guides and tips. Ask a more experienced friend to assist. You can reach out to a professional if you need a more accurate and safe setup done. If you do this, make sure to watch and ask questions so that when you buy a mountain bike, a new one that is, you know how to set it up.