Adjusting geometry for freeride?

Hi Lee,
Love your book and your website! I am trying to decide how to set up my Cannondale Prophet. I ride mostly XC/trail stuff but next week I want to ride a trail with some drops (5ft) in it.

When I rode last week with the bike set to FR mode (low BB 67.5 HA) it saved my butt in a hidden rock in the grass of a fast downhill, but I fell of a skinny and went into the bushes on a slow switchback.

Normally I ride in the XC mode (normal BB and 69 HA). Would the FR set-up help a lot with the big drops? Or should I keep it in XC mode and have the better slow speed handling?

The more you click, the more I can post. Lee Likes Groceries dot com!

Hey Tjaard,

Pick a setting and leave it alone. This makes your bike handle consistently, and it frees mental bandwidth. Instead of worrying about which setting you should use, you can concentrate on ripping. Or shifting some investments and buying a new bike …

OK now. Which setting?

First of all, your falling off a skinny and blowing a switchback have nothing to do with your bike’s setting. (Not to boast, but I can crash in almost any condition with almost any geometry!) The steeper head angle does aid slow-speed handling, but this sort of riding is 99% technique and 99% confidence.

Second, the slacker head angle won’t aid drops. Dropping is all about 1) fore-aft position and 2) vertical absorption. Re-read Chapter 7 in Mastering Mountain Bike Skills.

The tradeoffs

To review, your Prophet lets you choose between two settings: high BB/steep HA and low BB/slack HA. These principles apply to all bikes with this adjustment.

Steeper head angle: The bike feels more precise and easier to ride at low speeds.

Slacker head angle: The bike feels more ponderous at low speeds but more stable at high speeds.

Higher bottom bracket: More ground clearance; fewer pedal strikes

Lower bottom bracket: Lower center of gravity; better cornering.

My philosophy

On fast trail, a low/slack bike tastes super yummy. Enduro SL in Fruita, CO.

I always run my bikes low and slack. Here’s why:

A slack head angle lets you rip harder in more situations. You can learn to handle a slack head angle at low speeds.

A low bottom bracket makes your bike corner way better. You can avoid pedal strikes by developing your pedal awareness and pump.

I’d run that bike in the FR mode. If you feel good in the XC mode, I say rock it. In the end, it’s 198% about technique and confidence, right?

— Lee

5 replies
  1. Patrik says:

    Being that I own two of those bikes, i say rock it permanently in the slack position. can be a little cumbersome in the super tight stuff, but as Lee says, it is easy to learn how to ride it then. But that bike once you are used to it low and slack handles like a rockstar!!! love the two of mine. So, from my experience on the bike, rock it in the FR position all the time and you will truly love that ride!!!!

  2. Patrtik says:

    I wouldn’t say misadventure…Adventure for sure, but I think all had fun, even the guy that had to get up at 3:30 in the morning to get setup and the other one that had a very sore knee after the “event.” But low and slack is the way to go!!!! oh and some good tires 😉

  3. Tjaard says:

    Well I took your advice and left it in the slack setting. Rode it around the neighbourhood dirt a bit to get used to it and then waited eagerly for monday the 17 to go out to the super fun trail. Considering whether I would do the big drop, being that the biggest ones I’ve done until now are about 2 feet.
    Started riding, and then:
    landed a nice little double that I’ve hit several times before, but stiffened up in the air, and screwed up some more, landed on loose over hard (it’s been real dry here) and the bike slid out from under me. I did a neat little football tuck and roll on my left shoulder and sat up thinking I was fine; until I felt on top of my shoulder, with the bone sticking way up under the skin.

    I had surgery thursday and feel pretty good, but I’m bummed about missing the best riding season here in Minnesota: Fall.

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