Bike setup madness

Most bike fitters are doing great work, but some of the fits I see in my clinics are insane!

This is why I’m now offering “cockpit optimization” services in my clinics.

When I run a clinic I also make setup suggestions … and my clients are telling me some crazy, offensive things.

Some recent travesties:

“I’m afraid of downhills, and I crash all the time. The guys at FITTER NAME HERE told me to put on a longer stem, so I can weight the front tire better on downhills.”

“I’m afraid of my clip-in pedals, but BIKE SHOP NAME HERE said they won’t give me a fit unless I clip in.”

A pro XC rider in the middle of her season: “My hips are hurting so much. FITTER NAME HERE changed me from 175mm to 165mm cranks.” Why? “With this 29er my front end is too high, and the shorter cranks let me run my seat higher, so the bars aren’t above my seat.”

Whoa. Not good.

My recent experience with a high level fitter:

After I told him I love my bike, feel great and make better power than ever, FITTER NAME HERE told me to raise my seat 25mm and move it forward 15mm. That is a HUGE change! In the studio I told him my hips and low back hurt. His response: “Trust the fit.”

What? I gave it a try and went right back to where I need to be. If I was a civilian, I would have been intimidated by him, kept my saddle in his crazy position, developed painful issues and stopped riding. Oh yeah, and of course he wanted me on a longer stem.

Sure we gotta climb …

Hey bike shop/fitter guy:

If you equip your customer in a way that makes riding uncomfortable and/or scary, guess what: You lost a customer!

Hey you riders:

• The fitter is not the boss. You are the boss.

• You DO NOT have to clip in. Not for any reason. Not to be “serious.” Not to climb better. If you have any concern about your feet, ride flat pedals. You might just stay on flats forever: They are fun, teach skills and, IMO, are the mark of a true master.

• If something feels bad, it is bad. Hey man, I was raised Catholic and did time in Catholic military school, so I know all about suffering to atone for original sin. But we’re talking bikes here: Bikes are about love and fun, not fear and pain.

• They might have fancy tools with lasers and such, but most fitters are going to give you a static fit based on traditional road/pedaling wisdom. This has its place, but it does not address the dynamic nature of Riding (capital R).

… made it to the top …

… now what? On a double-red descent I sure appreciate my Shimano PRO downhill cockpit.

Let’s make things better:

After working with thousands of riders, I have a pretty good understanding of how bikes and bodies should interact, and how to set up a bike for great handling (without compromising pedaling).

The LLB Bike Setup Method is now dialed in: simple, quick and easy. Put your seat wherever feels right to you, then I’ll help you position your bars for optimal handling. If you have special needs or wants, we’ll make adjustments.

I’m not the boss. You are the boss.

If you want me to check out your bike setup, schedule a skills clinic with me or one of the other LLB coaches. We’ll help you dial in your bike, then I’ll show you how to Ride it!

In moments like this, a dialed cockpit helps make the difference between an awesome day and an awful one.

Know more. Have more fun!

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10 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    Take all these long fucken stems and burn them into the ground. I’m so tired of seeing people fall and hurt then selfs with those road bike like setups. You need to be able to bunny hop and move with the bike over logs or on drops etc. I run riser bars and a sort DJ stem on a 29er! I take it to the local bmx track/manual it/bring it to the local dirt jumps and it does everything perfectly fine. I’m also on a dirt jumper black market and a 20bmx bike. So I have the giant talon setup as a all arouser setup. Why these long stems and massive seat posts are dumped off on these poor people is bullshit.

  2. Joe Kim says:

    Mountain Bikes aren’t Road Bikes with knobby tires (that’s cyclocross), stop fitting them like that’s what they are. Kudos Lee.

  3. Scott says:

    @joe kim…
    Cyclocross bikes aren’t road bikes with only tires either. They are their own beast as well, and require their own setup.

    And they are awesome.

  4. Marc says:

    Totally agree. Bike fitter turned an awesome bike into a complete pig. He said my fit was the only anatomically correct set-up. He put me on 90 mm stem, 711 bars, and maxed out (yep, maxed out) on spacers under stem. I went to 50 mm stem, 760 bars, and 2 spacers. Result: 25% faster going down (and safer), no change in climbing. Unbelievable. Not to mention that riding with that many spacers could’ve broken my frame! Unbelievable. Beware of bike fitters on mountain bikes!!!

  5. Coniferdave says:

    Not ALL fitters are clueless about MTB set-up.

    MTB fit needs a fitter to have a really good understanding of how the rider uses his bike, where they ride and what the trails are like.

    Sometimes the fit is best done on the trail!!!!

  6. Matt Wallin says:

    We have been preaching this gospel for years. I still get that elitist racer snob that acts like I’m clueless. 20 years, I’ve been singing that song and it wasn’t until I had the privelidge of taking one of you’re bicycle Kung Fu clinics at the first NICA leadership summer that I felt validated. I was starting to doubt prior to that. Now your doing the same with fits. What bike fit tools (if any) are you using during the fit?

  7. Tobias says:

    totally agree on the fit thing, however I wanted to sound a note of caution on the tide of short stem comments above.

    Overall short stem/ wide bars is helpful. However it is possible to go too short or too wide. In particular WRT short stems: many many bikes have top tubes designed with longer stems in mind. As much as a short stem may give you more direct steering, on a bike designed for a longer stem (assuming you have the designated “correct” size”) you will end up with a shorter cramped cockpit.

    The outcome can be a lack of space for moving your weight back and forth and a hunched position when pedaling.

    Personally I reverted from 50mm to 70mm stem on my bike recently and found the added room for maneuver a revelation. The wide bars have remained and give me plenty of leverage over the steering still.

    Take a look at the Mach 6 and it’s a great new bike, still designed for a mid-length stem.

  8. Bruce12 says:

    Amen Lee! I’ve preached this for years as well. Nearly every “fit” is based on a roadie position where you’re stagnant, on the saddle for endless miles.
    Real mountain biking is a vastly different beast. I am very excited to see mtn. biking moving far, far away from the fearful, locked in tradition road world.
    Cycling is a lot like skiing. Before snowboards, skiing was a dying industry with little innovation. Once snowboards gained momentum, fat skis came about, and a revitalization of what skiers could do.

    Long live fat tires, short stems, wide bars, flat pedals, dropper posts, squishy suspension.


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