Thinking critically about bike-geometry BS


This press release on Pinkbike about Ragley’s 2017 line contains an explanation of Ragley’s geometry.

I like Pinkbike, and Ragley strikes me as a cool company that makes awesome bikes. That said, we’re hearing similar geometry claims more and more, and I don’t think they all make sense.


Ragley Trail Geometry Explained

Quoted from the Pinkbike post.

Longer front triangles and shorter stems: All Models are 15-20mm Longer in Reach Vs. MY2016:

a. The riders arms are moved forward opening up the lungs to make breathing easier

b. Gives the rider more room to move around, stay in control and makes it much harder to go over the handlebars.

c. It lengthens the wheelbase to increase stability at speed and over technical terrain.

d. Moves rider weight forward to load the front wheel giving better traction in corners and helps to keep the front wheel on the ground when climbing steeper sections.

Let’s think about this

A. Longer front ends improve breathing

Dunno about that. When the doctor puts a stethoscope on your back and tells you to take a deep breath, does he also tell you to reach your arms forward?

You know what really helps breathing? Good posture, meaning clean hip/spine alignment and core integrity. You can do that on any bike. Heck, you can (and should) do that when you’re not on a bike.


Arms in various positions. Breathing the whole way.

B. Longer front ends improve control

There is indeed more space between the rider and the bars, which theoretically lets the rider move farther before slamming into the bars.

But the farther the bars are from your shoulders, the less range of motion you have with the bars. This limits your ability to brake, corner and go down steep things.

While the longer front end might make it harder to go over the handlebars on flat ground, it might pull an average rider farther forward in the steeps, which might encourage the body to go over the bars.


On this bike and ledge, it’s easy to balance on the feet while pushing the front end down to meet the ground. A longer front end would require more arm range, which would make it trickier to ride this ledge perfectly and limit the height of the ledge you can ride safely.

C. Longer wheelbase is more stable

OK.

D. Longer front end moves rider weight forward

You hear this all the time, even from smart people, but I think this claim assumes the rider is inert.

According to this theory, the human body is in some fixed position, with a certain amount of weight on the seat and/or pedals and the rest of the weight on the bars. Following this thinking, a longer front end would put a greater percentage of the rider’s weight on the bars and, by extension, the front wheel.

But I don’t think we should be inert while riding. Whether we’re in the saddle or on our feet, we have the ability to lean forward with weight on the bars, hover with no weight on the bars or lean backward and pull on the bars. You can shift your weight through a wide range with any reasonable bike setup. This, as you might have noticed, has a huge impact on the way your bike rides.

In my opinion, your weight should be supported by your feet, not your hands. Maintaining heavy feet and light hands is, again, all about hip/spine alignment and core integrity.


Cornering with zero weight on the hands.

People who make these kind of geometry claims seem to understand riding differently than I do. And that’s fine. Do your own thinking. Believe whatever makes sense to you.

The perfect bike setup helps you spend more time in a perfect, easy riding position, and it helps you make your bike do awesome things. I’ve developed a logical and massively effective way to determine your ideal bike setup for peak power and optimal handling. Dial in your bike for your body and riding style at the LLB online MTB school.

Have fun out there,

Lee


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15 replies
  1. Adam says:

    Read their bumphh and my eyes raised for the same reasons.

    Thanks for going through your thoughts! You must get frustrated by industry trying to sell their version of the facts!

    Reply
  2. aireeek says:

    On Point B, I agree with Ragley. A longer front end allows the rider to run a shorter stem for a given fit, giving better control.

    On Point D, I think the true answer is that it centers the weight over the bike better. If it allows for a rider to fit a shorter stem, it’ll actually pull the center of weight back a bit. If a rider was compensating for a smaller frame by riding with the seat slammed all the way back, they can now move the seat forward, and center themselves better.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been ordering long, low, slack custom full suspension frames with 50mm stems for ten years now. It’s what works for me for super D, enduro and aggressive trail riding. What’s cool is I don’t have to go custom these days since my numbers come stock on the showroom floor.

    Reply
  4. Gavrilo says:

    Lee you are right about everything. I was experimenting a lot and I can’t agree more with everything you said. I feel like it’s better to have slightly wider bars than longer reach, but in fact I don’t use too wide bars.

    Reply
  5. Jim says:

    They’re also the first manufacturer I’ve seen that has pushed the whole “hardtails are harder to ride and therefore force beginners to learn the fundamentals of mountain biking” thing. Not so sure I agree with that. It’s probably better to put a beginner on something that’s going to inspire confidence rather than make things difficult. If I go riding with a friend who has never ridden before, or has limited skills, I put them on my Enduro, and I ride my 14-year-old Stumpy hard tail. I think it helps them enjoy it a little more.

    It looks like Ragley makes nice frames, though.

    Reply
  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Jim, I agree. We should put our loves ones on any bike that helps them enjoy riding. “Perfect technique” can come later … or never.

    My wife rides my plus hardtail, but that’s a much tamer animal than a typical minus hardtail.

    Reply
  7. JD Dallager says:

    Jim and Lee: Agree totally with the “make it fun and enjoyable and rewarding” concept you both advocate for people taking up a sport. Learned that long ago re fishing, baseball, soccer, MTB’ing, etc. Actually, pretty much everything in life!

    After they’re hooked, no pun intended, you can (and the will) increase the challenge and skill level needed.

    LLB courses do exactly that!!

    Reply
  8. Kenny Carson says:

    I think this is much like the ski industry about 10 years ago. People finally figured out that wide skis skied better in powder and soft snow. This market boomed with people buying 125mm under foot skis for their everyday ski. Well, that may work well on a powder day but at least here in CO at the resorts it is a slow pig to turn 90% of the days. The industry reeled it in some and got smart with the new tech of 100mm under foot or less.

    So yes, some companies will go overboard. The market will reel them back in eventually. In the meantime check this out.

    http://www.pinkbike.com/news/nicolai-continues-to-push-the-geometry-envelope-eurobike-2016.html

    The problem with this is you’re going to have to steer with the rear wheel with so little traction over the front. Switchback will laugh at that bike.

    Reply
  9. Mark says:

    “Dial in your bike for your body and riding style at www.”

    Can you be a little more specific?

    www is a really big place! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Alex says:

    Here in Britain hardtails make a lot more sense than elsewhere – we get wet weather at all times of year and much of the country gets little or no snow, so we ride through the winter in filthy conditions. Fewer places to clog up with mud, no bearings to seize and you’re usually riding slower than in the dust and rocks of much of the USA (we could never implement the “don’t ride in the rain” IMBA rule here!)

    Spend the money you’ve saved over a full-sus on awesome tyres for the winter (no mud friendly plus tyres are yet available) and on keeping the drivetrain, brakes, dropper and fork happy (dry weather is so much easier on all the moving parts). That’s where bikes like these Ragleys make a lot of sense.

    Regarding more extreme geometry, you have to wonder how much quicker we’d have reached the current enduro norm if companies like Mojo and Pole had existed a decade ago? Instead we got baby steps in geometry each season.

    I got caught out yesterday, taking my full-sus out in the morning and my hardtail in the evening. The Spitfire likes being ridden in a more central/rearwards default position whilst the Zero AM needs the bars weighting more often, due to the longer front-centre and shorter chainstays. On a flat loose innocuous corner the front washed out super fast and I hit the deck rather hard… Literally the second trail of the ride and I’m sure it was mostly due to me not riding the front aggressively enough on the hardtail. Thankfully I’m not limping too badly 24 hours later…

    Reply
  11. Art S says:

    Lee, I know you like lower handlebar heights. When we were together you recommended that I go as low as possible on my E29 and I’m 5′ 11″. I’m super comfortable with the low bars and believe it helps me weight the front wheel for better cornering. I used to think that high bars were for people who are worried about going over the front. However that issue goes away when riders follow your direction to get lower. Now I see that all the pro Enduro riders are running high rise bars. It clearly works for them but I don’t understand it. What’s your take?

    Reply
  12. leelikesbikes says:

    Art!

    I don’t know about *all* pro Enduro riders; the bike checks I found all had low- or moderate-rise bars. But you raise a great question.

    Over the past several years I’ve devised a method to set bikes up for shredding. I’ve used it with hundreds of in-person clients, and now people can access the method online: http://www.llbmtb.com

    The way I see it, there’s an optimal grip position for every rider’s body and riding style.

    In general, the higher the bars are and the closer they are to the rider (within a narrowly defined range), the better a bike feels on crazy DH terrain. This would explain EWS racers wanting high/close bars.

    That said, a lot of current bikes (like your Enduro 29) are so long and tall they put the handlebar grips outside the ideal range for all but very tall riders. This reduces the rider’s power and control. In most cases on current enduro-style bikes, I set people up with very short stems, and we get the bars as low as we can. I’m only 5’8″ … on my E29 I rode a 10mm-rise bar mounted upside down.

    If you like, we can dial you in in person.

    Learn all about the RideLogic Bike Setup System here:

    http://www.llbmtb.com/ridelogic-bike-setup-system/

    Reply

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